Thermarest Mats: Comparing the Prolite and the Z-Lite

fl_prolite3_regular_l.jpgA good bike tour means getting a good night’s sleep so if you’re going to be camping, it’s important to choose a good mat.

We’re big fans of Thermarest mats. They’re comfortable, the company backs its product with a lifetime guarantee and, having tested that guarantee on the road, we can vouch for the great customer service behind the warranty.

Two mats that we have personal experience with are the self-inflating Thermarest Prolite Plus mat and the solid foam Thermarest Z Lite mat. Here’s how they compare:

Thermarest Prolite Plus Thermarest Z Lite
Weight: 24 ounces or 680 grams
Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 1.5 inches or 183 x 51 x 4 cm
Packed Size: 4.8 x 11 inches
R-Value: 3.8
Price: $129.95 from REI
Material: Open-cell foam.
Comfort: Very comfortable.
Durability: After about 6 months of constant use, this pad is prone to delaminating. It can also be punctured or damaged if you leave it inflated in a hot tent.
Weight: 14 ounces or 400 grams
Dimensions: 72 x 20 inches or 183 x 51 x 2cm
Packed Size: 20 x 5.5 x 5 inches
R-Value: 2.2
Price: $44.95 from REI
Material: Solid foam
Comfort: Eggshell design is surprisingly soft but the mat is still noticeably firmer than the Prolite.
Durability: Indestructible. Never punctures or delaminates. Foam can compact over time but ours are still good after 2 years of constant use.

Relaxing afternoonOur recommendation: Based on our experience with both mats, we recommend the Prolite Plus mats for shorter tours. It’s more portable and it will be easy to send away for repair or replacement from home if it does delaminate. If the average cycle tourist gets out for two weeks of biking and camping a year, then we got a good decade’s use out of our Prolite mats before they gave way. If you’re going on a longer trip, however, where receiving a replacement mat may be a hassle and leave you waiting in one spot for a few days, then a Z-Lite mat is probably the better choice.

For the details on our experience with both mats, keep on reading…

Prolite Experience
We originally bought Thermarest Prolite mats because of their light weight, warmth rating and small size when packed away. Having never slept on a camping mat before, it took a few days to adjust to our new beds but we were soon sleeping like babies. We used the mats a few times when temperatures dropped just below freezing and with a few layers of clothing and a good sleeping bag we were always warm.

Unfortunately, we discovered that the Prolite mats aren’t ideal for longer trips because after 6 months ours started to delaminate. This means that separators that create the pockets of air inside the mat began to break down and instead of a flat mat we had one with a huge bubble in the middle of it. This was impossible to sleep on comfortably and no longer provided insulation from the cold ground.

We contacted Thermarest and were immediately sent a replacement. This was fine until the second mat died a few months later. This time we located a nearby Thermarest dealer and decided that instead of swapping our old mat for a new one, which would likely deteriorate in another few months, we would try a closed cell mat.

Switch to the Z Lite
After examining various closed cell mats, we settled on a Z-Lite. We liked the feel of its egg carton surface (finding it more comfortable than a flat mat) and we were pleased that it weighed a bit less than the Prolite. The only downside was its size – because the Z-Lite folds like an accordion, it’s bulky even when packed. We had to rearrange our gear and placed the new mat in a heavy duty bag on the back of Friedel’s bicycle, on top of the rear panniers.

fl_zlite_l.jpg

As with the Prolite mats, there was an adjustment period with the Z Lite but after a few nights we grew used to it. An unexpected bonus was that we were no longer worried about puncturing the mat when we used it outside. When our remaining Prolite mat gave way in Syria in December 2007, we asked Thermarest to replace it with a Z Lite and they quickly couriered out one to us, no questions asked. Once again we were impressed with their customer service!

Since then we’ve been using our Z Lite mats without complaint. Given our experience with inflatable mats, we would opt for a Z Lite over a Prolite for a long tour. Even with great service from Thermarest, you still have to find a place to receive a replacement mat and it’s better not to have this hassle in the first place. The Z Lite is also less than half the price of the Prolite mats.

Other options: It’s worth noting that we are fairly easy sleepers but some people find the Thermarest Prolite inflatable mats uncomfortable, especially if you sleep on your side or you’re a larger person. If this is the case, you may want to research thicker mats, which will be heavier and bulkier but make for sweeter dreams.

Some mats used by other bike tourists include the:

Comments

  1. Rik Williams
    20th April 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    I’m a massive fan of Thermarests but also *love* Alpkit who make a similar*. I haven’t tried it but if it’s anything like the rest of their kit it’ll be as good and cheaper. Totally brilliant company who make really wonderful stuff.

    * http://www.alpkit.com/airic/

    • Pawel
      23rd July 2010 at 11:49 am #

      We’ve been using our Alpkit Airic mats for the last 3 years for all our holidays and weekend trips. High quality, lightweight, come packed with everything you’d need (compression straps, bag and puncture repair kit), very competitive price and excellent customer service – one of our mats delaminated after 2 years of use, we got a replacement within days, no questions asked.

  2. Thomas Arbs
    9th October 2010 at 11:23 pm #

    Having tried a cheap self-inflating mat in the first year and seeing it delaminate after a week, we turned to Therm-a-rest Prolites and are proverbial happy campers ever since. They have at least 150 nights on them each, and I am a very heavy person. So according to your experience they are approaching their end-of-life. We’ll keep you posted on the development.

    • Alianya
      10th July 2016 at 11:28 pm #

      You promised an update 6 years ago! How are they now?

      • aro
        1st June 2017 at 6:43 pm #

        My first Prolite Plus lasted from 2011 to 2014, around 200-220 nights in total. It started to delaminate after having been left in the tent for a day, during a heat wave, and was useless soon after. Heat is its worst enemy, I would guess above 28C you’re starting to push the construction to its limit. In my case I suspect it would have failed very soon despite of that oversight.

        I have a newer model now which Thermarest sent as a replacement, for a small fee (around 1/3 of the retail price). Used it for maybe 80 nights so far. But I am considering foam pad for an upcoming tour because I will be staying in remote areas for much of the time and having the pad fail would be troublesome.

  3. kyrie 5
    24th August 2022 at 3:07 am #

    I precisely had to appreciate you once more. I do not know what I might have worked on in the absence of the type of tips revealed by you relating to this subject. It previously was a distressing concern in my view, however , seeing a new well-written way you resolved that took me to cry over delight. Now i’m thankful for the information and as well , trust you are aware of an amazing job you’re accomplishing instructing other individuals using a site. Most probably you’ve never met all of us.

  4. 폰허브
    10th October 2022 at 8:00 pm #

    Im obliged for the blog. Really Great.

  5. North American Bancard ISO
    23rd October 2022 at 9:02 pm #

    I really enjoy the blog.Much thanks again. Great.

  6. Golden Goose
    4th November 2022 at 8:48 am #

    I enjoy you because of your whole effort on this site. Kate loves going through investigations and it is obvious why. Almost all know all relating to the powerful manner you render simple tips by means of the website and strongly encourage response from visitors on that area of interest and our daughter is undoubtedly starting to learn a whole lot. Have fun with the remaining portion of the new year. You have been carrying out a powerful job.

  7. download south african mp3
    5th November 2022 at 11:18 am #

    I quite like reading through a post that will make men and women think. Also, many thanks for allowing for me to comment.

  8. off white
    10th November 2022 at 3:21 pm #

    I precisely had to say thanks once more. I do not know what I might have taken care of without the actual aspects revealed by you concerning this topic. It had been a very depressing matter for me, nevertheless taking a look at the very professional mode you handled the issue took me to leap over fulfillment. Now i am thankful for your information and hope that you find out what a great job you’re getting into educating the rest by way of your websites. I am certain you’ve never come across any of us.

  9. Bonuses
    17th November 2022 at 6:04 pm #

    I value the post. Want more.

  10. tamrecording
    22nd November 2022 at 4:40 am #

    ny giants gray hoodie
    tamrecording http://www.tamrecording.com/

  11. Roofers in Sugar Land, TX
    24th November 2022 at 9:17 am #

    Really enjoyed this post.

  12. stephen curry shoes
    25th November 2022 at 6:37 pm #

    Thanks for all your valuable efforts on this site. Kim delights in doing research and it’s easy to understand why. My spouse and i learn all concerning the dynamic manner you convey worthwhile tips and tricks by means of the web blog and welcome contribution from visitors on the subject matter so our princess is discovering a lot of things. Take advantage of the rest of the year. Your conducting a tremendous job.

  13. how to use a vibrating cock ring
    29th November 2022 at 8:06 pm #

    Thank you ever so for you post. Want more.

  14. trade metals
    1st December 2022 at 6:27 am #

    You are my aspiration, I possess few blogs and very sporadically run out from to brand.

  15. trade shares
    1st December 2022 at 10:00 pm #

    pretty valuable stuff, overall I think this is really worth a bookmark, thanks

Leave a comment