Inside My Backpack: Therm-a-Rest Travel Cushion

I am guessing you have heard about backpacking by now, if nothing else, then from accidentally stumbling upon reading my blog. Essentially, it describes the art of medium (few weeks) to long term (few months or even years) traveling with just the bare minimums - whatever you can fit into your trusty backpack.

Super guys - what a bunch of good looking backpackers!

But have you ever wondered what exactly are those essentials? What things people really NEED to stay on the road for that long? What's inside that backpack?

It happens to be one of the first questions I get when I tell people about my round-the-world trip. How do I manage to survive without X or Y? Do I really get by with just four pairs of underwear and three pairs of socks? (Hint: I do and some claim to manage with less).

That's where the Inside My Backpack series comes in - every week I will pull a random item out of the hat my backpack and tell you the backstory on why and how it ended up in there. I might even throw in a few things that did not quite work out as I expected (just don't make fun of me too much, ok?).

The contents of my backpack at the beginning of my round-the-world trip

Therm-a-Rest Travel Cushion

Therm-a-rest Travel cushion

Whenever I get stuck with a long flight or a seemingly never ending bus ride, I am always thankful to my sister who, at some point before I set off on my trip, recommended that I get myself a travel cushion. This thing has saved my butt (pun intended) on many occasions - from the rock-hard exit row seats on some airplanes to 14+ bus rides in South America.

As I discovered while reading up on Amazon reviews, a good travel cushion serves many more purposes than just providing extra cushie for your tushie (I couldn't resist). It can help alleviate pressure points, distribute your weight more equally, lift up your tailbone (and/or tail) from the seat and provide lumbar support when placed behind your back. It can even make you [appear] taller! And as a bonus, the ones with air inside can double as a Whoopee cushion when you get bored, undoubtedly helping you make friends with your neighbors.

Foam cushion vs Gel cushion vs Air cushion

I also discovered that there are three types of cushions - a basic foam cushion, a gel pad, and an inflatable air cushion:

Three types of cushies

The foam version is the cheapest as it does nothing more than just provide more cushion. It is very light, but is not compact.

Many times I have seen gel pads used by flight instructors - folks that spent quite a bit of time sitting in uncomfortable seats day in and day out. The reviews seem to be generally positive, but they are relatively heavy AND bulky.

The inflatable ones seemed like the answer to my needs - providing benefits similar to gel pads, but also being portable, compact, and light. It also allows you adjust the "cushiness" by inflating or deflating it as needed.

Therm-a-rest Travel Cushion vs Lite Seat vs Camp Seat

So it came down to three versions of Therm-a-rest inflatables: the Travel Cushion, the Camp Seat and the Lite Seat. I eliminated the Camp Seat first as it was the biggest of the three. Since the reviews for the remaining two were comparable, I decided to get the Lite Seat version a year ago simply because it was cheaper. I liked it and the cushion lasted me for over a year, but finally a leak developed somewhere so I ordered the Travel Cushion version as its replacement and could not have been happier.

The material seems to be slightly thicker and more rugged while the cushion provides more comfort. It even allows another Travel Cushion to be attached to the Velcro tabs for lower back support (I have not tried that yet). In fact, I like the Travel Cushion version so much that I have had my parents order a couple for their long flights back to Ukraine.

Pro tip: if you use any kind of inflatable seat cushion on the airplane, only add a little bit of air to it on the ground. As the pressure drops in the cabin while airplane climbs to its cruising altitude, the air inside will stay at ground level pressure and expand the cushion! I find it much more comfortable when it is about half-inflated in flight.

Do you use any seat cushions while traveling? Share your experience in the comments below and also let me know if there is a particular piece of travel equipment that you want me to cover next!

Tips & Tricks, Traveldimagear, imb