A Brief History of Therm-a-Rest
One of the earliest slogans used on Therm-a-Rest print adverts was “for the rest of your life.” And while that slogan primarily called out the superior sleep one could achieve with a newly invented self-inflating Therm-a-Rest mat, there are adventurers out there who have spent their entire outdoors pursuing lives sleeping on our products. A lot has happened in the past 50 years, but all along the way our core mission has remained the same: to help customers get a better sleep outdoors.
“We got started because I wanted a better mattress” says John Burroughs, co-founder of Therm-a-Rest. As an experienced mountaineer, John knew that the thin foam mats of the early 70’s left a giant opportunity for the creation of a mattress that offered greater comfort. And when friend and fellow Boeing employee Jim Lea discovered a way of enhancing these uncomfortable mats with air-tight fabric and a regulated airway, the self-inflating mattress was born. In 1972, the friends filed for a patent for the “Therm-a-Rest” mattress, and launched the company Cascade Designs Inc.
The very first Therm-a-Rest mats were produced in Seattle in 1973, and were called the Standard ¾. From the outset, the Standard ¾ was very popular, and caught the attention of REI, the brands’ very first customer. As manufacturing techniques became more advanced, Therm-a-Rest’s ability to create lighter, more efficient mattresses continued. 1983 saw the launch of the Ultra Lite and Camp Rest® mats, and in 1984, the RidgeRest® was introduced, a mattress which reached its iconic status early on, and has been a staple for novices and experts in the outdoors ever since.
As popularity and demand increased, in 1985 Cascade Designs set up a second manufacturing facility in County Cork, Ireland, to supply the European market, and it remains the hub of the European business today.
But the innovations didn’t stop at mats – in 1994, Therm-a-Rest entered the sleep system market with their range of Sleeping Bags. A cold chamber was constructed in their Seattle factory to test sleeping bags to their limit, a bold sign that the brand was here to challenge the market!
Another hugely impactful introduction from the brand was the launch of NeoAir®. This range of airfilled and super-compact mattresses raised the bar in the air-inflated market when it launched in 2009, and continues to set the standard for innovative, lightweight design.
As we look back over 50 years of Therm-a-Rest innovations, the brand continues its unwavering commitment to its customers, just as founder John Burroughs set out in 1972. And with more people enjoying the outdoors than ever before, the Therm-a-Rest team across the world look forward to the next 50!