Monday, July 28, 2014

Therm-A-Rest LuxuryLite Cot VS MEC: Reactor 3.8

Last year on my big tour across the Country,  I carried an inflatable air pad which I bought from MEC: Mountain Equipment Co-op  (similer to REI or Cabellas)  (click here)   It was a Reactor 3.8

Here it is.  It packs small and starts to inflate by itself except you have to help it a bit near the end to make it more firm.   I didn't give you any statistics but I camped nearly 1/3rd of the time, and I also used it when I was hosted to make the floor, less hard

Now,  I am not a large person but the pad seems "just" adequate for size.   I found that you have to centre yourself on the pad and hope that you stay on top of it,  especially if the ground is not flat.  Once I was on an incline and I found myself slipping off

I have to make sure that my head is still "on" the Pad and then the rest falls into place.  Not much roll over room though.   I like the way it packs into a small package as you don't have a lot of extra room on your motorcycle.   I put it into my Dry Sack and Rok Strap it to my rear seat

    Northern California Coast just north of Eureka, CA                August 2013

My trip last year was a test to see if I could endure multi week travel on my motorcycle.  I had never camped before 2012 and that was the year that I bought my first tent, sleeping bag, air pad and made my way to Baker City, OR for our iMBC2012 International Moto-Bloggers Convention to Hell's Canyon

    Campsite, Baker City, OR      New Marmot Tent and air pad                           July, 2012

Here I look like a seasoned camper, but I'll never forget my first time . . .  I had a nice looking neighbour too

    Earlier that year, setting up my new tent                                         Spring,  2012

Hard to believe that just a mere couple of months earlier,  I was struggling to figure out how all these parts went together.    Anyway after we left Bend, OR and I headed to a new campsite in Lincoln City, OR I nearly froze in my compact sleeping bag.     When I got home I upgraded my sleeping bag to one that can go down to 20F.   That's also when I upgraded my air pad to the MEC Reactor 3.8

I am always on the lookout to upgrade my camping equipment so I will be ready for my next trip.  As with most of you, my equipment is always evolving.  It's a question of value for money.  I don't need the best but often the more expensive is cheaper in the long run.  Cheap often falls apart.

I often peruse the Craigslist ads and I came across a "deal", so I made contact and brought home

a Therm-A-Rest  LuxuryLite "take apart" folding cot  (info here)    As compared to my MEC: Reactor 3.8 it packs down to a bit longer but skinner than the air pad

    Left:  LuxuryLite cot   Right: Reactor 3.8 air pad

Hard to say which one I would bring on a trip, based upon packed size

I didn't get any instructions so I dug right in and spread out the pieces.   The seller told me to twist the tubes for added strength so luckily I knew about that

Here we are, the tubes (cross pieces) come in 2 sections and are attached to those round "feet"

There are two tubes per set and notice they are 180 degrees offset to each other, so you twist them when you attach so they are in the same orientation

There are also two larger diameter aluminum poles which slide into the fabric of the cot, lengthwise.  These two sections are shock corded so they go together very easily

and you slide them into pockets on both sides, which create the sides/frame of your cot

I decided to hook the left side of the crossmember onto the frame, then twist the right one onto the tube.  This is easier to do than to explain.  I found that with the pressure required, it is easier to stand on the frame to hold it in place

Here's a close up view of the cross pieces.   They resemble tent poles, but much shorter

Here's what it looks like when you unpack the Therm-A-Rest bag

When you take apart your cot, the "feet" can also hold the aluminum tube pieces.   Crossmembers on one side, and the cot rails on the other

Here we are rolling up the pieces to put it back into it's own pouch

So here is what it looks like "assembled".  It is very light,  under 4 lbs and you can lift it with your little finger.  The MEC: Reactor 3.8  could be around 1-1/2 lbs

The cot works great on uneven ground, and you don't have to worry about bugs or crawly things

You can see how much larger the cot is as compared to the LuxuryLite which is 26" wide

The side rails seems to make the cot much stronger, and there is air circulation for those hot summer days.   Maybe not so good during cooler weather.  I found the air pad a bit sticky in hot weather

The cot has lots of room to move around, nearly like sleeping on a real bed.  You also don't get the dampness of the ground

Hard to say which one I would pack on a trip but I have read many reports that the LuxuryLite cot can cure backaches, especially after a long day of riding your motorcycle


  1. Something tells me you'd take the cot. Now you need an overnight ride to test it out.

    1. Trobairitz:

      Depends upon whether I have the extra room. I think I could only bring one as I am space challenged. I think my bike may be parked until late September. No riding trips were planned this year. In fact my insurance runs out very soon.

    2. The cot doesn't need to be kept dry so it doesn't need to be packed into a dry bag. It can hang out with your tent. No need to pack it into a dry bag...

    3. Richard:

      it doesn't ? I guess the material doesn't really get wet as it is non-absorbing, it's just the physical storage room available, or lack of

    4. Looking at the photo of your bike, there is room on top of the side cases for something as small as the cot and your tent could go on the other side. Or you could go the David-route and just use a motorcoach for an RV. Then you probably wouldn't need the cot, just gold bricks to buy fuel.

    5. Richard:

      Aluminum adventure cases have tie downs on the top. The plastic beemer cases don't. I am trying to travel with less, not more. No motorcoach. I'd imagine just starting it up would take 1 gallon of fuel

  2. Personally, I'd take both. The cot packs pretty small and, as you point out, there is no insulation with the cot. I'd put the sleeping pad on the cot.

    1. +1 what Richard M said, Bob.

    2. Richard:

      the best way would be to use both but now I need a hack to carry it all. A larger tent is also on the radar, but I have to get through this years trip first

  3. This is clearly a slippery slope Bob.

    I agree with Richard and Sonja, you can't be too comfortable. So definitely bring both. I'd be able to find room on my Vespa, so for sure there's room on your R1200R. If not, trade it in on a real touring bike like the R1150GS and get some serious square luggage.

    But there goes that slippery slope. A small galley would be nice. You could get a trailer-in-a-bag and take your bike along behind,... another German delight... a VW Westfalia.

    But hold on... Heating and AC would be nice too. If you got a Ford F150, you could tow one of those nice campers with the wide screen TVs and slide out galleys and living rooms, and tow your bike on the trailer-in-a-bag.

    Ah.. what's the point, you know you want it. Go for the rock star tricked out tour bus. Yvonne would be sure to come along with you on all your travels. You could trailer the Vette in an enclosed trailer, and bring along the bike in the trailer-in-a-bag behind the Vette trailer.

    Ahhhhh, now that's the real camping and touring life.

    1. David:

      I am trying to reduce my carbon footprint. You'd have to be rich and rolling in $$$ to be able to afford a Motorcoach, Provost or Freightliner motorhome.

      I used to have a VW Westfalia and I would love to have another one, except that they are too old. I want a new version. You wouldn't really need a motorhome if you could have many friends spaced about 500 kms apart from each other. It's a long haul to Beaconsfield

  4. All I can say Bob is the cot takes a lot less 'hot air!'

    1. Karen:

      the cot is very nice. You would like it. It seems like it would be a lot cooler in hot weather as air circulates under it

  5. Bob, get a trailer to tow behind the bike. Problem solved. My trailer days are behind be, but I am working on the hack and will probably reinstall it in a month or so. Have to have a seat for the dog to tag along. I like the cot and that is what I would take.

    1. Paul:

      I agree, it would be nice to have company and dogs are good buddies. With your hack, you have lots of room for a cot and an air mattress

  6. Oh yeah! I agree with the idea that there is a coincidence.
    Friv 2


  7. You definitely need a trailer. :)

    1. Canajun:

      I'm not sure I could tow a trailer. My bikes don't have enough torque, then there's the problem of stopping

  8. Bob, the picture of the coast looks like right by Little River State Beach. I have a piece of rock from Moonstone Beach County Park one stop north of there. that cot looks awesome. How much was it on CL?

    1. Chris:

      If I had known there was a campground near there, I would have stayed instead of rushing north to Crescent City. I'm still a novice when it comes to finding private or state campsites.

      As for the cot, it was about 1/3rd of the price of a new one and only slightly tried out