Q:

What’s the best way to store a self-inflating sleeping pad?

I’ve had a Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad for a few years now, and I believe it has lost its cushioning. I stored it rolled up in its carry bag. Was that bad? Any recommendations on a new one? Rafael Laredo, Texas

Feb 9, 2007
Outside
Outside Magazine
Therm-a-Rest Trail Comfort Sleeping Pad

Trail Comfort sleeping pad

A:

Yeah, it does sound as if you might have killed the padding. Cascade Designs Therm-a-Rest pads and their ilk are pretty tough, but if you compress the foam for long periods of time, they’ll lose their “memory" and won’t re-inflate well. The Therm-a-Rest people recommend that you store the pad flat and with the valve open, somewhere such as under a bed or perhaps upright in a closet. You also want to keep it in a fairly dry place. If you don’t have a place where flat storage is possible, I’ve had good luck storing a pad loosely tied into a circle with a bungee or other strap.

So, what to do now? Replacement might be the best option. The Trail Lite Therm-a-Rest ($50; thermarest.com) offers the best range of comfort in a light-weight, ideal-for-backpacking package. If car camping or if weight is less of an issue, the Trail Comfort model ($75) is cushier but of course a bit heavier.

Of course, these days the Therm-a-Rest people have plenty of competition. Big Agnes has done well with its REM Two-Track pad ($75; bigagnes.com), a fairly thick pad with nice features such as a nearly unbreakable brass valve. REI is in the sleeping pad business as well. Take a look at the REI Lite-Core 1.5 ($75; rei.com), which is tapered to better fit a mummy-style bag. Care will be the same for any self-inflating pad—store them with the valve open and as flat and un-compressed as possible.

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