User Review: Big Agnes Insulated Air Core
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $60
Most comfortable pad I've used. Durability may be a problem.
- Durability issues
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 really 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 choose foam on a long trip, is that I'm not convinced of this pad's 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, and it sucks waking up in the middle of the night with a stone jabbing you in the back because the pad went flat.