Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Self-inflating, durable, gives a smooth and stable sleep surface
Cons: Not as comfortable or as light as air construction pads, not warm enough for winter use
Best Uses: Three-season no-fuss backpacking
A time tested favorite, the Therm-a-Rest ProLite is an excellent self inflating pad that won't break the bank or your back. For just over a pound, this pad provides a smooth, stable, and firm sleeping surface. It didn't win any awards because other pads are more comfortable, warmer, lighter weight, and pack smaller; however, this pad has been around for years for good reason. One of its main benefits is its self-inflating design that makes inflation as easy as a couple breaths. A self inflating rival of this pad is the Therm-a-Rest EvoLite that weighs one ounce less, self inflates most of the way, and is more comfortable (though $20 more). The REI AirRail 1.5 is very similar to the ProLite but many testers thought it was more comfortable because of the unique side rails; that said, it is 8 ounces heavier and much bulkier. Overall, we think the Therm-a-Rest ProLite is best suited to backpacking trips where you want a durable, hassle-free pad.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Therm-a-Rest ProLite features a time tested self-inflating design that has been improved to be a little warmer than past versions. When rolling into camp, it's super nice when you don't have to worry about inflating your pad.
The ProLite earned a cozy 6/10 in the comfort category. This pad's flat surface and self-inflating foam were the most loved features of this pad. One great thing about this pad is that it resists the bouncing sensation caused by air mattresses; it feels firm and stable. The REI AirRail 1.5 feels very similar in this respect, but most of our testers would sleep on the AirRail if given the chance because it has two vertical baffles on the edges that help keep you on the pad. To the ProLite's detriment, it is only an inch thick, making lumpy ground and pine cones an issue. This pad just doesn't have the thickness necessary to absorb bumps and lumps as well as thicker pads like the Therm-a-Rest EvoLite. With that said, some testers found the ProLite just as comfortable as thicker pads when sleeping on the flat ground typically found in designated campsites.
We loved the ProLite's self-inflating design. Just throw it in your tent when you get to camp and let the pad do the work for you. No more having to sit there for a minute or two wasting breath. After about ten minutes of self-inflating time, you'll only need a few breaths to fill this pad to a nice firm level. If self-inflation is not a major draw for you, and you're looking for more comfort (but less warmth) for the same price, consider our Best Buy winner, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture.
At 17oz, this is far from the lightest pad we reviewed, but there were many pads much heavier. The Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm weighs 2 oz less, but is more comfortable, and packs smaller. But, it is double the price and less durable. Although they feel similar when sleeping, the REI AirRail weighs an astonishing 10 oz more.
With a stated R-value of 2.4, the Therm-a-Rest ProLite has enough warmth for most three season backcountry adventures. This pad was perfectly adequate for backpacking through Rocky Mountain National Park all summer. Of the nine people who used this pad, none of them complained about being cold. Unfortunately, we never had the opportunity to use this pad in the snow, but we were able to test it in temperatures in the low 40s and are confident that it would be warm enough until the temps drop to just above freezing. If you want to use this pad in the winter or are a cold sleeper, consider purchasing this pad in addition to the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol. The combination of the two pads is the perfect combo for snowy trips.
The bane of self-inflating pads is that they are much more bulky than their air construction counterparts. The newest version of the ProLite uses a perforated foam construction that cuts down on bulk compared with past iterations.
Made with 50d mini Hex Rip Polyester, this pad feels plenty durable for use and abuse. We've used past versions of this pad for years without any durability issues. We expect that with a little bit of care, this pad could last for years. It's also a great option to consider if you like to bivy out in the open without a ground cloth. If you puncture this pad, you'll have an easy time patching the flat surface. Other pads with complicated baffle systems are much harder to mend on the go.
This pad excels at traditional backpacking and extended expeditions were low weight and high durability are paramount. The tried and true design is reliable and versatile for nearly every kind of backpacking.
For just under $100, this pad is a decent value. We can't say it's a great value because there were several pads at the same price point that scored higher because they were either lighter, warmer, or more comfortable. This pad provide a great level of durability without the expense of weight. If that's what you're looking for, then the ProLite will be a great value for you.
The Therm-a-Rest ProLite has an age-old design that has been surpassed in many ways by air construction sleeping pads. If you are looking for a lightweight self-inflating pad, this one is an excellent choice and will stand up to years of abuse. Some testers think that air construction pads feel too bouncy and loved the stable flat surface of the ProLite. We think this is one of the best self-inflating pads on the market.
— Jeremy Bauman
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Most recent review: August 13, 2015
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