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Gear Review: REI Flash Insulated Air Mattress

REI Flash Insulated Air Mattress

REI Flash Insulated Air Mattress

NOTE: Click here for my review of the updated, 2017 version of the REI Flash Insulated Air Mattress.

Air Mattress
REI Flash Insulated Air Mattress
$119, 1 lb. 1 oz. (regular, with stuff sack)
Sizes: regular (20.5x72x2.5 inches) and long (25x77x2.5 inches)

Comfortable, packable, light, and user friendly, at a good price—that was my verdict after I used this air mat on a five-day backpacking trip in Washington’s Glacier Peak Wilderness and a six-day hike in Sequoia National Park. It has a quality that’s important in an air mattress—durability: Thanks to the 30-denier ripstop polyester fabric and welded construction, I slept under the stars on pebbly gravel at Columbine Lake in Sequoia, and used it nightly in my chair kit sitting around campsites, without the Flash springing a leak.

REI Flash air mat2Although it’s a full-length, six-foot air mattress, and a plush two-and-a-half inches thick, it packs down to slightly larger than a liter bottle. The one-way valves—one to inflate, one to deflate—keep air from leaking through when open, thanks to small a flap inside each. The inflate valve’s flap popped out of place once, but I only had to push it back in to repair it. More uniquely, it deflates in about a half-second when you open that valve, making packing up a quick task. It takes me about 25 strong breaths to fully inflate the mattress. The water-resistant, synthetic Primaloft insulation, packed into baffles, delivers an R-value of 3.2, comparable to other high-quality, three-season air mats. The insulation is also relatively quiet, not squeaking loudly when I roll around, like some other air mattresses—probably a relief for my tent mates.



See my reviews of three other three-season air mats I like, the Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SL, the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite, and the Exped SynMat UL 7—and an item I never sleep outside without, my Cocoon Ultralight AirCore Pillow.

See all of my reviews of backpacking gear.

See also my related Pro Tips articles “How to Choose a Sleeping Bag” and “Staying Warm in a Sleeping Bag.”

NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.

—Michael Lanza

About The Author

Michael Lanza

A former field editor and primary gear reviewer for Backpacker Magazine, Michael Lanza created The Big Outside to share stories and images from his many backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor adventures, as well as expert tips and gear reviews to help readers plan and pull off their own great adventures.


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  1. Avatar

    Michael – Thanks for your review. I had drecently purchase the REI Flash mattress and have also found it to be a great, lightweight sleep aid. I would like to know what chair kit you were using that worked with the Flash. I can’t get it to fit in my older Thermarest chair kit.

  2. Avatar

    Great timing Michael. Chris and I were about to throw in the towel on tent camping as our old bodies were aching after sleeping on our sleeping pads. I’m going to buy a couple of these and give tent camping another whirl.

    • MichaelALanza

      Good to hear that, Alisa. You guys can’t give it up yet! Besides, I thought Chris was a fan of suffering outdoors.


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Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside and former Northwest Editor at Backpacker magazine. Click my photo to learn more about me and my blog. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside now to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. And click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

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