This week we’re out dodging the first storm of the new season in the Sierra, and doing so in relative camp luxury, so please enjoy this piece from our archives. – Red.

I remember the first time I ever saw a Therm-a-Rest pad. I took one look at it and immediately thought, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.”

It wasn’t as if I doubted the effectiveness of putting a slab of open-cell foam between two layers of airtight fabric. I just couldn’t fathom the thought of myself need such a device. It seemed “soft” – and I’m not talking about the mattress here.


I had spent years sleeping on rocks and branches. Give me a plastic tarp and a sleeping bag and I could and did sleep anywhere. I was made of iron. And stones. And, uh, other hard and tough stuff (I was still in my teenage years and didn’t have the world’s biggest vocabulary at the time). I certainly didn’t need or want something that tried to turn sleeping outside into sleeping at home.

After thoroughly berating my companion’s new Therm-a-Rest pad and his corresponding lack of manliness, I laid back in our snow cave that night with a smug smile…and promptly froze the living hell out of myself. Again, my vocabulary was limited back then, so I didn’t know the word “hypothermia,” but I flirted with the concept as the sun struggled to its feet the next morning. Derision had turned to envy.

I’ve owned a Therm-a-Rest ever since and while I’m a man of peace with the biceps and fighting instincts of a librarian; if you so much as touch my Therm-a-Rest, I will happily drag you into one of those MMA “octagon of death” cage matches. Someone will get a suffocating sound.

At some point you learn that comfort is not something to scoff at. Sure, you could sleep on a bed of nails or master Iron Crotch Kung-Fu, but honestly, what’s the point? Why not be comfortable? I’m not suggesting we head out into the wild lugging around laptops, umbrella drinks and those armchairs that give you shiatsu massages. I’m still all for preserving the experience of the outdoors, but I’ve come to realize that sometimes there’s a need to suffer, and sometimes there’s a need to just get some sleep.

So go ahead, you can have my Therm-a-Rest… as soon as you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Photo: Justin Housman

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