|Enjoying the last few minutes before bed on |
my Sleep System in the Sierras. (J. Johnsen)
That was me in late June on a backpacking trip in the stunning Sierra Nevadas. I took the sleep system Therm-a-rest provided me with for testing on two backpacking trips, one in the Sierras and another in the Catskills. After several nights out in the wild with my sleep system, I'll definitely take it on more trips in the future.
One of my initial concerns was that the system wouldn’t pack down to the same size as a standard set of sleeping supplies. Space and weight are important considerations when I’m lugging my stuff up and down mountains! But carrying the system was a piece of cake.
Despite the fact that my system has four components – pad, sheet, blanket, and pillow – it took up less space than my previous sleeping pad and sleeping bag did. I actually like the fact that there are separate components; I have more freedom to store them in different places depending on what else I’m carrying. The system weighs 3.5 pounds, pillow and mattress included.
|The sleep system ready to go in the Sierras.|
The sheet is made with three snaps on each long side, which is how the comforter attaches to the pad. The comforter has a pocket at the bottom end that slips over the pad, and then the three snaps attach it to the sheet. The comforter is long enough to almost completely cover the pad, and extra material on either side keeps drafts out between the snaps. The idea is to have the same sheet-and-comforter feel you’d get in your own bed out in the middle of nowhere, which Cascade Designs definitely achieved.
In general, there are number of things I really like about the system I chose. I love the fact that it really does feel more like home and gives me more freedom to move around. I love how light weight the system is, and the fact that I get to sleep on a clean sheet every time. I was comfortable in the cold, and really did sleep better on both backpacking trips with this system than I had on others.
But, there are a few concerns. First, the snaps are relatively small. They came un-snapped easily, especially around my upper body when I rolled over. I’d love to see a stronger, larger set of snaps, perhaps even buttons, to make sure everything stays connected. Second, though I recognize there are different sizes, the compressible pillow didn’t pack down as small as I’d like. Even completely rolled, the large sized pillow is quite large. If I need to save space on a backpacking trip, I’ll likely still stick to my inflatable pillow or a stuff sack full of clothes.
|One of the six small snaps that attaches the blanket to the mattress.|
An additional concern is the system's price. My entire system retails for just under $450, all four components included. The most expensive piece, of course, is the down blanket. Though I haven't tested them, substituting the Ventra 40ºF Down Comforter drops the price a bit. If you know you're going to be camping in warm weather, the Tech Blanket could be worth a look as well.
All this being said, I’d recommend my system or one like it for overnight backpacking trips and car camping. I’ll continue to take it with me on overnight trips given how soundly I slept and how comfortable it was, which is the main goal of the system. I’d also consider the Ventra 40ºF Down Comforter or the Tech Blanket for spring and summer trips, given how warm I was in the Catksills.
Huge thanks to Cascade Designs for sending me a complimentary sleep system to test! As always, all opinions expressed here are my own. Have you tried one of the sleep systems? Have any questions or comments? Share your thoughts below!