Imagine getting up on a cold morning and facing a long, hard day on the trail with no sleep the night before. Lack of sleep can take the beauty out of any landscape and the fun out of any trip. A good sleeping pad is a necessity for keeping you warm and comfortable at night, and can directly affect your quality of sleep. A sleeping pad acts as a barrier between you and the cold, hard (and sometimes wet) ground.
Therm-a-Rest are the leading name in sleeping mats, having invented the first ever self-inflating mattress. To this day, they are still producing great products including foam mats which are a big step up from basic sports mats. The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Mattress is a newly redesigned version of the classic Z Lite, with major improvements in heat insulation.
- Advanced Warmth: ThermaCapture surface on sleeping pad reflects radiant heat back to your body, amplifying the warmth of the heat-trapping dimples by 20%
- Compact Design: Folding design is compact and easy to pack.
- Extra Durable: Virtually indestructible closed-cell foam provides lasting, economical comfort.
- Space Savings: Peaks and valleys work together to add support while trapping heat and nest inside one another
We’ll examine the Z Lite Sol in detail, showing you everything you need to know about this sleeping mat.
The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Mattress is designed with the idea to make your outdoor experience pleasant without waking up with back pain in the morning. The Therm-a-Rest Lite Sol is a closed cell foam mattress with a heat insulating layer to keep you warm and protected from mother nature’s hard ground. A thermal reflective barrier has been added for heat insulation, with a foam base to further retain heat.
By using this mattress, you’ll be able to amplify the warmth by 20%. It features an accordion shape which can be folded up easily and zigzag ‘egg carton’ shaped foam, designed to minimize bulk. So, if you’re a backpacker concerned with weight and size, don’t worry, you’ll be able to securely fit this mattress in your pack.
This mat boasts great durability and versatility, though it has the same comfort limitations as any foam sleeping mat. Pair with an inflatable mat to boost comfort, or use it on its own for a convenient, low-fuss alternative. The Z Lite Sol comes in two size options: small (51’’ x 20’’) and regular (20’’ x 72’’). One size doesn’t fit all, so, whether you’re on the taller or shorter side, you’ll be able to choose a size that suits you.
Best Use: When and where to bring out the Therm-a-Rest Z mattress
When it comes to this mattress, you don’t need a specific time or place to use it. If you’re camping or backpacking, you can use it to sleep or to lounge on during the day. It’ll fit inside your tent or in the back of your camper. Its versatility is what makes it a favorite among campers and backpackers.
Whether you’re camping during the winter, spring, fall or summer, this mattress will help retain heat and keep you toasty during the cool nights.
This mat is extremely easy to pack and unpack. The accordion shape means that you simply fold up the mat to pack it up, and unfold when you want to use it. It takes about 2 seconds to do either! This is far more convenient than inflatable mats (for obvious reasons), or roll-up mats where you have to control the tightness as you roll them up.
The size and shape of this fold-up mat is far less bulky than a roll-up foam mat and it even packs small compared to other foldable foam mats. The ‘egg-carton’ foam shape collapses into itself, allowing it to pack as small as the dense foam will allow.
The downside is that you can’t control the size of this accordion style mat: it only folds to one size, which is still quite bulky. Luckily, it’s lightweight enough that the extra bulk isn’t really bothersome.
The mat is durable enough to be tied to the outside of your pack, no matter the terrain. It will keep its cuboid shape, allowing you to fasten it to either the back or sides of your pack, and the foam is light enough not to throw off your balance.
To add extra support, keep it inside your pack. Especially for frameless packs, leave the mat partially open and place it up along the inner wall, against the part that goes up against your back. Obviously, this will take up quite a bit of space in your pack but will provide extra back support and cushioning.
Design and durability
The main advantage of the Z Lite Sol, and foam mattresses in general, is durability. This mat can take a battering, and still perform with no problems. The closed cell can withstand any terrain, whether it’s exposed to sharp rocks, gravel, twigs or anything else that might damage an inflatable mat.
Should your mat eventually get a few scratches and holes, it will still be able to fulfill its function as a sleeping mat, with no significant reduction in insulation or padding. Unlike an inflatable mat which useless as soon as it springs a leak, the Z Lite Sol will continue to serve you faithfully regardless of rough treatment.
Simply throw it on the ground anywhere you wish to sleep and it will do its job. The one vulnerable point is the seams where you fold it. These may tear after continual packing and unpacking, but can easily be taped up without reducing the usability of the mat.
To put it more simply: this mat is virtually indestructible!
The Z Lite Sol has been upgraded from previous models to increase warmth by 20%. The closed-cell foam is dense and able to regulate air, keeping warmth in and drafts out. A handy yet oft-overlooked bonus of closed-cell foam is that it’s resistant to humidity, helping to keep damp chills out of your bones plus shirking mould and bacteria in moist climates.
The aluminized ThermaCapture layer reflects your body heat back to you, and the dimpled shape traps warm air under your body, capturing and amplifying your body’s radiant heat. It also traps warm air in the little holes between your mat and the ground. The R-value of the Z Lite Sol is 2.6, making it a decent 3 season sleeping mat.
For harsh winter and alpine conditions, this mat can be used to supplement an inflatable mat to increase the overall insulation level.
Sleeping mats, in general, don’t really scream ‘versatility.’ At first glance, they seem like a pretty single-use product, but the Z Lite Sol can be used in a few different ways:
- Throw it in a hammock to block out cold air overnight. The base of the mat grips well to hammocks and stays in place throughout the night, without slipping around.
- It also works well when used in conjunction with inflatable mats. Place it on the ground under an inflatable mat to increase insulation and add a protective barrier to protect from punctures.
- Since this mat requires almost no setup, use it to take a nap anytime you want, without the hassle of setting up a full camp.
- The folding design means that this mat can be used as a comfortable chair anytime you take a break, or just hanging around camp. It’s sturdy and provides plenty of padding to protect your backside from sharp objects or a cold ground.
- Partially unfold it to prop it up against a rock or tree for back cushioning.
- Use it as a pillow.
- Set it up vertically to serve as a windscreen while playing cards or cooking.
- Use it as a frame insert in a frameless pack.
- Put it in your pack to protect from internal wear and tear caused by your gear.
- On cold-weather hikes, place it in your pack with the reflective layer against your back to reflect your body heat and beef up your warmth during the day.
Comfort-wise, foam pads don’t provide the most cushioning. While inflatable pads can offer 2 or 3 inches of padding, the Z Lite Sol is about half an inch thick. Lumps and bumps aren’t absorbed fully by the mat, so you will feel these if you don’t choose your sleeping area carefully. Avoid uneven ground and sharp or jagged surfaces.
For the best chance of comfort, go for relatively soft surfaces like grass, sand, dirt or plant duff. Soft materials like pine needles, leaves and sand will provide you that extra bit of cushion, which might make all the difference as to whether you sleep like a baby or toss and turn all night.
Sleeping on your side may compress the foam and create stress around your hips, so try to sleep on your back. If that’s not possible for you, just try to change positions or roll over from time to time. This will also help to retain the ideal heat level, as compressed foam tends to lose its insulation.
One bonus of the fold up structure is that you can double-up areas to provide extra cushioning in particular places as needed.
What can we really say? It’s lightweight. In fact, it’s one of the lightest sleeping mats on the market. The small size is 10oz and the regular size is 14oz, making both options super light and easy to carry.
In general sleeping mats aren’t that heavy, however, they tend to be bulky which causes an inconvenience when it comes to backpacking and camping. So when it comes to weight, there’s one word for this mattress: ultralight.
Value for money and guarantee
Retailing at approximately $35 for the small and $45 for the regular size, the Z Lite Sol is affordable when it comes to sleeping pads. The low price tag makes it perfect for newbies or campers on a budget.
Therm-a-rest includes a warranty against manufacturing defects, a real perk especially if you’re buying online and can’t examine the product personally before you buy.
For the price, what it offers, and the company’s reputation, you really can’t go wrong with this sleeping mattress. It’ll provide you warm and comfort at an affordable and fair price.
Most sleeping mats on the market are made of foam which does the job of retaining some heat but fails at its compatibility and transportability. In other words, carrying a foam mat in your backpack isn’t easy. However, Therm-a-Rest Z is not only lightweight, which is a great feature but is easy to travel with.
When you think of a mattress, you think bulky and stiff. But the Therm-a-Rest mattress is completely different than your typical sleeping mat. The accordion-style shape is the unique feature of this mattress as it greatly changes the way you camp and/or backpack. You simply scrunch it together as you would an accordion and put it into your backpack.
Close competitors: Other products you might like
We don’t want you to only look at one product before deciding on a sleeping mattress. In fact, you should shop around a bit and understand the features of a sleeping mat and what features suits you and your needs. So, we did the shopping for you and found some close competitors that are exceptional alternatives to this mat.
The Outdoor Hiking Mountaineering Mat is a great option if you’re looking for a 4-season sleeping mat. It has an egg cell shape design which provides you with soft and cushy support. If you’re a spontaneous outdoor enthusiast that will sleep anywhere, with or without a tent, then this mat will be your best friend. It’s highly durable and you’ll be able to take it anywhere with you. Users generally love this mat and state that it’s very comfortable and does a great job of insulating. You should also know that this mat is waterproof, so if you happen to spill some water on it, don’t worry. Overall, this mat is a great option if you’ll be camping or backpacking in any type of terrain.
If you really can’t afford to spend much on a sleeping mat, there are a range of cheap ones available which are designed for general sports and recreational use. The Ultralight Outdoor Camping Mattress by Nature Worship has a similar fold up design to the Z Lite Sol, with a similar egg-cup design and lightweight foam.
Be aware, however, that mats like these are often missing the thermal qualities and may not have had their R-values measured. Don’t risk a recreational sports mat on harsh weather hikes. Go for a mat like this for some casual warm weather camping, especially if you’re on a serious budget.
The Thermarest Ridge Rest Solar Sleeping Pad is another pick from Therm-a-rest, the Ridgerest is a great alternative to the Z Lite range. It’s a roll-up closed-cell foam mat, with a patent pending aluminized solar coating that reflects radiation back to the user, providing them with extra warmth and durability.
It’s suitable for everyone from entry-level backpackers to extreme climbers. It features a pattern of soft peaks and valleys for trapping air and features a 2.8 R-value. It’s not thick, 2 cm, so, it’ll be able to be easily rolled up and placed into your backpack.
The Therm-a-Rest Z is a great option if you’re needing a sleeping pad that’s lightweight and compactable. In addition, this sleeping pad won’t break the bank, so if you’re on a budget, this mat doesn’t require too much of an investment. It’s highly durable with its indestructible closed-cell foam so you know, this mat will be lasting you for years to come.
Users of this mat love the great value for money and simple versatility of the mat. It’s very popular among minimalist backpackers who are looking for something light, easy to pack and indestructible. For hardcore outdoorsmen and ultralight backpackers, the Z Lite Sol has a winning combination of simplicity and durability, with at least enough comfort to get by.
Though we feel that the Therm-a-Rest is an exceptional product, we know that nothing is perfect. So, let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages:
- Good 3 season insulation
- Not very comfortable
- Not enough insulation for very cold winter climates
Therm-a-Rest have established themselves as a market leader in sleeping mattresses and are producing some of the best foam pads around. The Z Lite Sol has everything you could want in a closed-cell foam pad, with the expected durability and versatility plus great design which makes it really stand out.
The foldable nature of the pad is well executed, with the egg-shell pattern increasing not only packability but also insulation. While car and recreational campers might prefer a more luxurious mat for comfort, the Z Lite Sol is functional and eminently convenient. While bulky, this multipurpose mat can be used in so many ways that it earns its keep several times over, and it’s almost certain to last a lifetime.Had any experience with this sleeping pad? If so, let us know in the comments below.