Friday, January 29, 2010

Therm-a-Rest Ridgerest "Solar"

Sleeping pads come in all shapes and sizes and many have very polarized opinions on what works best for them. For me, I’m fortunate because I find more comfort in CCF pads than just about anything else which allows me to save some money and weight while gaining a product nearly indestructible and very thermally efficient. I think my only gripe is that they simply don’t pack small which is actually a pretty big irritant.

For three-season hiking, my preference is for the CCF pads by Gossamer Gear. There simply isn’t anything lighter that gets the job done as effectively. As it gets colder, instead of adding another CCF or bringing something like BPL’s Torsolite which I find laughably small, I elect to use the Therm-a-Rest Ridgerest (torso-size of course). For a nominal gain in weight from the Gossamer Gear pads, I get an R-value at 2.6 which is really the best bang for the weight and size. The Ridgerest Deluxe comes in at at R-Value of 3.1 which is perfect for snow camping.

Well, as released during the 2010 Outdoor Retailer show, Therm-a-Rest is smartly using a technology which made their NeoAir inflatable mattress so infamous in 2009 – a reflective "radiant barrier" layer which will reflect the users body heat back to them thereby keeping them warmer. This is the same principal used in the New Balance Fugu jacket I mentioned earlier this month. If I were a betting man, I'd buy stock in this technology as I fully expect for it to make its way into clothing options at all levels for outdoorsman. After all, why not add a simple no-weight barrier to boost the warmth of anything. It could even be put inside a tent to absorb heat on one side and reflect it on the other...imagine that...a "warm" tent at no appreciable weight gain. How great would that be? Stevenson's Warmlite as been marketing that for years. Think long and hard about this wonderful advance in technology folks...

In July 2010, the RidgeRest and the bigger RidgeRest Deluxe will both be treated with an aluminized surface which will increase the R-value significantly. For example, in the Deluxe it will be increased from 3.1 to 3.5 with no weight gain. This is 13% warmer than previous versions and represents a significant leap and intelligent use of technology to offer you and I a better night of sleep on cold nights and on cooler surfaces.

This is one of those purchases for me which will be a no brainer. The regular size (20”x72”) will come in at 1lb 3 oz at $40 and the large version (25” x 77”) will come in at 1lb 10 oz for $55. Course, cutting them to size will make them anywhere from 7-16 oz for the average person, an industry-leading weight for a great ground insulating product.


Mike said...

Out of curiosity, how does Therm-a-Rest's technology compare to something like Sympatex Reflexion found in some jackets? Same principle? Thanks for the great posts!

Jolly Green Giant said...

Hey Mike, thanks for stopping by.

If I recall, GoLite has started to use SympatTex Reflexion in their product line as a radiant barrier and I would assume it would all function within the same statistical performance range. Again, fantastic idea. From my understanding, highly controlled tests of any radiant barrier yield roughly 5% return on body heat with just the reflective technology alone. To me, that’s a plenty worthwhile technology to add in any insulating layer as I’d always rather be too warm than a little cold. Personally, I’m interested to see how Sympatex compares in breathability to eVENT as I can’t imagine a fabric being both windproof and breathable as it claims. This may not be a fair comparison, however because it isn’t apples to apples. SympaTex is a closed cell membrane which differs from DriDucks (see next weeks blog), eVENT, etc. which are microporous membranes.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. I have been using a zlite and will probably switch to this new ridgerest. Good stuff!

Unknown said...

On their homepage they say RidgeRest got an R-Value of 2.6:

Jolly Green Giant said...

Hey Bjorn, thanks for stopping by. The R-value I quoted was for the Ridgerest, not the Deluxe. I have corrected my posting. Thanks for keeping me straight.

Chris Kayler said...


Do you happen to know if they will be treating both the standard Ridgerest as well as the Deluxe ... or is it just the Deluxe?


Jolly Green Giant said...

Hey Chris, thanks for stopping by. As I understand it, both will have the reflective barrier. I can say this with some confidence because I know people in the field who are testing both. Course, that doesn't necessarily mean that both will hit the market, but I suspect they will.

Matt Lacuesta said...

I get the fact that it will reflect heat back to me if I lay directly on it, but what about when using it with an inflatable pad in sub freezing weather? I feel like I may have better luck with my Prolite pad rather than my Basecamp.
Just figured I'd ask in case you had heard anything or talked to anyone who has tried it out yet.

Jolly Green Giant said...

@ Matt -

Inflatables in subfreezing temperatures don't do well because of the condensation that gets built up in them which freezes and causes all kinds of problems. Granted, some of the winter down air mattress (DAM) come with their own pump, but it increases weight exponentially for both the dam and the pump. A piece of CCF is the most durable, most lightweight, least expensive, and comparably warm item. If you read up on those that trek into deep winter conditions, they always have a CCF pad and not an inflatable.

If you don't mind carrying the extra weight and can deal with any problems that come with inflatables, then you could very well have a much more cushy rest.

I know a few who use their NeoAir on top of their Ridgerest in winter conditions which seems to work well for short trips where condensation in the NeoAir doesn't have time to accumulate and cause problems.

As far as people using the Solar version, only a few have tried it as it hasn't been released to the market yet. Reports are that it affords 10-20% more warmth without any increase in weight.

This same reflective techonology is what made the NeoAir popular, is what Columbia is currently working on, and likely many other manufacturers will start to use in their clothing, sleeping bags, pads, etc.