My Therm-a-Rest NeoAir mattress lasted a long time. In 2012 I purchased it for my first self-supported tour on the Erie Canal trail. It probably inflated and de-inflated over one hundred times since then. During all of that it never sprung a leak or failed to keep me comfortable.
The Mattress Failure
This year, 2023, on about the fourth day of Cycle the Erie Canal, I noticed a bump as I lay down to sleep. At that time I thought nothing of it. The next morning I noticed that one of the pleats separated, causing the bump.
By the final camp, three or four adjacent pleats had separated. The bulge had grown. Apparently, every time it was inflated, another pleat would separate when I lay in it to go to bed. One time I heard the “pop” as I got onto it one evening. It looks like a pillow, but it is not a pillow. It is the look of failure.
Before I threw it away at our final camp site, I took the picture. When I got home I ordered a new Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite NXT. I also needed a new inflator.
The New Inflator Fits Better
The inflator is another success story in my opinion. For about eight years I have used a Microburst inflator for my NeoAir mattress. It inflates the mattress in about three minutes while I do other things to set up camp. I bought it after seeing a guy use one in camp during a tour in 2014. I did a review that I posted on YouTube. It works well on a mattress such as the NeoAir, but I do not recommend it for thick mattresses.
The Microburst does not fit the valve on my new mattress. It has a rubber cup that you stretch over the valve. The valve on the new mattress is much larger and the rubber cup will not fit. The solution was to buy a Therm-a-Rest inflator, which is pretty much the same internally. It is actually better since it snaps on the WingLock (TM) valve of the new mattress and inflates or de-inflates the mattress. The Therm-a-Rest inflator has a switch to turn it on and off, while the Microburst starts to run when you open the lid that covers the rubber cup.
The new inflator works just as well as the Mocroburst inflator. After twelve years of experience, I trust that my new Therm-a-Rest mattress will be as reliable and comfortable. I look forward to a few more years of bicycle touring with gear that I trust.
I have had my tent, an REI Quarter Dome Plus, for about seven years and it has been used on many tours during that time. This summer when I was camping in Rome, NY, I experience a heavy rain and some water leaking through in some places on the floor of my tent. It was pitched properly and it was on a hillside. The problem was that the water proofing in the tent floor and ground cloth were showing their age.
At first I thought about buying another tent. A tent of similar quality was going to be expensive. After some research I decided to treat my tent using some cleaning and water proofing products from NIKWAX.
I used NIKWAX Tech Wash for cleaning and Tent & Gear Solarwash for waterproofing. To clean the rainfly I threw it into our front loading clothes washer with about 3.5 ounces of Tech Wash. I used cold water and slow spin. I used about 1.5 ounces in a bucket of water in the sink to wash and rinse the ground cloth. I also mixed about 1.5 ounces in a bucket to do the tent floor. Placing the tent with the bottom up on our patio, I used a sponge to wipe the bottom with the Tech Wash solution. You want to wipe, not scrub, to avoid damaging the material. I used a garden hose to rinse.
The tent floor is about 8′ x 4.5′. That is important because the size determines how much Tent & Gear Solarwash is needed. I used almost all of two 17 ounce bottles. Instead of using the squeeze spray that came with the bottles, I used an airless sprayer to coat the outside surfaces of the tent bottom, ground cloth, and rainfly. While not necessary, the airless sprayer made application much easier and provided an even coat.
The Solarwash is applied while the materials are wet from washing and rinsing. Beads of Solarwash form as the materials are drying. The directions recommend wiping up those beads as they are drying. That is a good idea since the beads would take quite some time to dry and since wiping with a sponge also acts to spread the Solarwash coating.
The process did not create much of a mess and everything dried quickly in the sun on a 75 degree day. Of course, I still need to do a quality check by actually using the tent on a tour. I’m confident because NIKWAX has a good reputation.
Today I was reminded of my very first bicycle tour in 2012. It was a self-supported ride from Buffalo to Albany along the Erie Canal. All of my camping gear was new, purchased at REI after careful research. The weak link was my bicycle.
I was nostalgically attached to that bike because of the history that I had with it. At the time I bought it in 2010 I was living and working near London in Uxbridge. I purchased it for about $200 and toured around London with it every Sunday. It was an Apollo, a brand carried by Halfords, one of the UK auto supply chain stores. This was not a carefully researched purchase and at the time I didn’t know that bicycle touring was a thing.
After working in London for three months I moved back to the United States. I had the Apollo shipped back with me. While in Uxbridge the bike took me along the Grand Union Canal towpath into London, north past the M25, and southwest through Slough into Windsor. My Sunday day tours were all around 40 to 50 miles round trip. There were a lot of memories built around travels on that bike.
Early in 2012, two years after retiring, I began to research travel by bicycle and discovered the Erie Canal route. My camping plan and my camping gear were thorough and I had backup plans for any problems along the way. The only thing that I did to the bike was to add the bar end extensions and a rear view mirror.
The image shows my camp site at the Niagara County Camping Resort, my first encampment of that tour. The bike is featured up front in the photo as the star of the tour. The stock saddle was ill suited for touring and 50 or more miles per day. By the third day I was slathering Desitin(R) on my raw thighs. The worst problem was that the rig was very top heavy when loaded with two large Ortlieb(R) panniers and my tent on the rear rack. The tour stressed the low-end components on the bike and at the end of the tour I found that two or three teeth had snapped off of the cassette.
The tour was a smashing success, the experience itself rising above the problems with the bike. I overcame the problems and learned a lot about touring. It was a confidence builder that left me wanting more.
Late that year I bought my stock Surly Long Haul Trucker. As of this moment I have over 16,000 training and touring miles on that bike. I plan many more miles before hanging up my clipless pedals.