REI Stratus Sleeping Pad:One of the Best Camping Mats for Travelers
16 December 2016 | Mri & Rob Grout
A good night's sleep can better even the worst of days, but in return, a bad night's sleep can also destroy even the most heavenly of times. This is why it's important to put a lot of thought and research into finding the perfect sleeping pad for your travels, especially if you'll be camping out for multiple nights in a row. You need something that doesn't keep waking you up in the middle of the night because you just can't find a comfortable enough position. You need something with a thickness that won't disappear as soon as you lie on your side. You need something that will protect you from the cold ground of night so that you aren't left shivering or forced to sleep in layers upon layers of clothes. What you need, is a quality made sleeping pad. We have not been approached or paid by REI in any way for writing this review. This, as with all of our review articles, is 100% honest and most importantly, it isn't a 'buy this' article; rather it's a 'this is what this is' and then you make the decision on whether it's the best gear for what you want.
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So What's Good About the REI Stratus Sleeping Pad?
1. Getting a Comfortable Night's Sleep
With a middle height of around 2" (the 2.5" it claims are for the sides only), the Rei Stratus Sleeping Pad easily offers a comfortable night's sleep even when ontop of gravel, fist-sized lumps and dips, and hard ground like tarmac (we've personally tested on all of these and more during our 2017 Rockies Cycling Expedition). It also has an R-Value of 2.9, which puts its insulation rating on the same level as the Neoair Trekker - a sleeping pad that's over $20 more expensive. Rob and I have used these sleeping pads to camp at below zero degrees Celcius (inside of a tent with sleeping bags) and were both a comfortable temperature throughout the night. Even my feet were nice and toasty and I have blood circulation problems! I have also tested the comfortableness of the Rei Stratus Sleeping Pad by using it inside of a house. Next to a very comfortable bed. And given I didn't bother to move from the mat to the bed all night, I'd say it definitely passes this one with flying colors!
2. A Small and Light Packing SizeAnd that's not a picture of it factory packed either. Packing the Rei Stratus Sleeping Pad in the morning is a very easy task that takes only a few minutes. We've found that the best way to deflate it is by laying on it; coincedently this is also a fantastic way to wake up your partner in the morning - as long as you're the one doing the waking up and not the one needing te be woken. Otherwise, it is a trick of the bloody devil. The stuff sack is also reasonably sized and doesn't require you to fight with it every time. Just fold the sleeping pad in thirds and then roll. More information about its specs, including its weight and what other sizes are available, can be found at REI Stratus Insulated Air Sleeping Pad.
3. It's Relatively Cheap
This is especially true when comparing its comfortableness, size, and weight, to other sleeping pads on the market. REI has three sizes of the Stratus Sleeping Pad available and their Regular size (which is the smallest at 72" x 20") goes for a mere $80 USD in shop. And when you think about how important a good night's sleep is, especially when out camping and doing lots of physical activity, that $80 turns into peanuts real quick.
And the Cons of the REI Stratus Sleeping Pad?
1. The Noise
To be fair, this is only ever a problem if you camp inside of a small hut where all noise is pretty much trapped; if you camp in a tent, however, you can barely hear the squeeks of your nightly movements. What happens is that because the REI Stratus Sleeping Pad is made up of multiple tubes to save on weight (and the effort needed to blow them up), those tubes will unsurprisingly rub when you move. This is a problem Rob and I never even noticed until we went for a multi-day hike in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Granada. The trail we were following had multiple free huts to use and so we left our tent (and my bivy) behind to save on weight. Unfortunately, however, due to the frustrating noises of Rob constantly rolling over, I ended up sleeping outside - with blankets that now had lots of air gaps due to the lack of my bivy. And it was 0C outside. Not a fun night. However, the noise issue of the REI Stratus Sleeping Pad is a relatively easy fix if you have a sleeping bag or a bottom layer that slips into the gaps between the tubes, which is luckily what Rob and I figured out on our second night in the huts.
2. Limitations on Lying Position
Due to the length-wise tubes, it's near impossible to have full freedom of movement as you're confined to moving a whole row over or none at all. Granted, the gaps seem nice for your arms and legs, but when camping on the REI Stratus pad every night for weeks at a time, you really start to feel the achiness that this creates. Also, I would recommend to NOT get the regular size for expedition like trips for this limitation on lying positions will make the regular REI Stratus pad seem way too small. I'm 5' and 110lbs/50kgs and find it way too small (as in I sleep half off of it due to the length-wise tubes). Instead get the biggest one they have.
3. Concerns Over the ValveFirst I want to note that even after nightly use for the past two months, the valve on the REI Stratus Sleeping Pad is still in tact and working. However, it's starting to get stiff as you have to twist and then pull/push to unlock/lock it. Due to this stiffness, it really feels like it's about to come apart any second, which is extremely concerning when using it night after night on roads less traveled as that is not something you can fix with a patch kit. Again though it hasn't actually broken yet, but its quality is just a bit questionable. Will update if it brakes.
Final Verdict on the REI Stratus Sleeping Pad
Rob and I are both really happy about our purchase of the REI Stratus Sleeping Pad. Not only is it cheaper than the other sleeping pads that are on the same level as it, but it's also just as comfortable as the bigger, better known brands (we laid on a lot of different camping mats in the shop including Therm-a-Rest, NeoAir, and NEMO Astro). When one takes into account its added layer of comfort and much smaller packsize when comparing it to a non-inflatable camping mats, there's not even a debate on which one to take. The REI Stratus Sleeping Pad is well worth the money and we would gladly buy these again - unless there's something going for the same price that inflates without you having to actually blow into it. Just remember that if you're camping inside of sound-trapping huts, then don't forget your bottom layer or earplugs. Whichever one works best for you.
Travel Tip #4
What do you love or hate about the REI Stratus Sleeping Pad? Do you have any other questions not addressed in this kit review?: