As Advertised: A Flextail Zero Pump Review


As Advertised: A Flextail Zero Pump Review

Weighing less than 57 grams, the Flextail Zero Pump is the sort of bike camping luxury that’s easy to live with. It cuts the hyperventilation out of sleeping-pad inflation, though a temperamental deflation function had Travis leaving it at home on trips where every ounce counts.

There are two equal and opposite forces constantly driving my search for the perfect bike camping loadout: The desire to shed equipment, and the desire to add equipment. It seems like every time I find a redundancy I could eliminate, I find a luxury I could integrate. One piece of gear I’ve long held in the “redundant” category is sleeping-pad inflators. My Nemo Tensor pad came with a pump sack that fit into the included stash sack, but getting it all to fit takes some planning.

And it’s not exactly a joy to use. Your mileage may vary, though. I know a number of people who are more than happy with sack-style inflators. But I’ve never gotten along with mine. Even with practice, it is a clumsy exercise I’m rarely in the mood for amid the several other clumsy exercises involved in setting up camp.

Of course, that brings us to battery-powered inflators. But for me, they’ve always sat at the absolute front line of the redundancy versus luxury battle. Many inflators are nearly the size of an 8 oz can of Coke Zero, and since I’ve already got a perfectly good pair of mattress inflators behind my ribcage, I’d rather just have the Coke.

I know there’s a lot of talk about the impact that our breath can have on a pad’s longevity and insulation. It sure seems like adding moisture or humidity would lead to an increase in heat conductivity (that’s bad) and a buildup of mold (also bad). It’s a big reason why alternative inflation methods exist in the first place. But it turns out there isn’t much scientific research on the topic. I think the best explainer out there is this video from Youtuber, Gear Skeptic.

It covers this better than I ever could, but he cites a hundred-year-old study that found humid air to be effectively no more heat-conductive than dry air. And as long as a pad isn’t filled with fibrous insulation, condensation on its inner surfaces also should have no effect. Plus, although I combed through a lot of self-assured back-and-forth in camping forums on the subject, Gear Skeptic references a number of long-time breathers who dissected very old pads and found no mold. Bottom line is, if a mechanical inflator isn’t going to help me get a longer or better life out of my $170 sleeping pad, then it’s only a luxury. But as I mentioned, I’m not against luxury.

Welp, it seems like the almighty algorithms know this about me, because a few months ago, I started getting flooded with content around the Flextail Zero Pump Kickstarter campaign. Every outdoor Youtuber was talking about it, and each one of them dropped a video right around when Flextail started to accept backers. Meanwhile, I’d see sponsored posts every time I opened Instagram. I like to believe I’m above advertising influence, but this one hit me right in the frame bag. It’s so tiny. So powerful. So futuristic. So matte-black aluminum. And of course, so lightweight.

Quick Hits:

  • $52.99 for pump, battery, USB-C cable, and assorted nozzles
  • 32.7 g without battery, 47.0 g with battery
  • Nozzles weigh approximately 10 g
  • 3o mm wide by 75mm long without nozzle
  • Nozzle adds 15 to 20 mm
  • Included battery is USB-C rechargeable when removed
  • Inflates a 183 x 64 x 9 cm pad in 77 seconds
  • With the above pad, the battery lasts for 15 inflations

Including the battery and Nemo valve adaptor, it weighs about 57 grams and measures about 9 cm by 3 cm. For my fellow ‘90s kids, that’s smaller than a Push-Pop and lighter than the ten quarters I once used to beat The Simpsons Arcade Game. It seemed well worth the $53 asking price, and it definitely seemed worth the $35 early-adopter price I paid. I just had to wait two months for the projected delivery date. And then—after yet another two months of delays—it arrived.

The kit comes with a pump, replaceable battery, USB-C charging cable, and an assortment of nozzles to fit most major pads. There’s no recharging port on the pump itself. Instead, the included battery has a USB-C port. It’s a “standard” battery, though like the Bookman lights I recently reviewed, it’s not something you’ll find at your grocery store. It’s a “CR123A” size, and there are non-rechargeable, externally rechargeable, and integrated-charging CR123A options out there if you want a spare.

The build quality on the pump itself is a little “meh.” The battery kinda just lays in there until you tighten the cap, though it definitely doesn’t rattle once you do. And it’s definitely light, but that means the aluminum is pretty thin. Same goes for the rather choppy threads inside the battery cap. I eventually greased them so it’d be easier to tell when I wasn’t cross-threading it. There’s no published IPX rating, so probably best to carry it somewhere dry with the rest of your electronics. At least the on/off button does require a deliberate double click to turn it on, and it never engaged against my will despite keeping it in my pack for weeks (including several day rides I brought it on specifically to test this).

In my Nemo pad, the nozzle has a positive fit. I would just lay out the mattress, attach the pump, turn it on, and let it do its thing. On my Regular Wide 3.5” Nemo Tensor, it took one minute, seventeen seconds until it “maxed out.” For my taste, that was the perfect pressure, but a single breath would top it off to what I would call “firm,” and two breaths for “too firm.” I managed to get fifteen full inflates when I started sensing the motor straining before the mattress reached full pressure. Even with a moderately sized power bank, recharging the battery is a drop in the bucket, so I couldn’t imagine needing a spare.

When it’s running, the Zero Pump sounds much like you’d think it would. Like a home air mattress inflator, just with its volume and pitch proportionate to its size. It’s not pleasant, but next to the rushing creeks where I tended to camp during testing, it only barely rose above it. That said, when I tested it out anywhere quiet, the noise was rather piercing. If I ever roll into a peaceful camp spot after bedtime where people are in earshot, I’ll probably just leave it in my pack and use my lungs.

Speaking of lungs, blowing on a stubborn ember to get a fire started always seems like a two-steps-forward, one-step-back ordeal. I lose so much heat buildup when I stop to inhale. Not so when I used the Zero Pump as a bellows. If I had adequate kindling close enough to the smoke, it was just a matter of time before it lit.

No child’s pose to get my face close to the ground, no light-headedness as I tried not to swallow my pride and start over. It feels like camping in the future. I remember expecting to be disappointed when I saw this application mentioned in Flextail’s marketing material, but it’s actually pretty cool. One application that was disappointing, though, was deflation.

The Zero Pump’s air pressure has to come from somewhere, so if you swap the adapter to its opposite end, you’ll get a mild suction force. I liked the idea of a 77-second set-and-forget process for flattening my sleeping pad in the morning. If I’m clumsy when setting up camp, I’m an absolute trainwreck when breaking it down. I’d love to not have to do the pre-roll and re-roll to chase every last puff of air out of my pad before it can be perfectly stowed. Seemed like an automatic deflation function would make that a breeze.

But on my paper-thin, unstructured Nemo pad, when the surface goes slack, the corner near the valve would bottom out and essentially plug the pump’s intake. Plus, I had to partially disassemble my pad’s one-way valve for this to even work, and that involved manhandling a rubber piece that’s maybe easy to break and definitely easy to lose. I should mention that pads with some sort of semi-rigid internal structure will accept deflation much better. Josh uses a more robust Flextail Max Pump 2 Plus on his “self-inflating” Exped Mega Mat, and he’s had great luck with the deflation function. If that sounds at all similar to your mattress, not only should the deflation function at least help, it’s also especially beneficial because that sort of mattress can be the most stubborn to pack. But I’m assuming most Zero Pump users will have ultralight pads like mine, and most will have the same issue.

This sounds like a small thing, but I may have been looking forward to the deflation more than the inflation. For me, that aforementioned “equipment-shedding” is actually more about minimizing bulk than it is minimizing weight. My loaded bikes will never be light. I just don’t want to strain to fit stuff into my bags, and I want to be able to pack them to the lowest profile possible. A tightly vacuum-packed sleeping pad wouldn’t just cut-down on some early-morning faff. It’d cut down on some all-day volume. But if we believe The Gear Skeptic, that there may be no significant consequences of breathing into our sleeping pads, I’m not ready to adopt the Zero Pump as a permanent resident in my electronics kit. At least, not for every single outing.

I always have two modes of packing for a multi-day ride: In one mode, I carry my comfy down slippers. But in the other mode, I just carry a pair of rubber-soled wool socks. In one mode, I carry my camping chair. But in the other mode, I carry a dinner-plate-sized piece of foam. When I’m after a fast, light, minimalist vibe, I make a dozen similar sacrifices to my off-bike experience so that my on-bike experience will be a little better, and some are even smaller than the Zero Pump. But when I’m in the mood for a more relaxed, pampered, luxurious experience, it’s a lot easier to justify letting this little guy stow away in my kit.


  • Extremely small and light
  • Fire-bellows feature is surprisingly effective
  • Replaceable, rechargeable battery
  • Not likely to unintentionally activate while carrying
  • Almost eliminates moisture buildup in your pad, if you care
  • Gives your lungs and lips a break


  • More technology
  • More batteries
  • More money
  • Deflation function not useful on ultralight pads
  • Unimpressive build quality
  • Fans of a firm feel will still need to top off their pads

See more at Flextail.