Air cushions dominate the backpacking market, however self-inflating models have place in the market due to their ease of installation, durability, and soft foam padding. The best self-inflating model we have seen is the Therma-Rest ProLite Plus, which hits the perfect balance between durability, warmth and cost. The pad is incredibly easy to use–just take it off and then open the valve to inflate. Its 3.2 R-value, and 1.5-inch thickness provide enough warmth and protection for the majority of spring and summer trips. For toughness, the 50-denier fabric is more resistant to abrasion than the majority of pads on the market as well as the added foam (standard for the self-inflating models) ensures that you have an insulation layer even if your pad doesn’t deflate.
What are the drawbacks of the Therma-Rest ProLite Plus? The first is the pad’s compact size (11 inches by 6.8 in). by 6.8 inches)) and the weight (1 1 lb. 7 oz.) makes it considerably heavier and larger than other designs like it’s predecessor, the Nemo Tensor above–in the end that’s the primary reason that most people who are concerned about weight and space prefer an air pad instead of self-inflating designs. Additionally it is also a bit thin. ProLite Plus is relatively thin at 1.5 inches which is not suitable for sleepers on the side. If you’re looking for durability, Exped’s Dura 3R is a combination of a face fabric that’s 75×170-denier with a 3 inch-thick air-pad ($150 1 lb. 9 oz). Many will be awed by the ProLite’s smooth surface and the extra safety of foam padding. Plus, it’s price is difficult to beat at $120.