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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Pads and Air Mattresses > Therma-A-Rest Toughskin > Ryan Christensen > Test Report by Ryan Lane Christensen

Therm-a-Rest® ToughSkinTM
Backpacking Mattress

Test Series by Ryan Christensen
Last Update -- August 6, 2007

ToughSkin on Hell's Half Acre



April 12, 2007

Reviewer Information:

Backpacking Background:

Name: Ryan L. Christensen

Age:  42

Gender:  Male

Height:  6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)

Weight:  235 lb (102 kg)

Email address:  bigdawgryan(at)yahoo(dot)com

City, State, Country:  Idaho Falls, ID, U.S.A

I began backpacking at twelve, continuing until 25. After an extended hiatus, due in part to a bad back, I resumed cycling, hiking, and backpacking several years ago and began snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. I share my love for backpacking and these sports with my children. For several years, we have hiked or camped nearly every month, year-round. We vary our experience: desert, forest, meadow, and mountain; spring, summer, fall, and winter; sunshine, rain, wind, or snow. I am a lightweight backpacker, but carry a full array of necessary gear.

Product Information:

The information below comes from the Therm-a-Rest website.

ToughSkin Backpacking Mattress



Manufacturer website:

Place of Manufacture:


Year Manufactured:


Outer Material:

according to
Customer Service

Top:150 D textured polyester
Bottom:150 D low-slip polyester

Colors Available:

One Color Combination:
Top: Olive Green Bottom: Black

Sizes Available:

Regular and Small


Limited Lifetime Warranty
"Cascade Designs guarantees the materials and workmanship of our products. We know you rely on our gear for your comfort and safety, and we are confident that our products are up to this task. This warranty does not cover damage caused by improper care, accidents, prolonged UV exposure, or the natural breakdown of certain materials over long periods of time...Cascade Designs will maintain, repair, or replace defective product at our discretion, and we will repair non-warranty damage at a fair rate. We ask that you clean products before sending them to us..."


$119.95 USD


Product Specifications

Manufacturer’s Specifications


Listed Weight

Regular: 2 lb 8 oz (1,140 g)
Small: 1 lb 10 oz (750 g)

Listed Dimensions

Regular: 20 x 72 in (51 x 183 cm)
Small: 20 x 51 in (51 x 130 cm)

Listed Rolled Size

Regular: 21 x 5.4 in (53 x 13 cm)
Small: 21 x 4.3 in (53 x 11 cm)

Listed Thickness

Regular: 1.5 in (3.8 cm)
Small: 1.5 in (3.8 cm)

Listed R Value


Tester’s Actual Measurements



Regular: 2 lb 8.4 oz (1,145 g)


Regular: 20 x 72 in (51 x 183 cm)

Rolled Size

Regular: 20 x 5.5 in (51 x 14 cm)


Regular: 1.5 in (4 cm)

Product Description:

The ToughSkin looks very similar to other Therm-a-Rest self-inflating mattresses. However, it is noticeabley different from the Camp and Comfort series mattresses and my military surplus version. Like the ProLite mattresses in Therm-a-Rest's Fast and Light series, the ToughSkin is semi-rectangular with rounded corners and a taper from head to foot. Therm-a-Rest Logo and valve

The 150D textured polyester material on the mattress top is smooth to the touch. The bottom material is likewise smooth to the touch. According to Therm-a-Rest Customer Service, this is because the 150D material on the bottom is low-slip polyester with grip dots distributed throughout the surface. The grip dots make the pad low-slip. Nevertheless, I was unable to either see or feel these grip dots.

The outer materials appear to be heat-fused to create a continuous flat seam around the mattress. The ToughSkin does not have a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating. However, Therm-a-Rest Customer Service told me that the backside of the fabric has a urethane coating that imparts an airtight quality. The top material is olive green in color whereas the bottom is black

As shown in the upper photograph on the right, there is a logo on topside of the mattress, left-hand corner, head end. The logo is white and grey in color and contains the model, the size, serial number, the Therm-a-Rest web address, Made In The USA, Lifetime Warranty, and the address for Therm-a-Rest's parent company, Cascade Designs Inc., and the US patent number under the brand name. Located in the same left-hand corner of the mattress, albeit at the perimeter, is the plastic valve with its captive cap.

The real difference between the ToughSkin and other self-inflating mattresses is not readily visible--it is on the inside of the mattress. The photo below illustrates Therm-a-Rest's Puncture-Resistant Technology. The ToughSkin core is a three-layered sandwich. There is a closed-cell foam bottom layer, a thin "air holding seal" middle layer, and an open-cell foam top layer. "These layers are then joined with the Therm-a-Rest guaranteed foam-to-fabric bond." The closed-cell foam layer on the bottom protects the "air-holding seal" and makes the ToughSkin "extremely puncture-resistant." Therm-a-Rest claims this technology eliminates "95% of thorn-related punctures while also providing unprecedented protection from sharp rocks and other debris." Therm-a-Rest further claims that even if the ToughSkin punctures, "it will continue to provide essential warmth, comfort, and performance." It is my belief that the closed-cell foam is to thank for this.

Puncture Resistant Technology

-- graphic courtesy of the Therm-a-Rest website --

Initial Impression:

The mattress appears to be well constructed. The continuous seam is tight. There are no blemishes or discolorations in the outer material. I like the fact that the mattress tapers from 20 in (51 cm) at the head to 16 in (41 cm) at the foot. Without a doubt, this reduces several ounces that one would otherwise have to carry.

After my initial investigation, I followed Therm-a-Rest's recommendation and allowed the mattress to self inflate overnight. The next morning, I added a couple of breaths to achieve full inflation. I did not find any leaks in the mattress. Then, after checking for leaks, I placed the mattress on my living room floor and laid on it. The ToughSkin was comfortable. In fact, it was quite cushiony. I cannot wait to get this mattress into the wild to test its cushioning, and more importantly, its puncture resistance.

June 11, 2007

ToughSkin in Tent Since receiving the ToughSkin mattress, I have had the opportunity to sleep on it four times. The first, in early May, was an overnighter at Sealander Park. This is a private, family-owned park, located southwest of Idaho Falls, Idaho. The park is on the edge of one of the many lava flows in the area at an elevation of approximately 5,700 ft (1,737 m) above sea level. Although there were several slightly grassy areas, the ground was still quite rocky. Even with exposed lava rock in the area where I slept, the ToughSkin provided a good cushion. The temperature dropped to the upper 30's F (2 - 4 C) overnight. The ToughSkin provided sufficient insulation between the ground and me. Not once during the night did I feel cold. There was no noticeable loss of air during the night.

The second outing was an overnighter on Lookout Mountain, in the Kelly Canyon area, which is approximately 36 mi (58 km) east of Idaho Falls, ID. The elevation was approximately 6,600 ft (2,012 m) above sea level. This site provided a scenic view of the South Fork of the Snake River below. I slept in a tent, on a grassy area. The temperature dropped to the mid-30's F (1 - 2 C) overnight. The ToughSkin again provided sufficient insulation between the ground and me. Not once during the night did I feel cold. With the ToughSkin underneath me, I felt like I was sleeping on a regular mattress--the padding was great. Although I slept on a slight incline, the ToughSkin did not slide to the foot of the tent. However, I awoke to find that I had slid off the ToughSkin mattress. It might be nice to have some of that low-slip polyester material with grip dots that is on the bottom of the mattress on the top to keep one's sleeping bag from sliding off.

The third outing was an overnight backpacking trip into Big Elk Creek. The trailhead is located approximately 56 mi (90 km) southeast of Idaho Falls, ID and nearly 11 mi (18 km) east of Palisades, ID. The trailhead begins at 5,700 ft (1,737 m) above sea level at the mouth of Big Elk Canyon. This trail goes for miles deep into the heart of the Snake River mountain range. The trail winds along Big Elk Creek and there were several alpine meadows with lots of flowers in bloom. Black bears are fairly common as are elk and moose. There are even mountain goats that cling to the many cliffs of the Big Elk Creek drainage. However, we only saw one lone deer on this outing. I slept in a tent, on an uneven, semi-grassy/rocky area. The overnight temperatures dropped into the low-30's F (0 - 1 C). The ToughSkin provided ample insulation from the cold ground and fantastic cushioning. Once again, sleeping on a slight incline, I slipped off the ToughSkin several times during the night. Nevertheless, I slept well. In the morning, there was no noticeable loss of air during the night.

ToughSkin Strapped To My Pack The fourth outing, just a few days ago, was an overnight bicycle camping trip. A friend and I rode approximately 28 mi (45 km) one-way to the Heise, which is east of Idaho Falls, ID at an elevation of approximately 4,998 ft (1,523 m) above sea level. I carried my gear in panniers on my bike, with my tent, sleeping bag, and the Therm-a-Rest ToughSkin strapped on top of the pannier support rack. They fit nicely, remaining secure the entire trip. At our destination, we slept in tents on a grassy area slightly more than 1 mi (1.6 km) east of Heise. The ToughSkin provided excellent cushioning for my tired, aching body. On this particular outing, I do not recall slipping off of the mattress during the night. The low temperature during the night was in the mid-30's F (1 - 2 C) and once again, the ToughSkin provided sufficient insulation from the ground. Again, the ToughSkin retained its air during the night.

Thus far, I am very pleased with the Therm-a-Rest ToughSkin backpacking mattress. It provides excellent cushion, insulation, and there have been no worries of punctures. The ToughSkin is extremely easy to use. The mattress inflates on its own, but based on my personal preference; I add a few breaths of air to get the mattress "just right." The valve works well, I can close it quickly without losing much air. Once closed, air does not escape.

Another plus is the ToughSkin's relatively small rolled size. It is fairly easy to get the mattress to its advertised rolled size. Simply open the valve, and roll tightly. When completely rolled up, close the valve. It fits nicely strapped vertically along the main body of my pack, or horizontally across the sleeping bag compartment of my pack.

However, there is one downside thus far. I have begun noticing some material fraying around the heat-sealed edges. I will continue to watch this during the test period to see if it worsens.

August 6, 2007

As part of the long-term test phase, in late June, I slept on the ToughSkin for eight consecutive nights while serving as a Scoutmaster at the BSA Grand Teton Council’s Cedar Badge National Youth Leadership Training Camp. Cedar Badge is held at Treasure Mountain Scout Camp, which is at the base of the Teton Mountains approximately 10 mi (16 km) east of Driggs, Idaho at an elevation of approximately 6,500 ft (1,981 m). High temperatures were in the upper 90s F (35 - 37 C). I believe the overnight low temperatures were in the upper 30s F (2 - 4 C). Two of the eight nights were on the ground, while six nights were on a cot. I have to admit, the ToughSkin atop my cot seemed rather luxurious in terms of camping. Last year at this same camp, I slept on my cot without a mattress, and with the low nighttime temperatures, I was a little cold. However, this year, with the ToughSkin between my cot and sleeping bag, I was very warm. The ToughSkin provided great insulation between me and the colder air below the cot.

In mid July 2007, I spent two-nights sleeping on the ToughSkin while car camping in the Alpine Campground along the Idaho / Wyoming border. This campground is near the Palisades Reservoir at approximately 5,640 ft (1,719 m). Temperatures during both the day and night were very warm. Daytime high temperatures were in the upper 90s F (35 - 37 C) and I believe the overnight low temperature was in the 60s F (16 - 20 C). I slept on a hard packed dirt/gravel tent site. I was quite please with the cushion that the ToughSkin provided between me and the hard tent site. In addition, the ToughSkin resisted puncture from the sharp gravel rocks in the tent site. This was very nice.

Soiled ToughSkin Clean ToughSkin
With all the use it has seen during the test period, the ToughSkin became slightly soiled as shown in left photo above. However, cleanup was quite easy with a simple brush, concentrated laundry detergent with bleach alternative, warm water, and a washcloth. I simply added the detergent to the warm water and scrubbed the mattress lightly with the brush. I then wiped the soapy water from the mattress with the washcloth. When it dried, the ToughSkin looked almost new as shown in the photo on the right above.


I like how easy it is to use. I also like its light weight, the cushion and insulation it provides, and its resistance to punctures. Frayed Material


The only dislike that I have thus far is the fraying around the heat-sealed edge that I identified during the Field Test. While this has not increased substantially during the long-term test period, the picture to the right shows the extent of the fraying.


Overall, I am quite pleased with the Therm-a-Rest ToughSkin as a backpacking mattress.
This concludes my Test Series. Thanks to Therm-a-Rest and BackpackGearTest for allowing me to test the ToughSkin mattress.

Read more reviews of Therm-A-Rest gear
Read more gear reviews by Ryan Lane Christensen

Reviews > Sleep Gear > Pads and Air Mattresses > Therma-A-Rest Toughskin > Ryan Christensen > Test Report by Ryan Lane Christensen

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