OR - Thermarest Prolite 4 pad - Ray Estrella
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Therm-a-Rest ProLite 4 reg
Owner Review by Raymond Estrella
September 13, 2008
NAME: Raymond Estrella
LOCATION: Orange County, California, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and
in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and
average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to
lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike
hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a
freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I
am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.
Manufacturer: Cascade Designs Inc.
Web site: www.thermarest.com
Product: ProLite 4 pad
Year manufactured: 2008
MSRP: $ 94.95 US
Size: Regular (also available in Small and Large)
Weight listed: 1 lb 8 oz (680 g)
Actual weight: 1 lb 9.7 oz (730 g)
Dimensions listed: 20 x 72 in (51 x 183 cm)
Actual dimensions: 19.75 in at the widest point, 16 in at the bottom
by 72 in long (50 & 41 x 183 cm)
Thickness listed: 1.5 in (3.8 cm) Verified accurate
Packed size listed (rolled up): 11 x 4 in (28 x 10 cm)
Packed size measured: like they said, until I took it out of the
package. After that 11 x 6 in (28 x 15 cm)
The Therm-a-Rest ProLite 4 pad (hereafter called the ProLite or the
pad) is a light weight, compact sleeping pad positioned by the
manufacturer as being, "Great for mountaineering, winter camping,
backpacking, and multi-day adventures". I do all that and more.
Therm-a-Rest calls the ProLite their lightest, most compact 4-season
mattress. They claim that, "Innovative new materials reduce weight by
25%." As I have their GuideLite model, (the one the ProLite 4
replaced), that weighs 2 lb 2 oz (960 g) I can vouch for that. In
fact I see a 30% reduction between the two.
The ProLite has a tapered design that is wider at the top, or head
end, and narrows as it goes to the bottom foot end. The top cover is
orange in color and has the company name, model, size and other
pertinent information screen printed on it in the upper left hand
section. The fabric has a diamond rip-stop pattern in it, and has a
brushed cotton-ish feel to it.
The bottom is dark gray with tiny white dots of texture. Therm-a-Rest
calls this their, "Super-grip bottom" that keeps the pad from
Where the two colors of fabric, top and bottom, have been welded
(glued) together it leaves a 0.6 in (1.5 cm) edge going around the
At the upper left hand corner is the inflation/deflation valve. This
is a standard plastic screw-type valve. It turns counter-clockwise
(lefty-loosie) to open for inflation, and when filled to the desired
level turned clockwise (righty-tighty) to close it, trapping the air
The inner-fill is made of open cell foam that has been die-cut in a
diamond pattern to cut weight. I have tried to show the outline of
the foam inside the pad by pulling the air out of the pad and
photographing it. The dark areas are where the foam is missing.
I used the ProLite 4 pad on the following backpacking trips
A two-day trip with Jenn taking the South Fork Trail to a camp site
at Lodgepole in the San Bernardino National Forest. This 11-mile
round trip hike had 3400 ft (1036 m) of gain and loss. It got up to
83 F and only down to 59 F (28 to 15 C).
A tough two-day 11 mi (18 km) trip to the top of Mt San Jacinto by
way of the Marion Mountain Trail. I spent the night in Little Round
Valley. This rough hike gains over 4400 ft (1341 m) in 5.5 miles (9
km) in temps that topped 80 F (27 C).
The next weekend I took Jenn to the same place, but made a three-day
trip out of it, stopping the first day at Little Round Valley where
we made a base camp. Temps ranged from 54 to 81 F (12 to 27 C).
I took Emma and Ray to Itasca State Park , the birthplace of the
Mississippi River where we got a permit for one of three sites at
Myrtle Lake.(Backpacking sites are issued just like camp sites in a
campground, a new one for me.) This four mile (6 km) round trip hike
was on easy terrain as it is almost all grass, at the worst dirt.
Temps were from 64 to 80 F (18 to 27 C) at an elevation of 1500 ft
The kids and I went with Uncle Dave and their cousin Kendall to Round
Valley in San Jacinto State Park (California) for an over-night trip
with lots of boulder climbing. The temperatures ranged from a low of
55 F to a high of 80 F (13 to 27 C). This was at an elevation of 9200
ft (2800 m).
And last we went on a three-day backpacking trip to Maplewood State
Park in Minnesota. We stayed at the Beers Lake Backpacker site the
first day and at the Grass Backpacker site the second. The weather
was great for two days then rained the last. The temperatures were
from 79 down to 61 F (44 to 34 C). The elevation was 1340 ft (408 m)
above sea level.
It was also used on two camping trips.
I have owned five Therm-a-Rest pads over the past 18 years. The last
one I bought was the GuideLite model. The next year they came out
with the ProLites, which my brother-in-law Dave immediately bought. I
thought about it hard but decided to go a different direction.
This year I planned a bunch of short distance backpacking trips with
my children and as I was testing a huge pack I figured that I would
fill it with some luxuries this year. I chose the ProLite pad as it
is low weight and packs down pretty small, as can be seen below. I
planned to use it with the company's Trekker chair, which I bought at
the same time. (Review forthcoming.)
It turned out to be a good purchase. The ProLite 4 is a very
comfortable pad. While the trips on Minnesota saw the pad used on
dirt or grass sites, the trips in California were all at high
elevations on very rocky sites. It was much more comfortable than my
It was much less slippery too. The super-grip bottom does just that.
I have never had any mat stay put as well as this one has. My bag has
not slipped on the top fabric either, but I did not have it on the
top often. This is because when it is warm I will usually open my bag
and use it as a quilt as needed during the night. This means that I
am sleeping directly on my pad. The cotton-feel of the ProLite's top
cover was very comfortable using in this fashion. I did not get as
sweaty-feeling as I have with some of my other pads when used this
way. Here is a shot of it in between the kids Z-Lite pads (see
It was nice using a pad that self-inflates again. When I would get
into camp I would unroll the ProLite, open the valve and let it set
off to the side while I set up the tent. I would then close the valve
and it would be ready to slide into the Trekker chair with the air
that had come in to fill the foam. Once it was time for bed I would
have to add three or four more puffs to fill it to the firm level
that I like to sleep on.
Of course the down side is that all the air that goes in by itself
has to be pushed out when it is time to pack up in the morning. I
fold the pad in half lengthwise and lay on it until most of the air
is out. I then close the valve and start rolling it up from the
bottom. About halfway rolled I open the valve and bleed off the
accumulated air once more. Now I leave the valve open as I roll it
the rest of the way up, closing it once all the air is out. I did not
buy the optional stuff sack, instead I snap a quick-connect strap
around it and call it a deal.
I was quite wary of using it as a chair at first. I have never used a
chair before and worried that my big bum would pop the ProLite on
rocks, twigs or pine needles. But after about 5 backpacking trips and
two camping trips with it used in the chair it is still holding air
perfectly. My kids loved grabbing the chair any time I left it
vacant. I would say, "What peasant children dare sit in the King's
throne? To the dungeons with you!" They never got tired of it. Here
is a shot of Ray sitting on the ProLite Trekker combo.
I am going to take the ProLite to Minnesota to leave there now so
that next year I do not have to fly it back and forth. I expect to
use it on many trips there with the children during the summers to
come. I may try it in winter with the company's Z-Lite Regular (which
I have one of already) on top. If I do I shall update this review
with my findings.
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Another great OR for you! Couldn't find a single nit-pick, so go
ahead and upload when you can.
--- In BackpackGearTest@yahoogroups.com, "rayestrella1"
> Weird, this did not go through the first time.
> Hello, I am back. Did you miss me?
> Here is the next pad review. The HTML may be found here;
> Thanks guys,
- --- In BackpackGearTest@yahoogroups.com, "Kathleen Waters"
> Another great OR for you! Couldn't find a single nit-pick, so go
> ahead and upload when you can.
Ha, well thank you very much for checking it over for me.
I will upload tonight and delete the test file.