In the world of thru-hiking, the lightweight, ultra-reliable and indestructible closed-cell camping sleeping pad is hard to beat. We caught up with three thru-hikers that swear by the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL and Z Seat to learn more about their adventures and why the tried-and-true closed-cell sleeping pad gets the job done like no other.

thru hiker with mountains and lake in background

Name: Felecia (Dora The Explorer) Moran

Thru-hikes Completed:  Since 2012 I have logged over 4,000 miles thru-hiking America’s most beautiful trails; The Pacific Crest Trail, Colorado Trail, Wonderland Trail, Timberline Trail, and the Trans Catalina Trail. This spring I will be going for my most challenging thru-hike to date! I’ll be trekking 3,100 miles from Canada to Mexico on the Continental Divide Trail.

thru hiker carrying closed cell sleeping pad

Sleep System: Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol mattress paired with a Feathered Friends Egret UL 20-degree sleeping bag.

Why I love my Z Lite: I love my Z Lite because of its versatility beyond a sleeping pad. I take breaks throughout the day to eat or just to stop and smell the roses. Instead of plopping down in the dirt, I can quickly grab my Z Lite from the top of my pack and instantly have a comfy place to rest!

thru hiker with trekking poles and closed cell sleeping padDid you find any unique use for your Z Lite: Thru-hiking can really tighten up your muscles. I also use the Z Lite as a yoga mat anywhere on the trail.

Favorite Experience with the Z Lite: In 2013 on my thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail it was my friend Spitfire’s birthday. We were in the middle of the Sierras and I had no gift to give him. I went through all my possessions and came up with the perfect gift. I loaned him my Z Lite for the day so that he could be spoiled with its impromptu seat ability!

Follow Felicia on Instagram – @dora_la_explorer 

thru hiker laying down enjoying the view

Name: Sean Jansen

Thru-hikes Completed: I have successfully completed the Pacific Crest Trail with [at the time of writing] aspirations to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2017 and the Continental Divide Trail in 2018.

thru hiker resting in sun

Sleep System: My sleeping pad is the Z Lite…PERIOD! I have used and popped nearly every brand of sleeping air pad there is. I’ll never use anything else ever.

Why do you love your Z Lite?: It’s lightweight, easy to set up, comfortable, and most of all, affordable.

thru hiking at night - Photo: Sean Jansen

Did you find any unique use for your Z Lite?: Haha, on some of the passes in the Sierra when the trail was covered in snow, I used my Z Lite as a sled and slid down the north faces of some of the passes, backpack and all. It did well!

Favorite campsite on the trail? My favorite campsite on trail had to have been near the summit of Mount Baden-Powell in Southern California. I cowboy’d at 9,500 feet overlooking a sea of clouds that covered the Los Angeles City basin and showed what Southern California was like before the metropolis. But there are so many moments of non-campsites where I used the Z Lite. I sat on the rim of Crater lake until midnight, watching the stars before deciding on hiking to camp because you can’t camp on the rim. I took a break in the North Cascades and slept out under peaks that resembled the Swiss Alps. I love my Z Lite!

Follow Sean on Instagram – @jansenjournals

thru hike trail marker

Name: Alex “Puff Puff” Mason

Thru-hikes Completed:  Pacific Crest Trail 2015

thru hiking with gear

Sleep System: Therm-a-Rest XLite and Z Seat for added core warmth, Z-packs 10-degree bag, inflatable pillow

Why do you love your Z Seat?: It’s bright yellow. It’s practically indestructible. It’s ultralight. It’s waterproof. It’s comfy.

z seat closed cell seat

Did you find any unique use for your Z Seat?: I used it as belly padding for when I reached the northern terminus after 5 months on the trail.

Favorite campsite on the trail? I’m a chicken so I only cowboy camped a handful of times, but one of the times I did, I had a 180° view of the sun setting behind Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, Washington.


Related Posts:


Updated. Originally Published November 4, 2019.