The idea of upcycling materials (especially petroleum-based materials) in the production of a new outdoor product caught my attention. A prevailing message for consuming in an environmentally friendly way is to keep things out of landfills by reusing or repurposing them. In that light, if you are in the market for a sit pad (I myself am a recent convert) then an environmentally-conscious action would be to scrounge around until you find an old closed-cell foam sleeping pad and cut it down to size. Not only does this reduce the amount of busted-up CCF sleeping pads in landfills, but it also avoids the use of new packaging materials.
But if you’ve been a long-time inflatable pad user or are new to backpacking, you may not have access to an old CCF pad. In that case, and assuming Nemo’s marketing materials can be believed, it’s worth looking at the Nemo Chipper over something like the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat.
- MSRP $19.95.
- Weight: 5.6 oz (160 g) (some minor variation in claimed vs. measured weight due to the different densities of foam used in this product).
- Unfolded dimensions: 13 x 17 x 1 in (32 x 42 x 2 cm).
- Folded dimensions: 12.5 x 4.0 x 2.5 in (32 x 10.5 x 5.7 cm).
- R-value: 2
- Uses the Nemo Switchback’s nesting pattern.
In the first year of producing the Nemo Chipper, the company projects that they will utilize 8.8 tons of scrap foam that would have otherwise headed towards an incinerator or landfill as a result of making the Nemo Switchback. As I said in the introduction, I can get behind that, even if the most environmentally friendly way to source a sit pad is by using a second-hand sleeping pad that’s been cut to your needs.
The blend of foam Nemo uses in the pad is slightly more firm than that used in the Switchback. That makes it an ideal sit pad because rocks and roots are less likely to poke your booty through the foam. But my favorite thing is the sizing – in its halfway folded state, the Nemo Chipper slips precisely into my size small Hyperlight Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Pillow.
There’s no telling if this sizing is intentional or not, but I certainly appreciated it when I realized a mass-produced sit pad could slot exactly into my pillow system. (I use the sit pad to create a little rigidity beneath whatever puffy or clothing layer I’m using as the bulk of my padding, a technique I stole from Ryan Jordan.)
As a final little bonus, each Nemo Switchback is unique because of the random distribution of foam types throughout the pad.
The Nemo Switchback is about four bucks more expensive and 3.6 oz (102 g) heavier than the ubiquitous Therm-a-Rest Z-Seat, but it is slightly thicker and (I think) denser, though in the interest of full disclosure I’ll admit that it’s been a while since I sat on a Z-Seat.
I used the Nemo Switchback for the bulk of the 2020 backpacking season and appreciated its density when used as a seat and its dimensions when used as a part of my pillow system. If you absolutely have to buy a new sit pad, the upcycled nature of this product stands out from competitors – if you don’t have a problem with the (slight) expense and the 3.6 oz (102 g) weight penalty.
Where to Buy
- Find the Nemo Chipper here.