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The Evolution of the Sleeping Pad

by Richard
03/13/2017 00:43:52 A.M.

I recently purchased a new Therm-A-Rest sleeping pad—the ProLite Plus. I'd been holding off for a while because I'm more of a minimalist and rationales of "It's a $120 more than I 'd like to spend" and "I already have one" rang true in my head. But although those two comments were true, there were a couple specific things that nevertheless drove me to a new sleeping pad.

Through my experiences in the outdoors all across the US and in other countri vs es—in every season and different climates—I know how important a good sleeping pad is. I've put myself in, quite frankly, many foolhardy situations that have made me lose good sleep. Not realizing how much colder a night in a hammock is, even though the day was warm; not taking a sleeping pad and just laying on the ground in the cold; and on and on. And what I've learned through all those experiences is that it doesn't matter if you're in your backyard or in a camp on Mount Everest, a sleeping pad is critical to your health and well-being. 

I had a Therm-A-Rest model for many years and it served its purpose, but I had some issues with it. It packed far too large, it was difficult to roll up, the wasn't the most comfortable, and it was so damn difficult to get it into it's storage sleeve. Now that I've used the ProLite Plus a few times, I can categorically say that it is well worth the price, many times over. I'd like to highlight the features that make it worth every penny.

Size
It packs so small and weighs only a pound and a half (+/- a couple ounces depending on if you get short, regular, or tall). The old sleeping pad I had rolled up to be a couple feet long. This is a tiny little cylinder that is only 9 or 10 inches long. And because of that it packs particularly easily. 

Comfort
Because it's tapered and it has high-quality foam, it can keep you warm in all four seasons. The air is also spread out and balanced to make it so that you're not on a teeter totter everytime you get extra pressure in one area. The bottom has grip on it that makes it stationary, even if you move in the night—which is great for those active sleepers. And the top is textured as well to aid in the process. It's a well-balanced sleep that has come the closest to mirroring sleeping in a large comfy bed that I've experienced on trail. 

Packability
This terminology usually means that it fits well in your pack and yada yada. But for me, this has everything to do with the fact that it's so easy to fit into the stuff sack that comes with it. It's a breeze. There were many times I would hate the idea of packing up because I knew it mean, in part, having a wrestling match just to get the pad into the sleeve. After a night of sleep, the last thing I'd want is an agitation, even a slight one. 

Durability
The material is so well made that I never think about it getting punctured. It clearly has rip-stop fabric and it just adds to the allure of the sleeping pad. If you don't stick it with a knife or jump on it when it's inflated, you'll probably be fine for a very long time.

As an added bonus, it's self-inflating! That's not a necessity by any means, but when you're tired and doing a few things at camp, it just takes on air itself. You should give it a couple breaths before you seal the air intake, but this much-abbreviated process can often be quite the blessing after a long day hiking or climbing or skiing. 

Each of the positive attributes to the ProLite Plus that I just mentioned lends to the good experience, but together they give you something that can be rare but is amazing when in nature—piece of mind. Granted, being in nature can give such a deep connection to your self and to the land (and depending on your beliefs much more than that). But if you're not sleeping well because you're away from home and the comfort of the bed that you're used to or if you're worried you're not going to get another good night's sleep, then you have a stress bearing down on you that can inhibit you from being free to think about more important matters.