I love my Thermarest NeoAir sleeping pad. I willingly flung my body to the Arizona sand making wide sweeping motions with my arms and legs in order to protect it from cactus needles. I put TWO ground cloths underneath it. I pack it in the center of my pack amongst the clothing ALWAYS. I bought it a little case and designed an aesthetically pleasing way of folding it into it. It is my delicate little flower of remaining luxurious living in the midst of outdoor meanness. So you can imagine the warm sadness inside me when I began waking up to a flatter and flatter pad every morning, At first, I assumed it was the cooling of the air and would patiently wake and blow a few puffs into it again in the night. But temperatures remaining constant, the situation worsened. It was time for a repair.
I can’t imagine enduring the ordeal it must be to discern a pinhole sized puncture out in the wilderness somewhere. It was rocket science in the luxury of a deep warm-watered bath. Our initial submersions were sane. We laughed and talked pleasantly to each other, analyzing the origin of every little bubble and disturbance. It appeared to be completely RIDDLED with punctures, which we decided, in spite of tangible evidence, couldn’t possibly be true. So we had to judge which were demon-delivered hallucinations and which were genuine.
Further submersions disintegrated into chaos. There were limbs and appendages in aggressive contortions everywhere and people were getting wet. Strong streams of escaping air would present themselves only to disappear. Hissing sounds taunted us from wherever we weren’t, the skin of the submerged serpent wracking our nervous systems with it’s chalky sounds and texture. We were committed but confused and joy began to drain from us.
Like the scabs of a cat fight or a 14 year old boy’s acne, the red spots marking the perceived punctures peppered just about every square few inches of the mat. We’d come this far and we were here to heal. PERFECTLY following the instructions of the repair kit designed for the NeoAir by the company that manufactures it, we dried, applied, and waited, amusing ourselves in the drying periods by reading other people’s NeoAir issues on different forums. We were quickly discovering that there was possibly just a NeoAir manufacturing issue, which would help explain the very suspicious reality that the holes were all in the seams and not the more vulnerable tubes. So maybe cacti didn’t creep up on me in the night in spite of all of my efforts. Maybe it wasn’t my fault. Maybe I wasn’t as stupid as every trail veteran said I was for bringing an onion-skin sleeping pad on the Arizona Trail. Maybe I could ha-ha them after all.
It became time to test the pad once more for any remaining punctures. We were tired and bored of the activity, having already accomplished 12 individual repairs. It seemed it might have been easier to just melt some shrinkwrap onto the entire length of it, but we were too far into it to back out. So we headed back to the tubby. Desiring to experience some satisfaction at our handiwork, I inspected the completed patches. They were bubbling and lifting off, almost all of them. My partner threw off his headlamp and headed downstairs to complete the much more rhythmic and predictable task of waterproofing our Paramo. I started writing this post.