For the money, the Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight delivers a comfortable night's sleep without weighing you down. It feels softer and packs down smaller than the Therm-a-Rest Z-lite Sol and the Exped Hypersleep Winter, making it a great level up from a foam pad and a good option for summertime backpacking trips. While this pad isn't as light or comfortable as the Editors' Choice Award-winning Therm-a-Rest Neo Air Xtherm, it's a viable option for the backpacker on a budget, hitting your wallet at a mere 6th of the cost of the Xtherm.
Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight Review
Cons: Not very lightweight, not warm
Manufacturer: Outdoorsman Lab
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This budget pad inflates easily and packs away small, but offers little insulation against cold temperatures. Its cell design is similar to the REI Co-op All Season Insulated Air, keeping air from circulating through the pad to minimize heat loss. But this pad isn't as thick, and it's not insulated, making an uncomfortable choice for winter camping or anytime you're likely to encounter snow.
The diamond shaped cells that make up the Ultralight are thicker and offer more padding than foam mats like the Thermarest Ridge Rest while taking up a lot less space in your pack. This diamond cell design eliminates edge collapse and lets you take full advantage of the entire 73 x 21.6 inches of pad space. The space between the cells is super thin, just the shell material laminated together. This makes the pad flexible and more suited for hasty bivy sites on uneven terrain than the Exped DownMat 9 and the Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air. The downside of this design is pressure points and cold spots. Propped up on their elbows, our testers could feel the ground, and a few testers felt the pressure points on their hips and shoulders while laying on their sides. The REI Co-op Flash All-Season Insulated employs a similar closed cell design but feels more comfortable to our testers because it's thicker, and the space between the cells is smaller and there are fewer gaps. While comfort isn't the Ultralight's strongest point, the price and packed size make it an attractive option for dirtbags on the move.
Weight and Packed Sized
The 20 denier nylon shell and simple inflation system get this pad down to a lean 17.2 oz. according to our scales, just a 3 oz heavier than the non-inflating, less comfortable Therm-a-rest Z-Lite Sol. The Ultralight packs down to a small super small .9 L, almost as small as the lighter Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air, but it took our testers a few tries to fold it in thirds and roll it up so it would fit back in its stuff sack. For everyday use, we'd be more likely to just fold it in half, roll it up, and hit the trail.
With a claimed R-value of 1.3, no insulation, and plenty of gaps between the closed cells, we don't recommend this pad for cold weather camping. Outdoorsman Lab recommends this pad for temps down to 40. For a warm sleeper, this pad is adequate in above freezing conditions, and if you do most of your camping in warm, summer weather, the Low R-Value won't be an issue. Paired with a lightweight foam pad like the Therm-a-Rest Z-lite Sol, you get a combined R-Value of 3.9 and some added puncture insurance while still keeping costs low.
Ease of Inflation
This pad features a simple, effective one-way valve for inflation and deflation. 12-15 big breaths will fully inflate the pad, about the same required to inflate the REI Co-op Flash All-Season Insulated. Our testers agree 12 or 15 breaths makes for quick and easy inflation, and one-way valve prevents air loss while you're inflating the pad, and it deflates if you press down on the valve.
The Ultralight includes a repair kit. This pad withstood rocks, sticks, and one curious house cat with no punctures, but that doesn't mean leaks won't happen. Carrying a few extra ounces of repair supplies is worth it if you're out on an extended trip. Since this pad isn't insulated, water vapor from your breath shouldn't be an issue when it comes to the longevity of this pad. Outdoorsman Lab covers this pad with a lifetime warranty.
This pad is all about value. While the low R-value makes for a cold nights sleep, you simply can't beat $55 for a relatively comfortable summer pad that packs down small and only weighs around 17 oz. Combine this with a $20 Therm-a-rest Ridge Rest Sol, and you've got a warmer set up that's still under $75.
No bells or whistles with this one, but the effective design will get you off the ground at a low price. The Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight is a decent pad for a minimalist on a minimal budget.
— Matt Bento