Therm-a-Rest. Mmmmmm. One of the best purchases you can make for your camping trips. Other than, y’know… food. and sleeping bags. And those little powdered donuts. No… no. The Therm-a-Rest is better than the little powdered donuts.
Okay, so, ages ago when I first saw ‘self-inflating camping mattress’, I was hooked. What? No sitting around blowing up a sleeping pad? My dad had to do that. I recall a camping trip to Cumberland Caverns. My dad, sitting in a cave with what amounted to a heavy duty pool float, his mouth on a stem that was, frankly, made for attaching a bicycle pump, and blowing for all he was worth. This would have been 1973, and the air mattress was a big rubber thing with a polyester/nylon cloth glued to it. Real tough stuff… and heavy as lead, probably. I wouldn’t know. I didn’t drag the damned thing down into the bowels of the earth. Dad did, though. And blowing it up was, I’m sure, a complete chore for a smoker. I wouldn’t know. I didn’t dizzy myself horking a lung into the damned thing. Dad did, though.
I only remember us having two of those things. I don’t remember whether my brother and I got them to sleep on, or what other arrangements were made. It’s possible that Dad also dragged blankets and other heavy things down into Cumberland Caverns, and he got one of the coveted air mattresses. No idea about that. Too long ago.
Also too long ago, my wife and I purchased two Therm-a-Rest mattresses. We were newly married and camping with friends and doing fun things and I considered them a luxury, because all my college camping had been done rough and uncomfortable. But now older, wiser and with a wife to please, we got these wonderful high-tech sleeping pads that, if you opened their valves and left them to themselves, would eventually fill up with some air.
Honestly? Good purchase. They’re only an inch or so thick, but that’s padding, and they keep the cold of the ground from becoming the cold of your butt. And lightweight- or as lightweight as things were twenty years ago. Remember, say, cell phones, or heaven help us, computer monitors and TVs.
We had kids, and didn’t camp so much. When the kids were old enough, we’d take them along and suddenly there was math involved. “Two sleeping pads divided by three people… oh, four now…” Didn’t add up, you see.
Somewhen around then, my wife had acquired for herself a giant gooshy, squooshy sort of a Wal-Mart kind of sleeping pad. It, like the Therm-a-Rests, came rolled up and seemingly ready to head out into the wilderness, but it was a little on the sizey size. Took up a LOT of room, compared to the Therm-a-Rests. That’s okay. If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, as the saying goes.
And me? I got a smaller Therm-a-Rest. It’s length was the same as our ancient patched old Therm-a-Rests, but the width was termed ‘BackPacker’. And it may be a little thinner. Nevertheless, It seemed like a hot deal. The technology had improved a great deal! My new day-glo (is that still a term?) mat was easily packed and easily blown up.
* A side note here about Therm-a-Rests. You should store them filled and flat, it seems. I’ve usually stored mine deflated and rolled up. The more you do that, the more you’re going to have to refer to the beginning of this story and my Dad busting a lung trying to inflate air pads while complaining about air pads and needing a smoke. They need some inflating after being trained to be unflated. Word to the wise. Or at least to the wiser-than-me*
Now, a few weeks ago, my wife had to have a new sleeping pad. Her giant squashy thing finally went to the great Storage Shed in the Sky. The little quilted circles that went up and down the pad started to pop loose when you inflated it. The first couple to let go were at one end, so that end became the ‘pillow’, and so it gained a little time. Then it started popping in the middle. Suddenly the pad itself was like sleeping on gently rolling ground. And putting pressure on it could result in new hillocks and hummocks being suddenly precipitated. And what puts pressure on a sleeping pad? That’s right. Lying down on it. Pow! Oof! Not the best way to sleep.
So back to the Outdoor Store! My wife picked out a new pad that is the same width as my backpacker size, but it’s thicker. It’s nearly two inches, I think. Very luxurious. It’s light. It packs down very nicely. It has a sort of rubber-coated valve. We’ll see how that weathers. It’s already irretrievably dirty, after three campouts.
So my kids have inherited these giant old Therm-a-Rests but will no doubt want new ones one day… or, more likely, they’ll abscond with my day-glo pad and their mother’s new pad. After all, to the kids, there’s FOUR pads in the house and they’ll only need TWO. That’s easy math, right?
Someone kick that darned cat out of the cradle.