Toughest Gear: Therm-a-Rest Z-Rest Sleeping Pad

The perfect balance for a sleeping pad: warm, light, soft, and puncture-proof.

Mid-90s lightbulb moment: Engineers at Cascade Designs test an egg-crate pattern for a closed-cell foam pad. It produces a warmer, more comfortable mat that earns our 1995 Editors’ Choice Award. Fifteen years later, editors still swear by what’s now called the Z-Lite.

Southwest editor Annette McGivney has used hers on every Grand Canyon trip she’s taken in that time—that equates to 500-plus nights of cat’s claw, creosote, and rock shards. Extent of the damage: minor fraying on the corners. Other editors have used theirs as extra winter insulation, chairs, sleds, water floats, padding in ultralight backpacks, splints, even as furniture pads when moving. 72” model: $40; 14 oz.;