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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Pads and Air Mattresses > REI Flash Insulated Air Sleeping Pad > Test Report by Gail Staisil

Recreational Equipment, Inc (REI)
Flash Insulated Air Sleeping Pad

Test Series by: Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan

Page Contents:

Initial Report - August 27, 2013
Field Report - November 1, 2013
Long Term Report - January 6, 2014
 
_______________________________
Initial Report:
August 27, 2013
Author
 Tester Information

 Name: Gail Staisil
Age: 61
Gender: Female

 Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 152 lb (69 kg)
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
Email: woodswoman 2001 AT yahoo DOT com

For 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.

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Product Information

Manufacturer
Recreational Equipment, Inc (REI)
Website
http://www.rei.com
Model
Flash Insulated Air Sleeping Pad
Color

Lime Spritz
Size

Unisex Long (also available in Regular)
R-Value
3.2
Manufacturer Weight
1 lb 1 oz (492 g)
Tested Weight
1 lb 1.5 oz (496 g)
Model Year
2013
MSRP
$109.00 US

________________________________
Initial Impressions and Product Description 

REI Flash Insulated Air Sleeping Pad
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.
Size comparison to 1 L bottle
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.
Inflate valve
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 materialsStuff sack and Flash Pad with hook-and-loop strap 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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________________________________
 

Field Report:
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  
Precipitation: None
Temperature Range: 64 F to 88 F (18 C to 31 C) Tester at Mt Rainier National Park, WA (USA)
 
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
Precipitation: None
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 
Precipitation: None 
Temperature Range: 46 F to 74 F (8 C to 23 C) 


Trip Talk
 
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. 
The Flash Pad ready for its first night of use at Grand Island
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!Blowing up the Flash Pad on the 11th night of trip

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.


More Thoughts

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.
 

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________________________________
Long Term Report:
January 6, 2014

USA Locations and Conditions

During the long term test period I have used the REI Flash Insulated Air Pad during two trips. One was an overnight backpacking trip and the other was a four day sled-in rustic cabin trip. Additional usage totaled 4 nights resulting in 22 nights for the entire test period. Locations were in Michigan and ranged from lakeshore to boreal forest. Elevation ranged from above 600 ft (183 m) to almost 2000 ft (610 m).

Location of Trip #5: Hiawatha National Forest
Type of Trip: Trail
Distance: 14 mi (23 km)
Length of Trip: 2 days/1night
Pack Weight: Approx  26 lb (12 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy and sunny  
Precipitation: None
Temperature Range: 21 F to 28 F (-6 to -2 C) 
 
Location of Trip #6: Hiawatha National Forest
Type of Trip: Trail
Distance: 18 mi (29 km)
Length of Trip: 4 days, 3 nights
Sled Weight: Approximately 50 lb (23 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, scattered light snow
Precipitation: 0.10 in (0.25 cm)
Temperature Range: -18 F to 9 F (-28 C to -13 C)

Trip Talk
 
The first trip of the long term period was in colder conditions than experienced during the field period however the trip had no new precipitation. I slept on the Flash Pad combined with a 0 F (-18 C) sleeping bag and stayed warm throughout the long cold night. The pad was inside my tarptent which had a thin ground cloth underneath it.
I brought a Z-Rest with me in case I needed more insulation but found that I was comfortable without it. It probably helped to have a warm sleeping bag but I usually step up the insulation as I sleep cold without it.
Flash Pad on top of crummy mattress
My next trip was a rustic log cabin trip. Very cold temperatures occurred during the entire four days. This solo trip over New Years involved skiing into the cabin that is heated by a wood stove. The "vinyl"-covered mattress in the cabin was historically not very comfortable so I decided to take the Flash Pad to place on top of it. My comfort was increased immeasurably over other times there.

The cabin never had a temperature more than 62 F (17 C) the entire time I was there (due to extreme outside temps) and at night it went down to near 40 F (4 C) before the fire was nearly out (slept too well). I stayed warm on the pad even though I only had a 45 F (7 C) sleeping bag. I normally take this bag when I sleep inside the cabin but I was worried that it wouldn't be enough warmth once I got there and found that the cabin didn't heat up like usual. The latter is also due to a large window that had recently been installed on the cabin on a formally solid wall so heat was escaping.

The REI Flash Pad has earned a permanent place in my backpacking kit. Not only is it super comfortable but it is non slippery and has elevated side tubes so I stay on top of it. The most remarkable asset is that I never have to blow more air into it after the initial inflation. That was incredible on this last trip when it stayed inflated for four days with no perceivable loss of air.
I continue to love the length of this pad and will never go back to a shorter one.


Care and Durability

Upon inspection, the pad is still in perfect shape, the valves work quite nicely and the surface is unblemished. I still wish a repair kit came with it though as I keep forgetting to buy one. Luckily I haven't needed one! I sincerely hope that REI continues to carry this product for a long time because I have recommended it so highly to many people.

 

Pros 

  • Comfortable
  • Easy to inflate
  • Deflates quickly and is easy to pack
  • Durable

Cons 

  • Wish a repair kit came with it in case it is needed
 
Tester Remarks 

Thanks to REI and BackpackGearTest for this opportunity to test the Flash Insulated Air Pad. This concludes my Long Term Report and the test series. 

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