I was excited when my Thermarest ProLite Plus arrived. I’ve had other camping air mattresses; those old school rectangles weighing in at about a ton and these were the kind you had to inflate manually. But the Thermarest weighs in at 1 lb 14 ounces and it self inflates. Well, it kind of does, that is, after a little priming.

Therma1 Therma2

I unleashed the Thermarest from its plastic cage and opened the valve, expecting a whoosh of air and a ready-to-go mattress. No such luck. I rationalized that after its rolled-up slumber in the Thermarest warehouse, it probably needed a little time to get back into the self-inflation swing. A few hours went by, nothing. I decided to give a little help by manually blowing in a few puffs thinking that would certainly kick start the process. Kinda, after a few more hours it inflated about halfway. Then I thought, lets create a vacuum and see if that will coax more air into the mattress. It did, I just rolled up the mattress starting at the top near the valve and squeezed all the air into the bottom  then unrolled it and let it sit. That worked very well. In about 15 minutes it was almost full. I blew in a few more puffs to top it off.

Since then I’ve rolled out all the air, closed the valve then reopened it several times to see if it would auto inflate – it does and it takes about 20 minutes. I still top it off with a few manual puffs but I like a more firm mattress.

It seems the lesson with this mattress, perhaps other foam cell mattresses like it, is to prime the foam cells into ‘remembering’ how to auto inflate.

Despite its very thin depth, this is one of the most comfortable air mattresses I’ve used. I rolled it out on my wood floors, plopped on top and started watching a movie. 20 minutes later I was asleep. 2 hours later I woke up with no soreness or aching.

I didn’t see any specific instructions on how to store this mattress but so far what seems to work is to store it inflated but with the valve open when its not in use. Since its impossibly thin, I can slip it into almost any closet or under the bed.

Therma3 Therma4

The mattress weighs in under 2 pounds for the standard size (there are long and short options). I don’t know if that categorizes it as ultra light but this was one of the lightest mattresses I considered. It only takes a few minutes of rolling and pressing to remove all the air. It rolls up to 4″ x 11″ which very easily fits into either the top or bottom compartment of my trekking pack.

It typically sells for $80 at REI but I happened to catch it on one of their quarterly sales so I picked it up for $60. Of course if you’re an REI member you’ll get 10% of that back at the end of the year.

While I have no idea how well it protects against cold surfaces, it does add a necessary comfort boundary between you and whatever surface you confront. Its light, deflates in 2 minutes, packs out small and, after some initial priming, inflates by simply opening the intake valve. I’m curious how it will feel with the new Feathered Friends sleeping bag, which we’ll get to next.


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