Aspen Times Weekly: SpeedValve, a new way to inflate camp pads | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Times Weekly: SpeedValve, a new way to inflate camp pads

by Stephen Regenold

Take a deep breath. Now, purse your lips and exhale into the gaping "valve" a few inches in front of your face. The magic is about to begin.

A new line of camping mattresses from Therm-a-Rest seem to defy the laws of physics. A few breaths directed into the open mouth of the company's just-released SpeedValve will inflate an air mattress in seconds.

Normally, a mattress of this size would require dozens of short breaths forced in through a small valve. Or, with some pads, you can open a valve and let air slowly "seep" in over several minutes before topping it off to full pressure with your lungs.

The SpeedValve is different. It is a faster and better way to blow up a pad. In as few as four big breaths I was able to inflate a large and thick mattress to the amazement of my fellow campers.

Despite the mentioned "magic," this product does not defy physics. In contrast, it's an innovation that leans on a little-known effect, Bernoulli's principle of fluid dynamics, where pressure variances result in increased airflow.

Therm-a-Rest, a brand that has played in the air-mattress space for decades, notes the SpeedValve works because "your breath sends fast-moving, low-pressure air through the neck of the mattress, causing the static, high-pressure air outside the mattress to rush in to equalize the pressure."

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In common use, say inside a tent at a campground, the lab-speak translates simply to a faster-inflating mattress. I tested three Therm-a-Rest products with the SpeedValve and was impressed.

Open the wide valve and blow from about four inches away. A steady long breath into the opening initiates inflation. Repeat four to eight times, depending on pad size, and the Therm-a-Rest will be nearly full.

Close the opening via a buckle snap, much like what's seen on a dry bag, and then dial final pressure with a secondary valve near the top. The result is a firm, stable bed for sleeping comfort and warmth.

The brand's NeoAir Camper SV, NeoAir Trekker SV and NeoAir XLite all use the new technology. They are similar products, but each is attuned to its category of camping, backpacking and ultra-light.

The pads pack down small. They deflate quickly once you're ready to head out each day, with the big valve opening to let out a burst of air as you roll and pack.

The pads start at about $150 and will be available widely this year. Check out the SpeedValve if you're in the market for a new premium pad or just tired of huffing, puffing and getting red in the face.

Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at http://www.gearjunkie.com.

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