There are few things as pleasurable in the wilderness as a fresh brewed pot of coffee and a comfortable good night’s sleep.  When it comes to comfort, a quality sleeping pad makes all the difference in the world.  With that said, today we will be doing a first impression overview of the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol.

Therm-a-Rest is an internationally renowned manufacturer in the outdoors industry best known for their sleeping pads.  The Z Lite Sol is just one of the many sleeping pads offered by Therm-a-Rest, but one of their most popular. Here are some specifications straight from Therm-a-Rest’s official product page:

Specifications

  • Color: Limon/silver
  • R-Value: 2.6 (regular), 2.2 (small)
  • Weight: 14oz (regular), 10oz (small)
  • Width: 20”
  • Length: 72” (regular), 51” (small)
  • Thickness: .75”
  • Packed Dimensions (Inches): 20” x 5” x 5.5” (regular), 20” x 4” x 5.5” (small)
  • Fill Material: Crosslinked polyethylene
  • Foam Type:  Molded closed-cell
  • Country of Origin:  USA*Built

Picking the right sleeping pad

For those of you that are unfamiliar with camping or backpacking gear, sleeping pads can range from just $20 to a seemingly irrational cost of over $300.  While cost and performance have a correlation, they are not mutually exclusive.  There are quality sleeping pads for all budgets, and not only is something better than nothing, but the nature of your trip will determine which sleeping pad will work best for you.  It can be confusing to choose from the many available in the outdoor industry, the hand-in-hand considerations while shopping for a sleeping pad include:

  1. Trip type – Are you camping or backpacking? Is your trip for days, weeks, or months?  While it would be nice to have that big premium sleeping pad if your car is right next to you at a campsite, you certainly won’t want to be carrying it through the mountains.

Size/packability – How conveniently can you carry this pad with you?  Inflatable air pads can be compressed as small as a portable stove, a mere fraction of its size, whereas foam pads will hardly shrink in size when packed.

Due to its size, the Z Lite Sol is best packed outside the pack
  1. Weight – How much additional weight are you willing to lug around? Those extra ounces eventually turn into extra pounds and they can make for an uncomfortable trek.
  2. Insulation – Will you be exposed to the cold ground or winter conditions? Are you a warm or cold sleeper?  R-values are used to measure insulation, the higher the R-value, the warmer you will be.
  3. Durability – Will it withstand what I will put it through? Inflatable sleeping pads are prone to tears and punctures whereas foams pads will be the most durable pads available.  Lighter air pads tend to use less materials to shed weight, but that comes at the cost of insulation and potential tears.
  1. Cost – As mention earlier, sleeping pads can be costly. What can you afford?
  2. Comfort – Personal comfort vs. all the above.

First look at the Z Lite Sol

The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol is a closed-cell foam sleeping pad; its perks are that its lightweight, durable, and relatively inexpensive, but those features come at the cost of less comfort and bulky size.  To date, Therm-a-Rest has two variations of this sleeping pad, the Z Lite Original and the Z Lite Sol.  The only difference is that the Z Lite Sol utilizes the reflective “ThermaCapture” feature, which claims to insulate 20% more heat.

herm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol by a Feathered Friends sleeping bag for comparison

The Z Lite Sol also comes in two sizes, regular and small.  Aside from a four-ounce weight difference and a 21” shorter length for the small, both pads are completely identical.  The small model is sometimes preferred for shedding extra ounces and easier packability, albeit having to deal with one’s legs being off the mat.  Considering that the Z Lite Sol’s only real con is its packed size, opting for the smaller size might be the better choice.

The bottom line

The good

  • Lightweight
  • One of the most durable pads on the market
  • Can be used for extra insulation underneath an air pad

The bad

  • Bulky, unable to compress
  • Less comfortable than air pads

At the time of writing, the regular Z Lite Sol runs for around $45 on Amazon ($34.20 for the small).  As far as foam pads go, the Z Lite Sol offers some great features that make it worth the purchase, especially if you’re trying to refrain from spending upwards in the hundreds of dollars on the more premium pads.  After further use, I will be writing a follow-up review to elaborate on the Z Lite Sol’s features.  In the meantime, if you own any Therm-a-Rest gear or have experiences with any other sleeping pads, let us know what you think!