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Photo: Nemo

The Nemo Switchback sleeping pad has a bright orange hue which is the first thing that catches your eye. The eye-popping color isn’t the real selling point in NEMO’s new foldable closed-cell sleeping pad, though; it’s the ratio between its thickness and packed size. Until now, Therm-a-Rest’s Z Lite Sol has been difficult to improve upon. With the Switchback, NEMO has created a pad that is measurably thicker than the Z Lite Sol while matching that pad’s folded dimensions and virtually matching its weight and cost.

Features (Size Regular)

  • Hexagonal nesting pattern
  • Dual-density Axiotomic™ foam
  • Metalized thermal reflective film
  • Folding panel design, rectangular shape
  • MSRP: Regular: $49.95
  • NEMO Lifetime Warranty
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Clever engineering and a hexagonal nesting pattern allow the Switchback to match the competition in packed dimensions while outdoing the competition in terms of thickness (Photo: NEMO).

Specifications (Size Regular)

  • Manufacturer provided weight: 14.5 oz (415 g)
  • Measured weight: 15 oz (425 g)
  • Manufacturer provided packed size: 20 x 5 x 5.5 in (51 x 13 x 14 cm)
  • Measured packed size: 20.5 x 5 x 5.5 in (52.07 x 13 x 14 cm)
  • Manufacturer provided unfolded dimensions: 72 in x 20 in x 0.9 in (183 cm x 51 cm x 2 cm)
  • Measured unfolded dimensions: 72 x 20.5 x 0.9 in (183 x 52.07 x 2 cm)
  • Temperature rating: 20F to 35F (-7C to 2C)

Product Strengths

  • It is 20% thicker than comparable pads at identical folding dimensions.
  • The taller nodes theoretically allow for more trapped air for better insulation.
  • It maintains the same utility and near-indestructibility of all closed-cell pads.
  • Clever engineering measurably improves a stagnant product category.

Product Limitations

  • It is unproven if the added thickness improves comfort.
  • The durability of the metalized thermal reflective film over the long term is unknown.
  • The nodes begin to crush down after repeated use.
  • Slightly more expensive than the competition.

Compared To:

The NEMO Switchback (orange) shown side-by-side with the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol (yellow). From this view the difference in node patterns is apparent (Photos: Therm-A-Rest & NEMO)

Let’s compare the Switchback to the ubiquitous Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol. It seems a reasonable choice as both pads have identical packed dimensions and utilize the same folding structure.

ProductNEMO SwitchbackTherm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol
Weight (Regular)14.5 oz (411 g)14 oz (396.89 g)
Thickness0.9 in (2.28 cm).75 in (1.90 cm)
Packed dimensions20 x 5 x 5.5 in (51 x 13 x 14 cm)20 x 5 x 5.5 in (51 x 13 x 14 cm)
Unfolded dimensions72 x 20 x .9 in (183 x 51 x 2.28 cm)72 x 20 x .75 in (183 x 51 x 1.9 cm)
R-Valueunavailable, NEMO provides a temperature rating of 20 F to 35 F2.6
Node patternHexagonalEgg-carton
SourcingImportedMade in the USA

Glancing over the table, you can see that the two pads have identical length, width, and packed dimensions. The Switchback weighs a scant .5 oz more than the Z Lite Sol (My scale measured the Switchback at 15 oz as opposed to the 14.5 oz measurement provided by NEMO, but I’m willing to chalk that up to my consumer grade scale). The difference in node patterns is readily apparent, especially when viewed side by side (see above photo). The Switchback’s hexagonal pattern is what allows it to be nearly 20% thicker than the Z Lite Sol despite being the same size when folded.

The Z-Lite Sol is made in the USA, while the Switchback is imported. The price difference is negligible.


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Like all closed-cell pads, the NEMO Switchback makes a hardy seat during rest breaks. A metallic film reflects body heat, but I have reservations about the film’s long-term durability.

The NEMO Switchback is an example of a product that manages to reap measurable improvements from a stagnant category by utilizing elegant design. Who knows how much time and energy went into re-imagining the tried-and-true egg carton pattern? The result is a pad that is 20% thicker than the competition, with larger nodes that theoretically make for more comfortable nights.

The metallic heat-reflective film seems to perform at industry standards. That includes the film’s tendency to rub off. It’s a common problem — personally speaking, I’ve never used a pad where the reflective film didn’t rub away after repeated use. The nodes also seem to be crushing slightly. Again, not unusual, and if past experience is any indication, it would take hundreds of nights of compressing the foam to notice a practical difference.

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The heat-reflective film is wearing from the tips of the nodes after only a few uses. Such wear is a common problem in closed-cell sleeping pads, and practically the only way they deteriorate over time (other than foam collapse after hundreds of nights).

Does the Switchback’s elegant design and execution translate into added comfort? Hard to say. Subjectively, I found the texture of the hexagonal pattern to be a little strange. I got used to it after a bit, but the initial impression after a lifetime of sleeping on egg-crate patterns was odd.

It was also hard to nail down just how much the Switchback’s added thickness improved upon the standard amount of comfort inherent to a foldable closed-cell pad. Some evenings I felt I could tell a difference, others, not so much. My takeaway is this: extra thickness at identical packed dimensions and at virtually the same cost and weight certainly can’t hurt. If you like your current closed-cell pad, I wouldn’t be rushing to your local gear shop to make a change, but if it’s time for an upgrade, it’s hard to go wrong with the Switchback.

Where to Buy

  • Buy the NEMO Switchback at REI..

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