Thermarest Z-Lite Mattress from Cascade Designs

  • As you can tell from the spelling of Lite in the name, this is an American product. I would call it a roll-matt but you don’t actually roll it but fold it up concertina style and will therefore call it a mattress.

    I had a full length one at 6 feet long though a ¾ length one is available. It’s 20inches wide, which was wide enough even for my bulk. Though the depth of the foam is only a few mm, due to the egg box type construction the actual depth of the mattress is ¾ inch. The egg box type construction allows for the various segments to fit together when folded. It allows for the trapping of pockets of air which is meant to increase the insulation keeping it warmed in winter and cooler and summer.

    I tried it in the Highlands in the Spring time when night time temperatures were usually between 4 and 12 degrees and had no problems with heat loss through it, but then again was in a fully decent sleeping bag. (This mattress was also used by Master Fang for a week doing fieldwork on a Highland estate without any problems and to test its durability in the hands of a 14 year old.)

    The closed cell aspect of the foam is meant to stop it absorbing water and I must admit that despite being strapped to the outside of my bergan during some heavy rain, it didn’t absorb any, there was a little caught in the top in some of the dimples but by making sure that side was down, it didn’t get my sleeping bag too wet. Perhaps sticking it a bin bag would be useful if that sort of thing worries you.

    The one that I had to review was a very military khaki on the upper side (though Cascade call it Coyote), grey on the other. The foam is a dual density one which is denser on the lower(grey side) and allegedly slightly less dense on the upper to increase comfort, but I didn’t notice much different between the two different sides. I had a quick look on the internet and it is available in both the khaki and also a yellow, though not a sand yellow but a bright yellow, there may also be orange ones as well.

    Price to buy seems to be around the £30 mark depending on retailer, not a bad price for a 3 season mattress weighing in at 410g or 14oz. This makes it light enough to lug around without any difficulty at all. Also useful is the fact that you can use it as a seat cushion either as it is or by unfolding it at the half way point or into three, depending on the size you want, far easier to do with this than a traditional roll matt.

    Despite its lightweight foam construction, the mattress appears quite durable though there is evidence of minor buckling of the foam where it’s been strapped to my bergan and a slight opening at the edges.(see photo) It doesn’t come with its own straps to keep it closed and I just used some pieces of elastic that held my roll mat rolled up to keep it together, though it didn’t really need it as it was easy enough to strap to the bergan.

    The big advantage over a traditional rollmat was the mattress’s ability to lie flat as soon as unfolded. Those of us who have ever battled with a rogue roll matt will know exactly how annoying they can be. With this, there is none of that, unstrap from bergan unfold and it’s ready for your sleeping bag.

    Though Cascade say that it folds up small to save space, I don’t actually find it any smaller at all, plus there’s not the space through the middle to stuff my tent poles!

    I can’t compare it to a self inflating mattress as I’ve never used one. The ground it was used on was mainly in amongst trees or out among the heather so had a wee bit of give to it and chosen not to be too rocky. It was fine for that, the mattress was more than capable of dealing with small undulations and the occasional root. On a hard, solid ground you may not be overly comfortable unless you sleep on your back but again that all depends on what you’re used to.

    I’'d rate this highly, (as does Master Fang, who after using this one is now saving up to buy one of his own)

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