When I was a kid, every now and then my parents would take me camping. Our gear was likely the very best Montgomery
Ward offered within the last decade or so.
We had two matching tents, both equally adequate at holding water as
well as an aquarium. My parents slept in
one and my brother and I slept in the other.
Each night while my brother and I tried to think of new and innovative
ways to annoy one another causing our mother to be quite creative with her
empty threats, we’d overhear exchanges between my mom and dad. Usually it started with sounds of tossing and
turning followed by general discomfort.
My mom would attempt to remedy the situation and my father could be
heard telling her he was fine.
In as much as I’d like to avoid all thoughts that they were working on
giving my brother and I a sibling, I know the truth was that my father was
uncomfortable sleeping on the ground.
While my mom, brother and I had old foam GI mats, my father had an early
edition inflatable. But, as someone over
300 pounds, the mat proved to be more of a test of his patience than a welcomed
hope for a night of restful sleep.
I always remembered those moments because the one thing I took away
from camping with the family was that it was uncomfortable. Whether it was the obvious difficulty in the
middle of the night or the “I slept in a tent last night” facemask we all wear
from time-to-time, it wasn’t an ideal situation. Now with my own family, this retrospective is
helpful as family camping is meant to be an enjoyable activity.
The first few times I went camping with my family, I brought my
lightweight gear and we all huddled under an old cramped tent. My kids and I were sleeping on foam at a public
campsite that was overly loved, and my wife was sleeping on a women’s Thermarest
Prolite Plus (something I had purchased for her along with a GoLite Jam
with the hopes of motivating her to go backpacking with me). I learned the same thing my dad did at those
moments – this is uncomfortable.
Flash forward to our modern world where the number of choices for nearly
anything is only outweighed by the number of places it could be purchased. My goal was simple, to find the biggest most
bed-like sleeping pad on the market. I
knew I couldn’t get an inflatable mattress because those never worked well for
me, or more importantly anyone else sharing it with me.
While I squashed it to the floor, my partners were raised to circus
heights only to eventually slide into me.
Realistically, there also wouldn’t be enough room for kids and I really
didn’t want to lug around a giant inflatable mattress anyway as it would no
doubt turn into the tent trampoline for anyone under the age of 6.
I ended up with the Thermarest
Dreamtime - an inflatable pad with memory foam on top within a sleeve. Now I’m not a fan of inflatables to begin
with, or memory foam, but put them together on a hard surface which would be
challenging in most any situation….and….oh my.
With an R-value of 9, a 30” width and 78” in length, it was wonderfully
big. Pushing nearly 8 pounds, it was
every bit of heavy I was willing to lug from the car to the tent. It took all of one trip for my wife to remind
me that I was buying another. I used it
over the Easter weekend despite my back reminding me that moving 11 cu/yds of
mulch and dirt is an activity best left for more graceful youth who accept cash
to help me avoid the suffering. It was a
great success. I’ll be backpacking for
an overnighter this weekend and will hook up with my family for a second night. You can bet your sweet cheeks that my UL foam will be left in the car when I
arrive and the Dreamtime will be making another tent appearance.
Find one on sale, use a coupon, and consider your REI dividend, and
your wallet won’t suffer as much.