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Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Review

Therm-A-Rest Z Lite
Photo: Therm-a-Rest
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Price:  $40 List
Pros:  Lightweight, compact, durable.
Cons:  Dimples collect dirt, foam compresses over time and becomes less comfortable and less warm.
Manufacturer:   Cascade Designs
By Chris McNamara and Max Neale  ⋅  Mar 24, 2015
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  • Warmth - 20% 4
  • Comfort - 25% 1
  • Durability - 10% 8
  • Weight - 25% 8
  • Packed Size - 20% 2

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.

Our Analysis and Test Results


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.

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.


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

Chris McNamara and Max Neale