Seattle aerospace giant Boeing laid off 50,000 people in 1971, leaving engineers Jim Lea and Neil Anderson with time on their hands. Another engineer friend, John Burroughs, challenged them with creating a better camping mattress; at that time, air mattresses were cold and leaky, while closed-cell foam pads were bulky and uncomfortable. One day while Jim was gardening, inspiration struck. As he shifted his weight on his foam ground cushion, he heard the air escaping a closed chamber. Combining a few deductions from this experience with a lot of tinkering, he and Neil came up with a prototype of a mattress that featured open-cell memory foam surrounded by air and sealed inside and airtight chamber, with a valve to control air pressure. The world’s first self-inflating sleeping pad was born.
After year of field testing, they had reached a design that offered far superior comfort and performance than anything that had existed before. John dubbed it the “Therm-a-Rest,” because the new pad offered both insulation and the comfort that outdoor enthusiasts needed to get a good night’s sleep under the stars. A patent application was filed and, by 1972, the Therm-a-Rest mattress was on its way to becoming an integral piece of camping and excursion gear for millions. It was so ground-breaking, in fact, that in 2012 Outside Magazine placed it on its list of “The Most Influential Gear of All-Time.”
Today, the Therm-a-Rest line of sleeping pads offers models designed for fast-and-light backpackers to luxury-loving car campers, and everyone in between. It features a number of variations on the original design, as well as the next-generation, multiple-award-winning NeoAir line. The company also revisited and vastly improved the closed-cell pads that used to be so uncomfortable; the Z-Lite and RidgeRest mattresses are the result. It now also offers the LuxuryLite cot for the ultimate in outdoor sleeping comfort.
In fact, Therm-a-Rest offers all the components of a complete sleep system, not just the pad. Therm-a-Rest sleeping bags are designed to work in tandem with its pads to balance light weight with comfort. Pillows and bedding sized to fit its pads help enable a good night’s sleep. And for waking hours, kits are available that turn your pad into a comfortable chair, or you can opt for seating mini-pads that protect your behind from the cold, hard ground.
Heading into its fourth decade, Therm-a-Rest remains the worldwide leader in outdoor comfort, offering the broadest and most innovative assortment of outdoor comfort products available. The company continues to innovate, always driven by the conviction that the better your rest, the more you’ll enjoy your time precious time outdoors.