Thermarest ProLite Plus

I remember the revelation of sleeping on my first Thermarest, in the early 1980s. For years I’d used various air mattresses, which were compact to carry, comfortable (if a bit bouncy), but prone to punctures (think southern Arizona backpacking . . .) and not good in cold weather; and foam pads, which were comfortable, puncture-proof, and well-insulated but, if thick enough, bulky and rather heavy. The marriage of the two was a stroke of genius, and I haven’t looked back since for backpacking, sea kayaking, and even, with the addition of the hedonistic base camp models, vehicle-oriented camping. Yes, there was still the odd puncture to deal with, but otherwise the Thermarest is indisputably the best of both technologies.

Cascade Designs has not by any means rested on the laurels of those first Thermarests. Especially with regard to the trekking models, they continually search for ways to reduce weight and storage bulk while retaining cushioning and insulation. So for a recent bicycle trip I decided to upgrade my 20-year-old, 3/4-length rectangular Thermarest to the current ProLite Plus. And was I glad I did.

The ProLite Plus, despite being a full-length model, is a bit lighter than my old one (1.6 pounds), and a bit thicker as well. Part of this savings came from the logical step of rounding off the ends of the original rectangular mattress, and tapering it to match the natural contours of the human body. More savings came from modern shell materials and diagonally die-cut foam. It stuffs to the same size as my old 3/4-length model, yet I was perfectly, even dreamily comfortable on it laid out over Negev Desert pebbles. Although I tend to roll around somewhat at night, I never had an issue with the width, and it was lovely to have cushioning under my legs and feet. I stayed warm on several nights that touched freezing—yet the rolled and stuffed mattress took up little precious space in my panniers.

A good night’s sleep is all the more critical when you’re expending a lot of energy during the day, and perhaps have a few muscles that are a bit stiff and protesting their recent treatment. The ProLite Plus contributed hugely to a rejuvenating slumber.

The ProLite Plus fit perfectly (and, here, invisibly!) under my semi-rectangular Western Mountaineering sleeping bag