Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Lightweight, compact, durable.
Cons: Dimples collect dirt, foam compresses over time and becomes less comfortable and less warm.
Best Uses: Budget backpacking, alpine climbing, mountaineering.
Manufacturer: Cascade Designs
The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite is the most versatile lightweight closed-cell sleeping pad we've tested. The Z-Lite works in just about any camping situation, whether on a big wall in Yosemite, Alpine climbing, mountaineering, backpacking, or car camping. This is the most compact closed-cell foam pad weve tested. Unfortunately, it's not the most comfortable or the most durable. For a more durable and more comfortable foam pad get the Therm-a-Rest SOLite. If you plan to use this pad in the winter get the Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol, whose reflective layer increases warmth by 20 percent without adding any weight ($5 extra).
If inflatable foam pads are your style, go for the Therm-a-Rest Prolite ($60 more), our top rated pad in this category. Or, for the best portable sleeping pad on the market get the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm. Weighing just one ounce more than the Z-Lite, the XTherm is many times warmer and more comfortable.
If youre 5 6 or under check out our Women's Sleeping Pad Review. And finally, if comfort is top priority, get yourself a Car Camping Mattress. These luxurious portable beds turn roots and rocks into plush, heavenly clouds.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite is much smaller and more portable than all other closed-cell foam pads weve tested. Instead of rolling up like the Ridge Rest series, it folds (accordion style) into a rectangular package. The Z-Lite packs about 40 percent smaller than the RidgeRest SOLite. It weighs a mere 14 ounces, which makes it light enough for all types of adventures. The Z-Lite remains a favorite of novice backpackers and high-level Alpinists alike. Its a great choice for everything from occasional use backpacking to light and fast Alpine climbs.
The Z-Lite has 14 collapsible sections. This author cuts a standard size pad into two smaller sections: 8/14 is used for Alpine climbing and the other 6/14 section comes along when weight and space is less of a concern. The smaller section also works well as a half pad for longer mountaineering trips: you can sit, kneel, or stand on it (good for cooking) and put it under your primary pad for extra insulation at night. Punch two holes in each section and fasten them with paracord for a full-length pad.
The Z-Lites foam is a bit thinner and less durable than those of the Ridge Rest Series, which makes it less durable in the long term. The eggshell style bumps and dimples collect dirt and are not the most comfortable for putting your face directly on. Like all closed-cell foam pads, the Z-Lites size will likely require you to strap it to the outside of your pack. Despite these drawbacks, the Z-Lite remains an excellent lightweight closed-cell pad that you can use for just about anything. Get it if packed size is more important than durability.
This pad works just about anywhere as long as you are not concerned with its size. It works for big wall climbing, backpacking, car camping, light and fast Alpine climbing, canoe camping, you name it.
Because this pad is light, durable, compact, and comfortable, we believe it is an excellent value. This is our top pick for an affordable, all-purpose sleeping pad.
The Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest SOLite, $40, is the updated version of the ultra classic Ridge Rest. This improved pad adds a reflective layer that increases warmth without adding any weight. The Ridge Rest SOLite is the go-to sleeping pad for anyone who prioritizes price, durability, and weight. It works in just about any situation, whether on a big wall in Yosemite, backpacking, alpine climbing, or car camping.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Camper - $150, is the most comfortable compact inflatable sleeping pad we've tested. It's rectangular shape combined with 3" of cushion make it a fantastic choice for those that value comfort over weight savings.
Therm-a-rest NeoAir Dream, $200, is our top rated camping mattress. It turns worst nightmare rocks and roots into Stage 3 NREM sleep. Warning: waking up may be difficult. It's made of NeoAir inflatable pad, 1" of memory foam, and a removable nylon-microfiber cover. This is the most comfortable car camping pad available; the inflatable pad provides customizable support, the memory foam a cushy surface, and the microfiber cover a super soft next-to-skin layer that rivals Egyptian Cotton.
For a women's specific version, our award winning Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Women's is the Editor's Choice for the best sleeping pad.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Pump Sack - $30. The NeoAir Pump Sack is our favorite sleeping pad pump. By inflating your pad with clean, drier air your pad remains lighter and may last longer.
Therm-a-Rest Compack - $50. This Compack Chair turns any 20" wide sleeping pad into a portable camp chair.
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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Most recent review: March 24, 2015
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