Having a sleeping pad that can provide exceptional warmth yet will never fail can literally be a life saver, or it can just be really convenient. Either way, the Third Degree Foam Pad is exactly both of those things and this is my review.
The Third Degree is a dual layer foam, insulating sleeping pad. The bottom layer is compressible high density foam with tire-tread/egg crate like texture that provides cushioning, traction and warmth. The top layer is a flat green layer that creates a smoother sleeping surface, provides a little extra cushion, and adds a second layer of insulation. These layers are sealed together to create a cohesive platform that blocks heat loss, is waterproof, and can never go flat. The pad is 11mm thick (0.5 inches), weighs 12 ounces for the 20″ x 72″ pad tested here , and retails for $40. A half length and seat sized option are also available as low as $20.
The main goal of the Third Degree pad isn’t to become a one piece sleep system. Instead, it is meant to be used in conjunction with other sleeping pads. It can be placed under a sleeping pad for extra traction, protection from sharp objects, and to provide insulating protecting from the frozen ground. It can also be layered on top of another sleeping pad or even a cot for direct insulation when using a non-insulated sleeping pad. In this aspect, it does a wonderful job. I’ve tested the pad well below the recommended temperature minimum of 32 degrees F, down to about 20 degrees. It managed to boost the warmth of my already insulated sleeping pad considerably. It almost entirely blocked cold from seeping into my pad, creating an even cozier experience. With a non-insulated pad, it performed similarly, but I probably wouldn’t use it below 30 or so in that situation. I personally preferred the foam mat to be used on top of the pad, pressing directly against my sleeping bag. I felt this provided a little more warmth. It does change the feel of the pad, for the better or worse depending on the pad, but I found it all around to be comfortable to use either fashion.
Used alone, the pad works great when tossed onto frozen ground as an insulator, or on wet grass to stay dry. It is definitely more comfortable than sitting directly on a cold rock or in gravel, and greatly improves, say, an extended lunch break. Just having something that can just be tossed and drug around without worrying about it going flat is surprisingly freeing, and opens up a lot of possibilities for lounging. That being said, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest using it as a stand along sleeping pad as it really doesn’t provide a large amount of compression or padding. One may get by in a back sleeping position on even terrain, but any other position or when dealing with lumpy, uneven terrain wouldn’t be a great experience.
The pad doesn’t do much to normalize the ground below it, so medium sized rocks, sticks or just lumps in the grass will project through, creating lumps in the surface. It is rather pleasant in tall grass, however.
The pad I tested rolls up to become a roll of about 6″ x 20″, and can easily be attached on the outside of most backpacks. It does stick out a fair distance when being strapped on this way, so it can potentially get hung up on rocks or branches when pushing through tight foliage. Luckily, it is quite durable so I wouldn’t worry about tearing it, just getting hung up a bit. It is light enough that the weight can’t really be felt when attached to the far end or top of a pack, so it doesn’t create an uneven or off-balance sensation, thankfully.
The pad can be stored rolled up or flat, and it does a good job of flattening back out after being unrolled. It does retain some memory after being rolled up for a long period of time, but is far better at leveling back out than most I have tested. It doesn’t try to curl up underneath me while I’m actually using it, so that hasn’t been much of a problem, especially underneath another pad. Worse case scenario, a couple rocks can be placed on the corners of the pad to pin it down for a bit, allowing it to rest and regain it’s normal composition. I prefer mine to be stored flat just to remind it who is boss.
Overall, the pad certainly achieves what is sets out to do. It is warm, adds some comfort, and is unconditionally reliable. It is a relief knowing that if my primarily sleeping pad goes flat, I will still have some insulation and padding beneath me. Instead of ending up on the frozen or wet earth, I will still be warm, and for the most part comfortable. For this reason, I always pack a pad like this with me when I’m dealing with temperatures at or below freezing, and often even in the summer when I know I want to lounge around on rock or grass. It also does double duty at ball games, events, or when working around the house on my hands and knees. It does cost a little more than the competition, but is also provides a flatter contact surface, better grip, and it actually looks pretty cool hanging on the back of a pack. To me, that makes it worth the extra expense.
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I want to extend a huge thanks to Big Agnes for providing this product for review. We couldn’t do it without their help.
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