Crazy-tiny electric pump takes the blow out of ultralight camping
There are plenty of 12V pumps out there to inflate air mattresses while car camping, but options get fewer when talking about cordless pumps light enough for backpacking, bikepacking, ski touring and the like. Flextail has made it a company mission to fill this gap with tiny battery-powered pumps compact enough for even the most ultralight of trips. All those efforts have led to the new Zero. It's about the size of a fun-size Halloween candy bar and is ready to clip to a keychain or drop in a pocket, bringing automated inflation anywhere you go.
A Chinese company with a US office in California, Flextail has been hyper-focused on using modern electrical technology and design innovation to streamline campsites for over a decade. It's chased that goal by releasing everything from portable ice makers, to mosquito repellers, to lanterns but is perhaps best known for its lineup of small, portable battery-powered pumps.
Designed specifically for lightweight sleeping pads, Flextail's 3.4-oz (96-g) Tiny Pump 2X and 2.8-oz (80-g) Tiny Pump X are already two of the lightest, smallest portable pumps on the market. With the Zero, Flextail goes even lighter and slimmer and replaces the integrated rechargeable battery of the Tiny Pump series with a more flexible replaceable option. The Zero weighs just 1.2 oz (34 g) on its own, and when you add the extra ~0.6 oz (18 g) for the single CR123A battery to power it, you're still under 2 oz (57 g). Those who prefer rechargeables can use an externally charged RCR123A or one with a built-in USB charger.
The specific battery used has to be between 3.7 and 4.2 volts with a capacity of 650-mAh+ and size of 34 x 16 mm, advises Flextail. The company does offer an RCR123A with the pump to simplify the purchase.
Perhaps even more than its feathery weight, the Zero Pump is attractive for its sleek, slim cylindrical form. It measures just under 3 inches (7.6 cm) long and an inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. That shape looks to be more conducive to dropping in a pocket, clipping to a keychain or strapping to a backpack than the shorter, chubbier Tiny Pump series.
The Zero Pump comes with six different nozzles designed to fit valves on sleeping pads from popular brands including Big Agnes, Exped, Klymit and Therm-a-Rest. It inflates at a lower 2.5-kPa pressure than the Tiny pumps (3.5 kPa+) but still delivers a rate of 180L/min, filling popular sleeping pads in roughly one minute (Flextail estimates between 50 and 70 seconds, depending upon make/model). With an estimated 25-minute runtime, the Zero can knock out roughly 25 pads in a row before running out of battery power. That runtime beats the Tiny X's 15 minutes and comes in just under the Tiny 2X's 30 minutes.
The Zero Pump loses the lantern mode of the Tiny series, which shouldn't be much of an issue for anyone carrying other lighting solutions along, but maintains 2-in-1 functionality by also working as a pad deflator. And if you're really itching for that third function, Flextail notes the Zero also makes an effective flame fan for getting a campfire started more quickly and confidently. The small push-button activator requires a double tap as a safeguard against accidental activation.
Blowing up a sleeping pad isn't necessarily the most difficult part of camping, but after a long day on a trail, it can feel like one more exhausting task standing between you and a much-needed night of sleep. Condensation from one's breath can also cause moisture and mold issues inside the pad that you'd rather avoid, so having a fast, effortless pump along for the trip has multiple advantages. Users can also save overall weight by sharing the battery with a flashlight or other devices.
The Zero Pump is available at Indiegogo pledge levels starting at $27 for just the pump or $36 for the pump and RCR123A battery. Those numbers are discounted from planned MSRPs of $55 and $60, respectively. Flextail better than quadrupled its $5,000 goal on the first day of the Zero Pump campaign this week and has 45 days left to go. Assuming it sticks to its plans, Zero units will begin shipping in November.