Five reasons why the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite is the best backcountry bed ever made

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When it comes to crashing after a day of backcountry shenanigans, you can have your foot pumps and pool floats —I’ll take a simple, foldable strip of dirty closed-cell foam, thanks.

Here are five reasons why Therm-a-Rest’s Z Lite is the proverbial Craftmatic Adjustable of the outdoor bed market.

1. It’s all in the name.
Z because it folds like one and Lite because even a minor breeze will send it floating into the brush. Insulation and inches of padding are nice to have, but there’s a reason why a search for Sealy Posturepedic on will result in “Chris” popping up to inquire about helping you find something else. When it comes to balancing weight and comfort, the Z Lite wins all arguments.

2. It’s affordable
There is no shortage of pads out there hovering around $200. ($100 x 2.) That’s an absurd amount of money to pay for a product that’s designed to make contact with the ground in remote places, even for the most well-heeled weekend warriors. If you need that kind of comfort to catch some shut-eye in the woods, here’s a link for you. But even when you need a thicker pad for serious winter sleep, the Z Lite can be combined with a more affordable three-season pad for as much warmth as something much more expensive.

3. Multiple uses
In case the inevitable barrage of ridicule from your tougher trailmates isn’t enough, the Z Lite gives you a reason to not buy one of those goofy foldable triangle chair things that are becoming so popular. Just throw it down and sit — boom: instant comfort. The Z Lite is also a kick-ass wilderness medicine tool, able to be cut for splints and injury padding when you roll out of your butterfly chair into the fire. Or into a crevasse or whatever.

4. Durability
These things won’t die. In fact, like Jennifer Aniston, they only get better with age. They resist punctures, tears and the abuse of being strapped to the bottom of a 70lb pack and dropped on rocks, scree and cacti. They’re as strong as Hulk balls.

5. Simplicity
Time spent in the backcountry is meant to pull us away from the always-connected, tech-dependent complications of ordinary life. But gear needs can evolve into gadget obsession more quickly than most of us are willing to admit. (There are some damn good marketers out there.) I work hard to keep my wilderness needs simple and pursue products that reflect that discipline. In that regard, there is no better outdoor sleeping option than the Z Lite. Instant nap.

There you have it, five solid reasons why butterfly chairs suck the Z Lite is the most versatile piece of sleeping gear on the market. Plus, there’s kind of an unwritten code among outdoorsy folks who use a Z Lite, usually communicated by a silent, mutual recognition of one another’s level of outdoorsiness when passed on the trail. “That dude doesn’t need an inflatable pad, he’s got Hulk balls.”


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