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76367OR - Thermarest Z-lite pads - Ray Estrella

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  • rayestrella1
    Sep 2, 2008
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      Hey all you editorial types…

      I do not know what the call is for this month but I feel like writing
      about sleeping pads. Here is the first one. The HTML may be found


      See you in a few minutes…


      Therm-a Rest Z-Lite
      Owner Review by Raymond Estrella
      September 13, 2008

      NAME: Raymond Estrella
      EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
      AGE: 47
      LOCATION: Orange County, California, USA
      GENDER: M
      HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
      WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

      I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and
      in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and
      average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to
      lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike
      hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a
      freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I
      am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.

      The Product

      Review Date: August 27, 2008
      Manufacturer: Cascade Designs Inc.
      Web site: www.thermarest.com
      Product: Z-Lite pad
      Year manufactured: 2008
      MSRP: $ 29.95 US
      Size: Small (also made in Regular, which I have too)
      Weight listed: 11 oz (310 g)
      Actual weight: 10.1 oz (286 g)
      Dimensions listed: 20 x 47 in (51 x 119 cm)
      Actual dimensions: 20 x 50.5 (51 x 128 cm)
      Thickness listed: 0.75 in (20 mm) Verified accurate
      Packed size listed (folded up): 20 x 4 x 5 in (51 x 10 x 13 cm)
      Packed size measured: 20 x 4.5 x 5 in (51 x 11 x 13 cm)
      R-Value: 2.2

      Product Description

      The Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite pads (hereafter called the Z-Lites or pads)
      are very light weight pads that the manufacture says is, "The perfect
      choice for chronic ounce-counters engaging in virtually any
      activity." I don't know about that, but I use them for backpacking…

      The Z-Lites are made of closed-cell foam that will not absorb
      moisture. It is orange in color on the top (sleeping side) and dark
      grey on the bottom, as seen to the right. I can see no difference in
      the surfaces other than the color.

      The over-all thickness is 0.75 in (20 mm), but the thickness of the
      foam is only 0.3 in (8 mm) thick. The over-all thickness is achieved
      because of the egg-carton shaped pattern it has been constructed of.
      This technique allows a lot of dead-air space to be trapped between
      the user and the tent floor (or what ever it is on). This is claimed
      to increase warmth and softness.

      Another thing it does is allows the pad to fold up accordion-style
      with the grey bumps of the bottom sliding into the orange depressions
      of the front. This lets it pack down to about two-fifths of the size
      its thickness would suggest. It turns into the roughly square shaped
      bundles seen above.

      Once unfolded it lays fairly flat. It does keep some shape retention
      causing it to rise up from the surface a bit as may be noticed below.

      Field Data

      My twins Emma and Raymond used the Z-Lite pads in a MSR Mutha Hubba
      tent on the following trips, all in summer of 2008.

      We started by carrying them around Buffalo River State Park,
      Minnesota for a practice hike as seen above. (In the summer we can
      only hike on the trails, all camping must be done in
      the "campground".) After a couple miles of "packing" along three of
      the hiking trails we went back to our camp spot.

      We went to Itasca State Park , the birthplace of the Mississippi
      River where we got a permit for one of three sites at Myrtle Lake.
      (Backpacking sites are issued just like camp sites in a campground, a
      new one for me.) This four mile (6 km) round trip hike was on easy
      terrain as it is almost all grass, at the worst dirt. Temps were from
      64 to 80 F (18 to 27 C) at an elevation of 1500 ft (460 m).

      The kids and I went with Uncle Dave and their cousin Kendall to Round
      Valley in San Jacinto State Park (California) for an over-night trip
      with lots of boulder climbing. The temperatures ranged from a low of
      55 F to a high of 80 F (13 to 27 C). This was at an elevation of 9200
      ft (2800 m).

      And last we went on a three-day backpacking trip to Maplewood State
      Park in Minnesota. We stayed at the Beers Lake Backpacker site the
      first day and at the Grass Backpacker site the second. The weather
      was great for two days then rained the last. The temperatures were
      from 79 down to 61 F (29 to 16 C). The elevation was 1340 ft (408 m)
      above sea level.


      I bought the Z-Lite pads in May of 2008 expressly for my twins Emma
      and Raymond to use for a whole summer of backpacking we had planned.
      As I knew that I would be carrying a lot of weight hauling gear for
      the three of us I was very interested in finding something that would
      work for them with as low a weight as possible.

      I have a regular length Z-Lite pad that I use in winter occasionally
      to boost my R-value with other pads (I will mention my opinion of the
      Z-Lite at the end of this review). I had the kids try it out and they
      said they liked it, so I got them the two smalls. They insisted on
      sleeping on them in the front room when they first got them.

      The kids used them all summer and I never heard a single complaint of
      any discomfort or soreness. Indeed they slept harder than they ever
      do at home, but that could have something to do with the hiking,
      boulder climbing, lake playing, and frog hunting safaris…

      Their low body weight seemed to keep the egg-carton ridges from
      collapsing too much giving them a soft and comfortable sleeping
      surface. As can be seen in these pictures Emma and Ray (who is buried
      in his bag) look like they are having sweet cushioned dreams.

      And I did not mind carrying the combined weight of both of them. I
      stacked them both together and then attached them to my Osprey Argon
      110 with the pack's lower sleeping pad straps. The Z-Lites actually
      helped my pack sit stably when I would take it off. Here is a picture
      on our way to Round Valley in Mount San Jacinto State Park.

      They are a lot more durable than I thought they would be. They have a
      few scratches and permanent indentations, from sitting against rough
      granite most likely. But neither of them have any tears or holes. As
      can be seen above I snug them down pretty tight to make sure they
      don't slide around but they do not retain the strap indentations
      after a day of hiking. On the trip above because of logistic problems
      they were strapped down for over 12 hours like that but showed no
      sign of it an hour after unloading. Here is a picture as we trek
      through the hardwood forests of Minnesota.

      Dad's Use

      While the Z-Lites have been great for the kids I thought that I
      should share my experiences with the regular size Z-Lite I have.

      I am not an Ultra-light backpacker by any means. My brother-in-law
      Dave is for 3-season hiking, often carrying loads that I can only
      touch if I leave one leg at home. (Uh, uh, don't go there…) I do try
      to lean towards the lighter end of the scale for most of my gear
      purchases though.

      I bought my Z-Lite to use in winter to put an extra insulating layer
      between me and the snow before I got some pretty trick winter pads.
      And it works exceptionally for this use. It seems to grip very well
      too, although I may not notice much slipping as I can make a darn
      level pad with my shovel and snowshoes in winter.

      But at least one time each year I do what I call a "Dave hike". On
      this hike we go for three days and I try to take the lowest weight I
      possibly can. But I still have to take my own tent and such, and I do
      not have any little Bear Burritos to sleep in like Dave does. So one
      year I took the Z-Lite as my only pad to cut weight.

      At the time I was up to my high body weight of 220 lb (100 kg). (This
      was before the crazy monster-distance hikes I have been doing the
      past 3 years.) And I have to say that the Z-Lite did not work well
      for me at all. But as a side-sleeper I put a lot of pressure against
      my hip and shoulder as I sleep. And all of my big trips are in the
      Sierra at high altitude, with most camps above tree-line meaning I am
      setting up on rock most of the time. Dave, who is a back sleeper, has
      one (actually he has two, he brings both in winter some times) and
      does well with it set up a short distance away.

      I will keep mine forever as a winter addition, the weight is hard to
      beat and I use it as a winter seat in my dug-out snow kitchen quite
      often as the weight is so low that I can justify carrying it instead
      of my foam seat pad as it lets me sleep warmer too. I will end this
      review with a picture of it in my kitchen area dug out of about 8 ft
      (2.6 m) of snow. See how clean it stays with no icky dirt around?
      (He, he, he)
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