An air mattress for the trail: REI Flash pad review

The REI Flash insulated air Pad is the third air mattress for backpacking I've tried since starting on the Pacific Crest Trail a couple of years ago, and, to be truthful, the first that really worked well.

Alternatives such as NeoAir, by the well-known brand Thermarest, and the Oak Street, by the great tent makers Big Agnes, both fell victim to punctures. Oak Street, despite being relatively heavy and looking formidable, and being placed properly on top of a groundcloth, still managed to develop a leak on the first night on the trail. Yes, it's rocky out there, but c'mon!  

And although it's possible to patch an air mattress, in my experience it's still going to leak some — and leave one deflated and chilly on the ground before the end of the night. 

The Flash, knock on wood, remains intact and frankly, amazing. Three nights ago I was camping near Mulkey Pass, at about 10,000 feet, on a night so cold that my wet boots froze even under the vestible of the tent, but on the pad in a bag (and bundled up, to be fair) I was completely warm and fine. In my long experience with Ensolite pads, I don't believe this has ever happened on a really cold night. 

The insulation works superbly well. The pad is a little awkward but not difficult to inflate, and easy and quick to deflate and store in its container bag. And it's not only the best, it's the least expensive that I've found among the air pads for backpackers. 

Looks a little bright, but highly, highly recommended. 



And of course, since it's REI, if it does fail — you can take it back. 100% guarantee. Other reviewers, from outlets large and small, agree on its virtues. 


Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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