Therm-a-Rest DreamTime Review
Cons: Very large packed size, expensive
Our Analysis and Test Results
Heavy? Yes. Bulky? Sure. But for sleeping comfort, the Therm-a-Rest Dreamtime does the trick. We slept on this mattress side by side with other foam mattresses and couldn't tell which was more comfortable. This "self-inflating" mattress takes substantially less lung power to inflate others and requires no pumping.
The Dreamtime is comprised of a 2.5-inch foam core mattress, a foam pillow top, and a fleecy removable cover. These three cozy factors mean that it scores very high in the comfort metric. It does not quite have the largest surface area for those that really like to sprawl in plush goodness, but it is close.
The cover is very soft, one of the most comfortable in the test, and is unique to the Dreamtime. We especially appreciated this soft cover on warm nights when we slept mostly outside our sleeping bags. The foam topper doesn't have any baffles or ridges, just a smooth, uninterrupted sleep space, similar to our own beds at home. This mattress is a great choice if comfort is your number one priority, and it will help convert reluctant campers.
Ease of Use
This mattress is quite easy to use. It has the same twist valves used on all the Therm-a-rest pads, which don't leak or come open in the night. On the bottom of the pad are two straps that keep the pad rolled up in storage. Squeeze the buckles on the straps, and the pad will roll out. Open the twist valve, and the pad will very slowly start to inflate. Top it off with five or ten breaths for the desired firmness, close the valve (quickly, this is a two-way valve) lay down, and go to sleep (or go to dream time in this case). Wake up! Open the valve and roll up the pad while forcing the air out with your knees, close the valve, clip the storage straps, and walk away while easily carrying the pad with built-in shoulder straps.
Alternatively, you can wrestle this pad into its storage sack. We don't recommend it unless you'll be putting the pad away for a long time. It takes a lot of time and effort to roll the Dreamtime up tight enough to fit into the sack. We preferred to clip the straps and call it good.
This mat has an R-value of 10, which is really high! Weight and portability aren't as much as a concern for camping mattresses, and most of the mats in this category have higher R-values than the lighter, more packable mats in the sleeping pad category.
Mattresses that use only air for their structure, while packable and lighter weight, do not provide much insulation from the cold ground. An R-value of 5 will be warm enough for most three-season camping trips, so even reluctant cold-weather campers don't need to worry if they're sleeping on the Dreamtime. And it would be an excellent choice for hunting camps or other cold-weather camping adventures. The Dreamtime will make sure you stay warm and insulated from the cold, even on top of snow and ice, provided you have a warm sleeping bag.
The Dreamtime is really, really big when packed up, lowering its versatility score. You are not going to cram this pad into a suitcase or carry it a very long way from the car or the closet. Though we do give it credit for its removable, washable cover. We liked being able to loan out the mattress to guests, easily wash and dry it, then have it ready to go for the next visitor or our next car camping… expedition.
Additionally, this pad's large 77 X 30-inch dimensions are going to require a giant 60-inch wide tent to accommodate two of these sleeping mattresses. And unless you camp solo, you are probably going to need two. For those that do always camp with their significant other, it has straps for connecting two mats together for a double-wide mattress that won't separate in the night. While it isn't as light as our favorite lightweight backpacking sleeping pads, the Dreamtime does give the option of removing the foam topper, lightening the whole package, and leaving you with an air pad you can take backpacking.
This pad is among the largest when rolled up and packed away. If you are traveling with multiple pads, or if space is an issue, you may want to look for a more packable mattress.
Of course, you can always ditch the foam topper if space is tight, but that will significantly reduce the comfort and warmth factors.
The Dreamtime is not cheap, it costs more than a low-cost memory foam mattress, and the same amount as a much lighter (though less comfortable) sleeping pad. The removable cover adds some value and longevity to this product. If the removable cover feature isn't important to you, there are less expensive mattresses that are equally comfortable.
While this pad isn't the best value out there, Therm-a-Rest makes a quality product, and their ultralight products are always at the top of our lists - the Dreamtime is no exception. This mat is simple, all its straps and packing buckles are attached to the bottom of the cover, so there's nothing to lose and no extra pre-trip searching for a pump or special parts — just load it up and go. These features earn it our Top Pick for convenience. You can loan this mattress to friends or send it off to camp with the kids and not worry about essential pieces getting lost, and it's effortless to inflate.
— Laurel Hunter & Matt Bento