Therm-a-Rest Camping Mattress

Therm-A-Rest Mattress
Therm-A-Rest Mattress. Courtesy of Amazon

I would never camp without a self-inflating, insulating mattress, and Therm-a-Rest pioneered the field. Walkers may find themselves camping at events such as the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, or when walking long distance such as on the Camino de Santiago.

Pros of the Therm-a-Rest Mattress

  • Insulates you from the ground
  • Mostly self-inflating - just needs a few puffs to fill
  • Packs flat and light
  • Very lightweight
  • Comes in a variety of lengths, widths, and thicknesses.

Cons of the Therm-a-Rest Mattress

  • It's one more thing to pack along.

Expert Review - Therm-a-Rest Camping Mattress

Even after a hot day of walking, the ground can be cold and hard under your sleeping bag. Not even the warmest-design sleeping bag will keep out the cold that seeps up from under you. I am always amazed at the people who haven't thought to use an air mattress with their sleeping bag.

A Therm-a-Rest pad beats an air mattress because it insulates you from the ground as well as providing cushion. It rolls up flat, then re-inflates mostly by itself, with just a few puffs from you. I consider this pad an absolute requirement for sleeping in a sleeping bag.

Back when our family went camping, we used regular air mattresses. It took a lot of huffing and puffing to inflate them, so Mom and Dad usually assigned that task to us kids. While regular air mattresses provide cushioning, you can still get cold seeping up through the ground at the points where the tube seams aren't insulated.

My husband introduced me to Therm-a-Rest mattresses. Rolled up, they are very thin and lightweight like an air mattress. Unroll them, open the inflation tube and leave them alone for a few minutes. Air enters and does a lot of the job without you giving it any lung power. Then it takes just a few puffs to bring the Therm-a-Rest mattress to the firmness you desire.

The construction keeps you insulated from the ground, without the thermal seepage you see with traditional air mattresses.

I was also skeptical that such a thin mattress would provide enough cushion. But Therm-a-Rest mattresses provide a very comfortable night's sleep. They are deceptively thing. They are designed with supportive foam where you need it, and overall they don't let your body contact the ground. You can customize the amount of firmness, adding air or letting some out.

Therm-a-Rest Designs

You can find a wide variety of Therm-a-Rest designs. These include those shaped for mummy bags, lightweight designs for backpacking, thicker designs for basecamp, and different widths and lengths.

Fast & Light: This line is the lightest and most compact, and would serve well for pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago who may be sleeping on the ground or floor. These are a good choice if you are going to carry the mattress with you as you walk or backpack.

Trek & Travel: This is a line of versatile camping mattresses that can also work well for travelers. They are not as compact or lightweight, but may provide more cushioning and area. If you aren't backpacking, these are a good choice.

Camp & Comfort: When it's all about comfort, this line has the best cushion.

Some of the designs are thicker, and some have a much larger area - good for those of us who toss and turn.

Where to Buy Therm-A-Rest

You will find Therm-A-Rest mattresses at any outdoor store, such as REI (Recreational Expeditions Inc.) or Eastern Mountain Sports. You can also buy them online. The manufacturer is Cascade Designs. They have a wide variety of products including hammocks, seating, pillows, cots, blankets, quilts, and sleeping bags. You can outfit yourself for a good night's sleep in the outdoors after a great hike during the day.

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