Backpacker magazine has field-tested so many sleeping pads over the years that editors' recommendations carry a lot of weight. In 2003 they gave Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads their Editors' Choice Gold award. An earlier comparison review at GearReview.com recommends the Ultralite, now the Therm-a-Rest ProLite 3. We found over 40 owner-written reviews of the ProLite 3 at Backcountry.com, plus another two dozen at REI.com. Dan James gives a detailed review at blog Silver Orange Stuff, and we also found useful comments from owners at BackpackGearTest.org and Trailspace.com.
The self-inflating Therm-a-Rest ProLite 3 is the most-recommended sleeping pad for backpacking, with maximum comfort for its weight -- though not all campers find its cushioning enough. For colder nights, reviewers recommend adding a closed-cell foam mat under it. Quite a few older hikers (and younger ones who love comfort) find that it's worth carrying the heavier Exped DownMat 7 (*est. $140), which is better insulated and 2.8 inches thick.
1. Backpacker Magazine
Editors of Backpacker magazine give the Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads an Editors' Choice Gold award for their long-term contribution to camping comfort.
Review: Editors Choice Issue, Editors of Backpacker, April 2003
Despite its age, this comparison review is valuable since it rates 12 sleeping pads. The Therm-a-Rest Ultralite, the model replaced by the ProLite 3, is one of the top recommendations.
Review: Sleeping Pads: Cheap Sleep Insurance, Steve Mann, Nov. 1999
Staff at this hiking gear retailer rate the Therm-a-Rest ProLite 3 sleeping pad a "best buy," and over 40 owners mostly agree. A few find that it's just not thick enough, especially for side sleepers.
Review: Therm-a-Rest ProLite 3 Sleeping Pad, Staff and contributors to Backcountry.com
The Therm-a-Rest ProLite 3 is one of the top-rated sleeping pads here, reviewed by about two dozen owners. A handful of women also give top scores to the women's version.
Review: Therm-a-Rest ProLite 3 Sleeping Pad -- Regular, Contributors to REI.com
5. Silver Orange Stuff
This detailed review of the Therm-a-Rest ProLite 3 sleeping pad compares it with the MEC Apogee Long (now the MEC Kelvin) reviewed here in 2004.
Review: Therm-a-Rest ProLite 3 Sleeping Pad Review, Dan James, Dec. 18, 2006
About a half dozen owners give the ProLite 3 sleeping pad top ratings here, finding it durable and surprisingly comfortable for its thickness.
Review: Therm-a-Rest ProLite 3, Contributors to Trailspace.com
Several experienced backpackers review various ProLite sleeping pads in great detail, including the women's version. The 1-inch thickness gets mixed reviews for comfort, and the "non-slip" bottom sometimes slips.
Review: Therm-a-Rest ProLite, Contributing to BackpackGearTest.org