With fall upon us and winter just around the corner, quality and reliable insulation to combat the falling temperatures is going to be vital for a good, comfortable and safe sleeping experience. And while a heavy-duty sleeping pad like the Exped MegaMat might be a good choice for car camping and extreme expeditions, lightweight backpacking or quick camping trips call for something lighter and more mobile. The latest pad to catch our attention is the REI Co-Op Air Rail 1.5.
This pad from the reliable outdoor outfitter’s co-op packs an R-value of 4.2 – a medium-weight insulation good for general use in cold temperatures, making it a good 4-season pad that is light enough for packing and carrying in warmer seasons, but also insulated enough for winter. This insulating power is achieved with a compressible cross-cored foam insulation in the center panel, paired with PrimaLoft microfiber fill in the outer tubes.
Those outer tubes are one of the things that sets the Air Rail apart from other sleeping pads, actually – and gives it its name. Filled with air, they serve to keep your from rolling off the sides of the sleeping mat – a common occurrence, as many a backpacker will tell you – in addition to providing extra insulation on the sides. The top of the sleeping pad is made from a 75-denier polyester with embossed sleeping surface to keep your from sliding around, too. Furthermore, the pad is self-inflating, with high-flow valves that let ample air in for quick inflation.
The Air Rail comes in three sizes – Long, Long Wide and Regular, each weighing 27 ounces, 31 ounces and 26 ounces, respectively. In other words, these aren’t the lightest sleeping pads you can choose for backpacking, which we will chalk up to the extra weight of the additional side “rail” tubes. And at 1.5 inches thick, there’s a lot of extra material and weigh that simply doesn’t pack down well – meaning it takes up quite a bit of room in your pack.
With that said, we really like the REI Air Rail. If you’re the type who tends to move around a lot when sleeping and can’t stop falling off your camping mat, the Air Rail can make that a thing of the past. It also packs a solid amount of warmth for both winter backpacking and car camping.