Therm-a-Rest Z Seat Review 2019

Therm-a-Rest Z Seat Overview

Backpacking chairs are often bulky, somewhat heavy, and have a few moving parts that can break. Sure, they are pretty comfortable, but do you really want all those issues? The Therm-a-Rest Z Seat, for its size and weight, is a backpacking chair that will give any ultralight or wilderness-minded backpacker a measure of comfort and utility that would otherwise be missing from their pack. And it’s not bulky, heavy, and there are zero parts to speak of.

Due to its weight, utility, and low price point, we have named the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat our Budget Pick backpacking chair for the Wilderness Backpacker, Ultralight Backpacker, and Day Hiker!

Therm-a-Rest Z Seat Star Rating
  • Comfort
  • Durability
  • Setup
  • Packability
4.1

Summary

The Therm-a-Rest Z Seat is essentially a fancy piece of foam for your bum. It folds up like an accordion, weighs two ounces, and is about the cost of two six packs. You’ll probably want it when sipping those beers, or for any of your lightweight backcountry adventures. Ease of use, versatility, and durability make this a minimal backpacking chair that deserves a look.

Check out the full Therm-a-Rest Z seat review below, and see where it falls on our guide to the Best Backpacking Chairs!

Therm-a-Rest Z Seat Specifications

Feature Type Feature Specs What This Means
Weight 2 oz (57 g) Incredibly light for a backpacking chair. It’s just a foam pad to sit on, but still, lightweight!
Type Ground You put the Z Seat right on the ground, and sit down as if you’re on the floor. Not a ton of support, and no back rest, but it’s better than jagged rocks.
Packed Size 12 x 2.5 x 2.75 in. It packs down in an accordion style. It’s not tiny, but still smaller than most backpacking chairs.
Assembled Size 13 x 16 in. Just enough room to sit down or kneel.
Height Off Ground .75 in. Not much height off the ground. Minimal comfort.
Fabric Material Molded Closed-Cell Foam The Z Seat is just a closed-cell foam pad that’s cut to the shape of a sitting pad, instead of a sleeping pad.
Poles No No poles, or any real parts, to speak of.
Manufacturer Warranty Limited Lifetime Therm-a-Rest offers an excellent warranty for all their products. That said, there’s almost nothing on this pad that could “break”.
Retail Price $14.95 A low cost for a high quality closed-cell foam sit pad.

Gear Review of the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat

Revelation: The Moment I Knew

I’m privileged to live in the High Rockies. It’s a land of vast wilderness, soaring peaks, raging rivers, endless forests, and about one hundred other superlatives I won’t mention.

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Backpacking at elevation with the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat.

However, this often means I’m camping at elevation — up there, the ground can be unforgiving. For one of my treks our campsite was high in San Juan Mountains — gorgeous, but the ground was roughly 75% rock, 10% pine needles, 10% dirt, and 5% wildflowers. I was so thankful for the Therm-a-Rest Z seat when setting up and breaking down camp — and when simply trying to sit on something that wasn’t a jagged rock.

I loved to use this pad while laying out and inflating my air pad in the tent and getting everything situated inside. Upon breakdown, I used it again to kneel at the edge of the tent, roll up the air pads, and pack them away for the trip out.

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Setting up camp, cooking, and general lounging are all good places to use the Z Seat!

For me, and for what you’re getting, the Z Seat is an A+. I typically backpack with a full length Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol, mostly for an extra sit surface at camp. It’s technically also nice as a backup for my air pad, but in the seven years I’ve been backpacking, I’ve never had to use it for that.

The Therm-a-Rest Z Seat has now become a permanent part of my pack, and replaced the Z Lite Sol. The more you carry the Z Seat the more you’ll wind up using it! It’s great for tasks around camp, a mat to change pants/layers, a spot to kneel while filtering water, and even for impromptu sword fights.

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The Therm-a-Rest Z Seat.

Comfort – 2.5 Stars

Let’s be honest here, kids: this is a tiny “chair” with zero back support and very little cushion. It provides protection from hard roots and rocks and will keep the cold and wet ground from touching you. It’s far more comfortable than sitting directly in the dirt and any jagged rocks, but doesn’t come close to the comfort of a foldable backpacking chair.

Therm-a-Rest-Z-Seat-review-sitting-and-writing
The Z Seat provides a basic, slightly padded surface to rest on. Don’t expect much more.

Durability – 4 Stars

The closed-cell foam used in the Z Seat is tremendously durable. You can expect it to last for your whole thru-hike, and if you’re not a thru-hiker, this will probably last for many years. The foam retains shape, handles scuffs well, and really retains the .75 inches of support it comes with new.

Therm-a-Rest uses elastic to keep the pad folded nicely together, but it’s likely going to break at some point. It’s made of a simple shock cord and I have no doubts it will succumb to the elements before too long. That said, it’s not critical, and can be replaced easily.

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This small elastic cord keeps the Z Seat folded up, and can be used as a loop to hang off your pack. It’s not the highest quality though, and will probably tear at some point. That said, it’s easy to replace, and there’s still a hole in the Z Seat for you to use paracord instead, which will last.

Setup – 5 Stars

There’s not much to setup! That’s the beauty of the super lightweight Z Seat. Undo the elastic band that holds it together and throw it on the ground. Yup, that’s it. You’ve got yourself your very own chair, congrats!

Packability – 5 Stars

The Therm-a-Rest Z Seat packs up quite small, like a mini accordion. It can be easily stowed inside a pocket or on the outside of your pack. Heck, you could even use a carabiner to clip it onto your backpack in conjunction with the elastic band.

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Small and easy to pack!

Grievances

This is a fantastic product for its cost and utility. I really don’t have a grievance with anything about it. I could see taking issue if someone bought this for you as a gift and said, “Hey! I bought you a chair!” And then you would see that it has no back, doesn’t lift you off the ground, and has very little cushion. You might say “Uh, this isn’t a chair, it lacks all those normal chair features!”

However, if you’re the one buying this product, then you know what you’re getting and there are no surprises.

In short, it’s a well protected place to sit. If that’s what defines a chair, then this is a chair. Otherwise, look for something with a bit more cushion and height.

Final Word

The aptly named Therm-a-Rest Z Seat is a great buy for $15 dollars. It will cushion your bottom from the mountains to the sea, and live through many days of sitting.

Where to Buy Therm-a-Rest Z Seat

There is only one version of the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat, and we tested it. The most recent version comes in three color options, and has a small hole and elastic band for easy carrying.

Compare Therm-a-Rest Z Seat prices below.

jon rosenberg packrafting

Jon Rosenberg

Jon Rosenberg is an avid adventurer living at the foot of the rugged San Juan Mountains in Southwestern Colorado. When not working, you can find him and his wife exploring the mountains, canyons, rivers, and lakes of the surrounding areas. Their husky mix Bivy stands guard over his impressive gear room.

Review Policy: We do not accept payments or gifts from brands and vendors, and strive to provide unbiased, independent advice. Brands typically provide review samples which we return, and in some cases we purchase the item so we can keep using it long after the review. Affiliate Policy: We support the hours that go into our reviews and testing through affiliate commissions on purchases made through links in this article. These don't effect the outcome of our reviews or selection of gear, as per our Review Policy.