Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Lightweight, compact, warmer than original Z-Lite
Cons: Dimples collect dirt, foam compresses over time and becomes less comfortable and less warm.
Best Uses: Budget backpacking, alpine climbing, mountaineering.
The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol is the most versatile lightweight closed-cell sleeping pad we've tested. The pad works in just about any camping situation, whether on a big wall in Yosemite, alpine climbing, mountaineering, backpacking, or car camping. This is also the most compact closed-cell foam pad we've tested and the main thing that distinguishes it. An aluminized reflective layer makes it roughly 20% warmer than the traditional Therm-A-Rest Z Lite. This added warmth is well worth the extra $5. Unfortunately, the pad isn't the most comfortable or the most durable. For a slightly more durable and more comfortable, but also much bulkier foam pad get the Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest SOLite.
If inflatable foam pads are your style, go for the Therm-A-Rest ProLite - Men's ($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; it's an excellent winter pad. If you mainly stick to summer backpacking get the 12 oz and ultra packable Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite - Men's or Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Women's.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Z-Lite SOL adds an aluminized reflective layer to the standard Z-Lite. As a result, the pad is roughly 20% warmer than its traditional counterpart.
The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite is much smaller and more portable than all other closed-cell foam pads we've tested. Instead of rolling up like the Ridge Rest series, it folds (accordion style) into a rectangular package. The Z-Lite packs about 40% 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. It's a great choice for everything from occasional use backpacking to light and fast alpine climbs.
The Z-Lite has fourteen collapsible sections. This author cuts a standard size pad into two smaller sections: 8/14th 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-Lite's 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-Lite's 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. If absolute durability is your objective consider the Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest SOLite.
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.
We believe this pad is an excellent value. Our testers use it all the time for a wide variety of applications. When it wears out we replace it with a new one.
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.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite, $130, is the most comfortable lightweight sleeping pad in existence and wins our Top Pick Award. A regular size weighs only 12 ounces and the small a mere 8 ounces. Both pack down ludicrously tiny. The XLite has become the standard pad for ultralight trips of all types in all conditions. This is our testers' favorite sleeping pad for multi-day trips.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm, $150, wins our Editor's Choice Award, as it is the best winter sleeping pad on the planet. It weighs a mere 15 ounces, packs to 1.4 liters, and its internal air baffles and reflective barriers keep you nearly as warm as a propane heater. From Alaska to Greenland to Patagonia, and all across the Lower 48, our testers have used the XTherm side-by-side, over the past two years, with top competing pads. Our tests consistently show the XTherm is the warmest, most comfortable, lightest, and most compact sleeping pad available.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Pump Sack, $30, is our favorite sleeping pad pump. By inflating your pad with clean, dry air your pad remains lighter and may last longer.
The Therm-a-rest NeoAir Pillow, $35, or the Down Pillow, $40, are ultralight pillows that are great for those that might get a stiff neck when sleeping without a pillow.
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: January 29, 2014
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