Hands-on Gear Review

Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Review

Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite
Price:  $40 List | $39.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, compact, durable.
Cons:  Dimples collect dirt, foam compresses over time and becomes less comfortable and less warm.
Editors' Rating:   
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Type:  Foam
R Value:  2.6
Packed Volume (liter):  9
Manufacturer:   Cascade Designs

Our Verdict

The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite is a versatile sleeping pad that's ready for anything. This is the most compact closed-cell foam pad we've 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 you're 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. Sleeping outdoors on these mattresses just might change your life. They're that good.



RELATED REVIEW: The Best Sleeping Pads of 2018

Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Chris McNamara and Max Neale

Last Updated:
Tuesday
March 24, 2015

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Likes


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.

Dislikes


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.

Best Application


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.

Value


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

Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: March 24, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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 (2.8)

60% of 5 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
6 Total Ratings
5 star: 17%  (1)
4 star: 17%  (1)
3 star: 33%  (2)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 33%  (2)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Jul 9, 2011 - 06:06am
WML · Climber · Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock

I bought this thing after having the big agnes inflatable + some other pad combo. This thing is burly, bomber, and has come with me on alpine climbs, big walls, car camping trips, etc.

Even bought my girlfriend one, and she was psyched on the comfort.

My only complaint is that due to the accordion style of it, it is a pain in the ass to shove into the haul bag to pad the sides. Minor complaint, and given that I paid the small amount I did for it 2 1/2 years ago and have used it heavily and it just keeps taking the beating, I'll take that in stride.

Buy the darn thing unless you are a really picky sleeper or just looking for something for a wall.

It is good for alpine climbs unless sleeping on the route, as it is slightly bulky (inflatable might be better, but if ya get a hole in it yer naked in a hailstorm). Slept in snow, dirt, pine needles, the back of my SUV, etc on this thing and it is good to go.



Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.

Climber

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Sep 22, 2010 - 10:54pm
FortMental · Climber · Albuquerque, NM

I bought this thing because the local REI ran out of ridgerests. We used them for a two-day canoe trip up the Rio Grande. I was astounded by the cheapness and flimsiness of the material; they weren't even comfortable and they collected all kinds of crap. I brought them back to REI for a full refund and got a Pro-Lite a couple of months later.



Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.

Climber

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   Apr 21, 2011 - 10:38pm
cheesemaster · Climber · Seattle, WA

For a lightweight, summer pad, that is quick and easy to set up pad you cant do any better. Extremely versatile, can set up as a comfy seat, or cut it in half to go super-ultra light.



Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.

Climber

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   Apr 11, 2011 - 12:27am
YetAnotherDave · Climber · Vancouver, BC

For lightweight backpacking the Z-lite is great - simple and puncture-proof. Also cheap!



Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.


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   Apr 10, 2011 - 07:24pm
alexsaunders · Climber · des moines, iowa

a buddy had bought this and i used it one day because i could not find my pro-lite (ended up being under my partners pad, how strange!). you can get the same comfort from the 5$ roll up pad at Wal-mart, spend the extra few bucks and get a nice pad it is was worth it.



Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.


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