APPLICATION: Therm-A-Rest Toughskin Mattress - Tim C.
- Tim Coughlin Application to test Therm-A-Rest Toughskin Mattress
I would appreciate the opportunity to be considered to test the
Therm-A-Rest Toughskin Mattress.
Thank you BGT and Therm-A-Rest for considering me for this test. If
I am chosen for this test, I would prefer a size SMALL mattress.
I have read the Survival Guide (v. 1202), BackpackGearTest's By Laws
(v. 0609), along with all the appendices and agree to completely
comply with all requirements therein.
My tester contract has been filled out, signed and mailed to Shane.
He has acknowledged reception.
Name: Tim Coughlin
Height: 5'11" (1.8 m)
Weight: 190 lb (82 kg)
Foot size: 11 D (US scale)
Email address: Tcoug7<at>yahoo<dot>com
City, State, Country: Buffalo, New York, United States
My Backpacking Background:
I have been an active backpacker for 29 years, with experience
hiking in many parts of the continental United States and Canada.
Most of my time is spent in the Northeast, especially the Adirondack
region of New York. I'm a seasoned veteran to 3-season backpacking,
and I'm expanding my resume to include more winter backpacking. I'm
a "lightweight" backpacker, but always working towards
the "ultralight" title. I am an avid four-season dayhiker.
There are three primary areas I frequent for my gear testing. They
include Western New York, Northwestern Pennsylvania and the
Adirondack Mountain region. I estimate the span of this test series
to be from November through March. During this time span, I can
guarantee harsh 2-season (fall, winter) exposure for product
Currently, local conditions are classified as fall; yet we've
already been hit with our first winter storm. In case you missed us
on the news, Buffalo was greeted with over 2 ft (60 cm) of snow that
caused all sorts of chaos. We were already designated a national
disaster area, when like the rest of the Northeast, we woke up to
another storm with winds over 50 mph (80 kph) this weekend. That
pretty much took care of most of my trees that survived the first
storm! More snow is predicted for tonight. Temperatures
during the initial part of the test run will be mostly in the 40 F
(4 C) range during the day and down to 30 F (-1 C) at night. Snow
can occur at any time throughout the test series. True winter
conditions will run from December to March. Temperature extremes
during this part of the test can swing from 25 to 50 F (-32 10 C).
The local terrain is a mixed bag, starting out close to the shores
of Lake Erie as a flat plateau but quickly changing to rolling hills
away from the lake. The flat land is around a 700 ft (200 m)
elevation with the hills steadily increasing to close to 2000 ft
Northern Pennsylvania tends to experience cooler temperatures due to
the terrain. It is considerably more hilly and steep. Based on
personal experience, I estimate it runs 5 10 F (2 5 C) degrees
cooler on average. This is the home of the Allegheny Mountains,
with elevations typically around 2000 ft (600 m). There are creeks
everywhere. The seasons follow those found in Western New York.
The Adirondack region is much cooler, where winter conditions can
arrive any day. This region will remain in winter conditions
throughout the test series. This mountainous region has elevations
starting at 3000 ft (900 m) and upwards of 5000 ft (1500 m).
For the past several years, I have primarily been a tree-dweller.
Yep, another hammock convert. Yet, in my search for the lightest,
most comfortable night sleep, I've pretty much given up on the
hammock route for the cold weather months. I'm certainly not saying
it can't be done. There is constant `R&D" going on in the hammock
community and a lot of success stories. But, for me, it's just not
worth it. There's just too much bother involved. I like to keep
things simple, and sleeping on the ground does it for me from
October to around April depending on the weather. I also have an
added incentive this year to reconnect with the ground; I'm leading
a contingent of boys and Dads from my Boy Scout troop to Philmont
next summer. We have a full training schedule between now and then
with treks planned around Western New York, Pennsylvania, the High
Peaks region of the Adirondacks, a 5-day trek on the AT, and maybe
even a trek in the Whites if we can squeeze it in without ending up
in divorce court! Since my rationale regarding hammocks fell on
deaf ears at Philmont, I shall be forced to spend two weeks next
summer on the ground anyway. Therefore, I've committed to all the
training treks sleeping on the ground as well. It's that
whole "lead by example" thing.
If I'm lucky enough to be chosen for this test, I propose the
following test plan:
I'm really interested in the Small Therm-A-Rest. At 51 inches (129
cm), I want to investigate if a shorter mattress will still provide
all the benefits that a longer mattress provides. I have some
experience with a full length self-inflating closed cell mattress,
but it was an off-brand. I was generally pleased with it until I
tore it on a stick protruding through the bottom of my tent (It even
ripped the tent floor!), I am very anxious to see how well the
Toughskin performs. 95 99% of my backpacking is done in the
Northeast United States. When I'm below tree line, it's generally
in thick forests with a lot of forest "duff" on the ground. I love
it when the duff is soft leaves from the deciduous trees or pine
needles to make a cushy spot for myself, but many times it contains
rocks, branches, roots and other things that want to attack my
Therefore, there are three main areas I want to investigate. They
1.) Does the SMALL meet my needs for winter camping? Is it long
enough to provide me with the necessary comfort for a good nights
2.) Does the Toughskin provide adequate insulation for my core?
R-value is a relative thing. Comparing the 5.2 R of the Toughskin
to the R-19 I have in the walls of my house makes the insulative
ability of the Toughskin appear to be not too impressive. I would
rather examine how well it works in the field. I will try to test
it in the same scenarios with the same sleeping bag, varying only
temperature to see if there is a point where I need even more than
the Toughskin can provide.
3.) Durability: does the Toughskin live up to its name? How
hard I can bring myself to "test" this I'm not sure. I always find
it hard to be careless with a $100 backpacking item. But, I will
not baby it either. I'll use it the same way I use any foam pad,
whether it's open or closed cell, and I will evaluate
its "toughness". Then, if in fact it does fail, I will repair it
and report on how that process goes.
Some specific questions I look to address with the Therm-A-Rest
-Can I sleep on my side? How about my stomach?
-Do I need to stuff other garments under my legs and feet for added
insulation since the SMALL mattress does not reach all the way?
- How long does break-in take? Heck, is there any discernable break-
- Does the product live up to the excellent reputation I've always
heard about Therm-A-Rest?
- How easy does the valve work? How well does it work when
temperatures drop below 0F?
- Are there moisture problems with the mattress?
- What is the skin like? What is the treatment on the top like to
- Does the fabric on the outer layer become stiff or brittle in
- What is the temperature range for the mattress before I need to
- What kind of a toboggan does it make? I'm just kidding!
Specific Test Plans
As I already mentioned, I am currently involved with training a
group of Scouts (fathers and sons) for our high adventure trek next
summer to Philmont in New Mexico. Throughout the test series, we
are hiking almost every weekend somewhere around Western New York.
These hikes include full packs and all gear associated with an
extended trek, minus the food weight. Also included are weekend
treks in November, January, February, March and April. November and
January treks are local in Western New York. February may be held
farther south over the school break, if I can get enough adults to
take the time off. March's location has not been decided yet. If
this test series is still going on in April, we shall be heading out
on the AT over Easter break.
I will be sleeping in a couple of different tents, under a tarp, in
a homemade Tarptent made after Henry Shires instructions, in lean-
to's and maybe cabins or huts.
For a list of all my reporting involvement at BGT, see:
Current Test Involvement:
- Recently applied for Sportiva Trango GTX Boots, but at the time of
this application, I do not know if I will be chosen.
Recently Completed Tests:
- Dunham Pileus Cloud Boots (I was on a special time schedule)
- Outdoor Research Nimbus Sombrero
- Princeton Tec Aurora LED Headlamp
- Guide Gear Ultralight 600 Sleeping Bag
- Coghlan's Pocket or Pack Water Bag
- Princeton Tec Eclipse L.E.D. Light
Test Monitor for last two years
- Currently monitoring Coleman Fyrestorm Ti Stove
Thank you for considering my application.