The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL was the pad I decided to use on my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike.
This versatile foam pad from Cascade Designs uses an aluminized surface to reflect heat (yes, the silver side goes up) back up toward the user (that’s you) and can be used alone or in conjunction with an inflatable pad for a bomb-proof four-season sleeping system.
A lot of people prefer inflatable sleeping pads to foam pads (which are apparently considered uncomfortable), so if you’re new to the idea of needing a sleeping pad I suggest you do some laying down on the ground in your local outfitter before making a decision.
NOTE: I have this pad in a REGULAR. It also comes in a short size. The information below reflects a Z Lite SOL, Regular.
- Color: Limon / Silver
- R-Value: 2.6
- Shape: Rectangular
- Weight: 14 oz / 410 g
- Width: 20 in / 51 cm
- Length: 72 in / 183 cm
- Thickness: .75 in / 2 cm
- Packed dimension: 20 x 5 x 5.5 / 51 x 13 x 14
- Fill material: Crosslinked Polyethylene
- Foam type: Molded closed cell
- Country of Origin: USA*Built of the Finest U.S. and Global Materials
- MSRP: $45.95
THE DEPLOYMENT | Probably the best thing about the Z Lite SOL is how easily it can be deployed. It folds up like an accordion and just wants to lay flat. It’s not going to curl up like some of the roll-up pads, and it’s not going to take five minutes of blowing up before it’s ready to be used. This means that it’s not only a great sleeping pad but a great “taking a break” pad as well.
THE VERSATILITY | With an R-value of 2.6, this pad makes either a great three-season pad or an excellent addition to an inflatable pad for a four-season setup. As mentioned above, it’s also an awesome camp stool, eating surface (careful with crumbs getting stuck in those divots), makeshift backcountry sparring weapon, and raft (Therm-a-Rafting). It can also be used as a back panel in your pack if your panel is removable.
THE WORRY-FREE-NESS | One of my favorite things about this pad is that you don’t have to worry about where you set it up. This can mostly be attributed to the fact that it’s foam, but the egg carton construction makes imperfections in your sleeping surface something you no longer need to worry as much about. Punctures? Nope. Water? Not a problem. Out of breath? You’re chill. Finding a campsite is definitely easier with a Z Lite SOL.
THE PRICE | At only $45 the Z Lite SOL is significantly less expensive than the oftentimes $100+ inflatable sleeping pads. It’s probably the “best cheapest” pad available today and with a 2.6 R-value it’s certainly one of the best price-to-warmth ratios out there (that’s a statistic we care about, right?).
THE DURABILITY | No, you don’t have to worry about this pad breaking, popping, or failing, but it does flatten out significantly over time. I replaced mine after approximately four months of use (nearly every day) and it had flattened out to nearly half the size of a new pad. The pad still works (depending on how you define “works”), but it loses some warmth and comfort as time goes on and it begins to flatten.
THE WEIGHT-TO-WARMTH RATIO | Foam pads just aren’t as warm as air pads (sorry, foam). At 14 oz / 410 g with an R-value of 2.6, it is difficult for the Z Lite SOL to compete with the NeoAir XLite, for example (at 12 oz / 350 g with an R-value of 3.2). That being said, in three-season conditions, you would be hard-pressed to find yourself on cold ground with the Z Lite SOL.
THE SIZE | Honestly, probably the worst thing about this pad is its packed size. It’s huge when compared to an inflatable and most backpackers end up with the pad strapped somewhere to the outside of their pack (which is handy for quick deployment). However, if your pack has a removable back panel you can substitute the Z Lite SOL for it. Despite the bulk, it keeps its shape well when folded and does not require any pressure to keep it from unraveling (as some roll-up pads do).
The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol is certainly one of the (if not the) top foam sleeping pads available.
If you want a near-indestructible sleeping pad that’s not going to fail you in the field (and that requires minimal effort to deploy and store), then look no further. Honestly, if it weren’t for the bulk this would probably be my go-to sleeping pad (I prefer foam to air pads in terms of comfort – at least so far).
Check out the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol.
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