Review: Therm-a-Rest Z- Lite Sleeping Pad

Published on 01/07/2024 · 3 min readCurated Expert, Johnny V, has tested this product to give you their unbiased, definitive take.
Johnny V, Camping Expert
By Camping Expert Johnny V
4 photos
Photo by Johnny V

The Curated Take

4.0/5

The Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Sleeping Pad is ideal for those seeking a durable, versatile, and easy-to-use sleeping solution for outdoor activities. Its closed-cell foam construction provides modest insulation and excellent ground protection, making it suitable for most backpacking trips. While not exceptionally thick or comfortable, it offers adequate cushioning against the ground and is favored for its durability, withstanding rough conditions without needing repairs. The pad's lightweight, foldable design enhances portability, although it takes up significant space inside a pack. This pad is cost-effective for outdoor enthusiasts who prioritize longevity and simplicity over luxurious comfort or high insulation.

Ideal for
  • Great way to add insulation and protection to an inflatable pad
  • Bomber sleeping pad that is essentially "indestructible"
  • A go-to sitting pad for breaks and campfires that is best stored on the outside of a pack for quick and easy access
Not ideal for
  • Does not offer much insulation value by itself
  • Does not provide a lot of cushioning
  • Takes up a lot of space inside a pack
Portability
Johnny V, Curated Expert
I love the portability of the Z-Lite in terms of keeping it attached to the outside of my pack. I love having it there and accessible, and it doesn't take...Read more
Weight
Johnny V, Curated Expert
Having a foam pad is fantastic for many reasons. The light weight of the Z-Lite is no exception. I love having it attached to the outside of my pack, which...Read more
Durability
Johnny V, Curated Expert
The Z-Lite pad is nearly unstoppable. I have put it through hell and back with barely a scratch on it. No patches have been needed. It won't lose its shape...Read more
Comfort
Johnny V, Curated Expert
The Z-Lite is not the most comfortable pad out there, but it provides some cushion against the ground. I love using it as a sitting pad on break time. The...Read more
Insulation
Johnny V, Curated Expert
The insulation is minimal on this pad, but the little bit it offers is appreciated compared to nothing at all. I have used this pad with another to add a...Read more
Ease of Use
Johnny V, Curated Expert
Flip out the Z-Lite pad, and it is ready to go. No inflation is needed. Grab and go is so convenient and should not be undervalued. Storing it on the...Read more
Versatility
Johnny V, Curated Expert
I love using the Z-Lite for a sitting cushion more than anything else I have tried. Having it on the outside of my pack and easy to grab makes it...Read more
Packability
Johnny V, Curated Expert
The Z-Lite does pack up nicely accordion style with its perforated sections. However, the full ability to compress is very limited and takes up a lot of space inside of...Read more
Quality
Johnny V, Curated Expert
The Z-Lite delivers exactly what it promises without being ashamed. I take the pad on almost every adventure I go on due to the quality it offers. Durability and ease...Read more

Curated Experts are not sponsored by brands. Their reviews are based on their honest experiences testing products.
About the sleeping pads
  • Model: Therm-a-Rest Z- Lite Sleeping Pad
Test conditions
  • When I bought this: 2020
  • Where I’ve used it: All over AZ, CO, WA, and CA
  • How many times I've used it: 20

Expert Reviews of the Therm-a-Rest Z- Lite Sleeping Pad

 The Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Sleeping Pad is my go-to for a lightweight, durable sleeping solution. This pad is a no-frills solution that gets the job done time and time again without fail. I know exactly what I will get from this pad with each use. The pad has closed-cell foam construction, providing some insulation and great ground protection. I take this pad on most backpacking trips, where its durability in the desert is unmatched. The pad provides padding from the hard ground and enough comfort and insulation for most trips all by itself. I typically pair this pad with an inflatable when I want to add comfort or need more insulation. Being very basic and durable does come with drawbacks. The pad is not very thick so some people may want more padding for comfort and warmth. Furthermore, packability is compromised as it doesn't roll or fold as compactly as an inflatable pad. My experience with the Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Sleeping Pad is positive overall, exceeding my expectations for a dependable, no-nonsense sleeping pad. It's an ideal choice for someone prioritizing durability and versatility, provided they don't need as much comfort or insulation.

Product Specs

ColorCoyote
SizeRegular
Sleeping pad typeFoam pads

Review Ratings

Portability

3/5
 gave 3 of 5 stars. I love the portability of the Z-Lite in terms of keeping it attached to the outside of my pack. I love having it there and accessible, and it doesn't take up space inside my pack, freeing up room for other gear. If I am air traveling, unfortunately, this is where it suffers; thus, I don't use the pad on that kind of trip. Storing it inside my pack is not an option for me, wasting all that space.

Weight

5/5
 gave 5 of 5 stars. Having a foam pad is fantastic for many reasons. The light weight of the Z-Lite is no exception. I love having it attached to the outside of my pack, which is easy to do since the low weight doesn't cause it to adjust with my movement. I hardly notice any added weight on long or short trips with the Z-Lite.

Durability

5/5
 gave 5 of 5 stars. The Z-Lite pad is nearly unstoppable. I have put it through hell and back with barely a scratch on it. No patches have been needed. It won't lose its shape and be crushed beyond usability. The only way I can see this pad being damaged is by fire, which would need to occur over some time. I'll put the Z-Lite up against another pad on durability.

Comfort

3/5
 gave 3 of 5 stars. The Z-Lite is not the most comfortable pad out there, but it provides some cushion against the ground. I love using it as a sitting pad on break time. The design makes it super easy to fold it over on itself multiple times to make it great for sitting. Fully folded out, it does help some and is better than no pad at all.

Insulation

2/5
 gave 2 of 5 stars. The insulation is minimal on this pad, but the little bit it offers is appreciated compared to nothing at all. I have used this pad with another to add a little boost of insulation and protection. A bonus is that I love this pad in a hammock for a little comfort, insulation, and rigidity.

Ease of Use

5/5
 gave 5 of 5 stars. Flip out the Z-Lite pad, and it is ready to go. No inflation is needed. Grab and go is so convenient and should not be undervalued. Storing it on the outside of the pack makes the use even easier. It's ready to be used in seconds. Occasionally, the last section must be manually unfolded, taking another second or two.

Versatility

5/5
 gave 5 of 5 stars. I love using the Z-Lite for a sitting cushion more than anything else I have tried. Having it on the outside of my pack and easy to grab makes it super versatile, considering it is a sleeping pad. Having it on trips has also lent itself to help with gear repair for me, too, namely providing extra cushioning on my backpack straps. The uses for repair are numerous if one gets creative.

Packability

3/5
 gave 3 of 5 stars. The Z-Lite does pack up nicely accordion style with its perforated sections. However, the full ability to compress is very limited and takes up a lot of space inside of a pack. That is why I pack it outside my pack whenever possible. It can make it very difficult for some travel, especially air travel.

Quality

5/5
 gave 5 of 5 stars. The Z-Lite delivers exactly what it promises without being ashamed. I take the pad on almost every adventure I go on due to the quality it offers. Durability and ease of use are the most important to me. Have it on the outside of the pack and ready to go for every break along the way.

FAQs

What do you love about this product?

The fact that the Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite is practically indestructible is its best feature for me. I can't deflate foam; no patches are needed here. The pad is my go-to since it can take all the abuse I throw at it and for the effortless ease of use. I love being able to flip out the pad at break time on the trail and lay out in the sun whenever possible. The other folks in my group suffer while standing or sitting on the hard and sometimes thorny desert ground; maybe they will get a Z-Lite soon.

What was your favorite moment with this gear?

Using the Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite section hiking on the Arizona Trail (AZT) was one of my most favorite adventures. The sections I used the Z-Lite on were rocky and thorny, what someone would expect in the desert, I suppose. The pad was indestructible to the abuse I put it through and worked great to pull it off the outside of my pack for every break to sit and rest. I can't wait to use the pad on more sections of the AZT in the future.

Why did you choose this product?

The price point of the Z-Lite and its durability make this an easy choice for anyone. Luckily, I did have many recommendations from other hikers to consider this pad. I would choose this product again and again, which I have. I cut up my first one to fix/modify other gear and made smaller pads to use as well.

What is the value for the money versus other options?

This is probably the cheapest pad on the market. It has no thrills but gets the job down the same on every use, no matter what someone throws at it. Other pads are more expensive, offer more comfort and warmth, and pack up nicely. There is room for both options, but one can't get more bang for their buck than with the tried and true Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite.

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