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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Pads and Air Mattresses > REI Flash Insulated Air Sleeping Pad > Test Report by Gail StaisilRecreational Equipment, Inc (REI)
Flash Insulated Air Sleeping Pad
Test Series by: Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan
Initial Report - August 27, 2013
Field Report - November 1, 2013
Name: Gail Staisil
Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 152 lb (69 kg)
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
Email: woodswoman 2001 AT yahoo DOT comFor over two decades, backpacking has become a passion. I am a four-season backpacker and an off-trail navigator. Although I do take yearly trips to the American West or Southwest, the majority of my trips are in Michigan and Canada. My pack weight varies considerably but my base weight is below 18 lb (8 kg). I am primarily a tarp camper who averages more than 50 nights a year backpacking in a huge variety of weather conditions including relentless rain, wet snow and sub-zero temps.
Initial Impressions and Product Description
The REI Flash Insulated Air Sleeping Pad arrived in its own stuff sack. No imperfections were found. I requested a size Long pad even though the specifications indicate that based on my size I could have used a size Regular. My request was based on the fact that I always seem to be hanging over the edge of similar-size pads when fully stretched out.
Design and Technical Features
The REI Flash Pad is an inflatable mummy-shaped pad that is insulated with synthetic insulation (2.5 oz/71 g). The size Unisex Long pad is a full 78 in (198 cm) in length by 20.5 in (52 cm) in width by 2.5 in (6.35 cm) in thickness. It packs to about 4 in/10 cm by 8 in/20 cm (my measurements). The manufacturer suggests that it could be packed to 4 in by 5 in (10.16 cm by 12.7 cm). That might be a challenge but I will try it the next time I fold it.
The Flash Pad will easily fit into various bivy sacks as well as my tarptent as they all have adequate length to accommodate the long pad.
Upon arrival, the pad was folded lengthwise into three parts and then rolled to fit in its stuff sack. There is an additional hook-and-loop strap that can be used to keep the pad from unfolding in the stuff sack. I find the stuff sack to be easy to use as it is quite a bit bigger than the circumference of the folded pad plus it is much longer than needed.
There are two flat valves that control the inflation and deflation. I really was impressed with the one-way valve on the inflation as I don't lose any air if I take a rest from inflating the pad. It took me about 22 breathes to inflate the pad.
To deflate, I simply opened the deflate valve and most of the air immediately came out. I re-folded the pad in thirds and starting rolling the pad and more air came out as I went along. I did note that it is important to roll the pad starting from the side with the inflate valve as the open deflate valve could then work to expel the rest of the air.
The outside of the Flash Pad is 30-denier ripstop polyester with a polyurethane lamination. The materials are soft and not crinkly. These light weight but sturdy materials make an amazingly light pad (size Long only weights slightly over a pound (496 g). Although the material is somewhat slippery, REI has incorporated the linear outer edges of the pad to be slightly thicker to likely prevent rolling off. The pad itself is divided into eight air baffles, six of which are smaller and the two on the outside larger.
Although the pad seems to be sturdy enough with careful usage (avoiding using it directly on the ground), I find that a repair kit would give me more comfort if it was included. They can be ordered as a separate item so I definitely will be doing that. Since many of my trips are lengthy in nature I have to depend on an inflated pad. Deflated, the pad would offer no insulation or comfort for that matter as it is totally flat.
I'm heading out to use the Flash Pad for a one-night backcountry trip. In two months I will be filing my Field Report with details on that as well as other planned trips.
Photo of REI Flash Insulated Air Pad: Courtesy of Manufacturer
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November 1, 2013
USA Locations and Conditions
During the field test period I have used the REI Flash Insulated Air Pad during four backpacking trips totaling 21 days and 18 nights. Locations were in the states of Michigan and Washington, USA and ranged from lakeshore to mountainous terrain. Elevation ranged from above 600 ft (183 m) to almost 7000 ft (2134 m).
Location of Trip #1: Grand Island National Recreation Area (August 28-29)
Type of Trip: Trail/Bushwhack
Distance: 18 mi (29 km)
Length of Trip: 2 days/1night
Pack Weight: Approx 24 lb (11 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy and sunny
Temperature Range: 64 F to 88 F (18 C to 31 C)
Location of Trip #2: Wonderland Trail (September 6-16)
Type of Trip: Trail
Distance: 93 mi (150 km)
Length of Trip: 11 days/10 nights plus 1 night car camping (Sept 5) before trip
Pack Weight: 32 lb (14.5 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Rain, fog, clouds and sun
Precipitation: 1.55 in (3.94 cm)
Temperature Range: 51 F to 89 F (11 C to32 C)
Location of Trip #3: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (September 23-26)
Type of Trip: Trail
Distance: 42.2 mi (68 km)
Length of Trip: 4 days/3 nights
Pack Weight: Approx 23 lb (10.4 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Sunny, cloudy
Temperature Range: 37 F to 68 F (3 C to 20 C)
Location of Trip #4: Porcupine Mountains State Park (October 9-12)
Type of Trip: Trail
Distance: 26 mi (42 km)
Length of Trip: 4 days/3 nights
Pack Weight: Approx 24 lb (11 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Sunny, cloudy, unseasonably nice
Temperature Range: 46 F to 74 F (8 C to 23 C)
The REI Flash Pad was used extensively during the field test period for a total of 18 nights. I first took it out on an overnighter to check it out before I packed it for a very long trip. The first night of use was heavenly.
My next trip during the test period was a rather long one totaling ten nights preceded by a night of car camping to stage for the backpacking trip. The car camping night was rather poorly prepared for in that I had a bunch of stuff in the tarptent that wasn't in a waterproof bag. I shared this tent with my sister so space was limited. An unseasonable amount of rain fell that first night and water literally blew in the mesh areas of the tarptent all night long. In the morning the entire floor of tent had to be mopped up with a microfiber cloth. Luckily my sleeping bag was dry due to being elevated by the Flash Pad. I hate to think what would have happened with a thin pad. Unfortunately a few other items in the tent got wet. The next day we started our long backpacking trip with a wet tent plus a few other items that were wet. It continued to rain into the next day and cold night so I was extremely thankful that I at least had a dry area to sleep on with the Flash Pad underneath me.
Many of our days were lengthy during the first part of this backpacking trip due to a crazy permit itinerary. We often got into camp close to dusk several nights albeit starting early enough. I hurried to set up the tent and blow up the Flash Pad. Being fatigued it is not always the part of the trip I look forward to. However I was happy that the pad inflated so quickly with normally around 16-20 breathes. One evening I inflated the pad and the process was going slower than normal. I looked down and noticed that the other valve (deflate) was open...no wonder! Another time I noticed that the inflate one-way valve was losing air. I poked my finger in the hole to re-align the flap closure that had somehow become misaligned...simple enough. One funny thing that I should mention is that when the deflate valve is released it makes quite the sound of air rushing out. My camp neighbors kind of wondered what was going on the first time!
During my third trip I experienced one of the nights being as low as 37 F (3 C). I wasn't cold at all which is unusual due to the fact that I sleep cold and I was using a 30 F (-1 C) sleeping bag (I normally need a sleeping bag that is rated colder at those temps). My guess is that the insulation of the pad had something to do with helping to keep me warm.
The fourth trip resulted in three more nights of comfort which was truly important as I was sleeping with a very sore broken rib (incurred during a fall when trail running the week before). Needless to say I had more difficulty turning around on the pad but once I was situated my rib was thankful for the comfortable pad.
Although I have used a similar but more expensive type of pad before, the Flash exceeds it on so many levels. The first thing I noticed is that it doesn't take as many breathes to inflate even though it is longer than my other pad. The one-way valve keeps the pad from losing air while inflating so it blows up so much faster. Next the material of the pad is not only quiet but non slippery so I am not fighting sliding off the pad all night long. The deflate button rapidly expels the air so I don't have to squeeze the excess air out of the pad. And not to be outdone the pad easily slides into the stuff sack provided with extra room to boot. And did I mention that the pad has lost no discernible air on any of my nights in the field. This is unbelievable to me based on experience with similar products.
I never have to scour the camp site for small sticks or rocks that might lessen my comfort. Of course I look for anything sharp but don't bother to remove anything that isn't (especially when it is already dusk). I have always used the pad inside a tent or over a ground cloth. I have slept on the nonsticky pad quite comfortably on hot nights with my sleeping bag used as a blanket.
I also noticed that the slighter higher side tubes of the pad has kept me on it so nicely. I also am loving the length of this pad as I am testing a Long even though by measurement a Regular would have worked. The Long gives me enough space so that I don't have to worry about losing my small pillow or that my feet will hang off the end if I am not positioned correctly (well worth the extra ounce (28.35 g) compared to the Regular size.
Care and Durability
So far the pad has been easy to care for. I have used it inside of a tent or on a ground cloth so it has not become dirty. There has been no indication of a loss of air while using the pad or any other damage.
It goes without repeating that I am truly impressed with this pad. I have used countless types of pads throughout my decades of backpacking and this one scores higher than any for many reasons. Thanks REI for the blissful sleep.
I look forward to taking the Flash Pad with me on a few more backpacking trips in the long term period. The weather will be much colder so it will be interesting to see if I can take this into winter.
Pros So Far
Cons So Far
Thanks to REI and BackpackGearTest for this opportunity to test the Flash Insulated Air Pad. This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report will be appended to this report in approximately two months. Please check back then for more information.
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