Designing quality outdoor gear always presents new and thought-provoking challenges. These challenges are even more complex when it’s redesigning a tried-and-true product like our classic valve, an iconic part of our award-winning sleeping pads since 1972. Sure, the valve changed from brass to plastic a handful of years ago, but otherwise, it has been largely unchanged. Despite the strong legacy and performance of our classic valve, we knew we could offer campers and backpackers something better. After hundreds of prototypes and over 500 nights of field testing, we put the finishing touches on our high-performance WingLock™ and TwinLock™ valves.
Building Off The Past
When we started the design process for the new valves, we looked at the design principles that ensure all of our gear exceeds the demands of your adventures. After all, it was these principles that made our classic valve so effective and enduring.
All Therm-a-Rest products are crafted for a better night under the stars. This is our fundamental design philosophy. It’s why our founders started making pads with a panini press. It’s why so many of our products and technologies are borrowed and replicated throughout the industry. It’s a drive and deep understanding of what it means to sleep outside.
Our classic valve is a trooper. It can easily handle extreme temperatures and functions through the mud and grit that accompany being outside. Looking at other valves that were on the market, we found that many other valves could not hold up to the elements a camper would find in the wild. If we were going to create a new concept, the new valve would have to carry on this legacy of backcountry ruggedness that our classic valve was known for.
In addition to this ruggedness, our classic valve was also easy to replace. Our repair program not just for our valves, but for all of our gear is a major initiative for our brand. We make high-performance gear that belongs in your pack, not in a landfill. Many valves on the market compromise the entire pad if damaged. This means that other pads leave you needing to buy a new pad as it gets trashed or recycled.
The final feature that our designers wanted to capture is how easy to use our classic valve is. Lefty loosey, righty tighty is all you need to know to use our classic valve. It was important that the new valve design was just as easy to use, allowing you to inflate, bleed air, and deflate the valve easily with a valve positioned off of the sleep surface of the pad.
Crafted for the Better Nights
Once we’d resolved that we wanted to preserve the durability, repairability and usability of our classic valve, we started looking at ways that we could improve the valve. After dozens of meetings and countless iterations, we arrived at our solution.
We really wanted to improve the inflation and interface of the new valve. We increased the barrel size to mirror the top of a bottle while also changing to a bayonet thread. The bigger size allowed for increased airflow while the bayonet threads gave a smoother action with increased durability.
To further increase the ease of use, we added a one-way check valve to keep air from escaping during inflation. No more closing the valve as quickly as possible to keep air from rushing out after inflation.
Due to this one-way inflation feature, we needed to create a bypass to allow users to deflate the pad. This is where the “wings” of the WingLock valve come into play. A simple twist of the wings allows air to escape, deflating the pad faster thanks to the larger opening. Bleeding air for customized support is easy. A small twist of the wings before partially twisting the valve cap will allow a small amount of air to escape. The simple motions of twisting the valve or wings make the WingLock and TwinLock as easy to use as a water bottle cap.
For larger and high-volume pads, we wanted to give an even easier deflation option. Instead of utilizing “wings”, our TwinLock has two dedicated valves: one “IN” one-way valve and one “OUT” dump valve. Partially opening the “OUT” valve allows you to bleed air while a full twist will allow you to dump air from your pad.
Changing The Way You Camp
Once we’d perfected our design, we put both of these valves to the test. Rather, we put them through over 500 tests to ensure we had the best solution that we could offer campers. The lightning-fast valves inflate pads three times faster than our classic valve and deflating our pads featuring these valves is a breeze.
Really though, these valves were made for the backcountry experience. If you think you want to bring one on your next adventure, check out our collection of sleeping pads featuring WingLock and TwinLock valves.