In terms of commercial air pads, no one does it like Therm-a-Rest. The ProLite is Therm-a-Rest’s lightest, most compact self-inflating pad. Being a member of their Fast and Light series,  the ProLite is engineered for alpine climbing, adventure racing and long-distance backpacking.

ProLite_2012

Specifications :

  • 3-Season
  • R-Value: 2.2
  • Weighs in at 16 oz
  • Measurement Dimensions: 72′ x 20′ x 1′
  • Open cell foam
  • Diagonal cut design to reduce weight
  • MSRP $99.95

For specifications regarding other sizes visit REI.com

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Product Description:

Immediately upon receiving the pad, I couldn’t help but notice how light and compact it was. It came with a 5.25 in (132 cm) by 13.5 in (342 cm) ripstop nylon stuff sack. To test the sacks water resistance, I put my hand in it and ran in under a sink for 10 seconds. My hand remained dry! Noticeably, the bag was starting to absorb water. I tried again, but this time I focused the water on the seams of the sack. As I expected, water made it through.

At the top left side of the pad, is the standard plastic screw-type inflation/deflation valve. Twisting it left (counter-clockwise) will open the valve allowing for inflation. Twisting it right (clockwise) will close the valve and stop air from escaping/entering.

The pad has a tapered design that is wider at the head end and narrower at the foot end. The pad itself is what Therm-a-Rest calls “Daybreak Orange” on top and grey on the bottom. Where the top of the pad meets the bottom, the pad has been glued together, leaving a 0.25 in (0.6 cm) edge going all the way around the pad. The top fabric, according to Therm-a-Rest, is “50 diamond Poly” and the bottom is “70 diamond Nylon.” The top is coated with a cotton-ish fabric that is, in my experience, quite comfortable.

If I hold it hope to light, I can see the “star punched” foam design inside the pad. The ProLite is filled with open-cell foam called Urethane. The “star-punched” foam design, according to Therm-a-Rest, is designed to reduce weight and bulk still providing 3-season insulation.

 

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My Experience:

This was the first sleeping pad I purchased. After sleeping on the ground during a summer trip, I decided that I wanted a minimal protection between myself and the ground. Though my initial purpose was for sleeping comfort, it has turned into an excellent piece of gear for hiking comfort. After recently making the switch to frameless backpacks, I am able to use my ProLite as a support frame and padding for my back.

I have been using the Therm-a-Rest Prolite (from hence will be referred to as the sleeping pad) for several months now. I originally bought this pad because I wanted a small, ultra-light sleeping pad that would give me some minimal padding between the ground and myself while provide three-season insulation. This pad has met my expectations. I used this pad when my band went on tour; I have used it on several overnighters and as a pack frame for a frameless ruck-style backpack.

This sleeping pad packs small, is waterproof, and provides enough comfort/warmth for any three-season situation. It takes approximately 1 minute for my pad to self-inflate after fully opening the valve and laying it flat. Typically, I give it 1 or 2 puffs before closing the valve. I have primarily used this sleeping pad for overnighters along the Cumberland Trail in the Chattanooga region of Tennessee. The typical temperature range I have experienced while using this pad has been from low 40 F (4 C) to high 60 F (15 C). During one overnighter, I woke up with a small river of water flowing beneath me, but the sleeping pad protected me from getting wet while my friends had to deal with wet sleeping bags. With a few wipes with a t-shirt, the sleeping pad was dry and I went right back to sleep. Typically, I have been intentionally about using this pad on grassy surfaces or straw covered areas. There have been times that I have used this pad directly on rocky, dirt surfaces. I have slept on this pad in dorm rooms and at people’s houses approximately 40 nights, as well as outdoors 20 nights. There has been no noticeable sign of physical damage or loss of comfort.

Pros:

  • Packs very small
  • Can be used as frame support in ruck-sack style packs
  • Very durable
  • Very lightweight
  • Easy to inflate/deflate
  • Insulates well

Cons:

  • Bad for side sleepers
  • More expensive than most closed-cell pads

In my experience, there are only a few drawbacks. If placed on level ground, I will find myself sliding off the pad. In addition, a side sleeper may find that their hips will touch the ground through the pad. I shift around a lot in my sleep, constantly repositioning and I have not gotten any hip bruises or had any noticeable discomfort. In addition, it does not come with a repair kit; which is needed for long distance hikes.

Conclusion:

Overall, I am very satisfied and have had great success with this pad. Since I am working on going even lighter, I am considering trading this pad for an air only sleeping pad. For side sleeping, I have found that folding the bottom ¼ of the pad underneath itself will provide me with enough padding that my hips do not feel the ground beneath the pad. If I were to recommend any open cell foam, self-inflatable pad I would highly recommend this one for its low-weight design, durability, and insulation.

Advice/Warning

If ever I am planning to carry/rely on an inflatable pad, I must carry a repair kit or use duct tape until I am able to replace it. If I were to go on a thru-hike and carry this pad, I would advise bringing at least a minimal repair kit so you are not left on the ground on a cold night.

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