In Defense of Camping Comfort

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

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

It wasn’t as if I doubted the efficacy of sandwiching a slice of open-cell foam between two layers of airtight fabric. I just couldn’t grasp the idea of even needing such a device. It seemed “soft”-and I’m not talking about the mattress here.


I’d 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 stone. And, uh, other hard and tough stuff (I was still in my teens and didn’t possess the world’s largest vocabulary at the time). I sure as hell didn’t need or want anything that tried to transform sleeping in the outdoors into sleeping at home.

After thoroughly berating my companion’s new Therm-a-Rest pad and his corresponding lack of manliness, I lay 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 was flirting with the concept by the time 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 gladly drag you into one of those MMA “octagon of death” cage matches. Someone will get a sound choking.

At some point, you learn that comfort is not a thing to be sneered at. That, 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 that we embark for the wild whilst dragging along laptops, umbrella drinks, and those easy chairs that give you shiatsu massages. I’m still all for preserving the experience of the great outdoors, but I’ve come to realize that sometimes there’s a need to suffer and sometimes there’s a need to simply get some sleep.

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

Photo: Justin Housman

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