Tested: Therm-a-Rest ProLite Apex
US brand Therm-a-Rest has been at the forefront of sleeping mat (both self-inflating and inflatable) for many years now. The company has continued to innovate and introduce new technology to what is an essential item for most adventurers who value a good night’s sleep in the outdoors.
As part of my kit for a recent Snowy River kayaking trip, I was keen to check out one of the brand’s new self-inflating mats – the ProLite Apex – that is claimed to be the brand’s warmest in the ProLite range. With its four-season rating, and R-Value of 4 (R-Value signifies a sleeping mat’s ability to insulate you from the cold of the ground underneath; the scale runs from 0 to 6 – the higher, the warmer).
That warmth comes courtesy of the Apex’s internal layer of thermal foam insulation that sits between the mat’s alternating foam and air ridges, part of its construction, with the result being a 50mm-thick mat once fully inflated. The ProLite Apex’s construction of thermal-foam and regular foam inside it ensures that even when deflated, it still offers some cushioning.
As you’d expect from this highly regarded brand, the Apex is both well-made and tough. The outer fabric is a robust 50-denier polyester that ensures your sleeping bag (and you) ‘stick’ more to the mat itself, unlike some mats that have a shinier/lighter-weight outer surface that sees you slipping and sliding all night. The other positive of this outer fabric is that it is quiet; there’s no ‘chip packet rustling’ that you sometimes hear when moving about or rolling over on some super lightweight mats that don’t utilise insulation and rely on reflective treatments on the inner to promote warmth.
This fabric, along with the insulation, means the ProLite Apex, at 630g, is slightly heavier and bulkier compared to those inflatable mats with no insulation and lighter outer fabrics that pack down more compact, but we’d take the quietness and enhanced comfort of this insulated variant, and allow for that little bit more packing space it needs, any day.
To inflate the Apex, you simply roll it out, undo the valve, and then let it sit and inflate for five to 10 minutes. After that, all it takes is a few short puffs of air to tweak the firmness of the mat to your own personal liking. Over the five days on the river, the Apex performed without issue; the only small ‘niggle’ I had with the mat was its tapered bottom, but that is more due to the fact I sprawl out when sleeping. For me, the Standard Wide model, which only adds 130g of weight for an extra 120mm of width over the Standard, would be ideal. As it is, the Standard mat, measuring 1830mm long and 510mm wide, should be fine for all but the taller/wider among us. For the very tall adventurers, there is a Large model, measuring 1960mm long and 630mm wide.
For those looking for that one sleeping mat that will cover all seasons and all activities, the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Apex provides a strong case. It is relatively light in weight and packed size (although there are lighter/smaller ones out there, you do compromise on durability), it is four-season rated, it offers the assurance of still providing some comfort even if you cop a puncture (unlikely as that is), plus the 50mm mattress is very comfortable.
RRP $285 www.spelean.com.au