NEMO introduced a novel hybrid design that combined an air cushion with a self-inflating foam pad to create the Flyer, the world’s first self-inflating sleeping pad with a baffle.
The NEMO Flyer is a lightweight three-season pad that hits the sweet spot between an air cushion and a self-inflating foam pad. The unique air-filled foam baffles create a stable, padded thickness with a longer durability and ground resistance than an air cushion with a low weight and low volume loss. But it’s lighter and smaller than a self-inflating pad.
NEMO Equipment is the first company to use 3D sculpting on a self-inflating pad. It removes 60% of the open cell foam to create horizontal baffles. Not only does this create air chambers that add 2 inches of thickness to the flyer and reduce volume, but this design also contributes to the ASTM 3.3 R value.
This approach combines the padded thickness of an air cushion with the durability and pluses of a foam cushion to create a backpack cushion that is in a class of its own. And like other self-inflating pads, the Flyer is not as sensitive as typical air pads. The attenuation is not 100% dependent on an airtight system.
The Flyer is lighter (the proven weight of a normal size pad is 1 pound 8 ounces) than a similarly shaped and self-inflating pad of similar size, but it is still heavier than the brand’s insulated tensor air pad (14 ounces) of comparable size and shape. And the same goes for the packed size. The flyer is difficult to crush to a 10 x 6.5 inch package, while the tensor quickly shrinks to an 8 x 3 inch package.
A 20 denier soft touch polyester covers the semi-rectangular pad that is 72 inches by 20 inches (normal size). The top is embossed and the bottom has silicone pads for traction. The flyer uses the two-stage NEMO zero profile valve. Opening both caps allows for quick deflation, while holding one cap allows for easier inflation and fine deflation control.
NEMO also offers larger sizes, a regular width and a long width, while the normal size pad we tested has an MSRP of $ 120. The flyer has a lifetime guarantee from NEMO and comes with a pack sack, a repair kit and a Velcro fastener.
NEMO Flyer performance
I used the flyer next to one insulated NEMO Tensor air cushion on a handful of backpacking trips and also in my RV.
Self-inflation was a time saver as I could do other tasks around the camp while the pad increased in volume. To get my preferred firmness, I gave it two more puffs of air before closing the low profile valve, my favorite I tested air cushions.
It’s a cap-in-cap matter; By opening both caps, the air will quickly escape because it is wide open. Keeping a cap closed allows you to inflate and gradually deflate through a one-way valve. And the closed profile is really flat.
Comfort and padding for my shoulder
I’m a side sleeper so I avoided inflating myself as they couldn’t cushion my shoulder due to lack of padding. But not the flyer; With the additional two puffs of air, my shoulder and hip were well padded, even on the hard plastic and aluminum surface of the Murphy beds in my van.
And when I fell asleep on my back occasionally, rolling on my side didn’t cause the instability and rebound of an air cushion. The Flyer was the most comfortable foam-based pad I’ve used that technically wasn’t a mattress.
Both the embossed top cover and siliconized bottom adequately prevented slipping when the campsite wasn’t flat. When it was warm, the cover was soft enough to sleep right on the pad in the van.
The only disadvantage? It was a close call when it came to general comfort between the air-only tensor and the Flyer, but it wasn’t when it was time to pack. It was a struggle to stuff the Flyer into the supplied pack sack using the Velcro as well, while with the Tensor in a much smaller pack sack it was easy to do the same.
When does the flyer replace the air cushions?
For this tester, overall comfort was a close contact between the Flyer and Tensor. I can find a good night’s sleep on either pad, but the Flyer gets a slight nod due to less instability and excessive movement when changing sleeping positions. If failure is out of the question, the flyer will be packaged as it is less prone to breakdowns. In the worst case, the foam still offers a certain amount of cushioning and insulation.
The Tensor, or some other air-only pad, only wins when weight and packability are paramount – fast-paced missions that involve ounces and cubic inches. And I know that I have to be careful with these often fragile air pockets.
NEMO Flyer sleeping mat: To take away
The NEMO equipment flyer surprised me by how comfortable it was to sleep, especially on my side. It now lives permanently in the adventure van, replacing the bulky foam mattress and opening up the much-needed space. And for backpacking on weekends, if I don’t mind carrying a little extra, the more stable cushioning of the NEMO Flyer will get the reputation.
My all time favorite camp chair: The NEMO x First Lite Stargaze Recliner luxury chair
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