Perhaps the best-known sit pad on the market, the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat offers comfort with a bit of closed-cell foam luxury while on the trail. Its built-in closure cord, reflective finish, and smaller panels for a more compact fold are just a few of the features that have brought this pad backpacking fame.
Therm-a-Rest Z Seat
✅ Reflective finish
✅ Built-in closure cord
Weight: 2 ounces
Material: Closed-cell foam
Type: foldable foam pad
Packed Size: 2.5 x 2.5 x 12.5 in
Dimensions: 15.5 x 12.5 in
The Therm-a-Rest Z Seat is an excellent choice for day hikers and backpackers who want a little bit of extra comfort on the trail. It is best for lightweight backpackers who want a more luxurious sitting experience without all the hassle or extra weight of a full-blown backpacking chair. Compared to other foam sit pads, the Z seat is quite pricy. That said, the extra features found in such a simple design help to justify the added cost. From a reflective coating to increase the R-value to a more compact design, Therm-a-Rest has put a lot of thought into creating the ultimate sit pad. The best part is the durability this pad brings to the table: you won't need to buy a new sit pad every year making the extra cost worth it in the long run.
For other sit pad reviews, read our post on the best backpacking chairs.
Similar Products: Nemo Chipper, ZPacks Ultralight Sit Pad, Exped Sitpad Flex, Litesmith Folding Sit Pad
Performance Test Results
How We Tested:
I brought the Z seat with me on several different day hikes and backpacking trips in the Four Corners region of Colorado and Utah. It was used in various conditions, such as snow, mud, sand, and dirt, in the backcountry and developed camping areas.
The Therm-a-Rest Z Seat offers comfort on the trail for a very minimal weight penalty. Coming in at 2 ounces, this sit pad probably weighs less than your smartphone. Overall, there aren’t very many factors that affect weight. The biggest contributor is the built-in closure cord, but this could be easily cut off by gram weenies who are concerned about the extra ounce. While this pad is heavier than most other sit pads, that difference is relatively minor at only about an ounce more than most other closed-cell foam pads.
Therm-a-Rest weighs only 2 ounces, which is less than your smartphone.
Price is an Achilles heel for the Z seat: it is quite a bit more expensive than any other foam sit pad on the market. This is due to a variety of factors, such as how well-known this sit pad is, the added reflective coating, higher R-value, larger surface area, and increased durability. For those just looking for a throwaway sit pad, the price likely isn’t worth it, but if you are looking to invest in a sit pad with the bells and whistles that will last, then the initial investment will be warranted.
Z Seat costs $33, making it more expensive compared to other foam sit pads on the market.
While at first glance, the Z seat might seem to have a simple design, there are some key features that contribute to the comfort it provides on the trail. Like most other sit pads, the Z seat has an egg carton design which provides insulation through the use of air in the pockets. I also found the foam to be squishy enough to provide relief from hard surfaces such as logs, picnic benches, or rocks while testing it out.
Unlike other sit pads, this one has a reflective layer to help boost the R-value. Keep in mind that as a closed-cell foam pad, there is a limit to the comfort it will provide, especially compared to other types of camp chairs. That said, the Z seat’s features and thickness make it a comfortable option to use on the trail, particularly compared to other foam sit pads.
The foam with an egg carton design provides insulation and ease on any hard surfaces.
Size and Packability: 10/10
Therm-a-Rest has designed the Z seat to be extremely packable for a closed-cell foam pad. There are six panels that nest inside each other when not in use to take up minimal space. This is unique when compared to other sit pads: most competitors have fewer but larger panels, so when it is folded, the overall dimensions are larger. The Z seat is a bit thicker but narrower when folded up, which makes it easy to store in a side pouch, with your sleeping pad, or inside the pack.
I found the various pockets on the outside of my pack to be a good option for easy access throughout the day. Because of the smaller panel size, this sit pad might be a bit more challenging to use as a back support on some ultralight backpacks, but it should still be possible depending on the pocket size of the pack. All in all, this sit pad is extremely packable, and its design lends well to easy storage anywhere on your pack.
Ease of Use: 9/10
Like all sit pads, the Z seat has a fairly basic design, making it easy to use. When not in use, the pad folds up; when needed, it lays flat on any surface. Because this sit pad has smaller panels than other sit pads, it may not lay as flat on the ground at first. Another feature this pad possesses that affects setup is the cord to keep it strapped shut.
There is a loop and hook at each end of the cord, and the cord wraps around the pad when not in use to keep it folded up. I was able to fold up the pad, wrap the cord around the pad, and attach the hook to the loop without much difficulty or practice, so I would say that this mechanism is fairly easy to use. Those who are not a fan of this mechanism and do not need it could easily cut it off to make the pad easier to use if they so choose.
In conclusion, this pad is extremely easy and intuitive to use. It takes no time to set up or pack up, which makes it convenient to use throughout the day. The Z seat takes slightly more time and effort to use than other sit pads on the market, but that difference is negligible considering how easy all sit pads are to use.
The Z pad has a cord with a loop and hook, which can be wrapped around to keep it folded.
When considering stability with closed cell foam pads such as the Therm-a-Rest Z seat, things like grip when placed on surfaces and how thick the foam is will be the most important factors. One of the benefits of a pad is that it can be placed on logs and other natural or manmade objects to cushion them. Some objects are a bit more precariously shaped or naturally slick, so having a pad that grips the item is important. After using the Z seat on different logs, it always stayed in place while in use.
The thickness of the foam could also potentially cause problems, particularly when kneeling on a brand-new pad. Some foam is so thick that it may be hard to balance if it is used to protect the knees while collecting water or any other chore. I did not find this to be the case while using the Z seat. Overall, the Z seat did just as well, if not better, than other sit pads when it comes to stability while in use.
I used the Z seat on logs, and it never moved while in use.
With the simple nature of sit pads, it can be hard to differentiate between them at times. However, one area where there is often a massive difference in performance is durability. The weakness of closed cell foam pads is that they can sometimes tear when caught on sharp objects as well as flatten out with use, making them less comfortable and insulating. This is an area where that premium price is a benefit for the Therm-a-Rest Z seat, as this is absolutely one of the most durable pads on the market. In my experience using various Therm-a-Rest closed-cell foam products, their pads tend to hold shape better and for longer than other competitors on the market, including Nemo’s products.
Therm-a-Rest products also tend to hold up well to grab objects. The egg carton shape does make this pad prone to a little bit of tearing, but with its small, compact size, this should be less of an issue than with its larger Z lite counterpart when bushwhacking. Keep in mind that it takes a lot of bushwhacking to cause one or two tears, so these products are still quite durable. At the end of the day, this is a product that will last thousands of miles before needing to be replaced, outshining other sit pads on the market.