Bargain sleeping pad options that perform in the real world are hard to come by. As a sleeping pad that rings up below a crisp Franklin note and actually delivers some comfort and warmth, the REI Co-op Stratus Insulated Air is impressive. Yes, it lacks some features you get with the no-holds-barred sleeping pads, such as replaceable silicone one-way valves, lighter-weight reflective insulations, and the like, but this pad gets the job done. Some of the highlights included the large outer rails, which keep us nestled in place, along with the soft, textured fabric, which helped keep us from sliding around when the ground wasn't perfectly flat.
REI Co-op Stratus Insulated Air Review
Cons: One-way valve not replaceable
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
Our Analysis and Test Results
The REI Stratus foregoes form-fitting shapes and design frills in favor of a simple rectangular shape, lengthwise tubular baffles, and some solid real-world performance at a great price. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend this pad to a friend.
The Stratus strikes a nice balance between affordability, simple design, and functionality. Ultimately, while it was solid competition for an award, it lacked the mind-blowing value we need to see for the coveted crown.
The simple design of the Stratus doesn't detract from the overall comfort. The highlight of this pad is the oversized outside baffles which worked well to keep us nestled right in the middle, even as we tossed about. The regular length pad was more than adequate for our six foot gear tester; while propping up on elbows wasn't very comfortable, the overall thickness is perfectly adequate for back or side sleeping. It's hard to overstate just how nicely the oversized rails work to keep one centered on the pad. The overall feeling we had while sleeping on this pad was that of being cradled.
Weight and Packed Size
At 21.16 ounces, the Stratus is by no means a heavyweight, but the heft is one of its weaker attributes. While the rectangular design seems to have cut down on costs and wasted material, the overall weight suffers a bit. Pads with similar R-values and thicknesses are generally several ounces lighter than the Stratus. Another area of weight gain is the synthetic insulation used to retain heat. We've found that lighter pads generally use a reflective film to cut weight, though they are also quite loud. This is a great option if you're looking to get outdoors on a comfortable pad and aren't worried about five extra ounces.
If you noticed the R-value in the previous photo and were thinking, "I thought this pad had an R-value of 3.3", give yourself a pat on the back! REI issued a statement on their info section for this pad that many stuff sack details were printed prior to updating the new ASTM R-values were updated. This pad was tested and rated at a value of 3.3, which is great considering the simplicity and cost of this sleeping pad compared to others with similar ratings.
While we didn't test this pad in an environment below freezing, it did perform well on some chilly spring evenings using our standard 35-degree bag used while testing all sleeping pads. While some pads utilizing welded baffles seem to allow cold to seep through, the Stratus performs quite well considering the long welded baffles.
Ease of Inflation
While there are pump sacks compatible with the Stratus, it doesn't come with one included. Honestly, had a pump sack been included, it would be in the running for a great value award. Even though the pump isn't included, it's a relatively low-volume sleeping pad that only requires about 10-13 breaths to fully inflate. Out of curiosity, we snapped on a compatible pump sack and were able to inflate this pad in under a minute.
Throughout our testing period, we didn't experience any durability issues. However, our pad didn't come with a replacement one-way diaphragm, which prompted us to scour the REI site to see if they had replacements. A damaged one-way valve can make fully inflating a pad and closing the valve quite difficult. Oddly, REI even noted in their questions section that they do not sell replacement one-way valves for this pad. To test what inflating the pad without this valve would be like, we used the deflate valve to inflate and discovered that this wasn't actually that bad when we pressed the bottom of the pad up into the valve to create our own stopper. REI doesn't list the thickness of the fabric used, but it feels thicker than most ultralight pads, which bodes well for puncture resistance and overall longevity.
The Stratus really is excellent value. With only a few very minor tweaks, this pad would run away with an award. If we were designing a review solely around the comfort to price ratio, the Stratus would likely take the cake. The large outer rails hugged us in a comforting way while keeping us centered and off the ground, and the 2.5 inches of baffles in the mid pad worked quite well at keeping our pointy bits off the ground.
The Stratus is a solid sleeping pad at a solid price. It pairs simplicity with comfort and decent three-season warmth. Even the weight of this pad isn't too hefty when considering how well it performs in other metrics. We wouldn't hesitate to suggest it to a friend that doesn't want to compromise comfort but is also shopping on a budget.
— Brian Martin
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