Big Agnes has been around for 20 years and constantly refining its backpacking equipment game. We were excited to test this pad as it boasted lighter weight, more insulative properties, and the comfort we have come to love with their side rail quilted design. This pad delivered on those promises. It is one of the most comfortable and quiet pads we have tested that also doesn't blow the weight budget in our pack. The valve system is highly refined for quick inflation and deflation as well as small micro-adjustments for comfort. The plush three+ inches of air padding make for some of the best sleep we have had in the backcountry. It's hard to put a value on a solid night of sleep and waking up feeling rejuvenated instead of feeling like you've been in the cage with Connor McGreggor like the old days of backpacking. As such, this pad has earned its place on the sleeping pad podium.Editor's Note: The Rapide SL Insulated is a brand new product that was added to this review on August 16, 2022.
Big Agnes Rapide SL Insulated Review
Cons: Heavier than other top-of-the-line "ultralight" pads
Manufacturer: Big Agnes
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Big Agnes Rapide SL Insulated
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|Pros||Very comfortable, warm, and multiple widths and lengths available||Superior warmth, small packed size, light||Lightweight, warm for the weight, packs small, comfortable, versatile||Great value, wide, reasonably light||Lightweight, affordable, great warmth adding supplement|
|Cons||Heavier than other top-of-the-line "ultralight" pads||Narrow, expensive||Expensive, edges not as stable as other pad designs||Low R-value, thinner than some||Breaks down over time, dimples gather dirt and moisture|
|Bottom Line||This is one of our top performers that boasts a touch of extra comfort when compared to the creme-of-the-crop lightweight sleeping pads||A true jack of all trades sleeping pad with a highly effective updated valve system||This model boasts a big weight savings, is comfortable, and provides great all around performance||This pad boasts an excellent value in a light and compact package||An effective pad that offers decent three season warmth in a very lightweight package|
|Rating Categories||Big Agnes Rapide SL...||Therm-a-Rest NeoAir...||Therm-a-Rest NeoAir...||Klymit Static V2||Therm-A-Rest Z Lite...|
|Weight and Packed Size (30%)|
|Ease of Inflation (10%)|
|Specs||Big Agnes Rapide SL...||Therm-a-Rest NeoAir...||Therm-a-Rest NeoAir...||Klymit Static V2||Therm-A-Rest Z Lite...|
|Weight||21 oz||18.2 oz||16 oz||17.5 oz||14 oz|
|Thickness||3.4 in||2.5 in||2.5 in||2.5 in||0.75 in|
|Claimed R Value||4.2||6.9||4.2||1.3||2|
|Length||78 in||72 in||72 in||72 in||72 in|
|Width||25 in||20 in||20 in||23 in||20 in|
|Packed Volume (L)||2.57 L||1.8 L||1.8 L||0.9 L||1.8 L|
|Breaths to Inflate||N/a||15-20||15-20||12-14||0|
|Type||Air Construction/Synthetic Insulation||Air Construction/Baffled Insulation||Air Construction/Baffled Insulation||Air Construction||Closed-cell foam|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Spoiler alert, this is a fantastic sleeping pad. It's comfortable, warm, and relatively lightweight. While we tested the version that is 25 inches by 72 inches, this pad is available in a variety of widths and lengths. As such, you may notice differences in prices.
While many pad companies seem to approach design with a weight-shedding focus, Big Agnes seems to put comfort just a notch above the importance of weight. The Rapide SL is a perfect example of this eye towards comfort. We found this pad to be extremely comfortable both in the adjustable firmness, design of the quilted three+ inch padding, and unique rail design that kept us comfortably in the center of the pad. We can't overstate how effective the large rail design is not just in keeping us on the pad center, but in how relaxing it is psychologically. There isn't a feeling of tipping off the side, allowing your mind to settle into a restful night of sleep. No waking up to adjust like on other pads where we find ourselves slipping off to the side.
Weight and Packed Size
At either 21 ounces without the pump sack or 25 with it, this isn't exactly an ultralight sleeping pad; however, we were testing one of the larger versions at 25 inches wide and 78 inches long. While we are all about shaving some weight off of our backs when backpacking, the reality of this very high volume pad is you don't want to leave the pump sack at home unless you have a lung capacity like Michael Phelps, putting the weight firmly at 25 ounces for the size we tested. Since this isn't the lightest pad out there when compared with other similarly insulated and sized pads, the question becomes, "Is the extra weight justified". The comfort level of this sleeping pad really is top-notch, and in certain situations, the weight is absolutely justified.
All rolled up our pad measured right at the manufacturer's stated dimensions of ~five inches by eight inches. Think just a bit fatter than a Nalgene bottle and almost the exact same height. For a plush, warm sleeping pad, this is a totally acceptable volume for nearly any use. Of course, the ultralight fastpacking types who sleep on tiny slivers of foam will probably laugh when you pull this burrito-sized roll from your pack, but when you wake up after eight hours of lucid dreams, the last laugh will be yours.
The impressive three-season warmth provided by the Rapide SL is primarily due to the Primaloft synthetic insulation used within the pad. Primaloft offers some serious benefits when constructing a sleeping pad, not just oriented to be the lightest pad out there. This pad seems to be constructed with creature comforts in mind. One very noticeable benefit of Primaloft is how quiet this bad is as you shift and move. Other pads, utilizing aluminized films are crinkly and very loud. As the R-value is third-party tested, it is a reliable measurement of what you can expect from this sleeping pad. We found the three-season warmth to be quite ample and wouldn't have any qualms with stretching our use of the Rapide into the winter with an extra foam pad underneath.
Ease of Inflation
Big Agnes sleeping pad valves haven't changed much over the past several years. This isn't a lack of innovation, though. The two-valve system works incredibly well for fast pump sack inflation as well as rapid deflation. The same valve that keeps air from escaping when detaching the pump sack also allows for tiny adjustments to the firmness of the pad, and this feature works well.
While the pump sack is a bit heavy and thick for our ultralight hiking alter-ego, it feels as if it would last for a decade. The heft and rubberized material also seem like they would work well as a water bag without fear of rupturing the sack. When utilizing the bag for its main purpose, pumping air, it works quickly and efficiently. A little puff of breath into the sack and it poofs up and allows for rapid pad inflation. We timed ourselves multiple times and only took a few minutes to inflate the pad to maximum psi.
While our review hasn't spanned years of testing as we would ideally want, what we experienced with the Rapide SL was a well-made durable sleeping pad. The ripstop material struck a balance between light weight and strength. The thick rubbery plastic used to construct the air valves feels strong and flexible enough to handle being stepped on and abused. We didn't experience any notable issues or even a leak though the pad does come with a patch kit included. We didn't exactly give this pad the "kid-glove" treatment either. Open bivys and pokey environments were the norm throughout our testing.
The Rapide SL represents a fantastic value. It's fairly lightweight, very comfortable, and doesn't break the bank. It's actually significantly more affordable than other pads with similar attributes. We had some truly restful nights on this pad which is a coveted gift in the backcountry. Not only is this a well-designed and comfortable pad, but it also comes with the extras you want such as a durable pump sack, patch kit, and perfectly sized stuff sack. If the Rapide fits into your budget, you won't be disappointed.
While the ultralight fast packers will probably not consider hauling the Rapide SL on their next trip, it's their loss! The comfort to weight ratio is off the charts, making this one of our favorite sleeping pads to date. Full disclosure, our main gear tester is pushing 40 years old and had a rotary phone on his wall as a child. Comfort is very important to him, and this pad delivers. From plush padding to fat side rails that keep us centered, the Rapide is like a taco that doesn't spill out all the good stuff when you take a bite. While it isn't the lightest pad, its weight isn't oppressive and will forever have a place on our gear shelf.
— Brian Martin
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