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Big Agnes Air Core Review

   

Men's Sleeping Pads

  • Currently 3.7/5
Overall avg rating 3.7 of 5 based on 10 reviews. Most recent review: December 10, 2012
Street Price:   Varies from $40 - $70 | Compare prices at 8 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, small, affordable, includes stuff sack and repair kit.
Cons:  Slippery surface, long inflation time, minimal insulation.
Best Uses:  Budget backpacking.
User Rating:     
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 (4.4 of 5) based on 9 reviews
Recommendations:  89% of reviewers (8/9) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Big Agnes
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ March 14, 2012  
Overview
The Big Agnes Air Core is the least expensive inflatable sleeping pad weve tested. Get it if you want the cheapest compact inflatable pad. Otherwise, the Therm-A-Rest Z Lite is a better buy because it's cheaper, warmer, and more durable. Also, with Big Agnes you definitely slip off the pad in the middle of the night.

Want to upgrade? Go for the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm, the best, all-purpose backpacking pad on the market. Go for a closed cell pad if you need something really durable. We recommend the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL if space is a concern and the Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest SOLite if its not.

If youre 5 6 or under check out our Women's Sleeping Pad Review. And finally, if comfort is top priority get yourself a Car Camping Mattress. These luxurious portable beds turn roots and rocks into plush, heavenly clouds.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Likes
The Big Agnes Air Core is shockingly compact for its weight. At 22 ounces, its moderately light, reasonably comfortable, and is the cheapest inflatable pad weve tested. This pad is a great value for a first backpacking pad.

Dislikes
We found the surface material to be incredibly slick. This made sleeping nearly as wild as a Slip n Slide, so be aware of the fact that you might end up on the ground next to the pad. We also found ourselves exhausted and impatient with the laborious inflation process; the Air Core doesnt self-inflate. The inflation valve was the worst tested but still functional. Furthermore, the vertical tubing and lack of foam make for a surprisingly unstable and bouncy experience. The tubular construction is not the best for laying your head on. Finally, a lack of foam means the pad is not warm and if it goes flat youll be on the ground with no cushioning.

The Air Core is a summer backpacking pad. Its large open construction allows air to move about when you do (which greatly reduces its R-value). Other pads use internal baffles to slow airflow (Therma-a-Rest NeoAir) or adhere synthetic insulation to the top of the pad (Nemo Astro Insulated and Exped Syn Mat).

Best Application
Budget warm weather backpacking.

Personal Stories
I spent two months living out of a tent with someone who had this pad. They found the slippery material to be highly problematic because the pad would continually escape from underneath them. We highly recommend adding several strips of silicone seam sealant Seam Grip or SilNet to both sides of the pad. This will make it much less slippery.

Other Versions
The Insulated Q-Core, $120, is slightly warmer, more durable, and heavier.
The Big Agnes Q-Core SL is lighter, $140.
The Big Agnes Q-Core SL Mummy, $160, is shaped for your mummy sleeping bag

Value
Inexpensive, light, and small but only comfortable if you can stay on the pad.

Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: December 10, 2012
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (2.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (4.4)

89% of 9 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
9 Total Ratings
5 star: 67%  (6)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 11%  (1)
2 star: 22%  (2)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 9 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Jul 9, 2011 - 02:07am
WML · Climber · Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
Do you enjoy slip n slides? Are you a fan of waking up someplace different than you went to sleep?

If yes, get this thing. Not psyched on it at all due to slipperiness of it. Slidin' and glidin' are not fun unless you are doing so down snow on a snowboard or skis. Durable, burly, and comfortable…maybe I just toss and turn too much? Anyway, if you want to stay put avoid this thing.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 10, 2012 - 02:49pm
Knarfster · Backpacker · Phoenix, AZ
Hard to believe how stupid this review site is. They don't like this pad because it is too slippery, and not insulated. They make a insulated pad too, duh. And if you put this pad in a Big Agnes bag with their sleeve you CANNOT slip off of it. This stupid site hasn't even reviewed a big Agnes sleeping bag, which when used with one of these pads (or any other actually) is by far the most comfortable outdoor sleeping system made.

They also review cottage industry sleeping bag company products, but not shelter? This site is a commercial joke. just get some consistency.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jul 1, 2012 - 12:43am
SterlingSD · Skier · Arvada
I am a tall lad, 6'3" and have the INSULATED Air Core, in the long length. I am on my second pad, as the first one wore out after only 4 1/2 years of regular use camping, backpacking, and sleeping on the floor at parties after passing out, or anywhere else I might need a pad. When my first one developed a leak in the stem, Big Agnes awesome customer service replaced it with a new one, when I was fully expecting to have to pay for it. Great company, great service.

The pad itself has been amazing. In addition to being tall, I am a beefcake and a heavy guy. I never hit the ground in any sleeping position. While the pad is a little slick, I never slide off of it either. I do not have a Big Agnes bag with the sleeve, but still somehow manage to hang on to the top of the pad during the night. Anyone who is slipping around may need to adjust their tent site selection as if you are even close to a level place to sleep you will be fine.

I have never been cold with this pad, although I haven't used it for winter camping, but HAVE used it down to 10 degrees in the spring and fall here in CO. Just my .02 cents, but I can't believe that it was rated this low. The weight, packability and comfort destroy every thermarest I have ever come across, especially for a big tall guy.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 3, 2010 - 06:05pm
middle joe · Climber · oc
Every air mattress I've owned eventually pops. I know someday I'll wake-up on the cold ground, but this mattress has far outlasted my expectations. Mine is 4 or 5 years old and still completely air tight. It's warm, very comfortable, small, and reasonably lightweight. I use it with a Big Agnes bag so it slips right into the sleeve and never slips around. I think Chris got this one wrong!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 3, 2010 - 03:53pm
BrianinSaltLake · Climber · Grafton, Ohio
This isn't that bad of a pad. It definitely has some issues, but it's $50 and super compact. I got the 2 (gf & I) BA Air Cores after getting tired of bottoming out on my 1.5" termarest and was instantly pleased. At 3", I'm rarely bottoming out on rocks and it's relatively comfortable. As a side sleeper I've had issues with parts of my body falling asleep due to a poor pad, and this helped quite a bit. The first thing I noticed was how loud the pads were. There was a distinct crinkling sound anytime you moved or shifted, sounded like the inner bladder of the pad was made out of a mylar balloon. One pad was worse than the other, but the loud crinkle sounds faded after a year and now it's much less noticable. The nylon also makes that nylon swoosh sound anytime you move against it. The sounds seem like a petty complaint, but if you're a light sleeper or trying for some discrete late night shifting and moving at a busy camp site, the sounds seem to echo in the night.
The next major issue is how slippery they are. When alone on flat ground, it’s really not that big of a deal. If you’re on a slope, you’ll be sliding all night. I could never get the two pads to stay next to each other when you’re sleeping as a couple. The second you put weight within a few inches of where the pads meet, one will inevitably slip out to the side.
Also, don’t plan on using just this pad in the winter. I needed a cheap foam pad under the Aircore anytime it got below freezing at night.
All that being said, I slept on it for 3 years before I decided I needed an upgrade. It's $50 and the size of a nalgene and you won't find anything as good for $50.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Sep 23, 2010 - 05:10pm
sierracanon · Climber · Sacramento, CA
I love the Big Agnes Air Core, but I would recommend the insulated version of it over the non-insulated version. For winter camping, I put a 3/4 length z-rest pad underneath for additional insulation, and it works great. I haven't had any problems slipping off of it, and I'm a fairly active sleeper. And the light weight and packability can't be beat.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Sep 23, 2010 - 11:22am
Keith Efland · Climber · Bozeman, MT
I have the mummy insulated version of this pad and after using it for hundreds of nights over the years I have come to one conclusion; this is the best pad out there. Period. The insulated version is cheaper, lighter (in the mummy shape), more comfortable, thicker, warmer, and packs smaller than a Pro-lite Plus. What else is there to say, it beats the Therm-a-rest in EVERY category. Yes you do have to inflate it yourself, but I've never run into a Therm-a-rest that I didn't have to top off anyway. I found the main reviewers comment that "We found ourselves exhausted and impatient with the laborious inflation process" pretty out of control, it takes at most a minute and a half to blow up. If you don't have the energy to blow this up, you probably shouldn't be climbing.

The one chink in its armor is the slicker fabric. Even with the mummy shape and without a Big Agnes bag, I have never found it to be enough of a problem where I was unable to sleep soundly through the night. Worth considering though if you sleep pretty violently.

Lets not forget that the Big Agnes comes with both a stuff sack and patch kit which costs another $25 from Therm-a-rest.

Obviously everybody is entitled to their own opinion, in mine, this is the best mat out there. But go try them out for yourself.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Sep 9, 2010 - 09:01pm
dee ee · Climber · citizen of planet Earth
I think I have a bigger model. It is the best thing I have ever used in the back country.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Sep 9, 2010 - 08:53pm
 
Cannon · Climber · Murrieta, CA
if you use the whole big agnes system. it eliminates the rolling off you pad issue. greatest system ever

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Big Agnes Air Core
Credit: http://www.bigagnes.com/
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