Hands-on Gear Review

REI Co-op Flash Insulated Review

REI Co-op Flash Insulated
Top Pick Award
Price:  $100 List | $69.89 at REI
Pros:  Lightweight, 3-season warmth, comfortable, easy to inflate and deflate
Cons:  Baffle design makes smoothing uneven surfaces challenging
Bottom line:  The Flash Insulated is a versatile, all-around pad at a bargain price.
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
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  • 4
  • 5
Type:  Air Construction/Synthetic Insulation
Claimed R Value:  3.7
Weight (oz.):  15 oz.
Manufacturer:   REI

Our Verdict

REI upped their game with the Flash Insulated and earns a Top Pick for a combination of value and low weight. It could have just as easily won a Best Buy award as the best value in a sub-pound pad. It's ranked 3 out of 20+ pads and is likely the best option for many people. Just an ounce above our Editors' Choice winner, the XTherm, it's more comfortable and half the price. Thick baffles lofted up for cloud-like comfort. It's one of the more comfortable models in our review and boasts some impressive specs. This pad supplies superb comfort and three season warmth with speedy inflation and deflation.

In many ways, it feels like a less expensive, less warm, and lighter weight version of the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated or Sea to Summit UltraLight pads that employ a similar baffle design. It's a few ounces heavier than the Xlite, the lightest pad we tested, but is also more comfy, $30 less expensive, and faster to inflate and deflate.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Jeremy Bauman

Last Updated:
Wednesday
February 14, 2018

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The REI Flash Insulated is a top quality pad at a bargain price.

Performance Comparison


The Flash boasts competitive specs at a great price. Among the 23 pads we tested  few provide such a superb value.
The Flash boasts competitive specs at a great price. Among the 23 pads we tested, few provide such a superb value.

Comfort


We were blown away by this pad's high comfort! We tested the regular size and loved it. The Flash employs a relatively new baffle design that opts for multiple inflatable pockets rather than horizontal or vertical baffling. The result: this pad feels super stable and lacks the bouncy sensation caused by other designs. The downside of the bubble like design is that it lacks lateral rigidity. This comes into play when you're trying to even out a side slope by throwing clothes or gear under the downhill side. When doing this with the Flash, the pad is more apt to bend into a curve than remain flat like horizontally baffled pads like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Camper. With that said, the Flash's two inches of cushion absorbed rock and grass clumps. Overall, the advantage of decreased bounciness will be worth it for most people, and we give it an overall comfort score of 8/10.

The baffled design was cozy all night and added a significant cozy factor to our morning coffee reflections.
The baffled design was cozy all night and added a significant cozy factor to our morning coffee reflections.

Weight and Packed Size


Coming in at 15oz, the Flash maintains an excellent weight to performance ratio! Unless you are looking for an ultralight through-hiking kit, the Flash is well suited to all around three-season use and won't weigh you down. Not many pads are lighter, and even then, they are only lighter by a few ounces. A couple of our testers are backpacking guides who want comfortable pads that are still lightweight, and the Flash gained their stamp of approval.

Love this pad's baffle design but need to shave weight? Check out the Sea to Summit UltraLight.

The baffled design was cozy all night and added a significant cozy factor to our morning coffee reflections.
The baffled design was cozy all night and added a significant cozy factor to our morning coffee reflections.

Warmth


With an R-value of 3.7, this pad is ready for anything your backpacking adventures will throw its way. When it comes to insulation as it relates to weight, the Editors' Choice Award-winning Therm-a-Rest Neoair XTherm was the only pad to best the Flash Insulated. While testing in the summer in Colorado, we slept warm and happy even with lightweight sleeping bags! Should you encounter snow, this pad will be a bit on the cold side--so consider throwing all your extra clothes and your pack underneath for extra protection from the snow's conductive heat zapping powers.

We guided backpacking trips with this pad in the Summer in Colorado and never once got cold.
We guided backpacking trips with this pad in the Summer in Colorado and never once got cold.

Ease of Inflation


Two separate inflation and deflation valves make this pad a breeze to use. The one-way valve is super easy to use, and we never had any problems with leaks. About 17 good puffs inflated this mattress to its fullest capacity. When on the pad, it's possible to flutter the valve to hone-in the inflation level, but this processes sometimes collapsed the valve, deflating the pad fully. During our testing, the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated was less prone to this issue, making it our preferred valve. Unlike traditional twist valves, it's fast to add air to the pad while you're laying on it with the Flash. Just pop the cover and add a few breaths–-just be sure you open the right valve, or you'll accidentally deflate the whole pad!

Two valves make for quick inflation and deflation. In the middle of the night when you need to let a little air out  just be sure to remember to open the right valve as the left one will immediately evacuate all the pad's air.
Two valves make for quick inflation and deflation. In the middle of the night when you need to let a little air out, just be sure to remember to open the right valve as the left one will immediately evacuate all the pad's air.

Durability


Sleeping on bare rocks, grasses, and many open bivies failed to produce any pin holes or punctures in this pad. Still, 30 denier polyester isn't exactly a material we consider durable, but with proper care we expect this pad to last quite some time. Unlike other pads in this review, a patch kit is NOT included.

We abused the flash by folding it several times and using it as a cushy chair on jagged rocks. The pad emerged from multiple ground-tarpless bivy's without a scratch.
We abused the flash by folding it several times and using it as a cushy chair on jagged rocks. The pad emerged from multiple ground-tarpless bivy's without a scratch.

Best Applications


The Flash is the perfect pad for anyone looking for one mattress for all your outdoor uses. Comfortable enough for a trip to Indian Creek, light enough to hike deep into the Sierras, and durable enough for the occasional bivy below the Diamond of Long's Peak. For snow camping, just add a small foam pad, and you're all set for your first winter camping trip. We recommend this pad for every use except for ultralight backpacking, luxury car camping, alpine climbing, or winter mountaineering.

Value


This pad retails for $100 in the regular size that we tested. If you have an REI membership and wait for one of their 20% off sales, then you'll walk out of the store and into the backcountry as one happy camper only $80 poorer. The balance of performance to value on this pad is incredible.

Staggered baffles provide generous support for side and back sleepers alike.
Staggered baffles provide generous support for side and back sleepers alike.

Conclusion


The REI Flash Insulated is an exceptional pad at a price that aspiring adventurers will love. The combination of high comfort, great warmth retention, and low weight make this pad a top contender. Excellent valves top off a pad that our reviewers would recommend to anyone looking for a three season pad. If you camp extensively off the beaten path and find yourself sleeping on side slopes, you may prefer a horizontal baffled pad.
Jeremy Bauman

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Most recent review: February 14, 2018
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (4.0)
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