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 sleeping pad valve, an iconic part of our award-winning pads since 1972. Sure, the valve changed from brass to plastic a long time ago, but has been largely unchanged since then. Despite the strong legacy and performance of our classic valve, our sleeping pads were getting larger and our NeoAir ® pads now required inflation. With these advances, we knew we could offer campers and backpackers a better experience, with better, hi-flow sleeping pad valves. 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
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 sleeping pad valves that were on the market, we found that many other sleeping pad 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. We don’t want top fill up landfills with otherwise sound air mattresses, just because a valve wore out, so repair-ability–a cornerstone of we feel makes a solid product–would need to be a feature of anything that would replace our older valves.
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, regulate 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: a one-way “IN” valve and a high-capacity, one-way “OUT” valve. Partially opening the “OUT” valve allows you to let out air in a more controlled way to regulate pad firmness, while a full twist will allow you to dump all the air from your pad at once for faster and easier packing.
Changing The Way You Camp
Once we’d perfected our design, we put both of these sleeping pad valves through over 500 tests to ensure we had the best solution that we could offer. The lightning-fast valves inflate pads three times faster than our classic valve and deflating our pads featuring these valves is a breeze. If you think you want to bring one on your next adventure, check out our collection of sleeping pads featuring WingLock and TwinLock valves.
- WingLock™ + TwinLock™ Valve Technology
- How to Choose a Sleeping Pad in Three Steps
- The Ultimate Guide to Therm-a-Rest Sleeping Pads
Updated. Originally Published October 30, 2019.