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Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Sleeping Pad Editorial Review

Submitted by vegastradguy on 2007-05-28

Rating: 12345   Go Login to rate this article.   Vote: 1 | Comments: 3 | Views: 9269

by John Wilder

By vegastradguy

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Iíve mentioned before that Iím a cold sleeper. Iím also not a big fan of sleeping on the ground- I tend to wake up sore and unrested. Iíve always lugged around the thickest pad I could find to Camp 4 and Hidden Valley so I can at least get some sleep. I own three sleeping pads- two inflatable and one Z-rest. The inflatables are nice because they give you more cushion, and if youíre sleeping in a tent or on a tarp (especially if car camping), thereís no reason not to use one. I have the Z-rest for the odd times I need to either hike for a long ways and camp or if Iím camping on the ground and donít want to wake up with a deflated pad. Regardless, though, most pads are lousy at keeping you warm- you rely on your bag to do that for you, and even then Iíve found myself chilled even through blankets and an inch and a half of sleeping pad.

Enter Big Agnes, a company that has a unique sleeping system developed where the bottom of their bags donít have insulation, rather, they have a pouch where you slide your pad in. This keeps you on the pad as well as provides insulation for you on the bottom of the bag. As part of this system, they have developed what they call Insulated Air Core Sleeping Pads. These are plush sleeping pads that are insulated with primaloft- rated down to 15 degrees! So, you can bet that when they asked me last summer to test one out, I jumped at the chance.

When I got the pad, it came stuffed, and I canít emphasize enough how small this thing packs. Check the photo below for an idea, but lets say its tiny! Specs say 3.75Ē x 10Ē, howís that for nice to carry around? One of my biggest complaints about all of my pads (including the z-rest) is how bulky they are. Not this one, itís miniscule.

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Big Agnes vs the competition- deceptively small!
J. Wilder
Big Agnes vs the competition- deceptively small! Photo by: John Wilder.

Now, you might be thinking, well, if it packs that small, how plush could it possibly be? Pretty damn plush, actually. When inflated, it measures 20Ē x 72Ē x 2.5Ē- thatís right, 2.5Ē of cushion! A full inch more than the nicest pad I currently own and about 1/4 the size when stuffed. As far as thickness goes, this one wins by a landslide.

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Big Agnes from the ground- 1" more than the competion.
J. Wilder
Big Agnes from the ground - 1" more than the competion. Photo by: John Wilder.

How comfy is it to sleep on? Very- owed mostly to how thick it is. I will also say that the I-beam construction keeps the air in place a little better and the pad feels wider than it is. Itís also very warm- even on the coldest of Jtree nights this winter (temps dropped to 18 or so a couple of times), I didnít notice any cold seeping through the pad. Big Agnes does recommend using a closed cell pad as well when sleeping on snow covered or frozen ground. Your mileage may vary. The only thing about the pad thatís less than awesome is that itís a bit narrow- my model is 20Ē wide, making it a bit narrow for my taste, but the pad is also available in a 25Ē model and still packs down to 4.25Ē x 10Ē. I would bet, though, that if you had a Big Agnes bag to stuff this pad into, the 20Ē would be no problem because thereíd be no way to accidentally roll off of it in the middle of the night!

So, are there any real downsides to the pad? Only two that are worth mentioning- and both are directly related to how small the pad compacts to. The first is that this pad, unlike other inflatable pads, is not self-inflating. Being the diligent reviewer I am, I timed myself several times on how long it took to inflate, and the pad takes between two and two and a half minutes at a casual rate to inflate fully. I would add to this a bit at altitude (I would also recommend inflating it a little at a time- easy to do when tooling around camp). Compare to approximately one minute for a 1.25Ē self-inflating pad. Not too shabby, but not great either. However, because itís not self-inflating, it collapses to a super-flat sheet of material, allowing it to stuff as small as it does. The second downside is that deflating it to the point necessary to stuff it can be a pain in the butt and take a while. You need to get it absolutely flat [strong]before[/strong] you make any attempt to stuff it or youíll be back to square one. Once you figure it out, though, it only takes five minutes or so from start to finish.

Finally, some comparisons to the other pads out there. All comparisons were made off of the Ďregularí size- approx 20Ē x 72Ē pads. If you go by weight, the other major pad on the market that is inflatable and compacts down similarly (4.8Ē x 11Ē) and weighs the same is only 1.5Ē thick and costs $15 more. If you go by thickness, the other major pad rolls to 21Ē x 5.4Ē costs $20 more, and weighs almost two pounds more than the Big Agnes!

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Which one would you rather sleep on?
J. Wilder
Which one would you rather sleep on? Photo by: John Wilder.

All in all, this is a great pad. Itís relatively light (1lb, 8oz), stuffs very small (3.75Ē x 10Ē), its extraordinarily comfortable for its size, and has the added benefit of Primaloft insulation. The price isnít bad, either- $69.95 for the regular size up to $100 for the deluxe 25Ē model. This pad has definitely earned its place in my camp set for any night Iím sleeping on a tarp or need to conserve space in my pack!

2.5" thick, 3 season Air Core pad filled with PrimaLoft insulation. M3 synthetic fill used in the 25" wide pad. Packs down to a compact 3.75" x 10" or 4.25" x 10" size

The I-beam construction technique is functionally superior to the typical welded-through construction of other air mats. Die cut holes in each I-beam allow air to flow freely between chambers giving constant support and comfort.

Durable 50 denier nylon fabric top and bottom used on the 20" wide pads and 70 denier nylon fabric top and bottom used on the 25" wide pad. Durable, water repellent (DWR) coating sheds water and stains

PrimaLoft features a silicone treatment which serves as an anti-microbial within the pad Internal polyurethane (PU) coating makes pad waterproof. Exclusive: Non-breakable, EZ-Flate brass valve for easy closure.

Click here for this item in our Gear Database.

Full Disclosure: The manufacturer of this product provided it free of charge to for review. then provided this product as compensation to the reviewer. This company does not currently advertise on May 25th, 2007.


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3 Comments CommentAdd a Comment

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I've had 2 of these, and my complaint is that they just don't hold air. I can't tell if there is a problem with the design of the valve, or if the sheet material is porous allowing air to escape over time, but I've reconciled to having to blow it up every night before going to bed, and knowing that it's going to be very soft by the time morning comes around. The first I exchanged and the one I exchanged for has the same problem.There's no obvious puncture (happened first use, right out of the stuffsack on both), and the leaking on both of them has been so slow that it takes a few hours to notice anything's happening. Kind of a pain in the ass, otherwise it's 5 stars all around, which is why I've kept it!! Beats thermarest, foam pads, and anything else I've tried hands down in the comfort and packability departments.
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I love this pad, and the big agnes bag/system. I wish i had the 25 inch width model as my arms hang off the side when i sleep on my back. As to the above complaint of an air leak, it may not be a leak, rather the hot air you blew into it has now cooled taking up less space.

Be careful on hot days leaving it inflated may cause the air to expand too much causing a puncture. Ive never had this happen but a few times Ive come back from a hot day and left this thing inflated in my car and it felt like it was going to burst.

Also one way to deflate all the way to packable size is release the valve while your lying on it. Fold it into 3rds and roll up. Stick it in the sack on off you go.
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I have 2 of these and they truly are a great matress. It's much thicker and more confortable then the other Thermarests I own and it packs down way smaller. The 3/4 mummy is long enough that my wife can use it as a full lenght mattress. The 72" long one packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle - simply amazing. The only potential issue is long term durability. Only time will tell if the material will be as durable as what Thermarest uses.

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