In praise of foam sleeping pads

When I got back into hiking a couple of years ago one of the things I bought was a decent inflatable mattress. And outside of it being a bit noisy I have had no trouble with it and sleep pretty well on it, which is something that matters to me when hiking. Nothing like being exhausted and tired to ruin a trip.

Hadn’t given much thought to changing my pad out but when Naturehike was doing their black Friday sale I picked up a fold-able foam mat on the cheap. Figured it could be useful as a bottom layer for my inflatable in the cold and as spare gear for hiking with my nephew.

Ended up going on a very very hot 4 day trek across the Cederberg wilderness reserve in early Jan and decided what the hell, will give the foam a try. I can survive a couple of days of bad sleep if it is a poor choice. Turns out as a stomach sleeper I found it as comfortable as my inflatable in many ways, nice and cool to sleep on in the heat and just generally easier to deal with than the air pad (Your mileage may vary in comfort terms, I’m pretty light weight stomach sleeper, arms above my head). Not having to deflate and pack in the morning was a nice bonus.

But the revelation for me was its use through out the trip. It was a solid 30-40 degrees for most of the trip, with water being a bit scarce. Come midday any tree I encountered or rocky overhang was somewhere I could throw the pad down no matter how rough the ground was, and have a lovely nap in the shade. Completely made the trip, that without it I think would have been a bit of a slog. I normally carry a little fold-able sitpad, but using the mat was a way better experience as well, you can fold it up as a square to sit on, but a hands width high like a little stool. Great to be even that little bit off the ground in camp.

I’m pretty certain it is not something I want to use by itself in winter, and hiking overgrow trails with it strapped sideways to your pack is a bit of a pain as it gets caught on things. But in summer in rough terrain like the Cederberg the versatility won out, and that is definitely going to be my choice from now on over my airpad.


I’m with you on this one! On Rim of Africa, my inflatable mattress got a puncture, so I ended up sleeping only my foam mattress. After a couple of days I got used to it and actually preferred the simplicity of it. Now I don’t even bother with an inflatable :smiley::+1:


Hi, is this the one you are talking about?

Yip! That’s the one. Seems to be pretty much identical to the Thermarest Z-Lite as far as I can tell.


The Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol & Original Z have an R-Value of 2.6 & 2.0, yet weigh 410g.
The Nature Hike pads weigh 516g, and don’t have an R-Value.
Hence, should you be in a cold environment, the R-Value will give one a clue to as how much warmth is needed.
During the SA Summer, the Nature Hike Pad will be fine, yet if grams count for Fast Packing, then the Therm-A-Rest would make sense to have.
I have both Nature Hike, and Therm-A-Rest in the seat pad versions:
Nautre Hike at

Therm-A-Rest at Z Seat™ Ultralight Foam Seat Pad | Therm-a-Rest®

Hi Ian,

With you there. The Thermarest in terms of weight/performance seem to be the way to go. I think the weight difference is that the NH is actually a little wider than the Thermarest. Would be really great if everyone who sold this sort of equipment was required to meet the standards around r-values. I would be interested to know what the difference is between the two.

The main decider here for me was price to be frank, I have never seen the z-lite out of the R1k range here, where as I picked up the NH version for around R300 on sale I think. That’s a lot more approachable as spare/summer pad.

I’ve got the NH sit pad as well which is great, weighs nothing and keeps your butt dry. I use it as well to add back structure to one of my day packs, fits well doubled up in the hydration pocket. Actually been putting it under my inflatable mattress around the hips, stops the mattress from sliding as much on the tent floor and adds some extra padding if you are a side sleeper.