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


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4 thoughts on “Gear Review: REI Flash Insulated Air Mattress”

  1. 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.