Hike New Hampshire
Trips in NH
Thermarest Z-Rest  The Z-Rest


I'm a pretty picky sleeper. I need it to be dark, I need it to be relatively quiet, and above all, I need to be comfortable. When I began backpacking, I thought, "Man, I need a sleeping pad." So I went out and got the El Cheapo rolled foam pad for $5.95 at the Kittery Trading Post. Needless to say, things didn't go so well.

Quick Facts
(And Overall Rating)
Comfortable, lightweight, and easy to use.
Type Accordian-like non-inflating
Construction Closed Cell Foam
Mfg. Weight 16 oz.
  • Light weight AND full length
  • Indestructable construction
  • No leaks EVER

After coming to my senses, I realized that I needed a decent pad. I'm big on saving weight wherever possible, so I did a little homework before making any purchases. A classic self-inflating pad like the Therm-A-Rest inflatables weigh more than twice as much as the Z-Rest for the same length. Plus, they were more than twice as expensive. So, being the prudent sort of yokel I am, I went with the Z-Rest.

Cascade Designs did some pretty logical, though innovative thinking when they designed the Z-Rest. The pad is shaped like an egg carton so when folded, the each section fits into the section before it, saving precious room. Folded the Z-Rest is only 20"x 5" x5.5", which is pretty small for a pad that is 20" x 72" x .75" when unfolded. But this egg carton design does more than help with packing small: those little divots do an excellent job of trapping heat to keep you warm. As a comparison, I slept on a classic RidgeRest in 50º weather (in my EMS LT 20) and woke the next morning chilled. I began to use the Z-Rest on the next hike, which happened to be our hike up Chocorua, and slept through 30º temps very comfortably.

Which segues nicely to the topic of comfort. What is a sleeping pad if you're not comfortable? Nothing. Closed cell construction is pretty similar from pad to pad as far as I'm concerned. The difference is in personal taste. Are you a pampered, whiney, city chump that has to have a 2" thick air mattress before you can get any sleep? OR are you hiking and camping with the rest of us, enjoying the separation from the civilized world? Well if you're the chump previously mentioned, the Z-Rest may not be your best bet. You will feel it if you are sleeping on a rock or root, there's no doubt there. But if you're looking for a solid sleeping pad that will keep some comfort between you and the cold, hard earth, then the Z-Rest is a solid piece of gear.

Plus you'll never have to worry about it getting a leak, forcing you to "become one with the earth", right Rob?

Cascade Designs' Lip Service:
The softest, lightest, and most compact closed-cell foam pad money can buy. Z-Rest features an egg carton pattern that nests into a tight, easy-to-pack unit. Hinged like an accordion, Z-Rest folds quickly and easily rather than needing to be rolled. When it's time for sleeping, it instantly lies flat without curling up at the ends. Z-Rest hinges receive extra compression during production making them the strongest part of the pad, so there's no need to worry about them tearing or failing miles from the trailhead. Available in full-length and 3/4 sizes.

My Lip Service:
The Z-Rest is a comfortable, compact, inexpensive pad that performs exactly as billed. For those of you who need the couch and TV Guide on a hike, look for the heavy, expensive inflatable you saw the yuppies next door with a week ago.

Go to Cascade Designs Therm-A-Rest Home


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Chris Oberg & Robert Havasy