well it's been a long time since i've written about a product i enjoy, and i promised my readers on the homeless how-to many moons ago that i'd write more about my favourite gear... so here it is.
i've been through a few packs, many pairs of footwear, tried a couple different shelters and stoves, but the one original piece of gear that i still have and use since the beginning of my backpacking years is my Therm-a-Rest Ridgerest sleep mat. i made the purchase in early 2008, and took it for a test drive on a somewhat mild night in mid-winter. the main purpose of such a product is to keep your body warmth from being stolen by the cold ground, and it does this superbly.
when i bought the mat, it came in three different sizes. i believe i bought the medium one [3/4 length] as the small was a little too short, and the large was more mat than i needed. at first the roll was rather bulky, but after a few weeks of nightly use, i was able to roll it more tightly to fit better on my pack. i'm glad i didn't get the full-sized one as this length is plenty enough when i would usually have a sweater folded under my head as a pillow anyways, i found i didn't need to have the mat under my whole body.
i chose this mat for it's durability, and the fact that it is super light weight. i was hesitant to pick up a self inflating mat, or anything that wasn't closed cell foam, for the fact that i didn't want to have to deal with repairing or replacing the thing i'd be sleeping on for months on end, especially not knowing how far from civilization i'd end up. also, it's super easy to clean because it has no outer material to worry about, all you need is a damp rag and a few minutes of drying time and it's good to go.
now, many years later, my original Ridgerest still serves me well. though it looks rather smushed and rolls down to about half of the space it once took up, it's main functions are still covered. it insulates my body from the cold ground, and provides a bit of comfort beneath my sleeping bag. it has been used on the trail, in the yard, surfing various living room floors, sheds and other structures, even on the beach. i refuse to replace it until it's completely worn out, and i can't see that happening any time in the near future.