Most backpackers are using inflatable sleeping pads these days. It is only the hardcore gram weenies and the younger tougher crowd who are content with the lighter closed cell foam pads- curses on you all…
One of the most onerous of tasks when setting up camp at the end of a days long hike, when all you really want to do is get a shelter up, remove footwear and get outside a meal, is the blowing up of a pad. It isn’t difficult, doesn’t require any skill, but we can all do without it. Three Points of the Compass has always blown the sleeping pad up by mouth or used a pump sack ‘snozzle’. I use Thermarest pads, I have done for years. I like them. I also knew there is a little Thermarest electric pump available, but that uses disposable batteries and I have moved away from those for everything else in my kit and didn’t want to return to them. Recently I heard about the FLEXTAILGEAR Tiny Pump that has an internal rechargeable battery, and what’s more, it’s a USB-C connector. A type of connector I have been moving toward in my electronics. So, I bought one.
There are a number of different pumps available from FLEXTAILGEAR (apparently we have to use caps for their name). The one I was interested in is their Tiny Pump. Advertised as being smaller than an egg. All I can say is it would have to be a bloody big chicken. But it is indeed a pretty small pump. Measurements are approximately 53mm long with a diameter of 43mm. There are actually two varities of the Tiny Pump. One has LED’s in the end, the other doesn’t. I don’t require yet another light so bought the slightly smaller, slightly lighter, slightly cheaper Tiny Pump with no LEDs.
Everything comes packed in rigid protective plastic shell in a card box. You get the pump with easily detached bail, 30cm USB/USB-C charge cable, a drawstring branded synthetic bag to put it all in, a flexible rubber nozzle with some ‘step-downs’ in diameter inside, plus five different sized rigid plastic nozzles for attaching to different types of inflatable equipment. Also a pretty hopeless set of instructions, not that they are required. Trial and effort establishes what nozzles fit what. I am not interested in using this pump with anything other than whichever of my two sleeping pads is taken on backpacking trips.These are a large Thermarest NeoAir XTherm with the earlier type twist ‘Classic’ nozzle and a large Thermarest NeoAir Xlite with newer Winglock valve. I was able to successfully use the Tiny Pump with both of these pads, albeit with different rigid plastic nozzle adapters. The various nozzles are not fantastic fits and an eye has to be kept on the pump while a mat is inflating to ensure it doesn’t slip off.
The pump is advertised as weighing 80g. It doesn’t. Like so many other manufacturer’s claims, this is less than reality. On my digital scales it comes in at 83.4g. You also require connectors to attach it to your pad, those weigh a few more grams. More on those later. There is also a small, thin 1g metal bail at the end for hanging it in a tent to use the internal light. As said, I never purchased that version so I don’t require the bail and removed it prior to weighing. This is a pretty cheap Chinese made product. Off Amazon my pump cost £23 with free delivery. The LED version costs £26.
This little pump is a handy piece of kit. To be honest I am unsure if I would take it with me on a multi-week hike, though probably would on shorter hikes of a hundred miles or so. It is very much a luxury inclusion in a gear-list. But one I am pretty sure I would appreciate at times. This will be an effective way to stop moisture laden air from my lungs going into the pad, where said moisture will then transfer itself to the inside of the pad. But of course a snozzle sack will do the same, though one of those weighs in excess of 50g by itself.
There is a simple button on the end of the pump to switch it on/off. I wonder how much danger there is of that being accidentaly activated while buried deep in a pack. The noise while pumping up a pad is much as you would expect from a small electric pump. Mildly annoying though thankfully brief. When on charge a red light shows within the body. This changes to a green light when >99% charged. If the red light comes on while operating then the charge level has dropped to <5%.
Weights of pump and nozzles required for each pad:
Thermarest NeoAir Xlite
- Pump- 83.4g
- Rubber nozzle- 3.5g
- Small sized plastic nozle- 1.1g
- Total- 88.1g
Thermarest NeoAir XTherm
- Pump- 83.4g
- Rubber nozzle- 3.5g
- Medium sized plastic nozzle- 2.2g
- Total- 89.1g
The two nozzles shown in the images above with each pad are all that I would require. I wouldn’t need to carry any more nozzles, or the bag or a cable. I already have a USB-C charge cable as part of my electronics for charging my phone. It is of course questionable if a charge cable would be required on a hike anyway. For just a handful of nights the internal 1300mAh battery will hold sufficient charge for quite a few inflations. Or deflations, as the nozzle can be moved to the other port on the pump and used in reverse to suck air our of a bag. After half a dozen inflations and deflations of both mats I still have charge left.
How long does it take to inflate a pad?
To pump up my large size Thermarest NeoAir XLite with the Tiny Pump takes 1 minute 20 seconds, to deflate takes 1 minute 40 seconds. For my large size Thermarest NeoAir XTherm, it takes 2 minutes 12 seconds to inflate, and 2 minutes 20 seconds to deflate. This inflation is to a firmness perfectly suitable for my use. I do not need to top up with any further breaths. Inflation pressure from the pump is supposed to be 3.5kPa, to deflate it is advertised as 3kPa. The time taken for deflation is a moot point. I tweaked the valves then attached the pump. In reality we all tend to tweak a valve while lying on a pad which forces most air out, even the weight of the pad itself, perhaps with a sleeping bag or quilt on top bleeds air out for a few minutes. If I did carry a pump with me on trail for pumping up my pad I am unsure I would ever use it to deflate said pad in the morning.
So, a cheap, small, light and effective product that I look forward to using on trail this year, when ever we get back out there…
August 2022 update:
This pump rapidly became a continually added luxury item of gear when backpacking. I have take it on most multi-night trips since I purchased it and have never regretted buying it or carrying it. The plastic body does seem to be breaking down a little and getting tacky to the touch however. That noise though! It is two minutes of racket each evening. I do wish it were quieter
I see that this pump seems to be going the way of so many other items of gear. What starts out lightweight, gets steadily ‘improved’ and gets heavier. The Tinypump x2 is now on Kickstarter, weighing a quoted 96g. Sadly, with the required valve adapter, this now tips the scales over 100g.
October 2022 update:
I appreciate having an electric pad inflator on multi-night hikes. It is seldom that I leave it at home, but the weight, slight that it is, is still resented. So, I went looking for as light an alternative as I could find. Despite it being an expensive purchase, the minimalist bare-bones Pad-Pal is about as light as it is possible to get. Less than 11g, including valve adapter!