Big Agnes Pumphouse Ultra
A very effective inflation system for BA mattresses that doubles as a roomy dry bag. Requires good technique, especially inside a tent. Not really compatible with other mattress brands.
- Up to ca. 10 liter inflation volume when used correctly
- Doubles as dry bag, pillow (water bag if you want to get it wet)
- Not compatible with other brand mattresses
- Price; could be bundled with or sold at discount with purchase of Big Agnes mattresses
Big Agnes’ demo video of the Pumphouse Ultra makes using it look easy-peasy, of course, and I suppose it is if you have your mattress laid out on a table with all the room in the world to do your business. Ditto any of the several friendly review videos of the Pumphouse, typically conducted with the mattress on a verdant green lawn or at least dry ground, or in one case in a living room.
But I haven’t found any that show what it’s like to use inside a tent (at least until I made my own). But that’s the real word scenario: setting up camp in hosing down rain or with clouds of mosquitoes diving for every warm orifice. Anybody that’s tried inflating a mattress using a sizable inflation bag like the Pumphouse knows what I mean—It’s hard to fill these things up from a sitting position and with little overhead clearance.
It took a while, but, now that I have figured out a good technique, I can say that the Pumphouse Ultra is a great system for inflating BA mattresses even in the confines of a tent. I can inflate our double-wide, 9 cm/3.5 in thick BA SLX Tent Floor Pad with about 8-9 generous fillings of the Pumphouse. Here’s the method:
The design is straightforward: a more or less standard roll-top dry bag made of ultralight coated nylon fabric, with the addition of an extension above the roll top that doubles the volume and an outlet that mates with the intake valve on newer BA mattresses.
The extension folds inside to give a double wall, and the outlet has a tight-fitting cap tethered to it. Using BAs dimensions, I calculate the dry bag volume at about 6.4 liters, double that for the nominal inflation volume although not all that is usable. I'd say it maxes out at about 10 liters. I weighed it in at about 71 g / 2.5 oz. BA gives it 82 g/2.9 oz.
I pack my mattress inside and use the clips on the folded-over roll top to keep the mattress tightly rolled; can't use one without the other. It can also be used as a dry bag for keeping other gear dry, but the fabric is delicate so I wouldn’t want to expose it to poking or abrasion by, for example, carrying it on the outside of my pack. The fabric has a sheer enough feel to be used as a pillow with some appropriate stuffing, but I personally would prefer to have something more breathable against my face.
BA also suggest thats it could be used as a water carrier, but I’d want to be careful about that, again because of the potential for poking and abrasion. I have used an older and smaller version of the Pumphouse, which came in black, as a solar water heater. Hey BA, how about a shower head adapter?
BA says that the Pumphouse Ultra “Can also be used with standard sized, traditional valves”, but the outlet is way too big for the valves on the Therm-a-Rest or older BA mattresses that I have in the cave, so I’m not sure what they have in mind there. Seems like it would be easy enough to make some kind of adapter and include it in the bundle if they really wanted to increase its range.
Although BA could take a few steps to further improve the utility of the Pumphouse Ultra. Given its high price and that it is a more or less necessary accessory, IMO it should be bundled with or sold at a discount with the purchase of new BA mattresses. All that aside, it is a very effective inflation system for BA mattresses that doubles as a roomy dry bag.
A month of use during backpacking in Iceland and the Faroe Islands.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $35
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Current Retail: $31.99-$39.95
Historic Range: $24.47-$39.95
Reviewers Paid: $35.00