Thermarest has been known for their innovations in sleeping pads over the past 20 years – When they introduced their self inflating pads, it took the light-weight backpacking and camping industry by storm, spawning a whole new set of manufacturers all introducing new ways to provide comfortable sleeps. It was simple, you unscrewed a valve, and continued to set up your sleeping equipment. Eventually the pad would inflate to a reasonable level and you could then shut the valve. A shot of your breath worked just as well.
Continuous refinements were done to their gear, listening to valued customers by introducing pads designed for women, changing the width, modifying the R-value for better insulation in colder temperatures, and improving packability and its overall weight.
Following the success of their “Ridge-Rest” closed cell foam mattress, a new product was born. The Z-Lite. Coming in two sizes (Small and Regular), this pad folds and unfolds like an accordian, allowing the camper to setup their pad in a matter of seconds.
With a hundreds of “egg-crate” indentations, the pad (mine is multi-colour orange and grey) provides a reasonable amount of comfort to your back when lying on it, blocking any bumps or rocks in the ground. The pockets on the bottom would trap hot air to add to the its 2.2 R value, however on the same token would also collect moisture. I’m not sure I would want to winter camp with this pad solely. Due to the narrow width of 20 inches, one does not have a lot of room to stretch their arms out sideways, and may find this makes them uncomfortable. Most of the time peoples arms will be in a sleeping bag so this may or may not be an issue.
For those looking to keep their pack weight down, the “small” version can shave 110 grams off of the regular sized’s reasonably weighted 410 gram footprint at a sacrifice of losing almost 2 ft of length. This could be offset by a pillow and by putting clothes at your feet.
I took this pad out and managed to stuff it into my Ortlieb Rack Pack medium, while still able to hold a pillow, and a rather large 4 man tent. It flexed, and showed some signs of bending but once it was laid out, it soon returned to its flat shape. It being puncture proof gave me confidence that I need not worry with half my body touching the ground in the morning, something that has happened all too often with inflatable pads.[singlepic=21,300,300,left]During the day, I found it was quite handy to take the pad out, and use it as a chair wherever I was. If I managed to get dirt or sand on it, I simply shook it off. It seems that Thermarest also offers a “Z-Chair” for this very purpose.
All in all, I think this is a comfortable pad and offers alot of versatility to the camper. It’s hard to beat the value that this pad gives. Highly recommended.