Hands-on Gear Review

Jack's Plastic Welding Paco Grande Review

Jack's Plastic Welding Paco Grande
Price:  $289 List | $284.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Very comfortable, very warm, very durable.
Cons:  Short for people over six feet tall, difficult to make firm, inflation valves are hard to use, can be uncomfortable in hot weather.
Editors' Rating:   
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R Value:  unknown
Packed Volume (liter):  39
Weight (lb):  13 lb.
Manufacturer:   Jack's Plastic Welding

Our Verdict

The Jack's Plastic Welding Paco Grande is a behemoth sleeping pad. Its thick, cushy foam and an indestructible shell make it the largest (by volume), heaviest, and most durable pad we've ever reviewed. It weighs 13 pounds! The Paco Grande is more comfortable than "budget" luxury pads like the Therm-a-Rest Luxury Map ($130) and REI Camp Bed ($100), but not as comfortable as the Therm-a-Rest Dream. Its bombproof shell material, however, provides numerous advantages over all other pads we've reviewed: the pad is hypo-allergenic, easy to clean, and can double as an inflatable water toy, padding for furniture, and seating at outdoor concerts. It's much better for extended car camping (multi-month to multi-year) and general outdoor abuse than any other sleeping pad we've reviewed. Paco Pads are also the gold standard for river running: they cushion hard spots, insulate coolers, promote lounging on less violent water, and are slept on at night.

There are a few drawbacks to the Paco Grande's design and construction. 1) People over six feet will find it slightly short, 2) the inflation valves are harder to use than on most other sleeping pads, and 3) there's little to no control over the pad's support. We believe the DreamTime is a better choice for all but the serious road warrior and river guide. Those looking to spend a little less should go for the REI Camp Bed 3.5, the best value inflatable pad in this category, or the Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest Solar, a $40 closed cell pad.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Chris McNamara and Max Neale

Last Updated:
Friday
February 3, 2012

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Likes


The Paco Grande is the ultimate sleeping pad for serious road warriors, climbing bums, river guides, and anyone who does a lot of car camping. This indestructible 13-pound behemoth is made of a 27" x 72" x 3" sheet of super cushy foam, which is incased in an incredibly durable PVC coated material.

Of all the sleeping pads that we've reviewed, the Paco Grande is the first and only one that's actually self-inflating. Most backpacking pads simply don't have enough foam in them, or foam of sufficient density, to create enough outward force to suck air in. Unscrew the Paco Grande's two valves and watch it fill up and unroll itself!

The Paco Grande is the most durable sleeping pad we've ever tested. It makes ultralight backpacking pads, such as the Nemo Zor and Klymit Inertia, look like flimsy children's toys. Paco Pads are designed for the constant abuse of life on a river raft. Guides use the Paco Grande to pad hard places on the raft, insulate coolers, lounge on top of the raft and sleep on at night. The Paco Grande combines the durability of a closed cell pad with the comfort of a bed (almost).

In addition to being very durable, the pad's material has several other advantages: it resists spills and stains, is very easy to clean, is hypoallergenic, and doubles as an inflatable water toy. It's much more than just a sleeping pad! We used the Paco Grande to cushion furniture while moving, to sit on at outdoor concerts, and even to use as a supplementary bouldering pad for climbing.

Jack's Plastic Welding Paco Grande and Therm-a-Rest Dreamtime.
Jack's Plastic Welding Paco Grande and Therm-a-Rest Dreamtime.

Dislikes


The Paco Grande is not without faults. Tall people (6' plus) will find that their toes hang off the end. (Although the company also offers a longer and thicker version of the pad, the $320 Silverback, we would prefer a slightly longer pad at around the same price point.) The Paco Grande's inflation valves are harder to open and close when compared with those on other pads we reviewed. This is annoying, but not terrible. We also found the rubbery surface of the pad to be uncomfortable to sleep directly on in hot weather. Skin to rubber surface in hot weather equals sweat. Other pads have more breathable surfaces that reduce this. Bringing a sheet with you easily fixes this problem.

Finally, the Paco's soft foam is not laminated to the outer material like most other pads. As a result it's difficult to make the pad very firm (because the shell will keep inflating, turning the pad into a big bubbly raft). The pad is more or less a big chunk of soft foam inside a burly inflatable case. You have little control over how soft or firm the pad is.

Best Application


Extended car camping, river rafting.

Value


$260 gets you the best, most durable sleeping pad on the market. JPW makes Paco Pads in a variety of sizes. They recommend the Paco Grande for car camping because it's super comfortable yet still packable.

Other Versions


Silverback Paco Sleeping Pad
Silverback Pad
  • Larger version Paco pad
  • 1 inch thicker than the Grande
  • 5 inches longer than the Grande
  • Durable and versatile
  • $330
Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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Most recent review: February 3, 2012
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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Rating Distribution
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5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
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