When my Big Agnes Q Core SL was sent off to find the illusive air leak I was left with the option of borrowing my girlfriends older Thermarest Pro self inflating pad. Up until this point I had not given self inflating pads a second look. To the best of my knowledge they were heavy, bulky to pack, and to thin to find comfort on. I was wrong, very wrong. The Thermarest Pro she had was comfortable in all positions, even though it wasn't very thick. The pad was bulky though so I looked into picking up a shorter version that would help save space, weight, and still be comfortable.
Initial Thoughts- The Thermarest Pro I borrowed was a few years old, so that particular model was hard to find. After researching the many different options available I decided to go with the Thermarest Prolite XS. Torso length pads have always made more sense to me, as I can easily use my backpack or Adventure Seat to insulate my legs. This was a easy to solution to cut down on the weight and bulk of my sleeping pad. The Thermarest Prolite XS is a 20" wide by 36" length and 1" thick self inflating sleep pad. The beauty of the thinner self inflating mattresses are that they require very little inflation. Typically after a few minutes of letting them sit, they only take a few breaths. Inflating a pad may not be a huge deal for most trips, but when up in elevation or exhausted it is nice to not have to spend 5 minutes huffing into your pad. Even though the Prolite XS pad is a torso length it does not compare to the compact size of the Klymit Inertia X Lite pad. If space is more of a premium then comfort I would suggest the Inertia. The Thermarest Prolite XS compacts down slightly smaller then the Big Agnes full length pads. The real winning spec of the XS length is the tiny 9 oz weight.
Use- The Thermarest Prolite XS pad has quickly made it's way into my gear rotation. Although the pad packs down to the same size as the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX I find myself using the Thermarest more often. The thin but firm design of the pad provides just enough comfort on hard surfaces. If you prefer a firm mattress at home, then the Thermarest Prolite is going to be a better option. I have found that on thicker pads my arms will fall asleep throughout the night. This does not happen with the Thermarest. Even though the pad is thin it is still comfortable to sleep on your sides, back or stomach. If you were to need a Regular or Long size of this pad, I doubt it would be very valuable as a backpacking pad. The overall pack size would take up substantial room. Combining the XS length with a backpack or sit pad for my legs seems to work great in most instances. The Prolite seems to be holding up to more abuse in the field, although I would still not use it on bare ground (ground cloth at least).
Final Thoughts- The Thermarest Prolite XS pad is a often overlooked alternative to the mega popular inflatable pads on the market. The self inflating pads popularity seemed to die out, with thicker and plusher pads hitting the market. If you are looking for a firm pad, but closed foam doesn't cut it, this is the next step up. The aggressive cut of and compact size make it ideal for lightweight backpackers. The combination of a self inflating torso length pad and a foam sit pad for your legs, combines to create a more versatile and lighter option then most inflatable pads on the market. If you would like to checkout the Thermarest Prolite XS or other options visit the Cascade Designs website.
*This product was purchased for review.