ALPS Mountaineering Outback Review
Cons: Big packed size, hard get in its stuff sack, heavy
Manufacturer: ALPS Mountaineering
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Another big, "self-inflating" foam core mat, the Outback is large and in charge, packing away in a big rolled bundle and weighing in at 7.44 lbs. While this is one of the heaviest single-person mattresses in the review, it's also one of the most comfortable and one of the warmest. If all you're doing is schlepping this pad from the back of your car to your gigantic glamping palace (tent), weight shouldn't be much of a concern. The Outback is an excellent choice for those looking for a comfortable night away from home.
The Outback XL mattress that we tested is longer than a twin-size bed and nearly the width. Theoretically, two people who really like each other could sleep on this mattress at the same time, but it's designed for one person to comfortably sprawl. Pure camping luxury. The foam is so thick that one of our testers preferred to sleep on the mat when it was completely deflated. While the foam alone is pretty plush, this mat comes into its own when fully inflated, with air adding additional support. With this much foam, all of the pressure points, such as hips, shoulders, and elbows, will never feel the ground below. It also helps to protect from rocks and uneven ground. There is no bounce at all, and it is as comfortable as any that we tested, but with more space for one.
The one-way valve makes it easy to micro-adjust the amount of inflation so we could dial in the perfect amount of squish. The mattress is covered with a brushed nylon material that is not only soft to the touch but makes for a quiet surface to sleep on. If you have a friend who is reluctant to camp because they don't want to be cold and uncomfortable, this is a top choice to help ensure they have a great night out.
Ease of Use
The Outback inflates with one Qwickflate valve that flips open to allow for self-inflation and then rotates to become a one-way valve for easy blowing. There is a lot of foam in this mattress, and self-inflation takes some time, so you'll want to unroll this mattress when you first get to camp to let the foam do its thing. However, maximum firmness is easily achieved with roughly 25 additional breaths. The valve in the one-way position also allows for micro-adjustments, in case you blow too much and over-inflate the mattress. Many of the newer mattresses come supplied with pumps or sacks to aid in inflation without having to blow into them. If you don't enjoy blowing into giant foam mattresses, you may want to look at some of the others in this test.
Deflating the Outback is relatively straightforward, and is done by opening and rotating the valve and then rolling and applying weight to push all of the air out. Because of the amount of foam, rolling the bottom of the mattress over itself was tricky to get started, though, after a couple of turns, it was much like the other mattresses. It comes with two elastic straps to help hold the rolled-up shape. Since these do not attach to the bag or the mattress, we are pretty sure they will get lost or forgotten almost immediately. Fortunately, closing the valve while putting pressure on the deflated mattress seems to hold it closed well enough to slide it into the (very large) storage bag.
Previously, ALPS Mountaineering gave this mat an R-value of 9, though we are not able to verify this on their current website. If this is still the case, it is one of the highest in the test. Because a rating that high won't necessarily be noticed in average camping conditions, we can't say that this mattress was twice as warm as some of the others in the same category, but we have no reason to think that it won't keep campers insulated in very cold conditions. We slept out in nights as cold as 18 degrees Fahrenheit and remained quite cozy and comfortable. This mattress doesn't feature any reflective technology that a lightweight sleeping pad relies on for an R-value boost, but weight isn't your primary concern with one of these camping mats. The Outback feels plenty warm to keep out at the hunting cabin or backcountry yurt.
At 32 x 80 inches, the massive area of this pad detracts from its versatility score. It takes up so much room when inflated that your tent needs to be huge to accommodate more than one (and unless you camp alone, your tent buddy is going to want one, too). Its large packed size makes it harder to travel with and store unless you have a huge car and gear room.
At well over seven pounds, it is also quite heavy, so we don't imagine that anyone will be carrying this beast much farther than a short distance from the car to the tent. If comfort is the most important metric, however, and you don't have plans for any backpacking excursions, then having a versatile mattress may not be your priority.
The Outback will also make a legitimate guest mattress for those unexpected visitors. While you can't throw this pad in the washing machine, we found that it is easy enough to keep clean by wiping it down with a wet towel.
The Outback has one of the larger packed sizes of the mattresses that we tested, and one for each member of the family is going to take up too much space in the vehicle. In fact, it is nearly double the packed size of some similar mattresses! However, for a solo camper with room to spare, it is a warm and deluxe option.
With a manufacturer's price in the middle of the pack and warmth and comfort at the top of the charts, we think the Outback is a great value. Just make sure you have room to store it.
This pad is as plush and comfortable as they come, but all that foam takes up a lot of space and weighs in on the high side of the scale. That being said, it is one of the coziest mattresses we tested with tons of room to roll around.
— Laurel Hunter & Matt Bento