I’m currently testing Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir UberLite sleeping pad ($180), an award-winning camping bed that weighs somewhere around half a pound and packs down, almost unbelievably, to the size of a can of beer. That’s the way many camping companies are headed these days, as they always have been: lighter, smaller. But while the UberLite is objectively amazing, I’m just as excited about Nemo Equipment’s Roamer, a self-inflating camping mattress — no, not a sleeping pad, a mattress — that’s gargantuan by comparison.
At over five pounds, the Roamer is ten times the weight of the UberLite; it’s also longer, wider, thicker and bluer. The comparison is unfair though because the two pads aim for two very different types of camping. I long for adventures that I whimsically categorize as real, the kind that involve multiple days away from home and require that I live on whatever I can fit in a backpack, but the reality is that I just as often bed down a few feet away from my car (or seats-down inside of it).
That’s where the Roamer shines. All that extra bulk leads to one thing: comfort. No feet hanging off the bottom, no sliding around on ripstop nylon; just four inches of cushy open-cell foam to sink into. It’s more comfortable than the dormitory mattresses supplied to college freshman, it’s smaller than the cheap plastic air mattress you’ll find at a big box store, and it’s definitely worthy of the space it’ll take up in the back of your car or the cargo box in its roof, the hull of your canoe or the cabin in your friend’s boat, wherever.
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