THERM-A-REST LUXURYLITE ULTRALITE COT
TEST SERIES BY STEVEN M KIDD
INITIAL REPORT - March 21, 2013
FIELD REPORT - June 10, 2013
LONG TERM REPORT - August 06, 2013
Steven M Kidd
5' 9" (1.75 m)
173 lb (78.50 kg)
Backpacking Background: I've been a backpacker on and off for over 30 years. I backpacked as a Boy Scout, and then again almost every month in my twenties, while packing an average weight of 50+ lbs (23+ kg). In the last several years I have become a hammock camping enthusiast. I generally go on one or two night outings that cover between 5 to 20 mi (8 - 32 km) distances. I try to keep the all-inclusive weight of my pack under 20 lb (9 kg) even in the winter.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
|IMAGE COURTESY OF CASCADE DESIGNS|
Manufacturer: Cascade Designs
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website: http://cascadedesigns.com
MSRP: US $229.95
Listed Weight: Standard Setup -- 2 lb 12 oz (1.24 kg)
Listed Weight: Lightweight Setup -- 2 lbs (0.9 kg)
Measured Weight: Standard Setup -- 2 lb 12.6 oz (1.29 kg)
Measured Weight: Lightweight Setup -- 2 lb 2.5 oz (0.98 kg)
Listed Load Capacity: 325 lb (147.5 kg) in Standard Setup; 175 lb (79.4 kg) in Lightweight Setup
Listed & Measured Dimensions: 24 x 72 x 4.5 in (61 x 183 x 11 cm)
The manufacturer states on their website that the Cascade Designs, Therm-a-Rest LuxuryLite UltraLite Cot is the lightest and smallest packing cot currently on the market. For support they use a patented technology they call BowFrame which eliminates the use of spreader bars. They state this removes squeaky joints and breakable hardware.
The bed of the cot itself is made with a laminated nylon cover that is waterproof and stretch-free. The poles are anodized aluminum with nylon feet that are designed to be "durable" and "stand up to heavy use". Assembly is tool-free and the company suggests this may be done in three minutes.
The first thing I noticed when the cot arrived was how truly light and compact it appeared! The package was actually comparable in size to a self-inflating sleep pad I used from the same manufacturer around a decade and a half ago.
I opened the stuff sack to find neatly packaged product. Upon further inspection of the cot, it includes the nylon bed sheet, which is quite thin and certainly only has minimal to no R insulating value. In cooler temperatures I will certainly need to use a sleep pad in conjunction with the cot. There are two shock-corded aluminum poles that insert into sleeves along the outer edge of the bed sheet. The cot includes 12 nylon feet and 16 aluminum poles (8 male & 8 female) that create the bow frames. The feet and the male/female pole combinations make up 4 single bows and 2 twisted bows to support the cot.
All six bows are used for the standard setup whereas only the four single bows are used in the lightweight setup. The sewn channels in which the shock-corded poles are inserted have 8 oval shaped insert holes along each side to insert the nylon feet. In the six bow configuration the second slot from each end of the cot is unused and in the four bow configuration the first and third slot on either end is not used.
Notice varying setup configuration images below. Also notice the twisted bows on the inner two supports of the image on the left.
|6 BOW TWISTED FRAME STANDARD SETUP|
|4 BOW LIGHTWEIGHT SETUP|
As shown in the above images the standard setup uses the twisted bows. Four aluminum poles (2 male & 2 female) are inserted into the nylon feet and twisted 180 degrees before the feet are inserted into the slot. This gives additional support as the twisted bows are placed in the inner most slots where the core weight of the torso is supported during rest.
When I was selected for this test series I watched a short setup video on the Cascade Designs website. The item actually arrived a few weeks later, and I briefly glanced at the directions, but attempted to set it up without instruction. I did so the first time in around eight minutes. The second time I attempted setup; it took me just under six minutes, but my wife called me and I continued doing so with a phone on my ear. After several attempts I was able to accomplish it in 3 minutes 18 seconds. Therefore, I'd say the three minute setup the manufacturer states is certainly something that can be done with a little more practice.
The standard setup was quite comfortable in my opinion, but the lightweight option appeared to sag toward the cot's center where the weight of my torso contacted the bed sheet. Both the head and the foot of the sheet also drooped creating a 'floppy' feeling. In the lighter setup the outer bows are placed into the second set of inserts versus the first, and the double bow construction situated near my torso is completely eliminated. I equate the standard setup to a firm bed whereas the lightweight would be a soft one. The lightweight option suggests a maximum weight of 175 lb (79 kg). I'm right at the maximum load limit, so that could be cause for the lack of comfort. I'm a bit of a UL (ultralight) freak when it comes to backpacking, so I'm sure I'll have to at least give this setup a shot.
|LUXURYLITE ULTRALITE COT W/ SLEEP PAD|
I decided to put a self-inflating pad on the cot for a comfort test. With the pad on the cot it made both options more comfortable, but I could still notice a difference with the additional bows inserted. Interestingly, with the 6 bow standard setup I feel I could sleep comfortably without a pad. I plan a sleep test in both setup scenarios with and without pads. I will most likely have to beta test without pads indoors as evenings still get pretty cool this time of year in Tennessee.
On the final time I was disassembling the cot I broke one of the nylon feet. It was the semi-circular groove that fits into the aluminum side poles. I'm not sure what caused the chip, but it immediately concerned me as the advertising mentions strength and durability under "heavy use". It is possible I wasn't bowing the poles enough and was putting too much pressure on the foot as I was removing it. The poles are made to flex, but I feared bending one of them, so I may have put more pressure on the foot. Again, I'm not sure if this was pilot error, a faulty foot or a design flaw. I will report more in depth throughout the test series.
I can report the excellent customer service Cascade Designs provides. I immediately called the company and chose the consumer option. I did not identify myself as a tester, simply telling the service representative named, Chuck, that I received a cot and broke a foot during a beta setup at home. He apologized, took my information and stated that a replacement would be in the mail no later than the morning.
I had contacted the company on Thursday, 21 March concerning the complaint and left town for a long weekend. When I returned home Monday evening I had recieved two additional nylon feet in the mail.
I give the company an A+ on customer service!
I'm excited to start testing the LuxuryLite UltraLite Cot! In fact, even with the chipped foot it is still operational in both setup modes.
I like the lightweight nature and the comfort the cot offers me. I find the standard setup quite comfortable both with and without a sleep pad. The jury is still out on how comfortable I'll find the featherweight setup, but please check back in approximately two months for an update on both methods.
The immediate malfunction of a key part does give me some concern about the product, but the great customer service Cascade Designs offered helped some of those fears subside. I look forward to testing the cot in the ensuing months and reporting on the durability. In the future I will certainly be more cautious during both assembly and particularly breakdown.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
|LuxuryLite in a 3 Person Tent|
19- 21 April, 2013: The Fiery Gizzard Trail, South Cumberland State Park, Tennessee. A 3-day, 2-night outing; that covered a little over seven miles (11 km). With my 4 and 5 year old children in tow we descended the Climber's Loop and summited again near Foster Falls, staying one night at Father Adams and a second at the Small Wilds area. Though, they've been on many multi-night trips, this was their first true multi-site backpacking experience. Elevations were a fairly constant 1750 ft (533 m) save the trip in and out of the gulf which included very quick elevation changes of around 300 ft (91 m). Temperatures were in the mid-50's F (~13 C) during the daylight hours and mid-30's F (~2 C) at night. It was dry, but the ground was soaked on the first night, and the rain-fed creeks were gushing. (The image to the right shows the cot in a tent with another Cascade Designs product that although nearly two decades old and full of patches still works like a charm.)
8 - 9 June, 2013: Long Hunter State Park, Hermitage, Tennessee. This was a quick one-night outing that covered 11 mi (18 km) along the 5.5 mi (9 km) Volunteer Trail that emerges on J. Percy Priest Lake. The high elevation of the park is 522 ft (159 m). Temperatures were as high as 85 F (29 C) during the day and dropped to around 65 F (18 C) in the late evening. I skirted a window with no precipitation, but the ground was plenty wet from storms that passed through the prior day.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
During the field testing porting I've used the cot on two separate outings. I can aver one thing up front, and that is that I find it VERY comfortable!
On the two-night outing with my children the ground on which we pitched our tent the first evening had a bit of a slope. It was enough of a grade that I had to reach down and pull my kids back toward the head end of the tent once or twice throughout the night as they slide downward during their slumber. Even on the grade I stayed put!
During that trip the evening lows varied by well over 10 F (5.5 C) between the first and second night. That stated, the first night was just a few degrees above freezing, and although I was extremely comfortable I did become a little chilled. I gave the kids my sleep pads with the more significant R-value ratings and used a Therm-A-Rest Neo Air pad rated just above freezing for myself. Against my better judgment I also packed a bag rated to 40 F (4 C). All these factors and significant weight loss over the last six months have apparently caused me to be a 'cooler' sleeper, thus the first night's temperatures pushed the comfort limits of that bag, pad and cot for me! Although the cot is relatively close to the ground, there are a few inches (cm) of clearance that allows for some circular airflow around me and simple physics dictates that there will be a minor cooling feature that could be a benefit or drawback based on exterior conditions and temperatures.
|Aluminum Poles Brushing Tent Wall|
Sometime after midnight that evening I broke down and put on long underwear which kept me comfortable enough throughout the remainder of the evening. The second night was in the mid 40's (7 C) at a different site and with the same pad and bag I slept wonderfully and warm without the need of long underwear!
My only significant concern with the cot to date involves how the shock-corded frame poles react under weight. Every time I've inserted the poles into the bed sheet and then laid on it, either weight or pressure causes the poles to slip outside the sheet approximately an inch (2.5 cm). I can't slip them back into the fabric after the support frames are in place. My fear is that they could snag a sleeping bag or damage my tent fabric. The cot just fits into my 3-person tent and brushes against the fabric walls.
This is primarily a concern for me when using a smaller tent like the images in the photographs. Due to the issue, I always ensure that I place the part of the cot with the protruding poles at my head end. I feel I'm less likely to snag my bag or sleep pad on it by doing this. I once placed it in a larger 4-person tent with plenty of head and foot clearance away from the tent wall fabric, so I wouldn't be as concerned in a larger tent. During the final outing of this portion of the test series I slept in the open beneath only a tarp. Therefore I had no tent fabric or mesh walls to be concerned with. I do, however, see this as a potential drawback in a small quartered shelter.
|A 2nd View of the Poles Protruding from the Cot|
To satisfy my own curiosity, I anonymously contacted Cascade Designs again to see if they had done any R-Value testing on the LuxuryLite Ultralite and a friendly representative named Andrew confirmed there were no insulating properties. He stated the original mesh cots are breathable so they certainly offer no protection, and although the Ultralight is waterproof and not breathable they don't see it offering any insulation, but didn't believe any testing had been done.
I believe much of this is subjective to the individual and needs to be addressed on a per user basis, but I plan to use some kind of insulating properties during cooler periods myself.
I have also tested the cot in the lightweight configuration and in the standard setup during a full overnight. Again, I am right at the max weight limit for the lightweight setup, but I can confirm that I find the standard setup much more comfortable. There is a sag and 'floppiness' to the lightweight setup and I liken the standard setup to sleeping on a firm mattress.
|My Son Resting on the Ground Beside the Cot|
I'm quite impressed with the cot. I've slept several comfortable nights on the ground since testing it and look forward to using it throughout the summer! Several years ago I began hammock camping for what began as a weight savings goal and quickly turned into a comfort issue. I can certainly confirm that sleeping on this cot makes the ground a more bearable option again!
The minimal weight makes it an option for me to use when camping with my young children. I packed it over seven miles (11 km) without complaint on my first outing. On my recent solo outing I covered 11 mi (18 km), but cut overall pack weight by not carrying a tent and using it in conjunction with an 8 oz (227 g) cuben fiber tarp. My phone battery died, and thus my camera was inoperable else I'd share images of this setup. Check my long term review in a few months and I'll certainly have some images with this configuration.
I haven't experienced any more issues with cracked nylon feet, and I take caution to ensure the bow poles are completely inserted properly before putting the cot together. In taking such precaution, I can rarely get the cot assembled in less than two minutes, but I prefer to take my time and ensure long term success with the product.
My only thorn at this point is the issue with the protruding frame poles. I'm not sure if this issue is isolated to my cot or if other users experience it? Of course it concerns me because I don't wish to damage any of my other gear while using the cot. Save that concern, I'm a huge advocate at this point! It is comfortable enough to give to a guest or extended family member inside the house if we were overflowing around a holiday.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
22 - 23 June, 2013: Bear Island on J. Percy Priest Lake. The island is a fifteen-minute paddle from Anderson Boat Ramp, in Davidson, Tennessee (a part of the Metropolitan Nashville Area). Lake elevation at full summer pool is 490 ft (149 m) and I used a tarp and the cot camping less than twenty yards from shore on this overnight outing. Temperatures rose as high as 91 F (33 C) during the day and dipped to around 70 F (21 C) at night. Most of my mileage was hiking around the island without my backpack.
2 - 4 July, 2013: Chesdin Reservoir Area, Matoaca, Virginia. This lake (reservoir) was created by damming part of the Appomattox River in the late 60's and lies 108 ft (40 m) above sea level at full pool with a max depth of 45 ft (14 m). The three-day and two-night trip covered around 12 mi (19 km) of backcountry hiking with evenings camping near a beach. Temperatures ranged from around 95 F (35 C) in the day to around 70 F (21 C) in the evening. Conditions were dry.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
During the final testing phase I used the cot on two more outings and found it quite comfortable. On the overnight trip to a lake island I went completely minimalist using only a small down pillow and a summer weight top quilt. Temperatures never dropped below 70 F (21 C) and I was not once chilled. I did find the cot more comfortable when using an air pad and I used it in that configuration for my final outing.
I also used it on a multi-day trip hiking in the backcountry around a reservoir in Virginia. I again used a tarp for weather protection and this time the pad and light quilt kept me completely comfortable. I did have a few mosquitoes swarm as the sun rose and notice a few spiders crawling around, but nothing to hinder me from using this configuration again in the future. If it were extremely buggy I may consider some form of netting.
|The Cultrit & the Battle Wound|
I did have one drawback that caused me some concern and pain in dealing with the cot! One morning when I was disassembling it the tautness of the feet and poles pinched my finger causing a blood blister and superficial wound. The cot always sits tight under pressure and does take some effort to break down, but this was the first and only time I injured myself. That stated, I'm pretty sure my wife, would have difficulty in disassembling it.
After I pinched myself and apparently caught a capillary I lunged forward and poked a small hole in the bed sheet as it was lying upside down on a small root. I have since been able to repair the hole with a small piece of Tear-Aid, but the cot now has crimson reminders of the time it took me on and won! I bled enough to stain it pretty well!
The rails still continue to protrude from the bed sheet material by around an inch. I anonymously called Cascade Designs again and they were unaware of such an issue and believed it may be a problem with this particular cot. They told me I could mail it in and they would test it and certainly replace it if need be. I have not done so.
Save these negatives I do thoroughly enjoy the product.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.
|Tear-Air Patch/Blood Stains/Protruding Poles|
I've been quite impressed with this cot. I find the weight for such a comfortable product to be inspiring. I rarely sleep on the ground these days as I'm an avid hammock camper. I do this for both weight savings and comfort. I'd all but abandoned the ground except for the instances when I took my young children backpacking. The Ultralite has come in very handy in these situations.
I've been on the ground more this spring and summer testing this cot than I have in several years and I can happily report that I'm impressed with the comfortable night's sleep I receive when using it.
I have had a few minor snags with the cot...literally...snagging my finger! That was painful and a wakeup call! I was certainly more vigilant in disassembling the cot during my final outing. I'm still uncertain as to why the cot material recedes away from the poles and I have some concern it could snag tent mesh or my sleeping bag material. Cascade Designs said they'd investigate this and replace if need be, but I had that conversation before I pinched myself and made a small puncture in the material. Although, knowing the manufacturer's customer service I doubt that would be a problem if I decided to pursue this option.
The cot will not be a first line 'go-to' item for future use as I truly am a hammock camper and I've even had the opportunity to finally get both my young children in the air over the past few months. However, on the occasions I need to go to the ground or if a friend plans to go with me I will certainly have this product ready to go in my gear stash!
I'd like to thank both Cascade Designs and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test this product.
Read more reviews of Cascade Designs gear
Read more gear reviews by Steven M Kidd