Let’s face it – as much as we love going outside and reconnecting with nature, most of us don’t want to do it without some creature comforts.
The chief among them being a comfortable bed – or, in this case, a comfortable sleeping pad.
Choose a great one and your back will thank you in the morning. Choose an inferior one, and you might curse the day you decided to go camping in the first place.
Out of many sleeping pads out there, the Thermarest Prolite Plus is one of the most talked-about, and for a good reason.
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What Makes A Great Sleeping Pad?
Now, you might think that the answer to that is pretty obvious, right? Surely, you don’t need that much comfort when camping. Wrong!
While it’s true that comfort is by far the most important factor here, it’s not the only one. You also have to include the sleeping pad’s:
And many other factors.
So instead of me yapping around and talking in generalities, let’s see how Thermarest Prolite Plus stacks up in every one of these categories, shall we?
Thermarest is a company that has been making products since 1972. Anytime someone’s been that long in the business, you can safely guess that they figured out how to make high-quality products.
The Thermarest Prolite Plus is one of those products that has a laundry list of perks that any camper or hiker will appreciate.
First, it’s important to note that this pad comes in three sizes:
- Small – 20 x 47 inches
- Regular – 20 x 72 inches
- Large – 25 x 77 inches
Which means Thermarest has an option for everybody. Hooray!
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s dive in the nitty-gritty, shall we?
Let’s start with the most important factor – comfort. After all, you’re not going to be interested in all the bells and whistles if you wake up feeling like you slept on the bare rocks, right?
You’ll be happy to know that the product definitely earns its “Plus” name, considering it is 50% thicker (and thus more comfortable) than the original Thermarest Prolite. With its 1.5” thickness, 90% of campers will be more than satisfied with the cushiness it provides.
The reason this pad is more comfortable than other, thicker ones is in its internal foam. It provides even padding so you’ll feel like you’re actually sleeping on a mattress instead of a mere sleeping pad.
Plus, it doesn’t matter if you’re a side sleeper or not – your body shouldn’t touch the ground no matter what position you sleep in. After using several cheaper sleeping pads, sleeping on this one felt like sleeping on a cloud made of marshmallows.
Four Season Use
This foam is also the main reason why you can use the Prolite Plus in all four seasons. Even when the temperature gets below the 30s, the pad will still provide excellent insulation. That’s due to the fact that its diagonal-cut foam provides a lot more warmth than your typical, vertical-cut foam.
Now, the product description says it’s a three-season pad. While that’s technically true, I’ve found that you can stay warm even in colder weather. Just bring an extra blanket or pair of pajamas.
Of course, if you plan on hiking and camping in subzero temperatures, this pad probably won’t be your first choice. But for the run-of-the-mill colder weather, it’s more than sufficient for your needs.
I don’t know about you, but spending half an hour blowing into a pad is not how I picture my ideal weekend.
Luckily, Thermarest feels that way too, so the Prolite Plus is self-inflated. Just open the valve and let it inflate automatically.
It actually comes with two valves – the standard one and the winglock valve. The winglock valve will inflate the pad three times faster than the standard one, due to a larger barrel.
How long will it take to be completely inflated?
That depends on how compressed it was beforehand. If you just got it out of the bag, it might take around 30 minutes. On the other hand, if you kept it loosely packed, it could be up and ready in less than ten minutes.
Either way, you can just turn the valve and then do something else while the pad self-inflates. Of course, if you want to speed up the process you can also blow into the valve, which will obviously make it inflate even faster.
Of course, every product has negatives as well. Here are some of the Prolite Plus’ most prominent ones.
There’s no way around it – this thing is bulky as hell. One of the regular complaints I’ve heard is that it takes several folds to get it small enough for packing. That’s due to the extra foam in the pad itself – you get more comfort, but it’s a bit more hassle to deflate it.
If you have any problems with inflating or deflating your pad, here’s a quick video guide to help you out:
However, it’s not just the bulky shape that’s the issue. With a weight of 1.5 lbs, this is one of the heavier sleeping pads out there. This makes it less than ideal for ultralight backpackers, considering how far you’ll be carrying this on your back.
I’d say that Thermarest Prolite Plus is more geared towards car campers and casual campers of all stripes. It’s perfect if you’re going on a quick weekend trip in nature – less so if you’re embarking on a cross-country hike.
Now, this isn’t the most expensive backpacking pad out there. In fact, I recommend a much more expensive one later in the article for those wishing for additional comfort.
However, I must point out that it is several times more expensive than the cheapest sleeping pads out there, so it is definitely on the higher end of the price range.
Now, is it worth it?
Obviously, I’m biased – but I’d still say yes. A few bucks more won’t make a difference in the long run, and the extra comfort this pad provides is well worth it. Not to mention that since you’ll be using it for a long, long time, the price difference will become negligible.
Of course, any article on Wilderness Times wouldn’t be complete without giving you some alternatives to the products we review. We believe in freedom of choice and that’s why we strive to give you additional options that can better fit your budget and preferences.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm
Forget about the pad deflating or leaking air – this bad boy is not going to let you down. With 2.5 inches of thickness, you’d swear you were sleeping on a cloud – but that’s not the best part.
The NeoAir is designed in such a way to keep you completely warm even during freezing temperatures. And all of that folds up nicely so you won’t be over-encumbered during your trip.
Of course, luxury products come at a luxury price, so be prepared to shell out the money for this one. If you can afford it, it’s definitely worth it.
The VENTURE 4TH Self Inflating Sleeping Pad
With a quick inflation time (under 2 minutes), small packing size (11×7 inches), and affordable price, this pad is a solid choice for anyone on a budget who wants to sleep peacefully during those long camping nights.
Now, is it the best backpacking pad out there? Not by a long shot.
However, for that price, you’ll get a solid pad that will serve you well until you can afford to upgrade to a better one.
Klymit Static V Luxe Sleeping Pad
It’s comfy, big, and affordable enough for most people.
My main problem with it is that it’s just not that comfortable for side sleepers compared to Prolite Plus. If you put most of your weight in one spot (such as your hips) it can get quite firm. However, if you sleep on your back you won’t feel this and it will be quite comfortable.
The other main issue is that it’s not insulated, so it can get quite cold once it gets down into the 30s. If you camp in warmer areas you obviously won’t have these problems, but it’s something to be aware of.
So, in summary, is the Thermarest Prolite Plus worth it?
If you’re a casual camper – most definitely.
It’s very comfortable, not too heavy, and the price won’t break the bank. You can sleep in it during cold winter days and it will keep you warm and safe.
You might want to give it a pass if you’re an ultralight backpacker, or if you want something even thicker and more comfortable (at a much higher price).
But I feel that for most people, the Prolite Plus strikes a good balance between comfort, quality, and price.