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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Accessories > Camp-Tek Microburst Inflator > Owner Review by Ray Estrella


Is that a custom inflator?


TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 51
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 215 lb (97.50 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.

The Product

Manufacturer: Camp-TekIMAGE 2
Web site: www.camp-tek.com
Product: Microburst Backpacking Inflator
MSRP: US $29.95
Listed size: N/A
Actual size: 1.5 x 2 x 2.75 in (3.8 x 5.1 x 2.7 cm)
Listed weight (w/batteries): 2.3 oz (65 g)
Actual weight (w/batteries): 2.3 oz (65 g)
Actual weight (w/out batteries): 1.76 oz (50 g)
Note: weights are with AAA lithium batteries as
recommended by Camp-Tek, (not included w/ unit).
(Original title graphic courtesy of Camp-Tek)

Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty

Winter backpacking brings plenty of frustration to what in milder weather are mundane tasks. Sleeping pad inflation is one chore that I have always disliked as I was not happy with the choices available to get air in my pads without blowing ithem up by mouth and introducing moisture. The Camp-Tek Microburst is the smallest, easiest, and one of the quickest ways I have found yet to get my pads ready for dream-time in a winter wonderland. Read on for the details.

Product Description

Front (open) and back


The Camp-Tek Microburst Backpacking Mattress Inflator (hereafter referred to as the Microburst) is a small battery powered inflation device made for the backpacking and camping crowd that use inflatable sleeping pads.

The Microburst is about the size of 1-1/2 golf balls in the closed position. The double-walled case, (neon green for mine but available in orange too) is made of ABS plastic. It has the Microburst name on each side and the Camp-Tek logo on the drop-down cover. The back is where the air intake is. Looking through it I can see the blades called stators and rotors. An excellent description of the technology behind the Microburst may be found on the company web site listed above.

At the other end is the drop-down door that does two things. It opens to access the inflation adaptor nozzle and also turns the Microburst on. The rubber-like silicone compound nozzle easily pops out of its recess and extends 1.25 in (3.2 cm) from the front of the Microburst. The slightly flared nozzle goes over the valve of most backpacking mattress pads (making sure they are in the "open" position). A special plastic adaptor for Stephenson's Warmlite pads is also included but I think I lost mine as I don't have a Warmlite to need it. ;-)
Battery compartment
The custom designed electric motor that powers the Microburst is constantly being refined. Besides the revised version I got over the winter I am told a new one is in the works. The motor runs surprisingly quiet and really moves the air. I think I may bring it along on summer hikes just to use as a face fan.

On the bottom at the intake end the door to the battery compartment may be found. Two AAA batteries (lithium batteries are suggested for best results) slide into the unit, one negative side down, the other positive side down. I used a permanent marker to draw a picture of which goes what way to avoid mistakes in the field when my glasses are frosted over and my hands are frozen.

It comes with a tiny 0.1 oz (3 g) storage sack made of white rip-stop nylon that is secured with a spring loaded cord-lock.

Field Conditions

The only time I took the Microburst on a 3-season trip was a pre-winter test of it on the North Country Trail (NCT) in Paul Bunyan State Forest where I camped on the south shore of Waboose Lake. The picture below was taken here as I inflate an original style NeoAir.

All other trips were in late fall and winter after the temperatures had dropped below freezing. These sled-packing or backpacking trips included hikes along the NCT in Chippewa National Forest (4 days), the Red River of the North near Hendrum, Minnesota (2 days), Lake Bronson State Park (3 days), and Voyageurs National Park (6 days) along with a camping trip at Bemidji State Park. Temps ranged from 33 F down to -8 F (1 to -22 C) with conditions being clear and cold until the end of winter when I was in falling snow 7 of the last 9 hiking days.

One hand operation

Observations

I have been heavy into winter backpacking since 2003. One of the biggest problems with it is finding a way to easily inflate my sleeping pads that will keep moisture from my breath from being introduced to the inside of the pad where it will freeze, compromising the r-value and adding weight. After spending many years trying many different inflation devices I finally found a good one last winter and honestly never expected to try anything else. Little did I know that I would end up with not one but two new inflation devices this year. This is the story of one of them.

I got my first Microburst at the beginning of September. I was totally blown away by how small it was. The only battery powered inflation devices I had ever seen took 4 D-size batteries to power and were the size of a cantaloupe, not exactly what I want to carry in my pack. Even before I tried the Microburst in the field I did some time tests at home and posted some early comments on the gear forum I frequent. This led to contact with the owner of Camp-Tek who asked if I minded doing some other time testing. What resulted was a fun first for me. I got to be a part of an ongoing design optimization of a production product. From what I was told a new electric motor was spec'd and I was sent one of the new units (which is why I have two Microbursts in the photo in the description section).

After my first trip with the Microburst I removed the batteries and when I next went to use it noticed that the battery cover would not lock into place. It still made contact enough for the unit to run but did not click down. My heavy-handedness had resulted in breaking the catch. I notified Camp-Tek and they sent me a replacement. A couple months later they sent another, but this time it was a newly designed cover with a much sturdier catch. It has survived all my further attempts at cover-catch destruction, I mean everyday use. I say everyday because I take the batteries out each time I use it. I carry them in my pocket so they will be warm when I use the Microburst. This makes my batteries last a lot longer in extreme low temps.

No hand operation


I used the Microburst on seven items during the fall and winter. Four types and sizes of NeoAir pads, a Kooka Bay GoosePad, a custom Kooka Bay down pillow and a MontBell pillow. For gear that uses standard sized valves like my NeoAirs and the MontBell the Microburst can be a set-and-forget proposition. The adaptor nozzle slides over the valve snugly enough to just leave it if I want to like in the pictures above.

My latest Kooka Pay pad has a new style valve that is very large, too much so for the Microburst to fit over. But the adaptor is the same diameter as the valve and does match up exactly if I hold it in place, which I did each night in Voyageurs National Park. This pad is huge and it took four to five minutes to fill with air to a comfortable level. (I do not like my pads inflated hard.) The Kooka Bay pillow only takes about a minute.

Most of my NeoAirs inflate in less than three minutes. My Large size NeoAir All-Season takes a bit over that. (It is abnormally long though, see review.)

I can't really talk about battery life in the field as I only use my batteries a few trips depending on the duration. Sometimes I will even use fresh for each one as I don't want any failures when on the frozen tundra. But I did use the same batteries on my last trip that saw the Microburst used 5 times each for the Kooka Bay pad and pillow. All use was with Energizer lithium batteries that I bought in bulk ,but I am going to try it with rechargeable batteries next winter.

Except for the original battery cover problem I have had zero issues with the durability of the Microburst. (I have only used the unit with the new-style cover.) It has survived being bounced around in my backpacks and gear sled. Because the gear in my sled gets to right around the air temp I was concerned and interested to see what would happen when used at extreme temps. The rubber nozzle was not affected by the cold and did not develop any cracks from cold fatigue. There were no issues with the case or door becoming brittle and breaking either.

While there are other light-weight options for pad inflation I can certainly say that this one is the best in my experience for tight spaces, like sharing a tent with other hikers or being in a cramped solo shelter, as all it takes for room is the space to open the door of the Microburst. I really don't want to be put into a position that I don't have room for that! Also as I write this review I am recovering from a pretty severely fractured ankle. This makes me think about hikers that may be handicapped either temporarily (like me) or permanently. Because the Microburst can be operated with one hand (for most valves) and needs no other actions, it may be the ticket for those folks.

I decided to do a home test of the battery life of the Microburst. I took a set of batteries that came from one of my winter trips that had been used for six inflations at cold temps and put them back into the inflator. I set it on the table and just let it run solid.

After running non-stop for 51 minutes I attached the Microburst to an Exped DownMat 9 (old style, 3.5 in/8.9 cm thick) and it inflated ithe pad in less than 3 minutes. I put it back on the table and let it keep running as I lay on the mat to get the air back out. At 1 hour even I hooked it up again to the DownMat and it inflated once more in under 3 minutes. Again I unhooked and squished the air out of the pad as the Microburst kept running. At 1 hour, 10 minutes I attached it yet again to the DownMat. This time I used a stopwatch to get the timing exact. It was inflated to usable fill (I don't make my down pads hard) at 3:05.

At 1 hour, 17 minutes I timed one inflation which took 3:16. At 1 hour, 40 minutes I timed another one which took 3:20. At 1 hour, 50 minutes I timed another that took 3:25.

Finally at 2 hours, 20 minutes I did a last inflation (as I was getting bored and it hurts my busted ankle to wallow on the floor with the DownMat) which took 3:35. I then put the Microburst back on the table to wait for it to run dead. But I ran out of time before the batteries quit. I ran it for three straight hours and then had to leave to pick up my kids and do some shopping. Like the Eveready Bunny it was still going.

The run-time of the Microburst is very impressive. Camp-Tek says that the Microburst should do at least 25 fills from a fresh set of batteries. I think that number can easily be doubled in warm temps (65 F/18 C or above).

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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