The slightly ridged surface of the self-inflating Therm-a-Rest ProLite Apex. This pad is firm-yet-cushioned and stable, it ended up being one of our favorites in terms of comfort and support.
GEAR INSTITUTE RATINGS
Ease of use
Easy to Use
Large packed size
The Therm-a-Rest ProLite Apex earned rave comments from testers regarding its comfort and durability. The ProLite also sports an attractive price, making it affordable as well as effective in four-season backpacking use. The ProLite Apex is the best choice for general backpacking when price and performance are equally important.
The Therm-a-Rest ProLite Apex is a four-season self-inflating pad available in Regular, Regular Wide, and Large sizes. We give it kudos for transitioning between car camping and backpacking well.
The ProLite Apex has an R-value of 4, which is the lowest in this test. However, this is a higher R-value than any pad in our lightweight sleeping pad review. For a person who wants a single sleeping pad that can be used in any season or circumstance, we would point them towards this pad. It is affordable, durable, comfortable, warm, and relatively lightweight. You can find both warmer and lighter products, but it is difficult to find one product that does all of these things well.
At 2 inches thick and filled with urethane foam, the ProLite Apex has an entirely different feel than air construction sleeping mats. Where an inflatable pad, like the NeoAir, feels bouncy and overly round, the ProLite Apex feels firm-yet-cushioned, consistent, and stable. This mat quickly became one of our favorites throughout our tests.
At 1 pound, 7 ounces, the ProLite Apex is competitive in terms of weight. The lightest insulated sleeping pad we tested was the Big Agnes AXL, which weighed 12.4 ounces on our scale, but this pad was not warm and we determined it was inadequate for winter camping. The next lightest is the NeoAir XTherm at 15 ounces. This pad weighs 8 ounces more but is arguably more comfortable. We think this weight is acceptable for carrying on human-powered overnights.
Though self-inflating pads like the ProLite Apex are typically heavier and bulkier than air construction mats, we find them to be far more comfortable. Air construction pads tend to feel like sleeping on a balloon, or a pool raft—not exactly the firm-yet-cushioned feel of a quality mattress. However, self-inflating mats include a layer of foam on the interior, which gives the mat structure, increased insulation, and enhanced durability. We think it provides a smoother and more stable surface for sleeping on as well. The ProLite Apex is lightly ridged, which feels nice on the back. We did not expect it, but we found that this was one of our favorite pads to sleep on. The packed size is helped somewhat by a stuff sack with compression straps, which allows the pad to be cinched as small as possible.
Self-inflating pads are always a little more durable than air construction pads, simply because there is more meat to them. Since there is a layer of foam within the pad, if it does suffer a puncture, there is still something for the user to sleep on in an emergency. It won’t be as comfortable or as insulating as when the pad holds air, but it won’t be as useless as the empty skin of an air construction pad either. The ProLite Apex has 50-denier polyester on both the top and bottom, and we think it will last quite a while.
Ease of Use
The ProLite is exceptionally easy to use. When you set up your tent, unroll the pad and open the valve and leave it in your tent. It will mostly fluff-up on its own. Before bed at a few breaths and seal the valve. It takes far, far less time than it does to inflate the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm. Bonus: the ProLite Apex is also much quieter to sleep on than any NeoAir, which tend to be loud.