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 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.
This is one of the cheeriest single wall tent we've tested. The Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite is also pictured.
Photo: Max Neale