Tiny Camp Pad, Big Warmth


As a thin barrier between your sleeping body and the cold, hard ground, a camp pad has an important job. It must insulate first and foremost, keeping you warm above the earth’s chill. Comfort comes in at a close second place for pads — the thin mattresses should shield from sticks and rocks and provide cushion. Finally, packability — how small can it stuff down for transport — is an important piece for anyone living out of a backpack for a few days in the woods.

Zor packs up small, but unrolls to adequate camp pad for three-season use

The Zor SHORT, a new pad from NEMO Equipment, hits a sweet spot to balance out this criteria. At 10 ounces, it is lightweight and it rolls up almost as small as a water bottle. But the pad, at 1 inch thick, grants warmth and comfort even on rocky ground.

I tested the pad last month in the High Uintas Wilderness of Utah. There was snow in the shadows still in August at 11,000 feet, but I slept cozy for the night on NEMO’s neat little pad.

The secret to the Zor, which is an inflatable mattress with a foam sheet inside, is in its “coring.” Instead of a solid sheet of foam wrapped in its polyester shell, the Zor’s guts are sliced and diced to create tiny shafts and tunnels that run horizontally and vertically throughout the foam layer.

Diagram of pad’s internal matrix of air-trapping channels

The result of this interior construction is a pad that uses less material so it’s lighter and more packable. The cored tunnels in the foam trap warm air as well, providing an increased insulating effect.

On Utah’s rocky alpine ground, I slept warm in temps into the 40s. The pad radiates body heat and has just enough cushion for comfort.

All praise aside, the Zor is still a minimal product. It is made for backpackers and climbers, not car campers. Anyone used to larger inflatable mattresses will think the Zor is too thin. Winter campers, too, likely will want a thicker foam sheet between their resting bodies and the snow.

Stout pad is just 4 feet long

The Zor SHORT model is great for three-season wilderness use. It is 20 inches wide and 48 inches long, meaning your feet will hang off the end. For me, this is not a big deal; I put my feet up on my backpack at night. Look to the slightly heavier (14 ounces) regular-length Zor, at 72 inches long, if you want full body coverage.

The Nemo pads start at $79.95, a bit pricier than your typical rolled piece of foam. But with their packability and warmth, the minimalist design might be worth the extra spend.

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com. Connect with Regenold at Facebook.com/TheGearJunkie or on Twitter via @TheGearJunkie.

Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.