OR - Millair Instaflator - Ray Estrella
- Here is a review of a cool product. The HTML may be found here:
Millair Company Instaflator
By Raymond Estrella
September 06, 2011
NAME: Raymond Estrella
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 215 lb (97.50 kg)
I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly UL, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.
Manufacturer: Millair Company
Web site: www.themillair.com
Product: The Instaflator
Listed weight: N/A
Actual weight: 1.4 oz (39.7 g)
Adaptor weight: 0.3 oz (8.5 g)
Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty
The shortest review I have ever written is also for the least expensive piece of gear I have ever reviewed, and is also one of the things I will never leave for a winter trip without. The Instaflator is hands down the fastest, lightest, and easiest way I have ever found to get air into my sleeping pads. And the fact that it does it without adding moisture is a God-send for backpacking in extreme cold. Read on, it won't take long.;-)
The Millair Company Instaflator (hereafter called the Instaflator) is merely a tube of plastic that is gathered at one end and attached to a with a diameter of in ( mm). This is made to fit the small mouth-valves associated with pool toys, beach balls and such. To facilitate use with backpacking pads' wider valves the company sends an adaptor made of clear tubing that slides over the Instaflator nozzle and the pad's valve. Below is the Instaflator with tube attached.
Operation is quite easy as I shall demonstrate on a Large NeoAir in the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. Merely unroll the Instaflator and attach it to the open valve on the pad.
Now I stretch the Instaflator out to its full length and open the end. If the wind is blowing I can let the tube fill with air by itself. If it is still I just blow one breath into the tube to make the walls open. It fills with air the rest of the way by itself.
Now I close the end of the Instaflator and roll the tube down towards the pad. Pushing on it speeds the process but just rolling it up works too.
Once the pad is full I pull the Instaflator loose from the valve and close it. That's it!
The only time I took the Instaflator on a 3-season trip was the Dinkey Lakes trip in the photos above. It was great weather at 9000 ft (2743 m) elevation.
Great weather was not the norm for all the other trips I took it on, mainly seven multi-day winter trips in northern Minnesota. Most of the trips were on the North Country Trail in Itasca State Park, Paul Bunyan and Mississippi Headwaters State Forests and Chippewa National Forest. The most memorable trip was 3 days backpacking in Voyageurs National Park where we were just a couple miles from the border of Canada. It got down to -31 F (-35 C) on that trip. As a norm though the temps averaged around 0 F (-18 C) and all camp sites were on snow.
As is obvious in my reviews I do a lot of winter backpacking and some winter camping. One of the biggest problems I encounter in winter is inflating my pads. When inflating a pad by mouth a lot of moisture is introduced inside the pad. In very cold temperatures this moisture will freeze inside where it is there to stay until such time as I can get it home and warm to melt the ice crystals and flush the moisture out with dry air. (A process that can take quite a while I might add.) While the added moisture and slowly growing weight of an affected pad is bad enough, as I have switched long ago to down filled pads in winter (see reviews) it is more of a problem. If the moisture reacts with the down before freezing it will cause down to clump negating much of its insulating power. The more it happens the less the pad will insulate. This could be dangerous at the temperatures I (try to) sleep at.
I have used many devices to inflate my pads. None of them are fun, all of them take a long time and they all weigh too much as far as I am concerned.
I heard about the Instaflator from a friend that saw it at a pool supply company. I decided right away to give it a try and got one. On the trip to Dinky Lakes I used it on a Large NeoAir, a pad that takes a lot of puffs to blow up. About 30 big breaths for me. The Instaflator did it with three, and those were just to get the tube to open as there was no wind. It took just over two-and-a-half of the tube-fulls to inflate it. While I was impressed (and started talking about it on gear forums) I wanted to wait to call it a success until I saw if it would work in winter. I was concerned that the plastic would become brittle at low temperatures and pop.
Well my worries were unfounded. The Instaflator did awesome for me all last winter (2010/11), including the night at McCarty Lakes in the Paul Bunyan State Forest seen above. The part of Minnesota that I am in is almost always windy so I rarely have to even use the one puff to start the tube expanding. And my winter biggest pad takes only two fill-ups to inflate. (I just ordered a bigger one, maybe I will need three fill-ups, ooh that will be a hardship not!)
At a total weight with adaptor of only 1.7 oz (48.2 g) I would not mind carrying two on a long trip just for redundancy. I could carry three of them and it would still be lighter than my pump-sack.
Now while I do not have a problem with it (yet) many of my friends complain about trying to blow up their pads when at high elevation. They complain of "running out of air" and getting dizzy. I let them use, or refer them to, the Instaflator to avoid the lung abuse.
The Instaflator is a permanent addition to my winter kit and I really don't expect to ever be without one again.
"I measure happiness with an altimeter"
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