If you go camping down in the wild woods, the chances of happening upon a conveniently-placed power outlet for blowing up your mattress with an electric air pump are pretty remote. Unless you have a hand or foot pump in your backpack, you'll have to wrap your lips around a tiny valve that likely has a history of being dragged through all sorts of unmentionable nastiness, and then spend the next long while taking deep breaths and blowing. Ryan Frayne's Windcatcher system inflates in just a few seconds with a valve that never touches your mouth.
"When you inflate all other Air Pads (or really any inflatable), all you're doing is directly transferring air from your lungs into the object you're inflating," Frayne told us. "There's no interaction between the air you're expelling and surrounding air. It takes so long and so many breaths to inflate something as large as an Air Pad, because you're lungs really don't have that much air to give. But whenever you're inflating something, you're standing in an ocean of air. All you need to do is coax the air inside."
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The idea is that, when you blow into the gaping mouth of the Windcatcher valve, a stream of fast moving, low pressure air is created. High pressure air round about is attracted to low pressure areas and pulled inside the mattress. Frayne claims that the volume of air entering the Windcatcher system is at least 10 to 15 times greater than that leaving your lungs – which means more inflating power for less effort. Once inside, the valve prevents the air from escaping.
The 20 x 72 x 3.25 in (51 x 183 x 8 cm) Air Pad is made from 75 Denier Ripstop polyester, internally laminated with polyurethane, and when it's fully inflated, rolling up the valve and securing it in place with Velcro straps ensures a tight seal. Frayne is currently looking to support a user weight of up to 300 lb (136 kg). A conventional valve is included to adjust the level of inflation to the user's personal preference.
The very fact that the inflation system is so fast makes it a good fit for many indoor/outdoor situations where you might think twice about lugging an air bed around, including lazing in the park, an emergency sleep-over when your flight gets canceled, or camping out for concert tickets.
The Windcatcher system includes a manual override, so you can pull out the invertible release and the air escapes much faster, and more completely, than with a conventional valve. The whole thing can be rolled up to about the size of a liter bottle of water, a portable 9 x 3.5 in (23 x 8 cm), and secured with Velcro straps (although a stuff sack is available).
Frayne has partnered with Rob Stam to bring the Windcatcher valve and Air Pad to the marketplace. They've launched on Kickstarter where the US$70 early bird specials have all gone, but you can still save $20 on the projected retail price with a standard pledge of $80. An Air Bag (an inflatable pillow that uses the same Windcatcher valve) can accompany your Air Pad for pledges of $99 or more. The campaign runs until June 13.
The pitch video below shows the Windcatcher in action.