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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Pads and Air Mattresses > Therm-a-Rest ProLite > Owner Review by Greg McDonald

April 23, 2008


NAME: Greg McDonald
EMAIL: gdm320 AT aol DOT com
AGE: 21
LOCATION: Boynton Beach, Florida
HEIGHT: 6' 0" (1.83 m)
WEIGHT: 225 lb (102.00 kg)

I have been camping for 15 years, 11 of them have been spent hiking in the backcountry. My hikes are almost exclusively in Florida and range between one and three nights, although my favorite hike was a 10 day expedition in the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimmaron, New Mexico. I consider myself a lightweight but comfortably equipped hiker, with a pack averaging between 25 and 30lbs (11 and 14 kg).

Product Information

Manufacturer: Therm-a-Rest (Cascade Designs, Inc.)
Manufacturer's Website:
Model: ProLite 3 Small (Short)
Year of Manufacture: 2004
MSRP: US$74.95
Listed Weight: 13 oz (370 g) Verified Accurate
Listed Length: 47 in (119 cm) Verified Accurate
Listed Width: 20 in (51 cm) Verified Accurate
Listed Thickness: 1.0 in (2.5 cm) Verified Accurate
Listed Rolled Size: 11 x 3.4 in (28 x 9 cm)
Listed Packed Volume (Calculated): 99.91 cubic in (254 cubic cm)
Measured Typical Roll Size (Approximate): 10.5 x 4.5 in (27 x 12 cm)
Calculated Typical Packed Volume (Approximate): 167 cubic in (425 cubic cm)
Top Materials: 100% ripstop polyester, 100% polyurethane coated.
Top Color: Orange
Bottom Materials: 100% ripstop nylon with polyurethane microdots.
Bottom Color: Charcoal grey
Fill Materials: Diamond cut 100% polyurethane foam.
Made in the USA

Warranty Information

Cascade Designs offers a limited lifetime warranty on all Therm-a-Rest products. Specifically, the warranty information page states that "Cascade Designs will maintain, repair, or replace defective products" at their discretion and "will repair non-warranty damages at a fair rate." As with virtually all warranties on outdoor products, the warranty does not cover damage caused by abuse, misuse, improper care, or normal wear and tear.

One cool thing about the warranty repair or replacement process is that repair services are offered on four continents and six countries, so Therm-a-Rest products can be repaired virtually anywhere.

Full warranty information is available from Cascade Designs at the Therm-a-Rest website.

Description and Features

The Therm-a-Rest ProLite 3 Short is a 3 season, 3/4-length inflatable sleeping pad. The pad itself has an orange top sleeping surface and a charcoal grey bottom The surface of the pad has a diamond ridged texture both top and bottom. The edges are soft and the corners are rounded.

Orange non-slip top.

Charcoal grey bottom with polyurethane microdots.

The top and bottom of the pad are both slip resistant, but most of the nonslip features are concentrated on the bottom of the pad. The bottom is coated with polyurethane microdots in a grid pattern to add grip to keep the pad from slipping.

The inflation valve is in the upper left hand corner of the pad. The valve is black plastic, as opposed to the older metal valves that in my opinion were much more difficult to operate and I always risked a chipped tooth. The valve is well secured to the body of the pad.

The ProLite 3 offers me ample sleeping surface area, coming in at 47 in (119 cm) long and 20 in (51 cm) wide. It is also thick enough at 1.0 in (2.5 cm) to provide enough fill to keep me off the ground and comfortable.

The First Impression

My initial thought was how impressed I was at the packed size and weight of the pad the first time I grabbed it off the shelf a few years back. My second thought, which turned out to be completely accurate, was the disbelief that after use I would ever be able to get it back into the plastic sleeve that it came with.

Aside from that, the pad looks very sharp. The quality of workmanship and materials was pretty apparent from the first look. The materials on both the upper and lower, combined with the diamond texture seemed as if it would offer resistance to slipping and sliding, which is a problem I have always faced as a restless sleeper.

The original packaging is actually relevant, even though it is just a plastic sleeve with all the product information listed on it. It lists the materials that the pad is constructed of and breaks down the weight into its elements. In addition to the information listed in the product information, it may be worth noting that the fill accounts for 5 oz (142 g) of the weight, and the valve is another 8 oz (227 g).

Opinions and Observations

My first observation (of course it is still an opinion) is that it is completely impossible to get the pad back into the plastic sleeve that the pad comes in. When I roll the pad myself it packs down to a much different measurement, down to 10.5 x 4.5 in (26 x 11 cm) on average. I calculated both the packed volume of the pad according to the listed dimensions and then my measured dimensions. Clearly, there is quite a difference in the packed volumes based on the listed packed dimensions and my realistic packed dimension, but I still don't consider it to be an outrageous use of my pack space.

Rolled up to average packed size.

Of course I then ran into the problem where I had nothing to pack the pad in, since the sleeve is no longer an option. Therm-a-Rest offers stuff sacks for their pads, but I found that a piece of shock cord is just perfect for keeping it rolled up nice and tight. The overall size is a little bit disappointing given the size of the original packaging.

A piece of shock cord will keep the pad rolled when packed.

The microdots on the bottom of the pad are also pretty effective at holding the pad reasonably in place. While it is certainly not an iron grip that will keep me mounted to the floor, it's far and beyond the best pad I've used in this department to date.

The inflation system on the ProLite 3 is easy to use, but most importantly it is very effective. Opening the valve and spreading the pad out starts the process, and it only takes me two or three breaths to get it full and firmly inflated. Quick and easy, I can have my bed set up in a matter of seconds - in fact it takes me longer to get my sleeping bag out of the stuff sack than it does to get the pad laid out and inflated. Having said that, I have been disappointed with the so called "self-inflating" part of the pad. No matter how long I leave it I still have to firm it up myself. So while I love how the pad inflates with only a few breaths, I certainly wouldn't call it self-inflating. To be fair to the ProLite 3, it performs consistently with other "self-inflating" pads on the market I have seen and used.

Quick can also make a big difference when I am forced to pitch camp in the rain. The pad does seem to absorb water a bit on contact, but it also dries quite quickly. I need a pad that won't take on a whole lot of weight or leave me sleeping on a big wet sponge all night, so this pad has performed well in that sense as well.

The ProLite 3 is also a comfortable pad. For a backpacking pad, and only a 3/4-length pad at that, I have found that it offers me excellent support and keeps me off the ground. It has also kept me dry and keeps my temperature well regulated - that is it keeps me cool when it is warm and warm when it is cool. The overall length of the pad is perfect for my height, the pad runs about half way down my thighs to keep my core off the floor. The extra weight of the full length "regular" ProLite 3 for me would not be worth the added comfort. I often carry a small piece of foam that was made into a cushion/seat out of an old full length closed-cell pad, and I've used that for my legs and feet when the mood has struck me.

Field Use

This pad has become my only backpacking pad. It has seen its action on trails here in Florida, in a mild climate. This has given me the opportunity to test the "three season" aspect of the pad but hasn't given me any opportunity to test it in cold weather. The temperature has ranged between 45 and 75 F (7 and 24 C) in both beautiful and foul weather, all of my uses have of course been at or around sea level.

I have used the pad in three of the different tents and shelters that I use. The ProLite 3 has seen action in the L.L. Bean MicroLite, the Kelty Clark, and the Tarptent Virga 2. The bottom of the pad has offered consistent grip on the bottom of all 3 of these shelters.

The materials for the pad top provide excellent grip on both of my sleeping bags as well. I am a very restless sleeper and toss and turn throughout the night and I've yet to find myself on the floor of my tent. Every pad I've used previously has ultimately landed me on the ground after I rolled right off, so I have been very pleased that this is no longer the case. The ProLite 3 allows me to sleep anyway I choose. Whether I sleep on my back, my side, or my stomach it keeps me off the ground and comfortable.

I am also happy to report that I've never woken up in the middle of the night to find my pad only halfway inflated. The longest the pad has been set up in one place has only been two nights, and there was no need for me to add any additional air to firm up the pad.

The pad has held up remarkably well through years of usage. Even though it is over 3 years old at this point and has seen well over 30 nights of trail-use the pad has no punctures, holes, or leaks - I have not yet had to make even a single repair. The pad also shows no signs of delamination and the fabric is still well adhered to the core. The pad isn't even discolored, and the bottom with all the microdots shows very little sign of wear and tear.

However, since this is an inflatable pad and the outdoors is such a rough and tumble place, I have refused to use the pad as a seat or put it into one of those "chair" contraptions that Therm-a-Rest offers for use around the camp. I cannot speak to its durability under such conditions since I never have and have no intention to subject it to that situation.

Final Thoughts

The Therm-a-Rest ProLite 3 combines a comfortable design with lightweight and durable materials to produce a truly excellent pad. It has kept me comfortable, warm, and dry during some tough conditions and I've been very impressed with the results that it has provided me over the years. All around, it is by far the best backpacking mattress that I have ever used.


- The inflation system is easy to use and provides a firm base with only a few breaths.
- Lightweight, but offers plenty of sleeping surface area and thickness.
- Fantastic durability and longevity.


- The packed size, compared to the expectation that is set when I first saw the pad in its original packaging.
- Not what I would personally consider "self-inflating".

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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