Flash Thermal vs. Flash All-Season Insulated
The latest all-season sleeping pad in the Flash line by REI is the Flash Thermal. The R-Value has dropped from 5.2 to 4.7, but the overall specs of the pad (size, materials, weight) remain similar to the version we tested. The new version is available in a mummy or rectangular shape and in several different width and length combinations. Compare the two pads below; the new Flash Thermal is shown in green, followed by the orange model we tested.
We're linking to the Flash Thermal above, but the review below only tells our account of the prior model.
Hands-On Review of the Flash All-Season Insulated
Cradled on hexagonal baffles, our tester's hips don't touch the ground, even though this pad is light and packable.
The Flash All-season Insulated is a great balance of weight, warmth, and comfort without breaking the bank. This pad is nearly as comfortable as the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated while being lighter and more affordable. The Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight has a similar design but has roughly 1/5 the warmth and while it is lighter, it isn't nearly as comfortable. Why doesn't this excellent pad snag our Editors' Choice award? Good warmth to weight ratio is key in all the equipment we bring into the backcountry. And the Flash All-Season still a doesn't top the Therm-a-Rest Neoair Xtherm, which is a lighter and warmer pad.
The Flash (foreground) has thicker, more comfortable baffles than the Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight (background).
This pad puts a generous 2 inches of insulated padding between you and the ground. Its tapered mummy shape shaves of weight while still giving you 20 inches of width between the hips and shoulders. REI really nailed it with the dimensions on this one. Additionally, the hexagonal baffle design eliminates edge collapse, allowing you to take advantage of the full spread of the pad making the Flash all season even more comfortable than our Editor's Choice award winner, the Therm-a-Rest Neoair Xtherm. Noise is another aspect where the Flash comes out on top. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir pads have a crinkly reflective layer inside that does an excellent job of insulating, but is really noisy when you roll around at night. Your tentmates will curse you every time you roll over and they hear what sounds like the rustling of hundreds of plastic grocery bags. The Mylar reflective layer is silent, just not as efficient of an insulator, and it gives the Flash an extra point above the NeoAir Xtherm in the comfort metric.
Some manufacturers are very optimistic about the packability of their pads, making the included stuff sack too small and difficult to pack. Not the case with the generously sized stuff sack included with this pad.
Weight and Packed Sized
Our long sized Flash All-Season weighs 21.6 oz according to our scales, so it's not quite the sleek, sub pound pad like its little brother, the 15oz REI Co-op Flash Insulated. For folks who count every ounce and cut the handle off their toothbrush, this isn't the right pad. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite and the Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air are 12oz and 12.9oz respectively and are a better choice for those willing to sacrifice comfort for weight savings. For the average backpacker and even some professional guides, the extra comfort is worth a few ounces. The Flash All-Season hits the sweet spot of weight and comfort, and is by no means is a heavy pad. Considering the price, this is an awesome pad for folks who are hesitant (or have hesitant family members) about backpacking, since it performs as well or better as more expensive pads.
This pad takes up more space in a pack than similar offerings from Therm-a-Rest.
The Flash All-Season has a claimed R-Value of 5.2. This is more than enough insulation to sleep comfortably on top of the snow, provided you've brought a warm sleeping bag. The Exped DownMat 9 has a mega R-value of 8, but weighs 14oz more than the Flash All-season. Most folks aren't going to need a pad with an R-Value of 8 unless they're spending weeks out on the ice while getting hammered with gnarly storms (eww). The Flash All-Season is warm enough for snow camping in most conditions in the lower 48 and isn't much heavier than the 3 season version, so unless you never plan on camping in winter conditions, we suggest going with the more versatile and warmer Flash All-Season.
This pad features two valves: a one-way valve for inflation, and a valve for quick deflation.
Ease of Inflation
This pad inflates in just 15-17 easy breaths through a one-way valve and you can even add a little air while you're laying on top of the pad. The one-way valve is more difficult to push air through than the valve on the Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air, but it feels more durable and less prone to leak. A second valve is dedicated to deflation, and the whole pad deflates in a few seconds for when you or your tentmate need some motivation to get out of bed. Unlike the down feathers in the Exped DownMat 9, the synthetic insulation in the Flash won't be affected by vapor from your breath, so this pad will continue to insulate after hundreds of puffs.
This pad inflates easily with 12-14 big breaths.
This pad is constructed of 30 denier ripstop polyester and we managed to get a tiny hole when camping in the eastern Sierra. We couldn't find the culprit, but the pinprick size hole suggests a thorn or splinter. A tiny hole is all it takes. None of these pads are made of kevlar, and we don't expect them to be indestructible, but the Flash All-Season doesn't come with a repair kit. We highly recommend purchasing one. You wouldn't head out on a long bike ride without a patch kit, and if you're relying on an inflatable pad to keep you warm while sleeping out on the snow, a patch kit can mean the difference between a magical night under the stars and miserable shiver bivy. Get a repair kit! You can even buy one from REI for around $7. Keep in mind one tiny hole doesn't mean this pad isn't durable, we spend other nights in the dirt on the Flash with no problems, and there isn't any other damage to the pad. The folly lies in the absence of a repair kit. Most of the other pads in our review include a repair kit, even then inexpensive Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight.
One tiny hole is all it takes! Always carry a repair kit, which is not included with this pad.
The Flash All-Season is $70 cheaper than the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm. While the Xtherm is lighter and warmer, the Flash is lighter on the wallet, hitting you with a gentle $129, plus another $7 for a repair kit (c'mon REI, sweeten the deal and throw in a repair kit!). Combined with a 20% coupon and some member dividend money, you'll be slumbering away in the backcountry with minimal damage to your bank account.
The Outdoorsman Lab Ultralight is similar to the Flash, but it is lighter, packs away smaller, and is significantly less warm.
This is a great pad for a great price. Unless weight savings is your number one priority, this pad will serve you well on most adventures. The Flash All-Season is warmer than the 3 season version with only a few ounces of weight increase, so don't hesitate to go for the warmer pad and expand your camping horizons.