Affectionately known as a butt pad, the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat is one product that is all positives with almost no downsides. The Z Seat is simply a section of closed cell foam padding that folds out as a quick seat. It’s is basically the same as Therm-a-Rest Z Lite sleeping pad just in seat form.
Originally, I was just going to cut up an older Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad to make myself a butt pad. But honestly, there is no reason when Therm-a-Rest offers the Z Seat for only $15! So I got one and then a second from my local REI. Both of ours are yellow/silver but there is also a blue/silver combination online.
Overview As mentioned earlier, the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat is made of closed foam padding. The Z Seat folds up accordion style and has a built in bungee cable to keep the seat folded up. The Z Seat is 0.75 inches thick and unfolds to be 13 x 16 inches. Folded up and fully compressed it is 12 x 2.5 x 2.75 inches. Therm-a-Rest claims the Z Seat weighs 60 grams but on my home scale it actually came out to 57g. It is always nice to see a weight claim that is honest and not inflated.
The whole purpose of the Z Seat is to provide a minimalist seat for the outdoors. The biggest thing I can say about the Z Seat is that there is really not a way to explain how surprisingly comfy a little bit of foam padding can be. It doesn’t seem like it should make much of a difference but a mid-hike snack on the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat is much comfier than just sitting on the ground or a rock. It can really help in cold or snowy conditions. I could pull the Z Seat out and just plop down on snowy ground without being cold or getting wet. I have also found other random uses for the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat like changing socks in the snow. I could take my shoes off and step onto the Z Seat so that I didn’t get my socks wet.
Honestly, I don’t get how this product isn’t more popular outside of the backpacking community. I can’t help but think of high school baseball or football bleachers getting way more comfortable on a Z Seat. Basically, any unpadded seat could benefit from a Therm-a-Rest Z Seat and they are so portable.
Bungee for compression
Takes up a little space
Summary Really I can’t say enough good things about Therm-a-Rest Z Seat. It is comfy, keeps my butt warm/dry, and weighs almost nothing. I stick it in one of my external water bottle pouches for almost every hike which also keeps it easily accessible so that every summit break I can quickly grab it and have a quick rest.
The only reason not to take the Z Seat is space. It does take up a little space but being closed foam it can ride on the outside of a pack no matter the condition, closed foam doesn’t absorb water. I bought one and went back for a second after one hike so the other half of this site could have one too. It seems like such a small product but it really makes a difference. And the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat is a cheap enough package with some nice features, the Z fold pattern and bungee strap, that getting a Z Seat is a better option than destroying an old sleeping pad.
The link below is to Therm-a-Rest’s page for the Z Seat. It is not an affiliate link: Therm-a-Rest Z Seat
The Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L is a stuff sack style ultralight backpack. The pack has a single main compartment that closes using a drawcord and a daisy chain hook. Inside the main compartment is a medium sized zippered pocket on the back panel. The entire pack can stuff into the pocket for storage similar to rain jackets that can stuff into one of their pockets. When stuffed into the pocket the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L is roughly the size of a Nalgene bottle. On the top of the lid is a small zippered pocket. On the outside there are two mesh bottle pockets. That is really all there is to the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L; simple and no frills.
Given the name it’s no surprise that the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L has a storage capacity of 20L which I have found to be a good place. So far I’ve used this pack mostly on short hikes, sub 6 miles, or on scrambles like Cabezon Peak. 20L might not sound like a lot and the pack looks rather small but it doesn’t manage to swallow up about all the gear you really need for shorter trips. This summer I also plan to use the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L as a summit pack for overnight trips were we have backpacked in and set up a base camp.
Patagonia claims a weight of 310g for the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L. On my scale it actually weighed 291g. You definitely can’t complain when the actual weight comes out below the manufacturers. The Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L is offered in three colors: Black, Blue, and Red.
Size is perfect for short trips or scrambles
Fits way more gear than you would expect
Exterior water bottle pouches and daisy chain have room to increase load carrying ability
Supper simple pack with all you need and no frills
Stuffs super small
Surprisingly comfortable and stable to wear
Padded back panel is comfortable but be conscious of how you pack gear
The shoulder straps are too close together at where they meet the pack
The pack carries kind of funny and really high up on the back (not bad, just odd feeling)
I wish the daisy chain had an extended strip so that the pack lid could secure “overflow” loads
A little pricey at $80, REI has a similar pack for around $50
Summary There really isn’t a whole lot to say about the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L just like the pack itself. It delivers what you really need without any of the frills. The Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L just works and works well for short hikes, scrambles, and as a secondary pack carried on a backpacking trip. The ability to stuff the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L into itself and make it pretty small is to me the key selling point of the pack. I do think adding the additional daisy chain would make carrying a rope at the crag or overflow loads possible. I would also like to see the straps widened at the attachment point to the pack which I think would improve the feel of the pack on the back. It isn’t really a problem but definitely an odd feeling.
At $80 retail I do think the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L is a little overpriced but it does the job it was designed to do almost perfectly. If you need a compressible pack there aren’t many better ones out there. I purchased the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L in BRIGHT red for purposes of this review and my personal use. I was not compensated for writing it.
The below link is to Patagonia’s page for the Ultralight Black Hole Pack 20L, it is not an affiliate link: Patagonia.com
I have been doing a lot more running over the past month due to the limited options currently. With more running I’ve been doing more distance and in New Mexico water becomes a bit of a concern. I used to run with a hydration belt but after an uncomfortable 8 mile run a couple weeks ago I decided I needed an upgrade. So, I did some COVID-19 influenced shopping and ordered the Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest 4.0 from backcountry.com. It definitely didn’t hurt when Backcountry had the Adventure Vest 4.0 on sale for $75 down from it’s regular price of $169.95.
I chose the Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest 4.0 because I was looking for a running vest to fit a wider range of activities. I wanted to use it for longer runs when I carry water, which for me is anything over 6 miles. But I also wanted something that would work for fast and light hikes in the summer when I don’t have to carry a lot of gear. The Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest 4.0 has a total storage capacity of 16.4 liters. So it seemed like it would check all of the boxes.
Now although the Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest 4.0 has a capacity of 16.4L keep in mind that is counting ALL of the pockets not just the main compartment. And I should mention this thing has a LOT of pockets and by a lot I mean exactly 16 pockets or stuff locations! That literally blows my mind. The back has one main compartment that can hold a water bladder with routing for the tube but a bladder doesn’t come included. Then there are two stuff pouches on the back, a small wallet pocket, and stretchy cable system for oversized items like rain jackets. Each side has a small zippered pocket ideally meant for gels or snacks.
On the front there is the main water bottle pouch and a 500ml soft bottle comes included. On the other side is zippered pocket that can fit another bottle, not included, or a phone nicely. There are several more zippered and stuff pockets located around the front.
For stability the Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest 4.0 has two sternum straps that slide up and down and a stretch cord suspension system in the back that tightens down to snug the vest up. Ultimate Direction claims a weight of 302 grams for an empty vest without bottles.
Initial impressions on my first run of 10 miles with it today were pretty positive. I have to figure out how exactly I want to distribute my stuff among the myriad of pockets. However, the fit was comfortable with no rubbing or hot spots. There wasn’t much bounce at all even with water up front and the back compartments completely empty. I will post a detailed review of the Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest 4.0 after I get some solid time in using it for runs and hikes.