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INITIAL REPORT: Cascade Designs Prolite 3 Short Sleeping Pad

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  • Will & Janet
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2004
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      Date: February 1, 2004

      Name: Cascade Designs
      Website: http://cascadedesigns.com/

      PRODUCT INFORMATION (photo of packaged Pad)
      Product Tested: Cascade Designs Therm-a-Rest Prolite 3 Short Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad (Fast & Light Series)
      Year of Manufacture: 2004
      Fabric Description: The top fabric is 100% polyester rip-stop with a 100% polyurethane coating. The bottom is 100% nylon Super-Grip fabric with a fine (1/16 in/1.5 mm) grid pattern of polyurethane microdots.
      Filling: Die-cut 100% polyurethane foam, which gives the pad a distinctive diamond texture.
      Color: Orange top/charcoal bottom
      Size: ¾-length; 20 in (51 cm) wide x 47 in (119 cm) long x 1 in (2.5 cm) thick
      Rolled Size: 3.5 in (9 cm) x 11 in (28 cm)
      Weight Listed: 13 oz (370 g). Filling weight is 5 oz (142 g); fabric and valve weight is 8 oz (227 g).
      Weight as Delivered: 13 oz (370 g)
      R-Value: 2.3

      PRODUCT DESCRIPTION (Photos of Pad's top and bottom surfaces)
      For 2004, Cascade Designs has reorganized and redesigned their Therm-a-Rest line of outdoor sleeping pads. The Fast & Light Series (6 different pads) is the lightest and most compact. Of these, the Prolite Pads represent the biggest innovation. To make the pads lighter, the polyurethane foam core has been die cut into a matrix of four-cornered stars. The lighter core and lighter/tougher top and bottom fabrics make the Prolite 3 Pads 28% lighter than their predecessor the Therm-a-Rest UltraLite. The Prolite 3 Short (¾ length) at 13 oz (370 g) is the lightest of the Prolite Pads and is 5 oz (142 g) lighter than the UltraLite ¾ it replaces.

      Intended uses are 3-season backpacking, mountaineering, bike camping, and boat touring. The Prolite's orange top makes it easy to distinguish from the bottom, which is charcoal-colored. The top has a slip resistant finish so a sleeping bag will stay put. The bottom has a fine grid of gripper dots to minimize sliding on a tent floor or groundsheet. The Pad's top/bottom edges and corners are rounded. A plastic valve is used on the Prolites, which is easier to use and more reliable than the previous metal valves. The pad comes with a lifetime warranty.

      The Prolite 3 Pad arrived in perfect condition via FedEx on January 29, 2004. The Pad was packaged in a 3.5 in (9 cm) x 11 in (28 cm) plastic sleeve. Descriptive information on the sleeve is printed in both English and French (rather than the usual Spanish). Overall, the packaging is simple, visually appealing, communicates clearly, and is environmentally friendly. An instruction sheet comes with the Pad that provides (in 4 languages) information on proper use, storage, cleaning, and warranty coverage. It provides all needed information for proper use and care of the pad. The product information is well written and I had no trouble understanding it.

      1) QUALITY-Materials and workmanship are excellent. I did not see any manufacturing flaws or blemishes.

      2) APPEARANCE- The Prolite Pad is attractive and gives an impression of new and better technology. I like the orange top color that makes it easy to see, especially in dim light. I also like the fact that the top and bottom are distinctly different colors so there is no question about which side is up.

      3) COMFORT-I laid on the pad on a hardwood floor and found it to be quite comfortable. I need to use an inflatable sleeping pad in order to get a good night's sleep in the backcountry, and I believe the Prolite will do the job.

      4) SLIDE RESISTANCE-The top surface holds a sleeping bag in place quite well. The resistance seems to be just right, so I can turn over without moving the pad. The bottom surface does not easily slide on a hardwood floor, but it is quite slippery on silnylon. The top surface of the pad resists sliding on silnylon more than the bottom surface.

      5) DURABILITY-- The weight of the top and bottom fabrics appears to be a good compromise between durability and lightweight.

      6) WATER RESISTANCE-I placed a spoonful of water on the top surface and found that the fabric is easily wetted, as is the case with previous Therm-a-Rests. The same test revealed that the bottom surface is highly water resistant, if not waterproof.

      7) USE AS A PACK BACKPAD-Folded into 4 layers or 6 layers, the Prolite 3 Pad fits easily into the sleeping pad pocket of my GVP Gear G4 pack and provides good back padding.

      8) WEIGHT-The pad weighs 13 oz (270 g), exactly as advertised. Many backpackers would favor an even lighter version of this pad. "Three-quarter length" (47 in/119 m) is an arbitrary length for a sleeping pad; why not a "half-length" pad? Cascade Designs should consider offering a minimalist version that is sized to pad only the torso area. Weight could be further reduced 2-3 oz (57-85 g).

      Test Locations and Conditions-I will test the Prolite 3 Pad in a variety of terrains and climates in the Southwest US as the seasons progress from winter into spring and summer. In late winter I will be backpacking in the southern NM and AZ deserts. In the spring I will do numerous trips in the canyon country of AZ, UT, and NM. During the latter part of the test I will do numerous trips in the high mountains of CO. The testing environments will consist of: Sonoran desert, desert brushlands, pine forest, badlands desert, canyon country, montaine forest, and high elevation alpine country. Expected climatic and weather conditions include: dry and arid, intense sun, strong winds, dust storms, heavy rain, snow, low temperatures, high temperatures, and high elevations.

      How the Pad Will Be Used-The Prolite 3 Pad will be used: in a bivy, under a tarp, in a Tarptent. It also will be used in my G4 backpack as a backpad, as a sitting pad using a Therm-a-Rester, and as a stadium pad.

      Test Plan-The basic questions to be answered in this test are: 1) How well does it perform in terms of personal comfort? 2) How versatile is it in different sleeping and packing systems? 3) How does it hold up? and 4) Are there any problems? I plan to evaluate the Prolite 3 Short Pad in relation to previous models of Therm-a-Rest products that I own; and alternative pads in different sleeping systems (bivy, tarp, Tarptent). Testing will be conducted under normal ultralight backpacking conditions using appropriate care to avoid abuse. This will not be a test to challenge the product to see if I can make it fail.

      Observations and Data-This test will be mostly subjective, and performance will be measured in terms of personal comfort and versatility. My goal is to test the pad in a wide variety of terrains, climates, and ground conditions. I will carry a notebook on my trips and record my observations while I am in the field, then transcribe them into a trip report when I get home. I also will take a thermometer with me to record the actual temperatures. Data I will record daily are: 1) temperatures, 2) estimated wind speed, 3) estimated humidity, 4) altitude, 5) precipitation (including what form), 6) camp situation, 8) description of camping surface, 9) sleeping system, 10) my comfort level (on a scale of 0-10), and 11) other ways the pad was used (e.g., as a backpad in my pack or as a sitting pad). Recording these data on a daily basis and then writing a trip report ensures that my evaluations are consistent from trip to trip and I have an accurate record to base my BGT reports on.

      Factors Evaluated-The specific factors to be evaluated are as follows:

      1) PERFORMANCE: How comfortable is it? How insulating is it? How fast does it inflate and deflate? How does it work on different ground surfaces (lumpy, gravelly, rock, etc.)? How does it work on different groundsheet surfaces (nylon, Tyvek, silnylon)? Is it wide enough for me to roll from side to side (I'm a side sleeper)? How gentle do I need to be with it? How does it compare to other lightweight sleeping pads?

      2) QUALITY, FEATURES, AND FIT: What is the quality of the product? Is the quality of the Prolite (Fast and Light Series) comparable to other Therm-a-Rest products? What are its special features? Is the sizing appropriate, or could the shape and dimensions be changed?

      3) VERSATILITY: How well does it function as a backpad in my G4 pack (the G4 pack has a sleeve to insert a sleeping pad to make it double as a backpad)? How well does it work in a bivy? How well does it work under a tarp? How well does it work in a Tarptent? Can it be used as a stadium pad? How compact is it, and how well does it fit in my backpack?

      4) ULTRALIGHT SUITABILITY: Does the Prolite Pad have a good balance between durability and light weight? Is it as light as it can be, or are there ways it could shed a little more weight without sacrificing comfort or performance (e.g., changing the dimensions or shape)?

      5) USABILITY AND DURABILITY: How tough is it (i.e., how well does it hold up under "normal use")? Is it water-repellent, or does the surface fabric absorb water as previous Therm-a-Rests? How well does it resist sliding on silnylon? Will my sleeping bag slide on it? How compact does it pack? How does it hold up to repeated packing and unpacking? Does the surface fabric attract dust and pollen? Does the surface fabric get dirty easily? Is it easy to clean? If it does get punctured, how easy is it to repair, and how does the repair hold up?

      6) BUGS: I assume that Cascade Designs has already done a lot of beta testing, but the Prolite Pad is a new product and new technology. It is possible that the pad has hidden bugs and room for improvement, that extensive field-testing will reveal. I am sure that CD will want to know about any bugs or ideas for improvements.

      Following are my expectations for this pad, stated as hypotheses. I will test these hypotheses to determine if they are true or not.

      1) The Prolite 3 Pad will be equal to or more comfortable than its predecessor the Therm-a-Rest Ultralight pad, with less weight.

      2) The Prolite 3 will be sufficiently more comfortable than a closed-cell foam pad to justify carrying the extra weight.

      3) The Prolite 3 Pad bottom surface will not easily slide on silnylon or other slippery materials.

      4) My sleeping bag will not easily slide off the Prolite 3 Pad.

      5) The Prolite 3 Pad will work well as a backpad in my G4 pack.

      6) The Prolite 3 Short Pad will work well in a Therm-a-Rester.

      7) The Prolite 3 Pad will be adequately durable for normal use in a variety of terrains, climates, and surfaces.

      8) The Prolite 3 Pad will perform equally well in a variety of sleeping systems (bivy, tarp, Tarptent).

      9) The Prolite 3 Pad will provide adequate insulation from cold/wet ground.

      10) The Prolite 3 Pad will perform well as a component of an ultralight backpacking system.

      Name: Will Rietveld
      Age: 61
      Gender: Male
      Height: 6 ft (1.8 m)
      Weight: 170 lb (77 kg)
      Email: (willjanet at sisna dot com) willjanet@...
      City & State: Durango, CO 81301
      Location for Testing: Southwestern US (Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico).

      I have been an avid backpacker for 46 years, and have done hundreds of trips in CO, UT, AZ, NM, WY, MT, WI, MI, and MN. Backpacking is my passion. I am retired, in excellent physical condition, and live in southwest Colorado surrounded by millions of acres of wilderness and remote backcountry in a four state area. In the fall, winter, and spring I backpack in UT, AZ, and NM. In the summer I backpack in several wilderness areas in southern Colorado. Backpacking Style-I have been a lightweight backpacker for many years, and an ultralight backpacker for 5 years. I sleep in a bivy, under a tarp, or in a Tarptent, depending on conditions. My wife and I give presentations on ultralight backpacking in the local area, and have developed a website called Southwest Ultralight Backpacking to share our information.

      I would like to thank Cascade Designs and the BackpackGearTest Group for selecting me to participate in this product test.

      Will Rietveld

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