Thursday, August 2, 2012

Gear Review: Big Agnes Insulated Air Core

What I love the most about this pad is that it's so comfortable. Despite my 230 pound frame, the 2.5 inch thickness ensured I never touched the ground. Even on rocky or hard ground this pad will ensure a comfortable night's sleep. My girlfriend has been using this pad lately and she sleeps like a baby on it. Other hikers I know who own one all rant and rave about how comfortable it is. The insulation seems to work well too. It keeps me warmer than other pads that I've tried, even on snow or frozen ground.

Inflating the pad is pretty easy, once you get the hang of how the valve works. At first it can be a bit tricky, but once you get the hang of it, the pad blows up in just a couple minutes. It packs up very small too. Certainly much smaller than a self-inflating or foam pad. With that being said, on long multi-day backpacking trips I have found inflating the pad everyday annoying, and prefer the simplicity of a foam pad.

Another reason I would chose foam on a long trip, is that I'm not convinced of this pads durability. I've had mine for 3 years now and have used it regularly, for both backpacking and car camping. This year however I was waking up in the middle of the night with a flat pad. At first I thought it was a valve issue. Maybe I wasn't tightening it enough. But after I ruled that out I submerged the pad in a bath tub to check for holes, there were none. Instead I found that the seam that holds the top and bottom together had failed, and air was leaking from dozens of holes in that seam, a spot entirely un-fixable with a patch kit. Needless to say, I'm taking mine back to REI, and have yet to decide if I'll buy a new one, or go an entirely different direction. I've heard nothing but good things about the Big Agnes Air Core, so it could be that I just bought a faulty one.

Summary: This bag offers the best comfort in backcountry camping, and is particularly good in the cold, and on rocky/hard ground. The problem is that because it's an air mattress, it's only a matter of time before it develops holes.

UPDATE 1 /26/15

I returned the pad for another Big Agnes Insulated Air Core. My new one went flat the first time out with it. Thinking I punctured it somehow I submerged it in the bathtub to find the leak, there were none in the pad. Instead, the valve itself had a slow leak. I contacted Big Agnes for repair and still have not heard back from them. When inflated properly, the Insulated Air Core is a very comfortable pad, but between the seem and the valve failing on two different pads, and the abysmal customer service I have received, I cannot recommend this pad. Do yourself a favor and look at Thermarest, REI, or NEMO instead.

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