It's the end of a twenty mile day, you've trucked through hellish terrain to make it to your camp. After a quick dinner you set up your tent and unroll your very thin, very bulky, foam-sleeping pad. Throughout the night you are woken up by your hips hurting from the lack of solid weight displacement by the inch thick foam. The thinness also doesn't protect against the ground's chilly temperatures- so, the next morning you wake up, sore, cranky and sleep deprived.
This scenario was my case during the first five hundred miles of the Appalachian Trail. It wasn't fun and once my foam pad ripped (for a second time) that was it! Without a pad I started looking for lightweight options. I tried the NeoAir, but after a few stretches the baffles that give the pad its roll look were popping. This left huge tumors making it uncomfortable and once the leaks started I might as well been sleeping on the ground.
For the Pacific Crest Trail I was determined to find a pad that held up to three principles: lightweight, comfortable and durable. Without these three characteristics I know I'd be sending the pad home, so I did my research. The brand Klymit made a neat pad that was inflatable, and lightweight, but the slotted holes throughout the pad to reduce weight didn't make for a comfy nights sleep on your side.
Not fooling around anymore I gave NEMO's pad line a whirl. I tried the Tuo, a mostly foam pad, with a blowup chamber. While it was durable I knew I couldn't sleep on it for six-months because it was only an inch and a half thin. Next up the Astro Air. This full length, complete blowup pad weighs in at 20 oz, maybe a little heavy for you ultra-lightweight guys our there, but it's comfort and durability are unmatched.
At 72" long it just fits my 6' 2" frame and it's width of 20" is enough to sleep comfortably. The real factor to this pad's success is its toughness. Used everyday for three months and 1,300 miles I got one leak (I left a pen out from my journal and had a little accident that I fixed with one of the patches they provide). About 1,100 miles in, the top baffle broke, leaving a tumor similar to Neo Air's on the Appalachian Trail. After consulting NEMO directly about the issue we found out The Dusty Camel are the only people to ever pop a baffle (everything we use is torture tested). They took the notes and made adjustments where needed -- and contacted the manufacturers to fix the problem that day.
So, at last I've found a bed that meets thru-hiker standards. The Astro Air is comfy, relatively lightweight, durable, rolls up to the size of a water bottle and even has a little pillow built into it! For me sleeping on the Astro is like a night's rest on Cloud 9.