Getting a Good Nights Sleep: The Birth of the Therm-A-Rest
It’s odd it took so long to go from sleeping on tree boughs to high-tech mini air mattresses with goose down floating around inside to keep you toasty warm at night. After all, comfort has always been the forefront of camp inventions and there’s always been a strong desire to have a comfortable sleep.
The traditional “how to” books gave great detail on the proper way to layer conifer twigs. And that was a good start. Later came the big blue closed-cell foamy pads, air mattresses and elongated bubble rap designs one can pack along and sleep on. Now, in only a few years, we’re equipped with the ultimate gadget titled the Therm-a-rest. This invention revolutionized how well we sleep at night.
The story goes that it was two engineers and enthusiastic hikers from Seattle – John Burroughs and Lim Lea – who focused their skills at creating a better sleeping pad because they found themselves laid off and had nothing better to do. The lack of insulation and padding from the cold ground was the main dilemma with what was already commercially available.
What inspired their idea of the “Therm-a-rest” was a simple kneeling pad used out in the garden, built of open cell foam and covered with a perforated polyurethane cover. Experimentation with a secondhand sandwich grill to build the prototype, fusing the two layers together, led to a self-inflating pad.
At present, campers still purchase the cheaper closed-cell foamy pad or turn blue trying to blow up an air-mattress. But eventually all will cave in and buy a Therm-a-rest or some type of knock-off, and finally find an answer to the number one concern that campers have been mumbling about for years while cocooned in their sleeping bags; they will finally get a good nights sleep.