Go fast and light with this packable pad, but enjoy sweet dreams on its sumptuous and stable support
Light and packable
Good warmth-to-weight ratio
Very stable and comfortable
Easy to inflate and deflate
No crinkly noise when you roll over
Stuff sack with compression straps included
Regular size may be too small for some campers
Not suitable for winter camping
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Therm-A-Rest ProLite Apex sleeping pad: first impressions
If you’re in the market for a new sleeping pad, it can be difficult to strike a good balance between lightweight packability and actual comfort, but the ProLite Apex meets the demands of both. This self-inflating mattress packs down to about the size of a roll of paper towels, taking up little room in your backpack, but inflates to two inches thick, meaning that you can enjoy a great night’s sleep on its stable support, no matter what position you sleep in.
• List price: $170 / £170
• Style: Self-inflating sleeping pad
• Weight: 1lb 8oz oz /700g (regular, including stuff sack)
• Sizes: Regular
• Dimensions: 20 in x 72 in / 51 cm x 182 cm
• Thickness: 2 in / 5 cm
• R value: 3.8
• Best use: Three season camping
Rated for three seasons, this pad isn’t intended for winter camping, but for other seasons it’s a sure bet for comfort and warmth. The robust WingLock valves are easy to use and mean you don’t have to work hard at all to inflate your pad when you arrive at camp, plus it deflates instantly and is easy to roll up and slide into its stuff sack which comes with compression straps meaning no more wrestling.
Therm-A-Rest ProLite Apex sleeping pad: in the field
I’ve been camping on Therm-A-Rest sleeping pads for years now. My first pad was super light, but my hips would get sore after a nights of side sleeping, and my second is thick and plush, but too bulky for backpacking. I took the ProLite Apex out for its first spin on the West Highland Way recently, I’m pleased to have found a pad that’s totally packable, but pretty plush.
Here’s how it performed:
Weight and packability
This pad isn’t ultralight, but at a pound and a half I certainly wasn’t worried about adding it to my pack. Where I think it really excels is in its packability. Somehow it rolls up even smaller than either of my older pads, but inflates into a bigger cushion. This makes it really easy to slide into the stuff sack, which I’ve had to wrestle with in the past, and the stuff sack is designed to be a little larger and comes with compression straps, which means I could just cinch it tight.
Size and comfort
Though Therm-A-Rest lists this as coming in regular, regular wide and large sizes, I can only see a regular-sized mat available at most retailers and that is the size I tested out. I am 5’ 4” tall and with an extra eight inches to spare, there was no chance of me waking up in the night with cold feet touching the ground. It’s a standard width and ok for me, but I do think a camper who is medium or large-size might find any standard 20” pad a bit narrow.
When it comes to comfort, this pad easily excels beyond any of the Therm-A-Rests I’ve loved before. I sleep on all sides, but primarily I’m a side sleeper and no part of me touches the ground on this pad when it’s inflated. At two inches, it’s super plush but really stable, so I wasn’t bouncing around and it also doesn’t make that annoying crinkly noise when I roll over. It’s not as comfy as my bed at home, but I took out a second mortgage to buy that bed so that would be unrealistic. But it’s the comfiest air mattress I’ve slept on and I can’t believe it can be that plush and packable.
This is rated with an R Value of 3.8 which is good for three seasons but not winter. I tested it out in early February in Scotland, which should be winter, but it was actually quite mild at about 5°C and I stayed down low, and used with a winter sleeping bag I was pretty toasty. I’m not saying I would chance it in frigid temperatures, but if you mostly camp outside of freezing temperatures, it should be warm enough.
Ease of use
Therm-A-Rest’s sleeping pads are typically easy to use and this one is no different. The WingLock valve let’s loads of air pass through, so it took maybe 20 easy breaths to inflate it. When I was ready to deflate, the instructions were to just twist the wings – this worked for me when I tested it out at home, but for some reason I couldn’t get it to work in my tent. However, I was able to simply unscrew the valve and it deflates instantly.
Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.