Big Agnes SLX Review
Cons: Single air chamber
Manufacturer: Big Agnes
Our Analysis and Test Results
The high level of comfort, relatively low weight, and unforeseen benefits of this pad launched it into award winner territory. Our main gear tester for this category has voiced an intention to use this pad exclusively for couples camping unless the adventure requires some ultralight nonsense.
The Tentfloor SLX has deep padding — 3.5 inches, to be exact. There was no point throughout our use of this pad where we felt the need for more padding. We were adequately insulated from the lumpy desert ground we found ourselves on for most of the testing. The enormous single air chamber did allow for some fine-tuning of firmness and was significantly less bouncy than we had anticipated for a duo pad. There is a bit of ocean motion when one person is getting up in the middle of the night, but the truth is this is minimal.
Probably the most surprising and pleasant attribute of this pad is how much more comfortable it is, having the option to snuggle close to your partner without waking up on the hard ground, having had your single pad sneak away from you in the night. The deep padding also allows for side spooning without shoulder and hip damage. In the past, we have found couples camping to be a bit lonely in the night and twigs snapping outside the tent to be more alarming. With the ability to actually snuggle comfortably, everything seems a bit less uncomfortable and scary, which was quite a pleasant surprise.
Weight and Packed Size
If you opened the Tentfloor SLX expecting something the size of a single sleeping pad, you would be a bit frightened. That being said, the reality is this pad is completely reasonable considering it accommodates two adults very comfortably and provides a significant amount of warmth. If you had two separate single pads of the same insulation/size versus the Tentfloor SLX, you would only save about 15 ounces. The reality of this sleeping pad is that it is absolutely worth the extra weight for the supreme comfort offered for the intrepid couple.
Similar to the overall weight, the packed size looks a bit large until you consider this pad will accommodate two grown adults extremely comfortably. If you've purchased the large cylinder of oatmeal before, that's about the size of this pad fully packed. We also found this made splitting gear quite easy as one would carry the tent and the other the Tentfloor SLX.
We noticed several quite amazing and unforeseen warmth benefits from the Tentfloor SLX. The ASTM r-value of 3.2 indicated solid three-season performance. We believe this could be stretched a bit further due to some of the other benefits, including snuggleability the fact that the entire floor is insulated. The biggest difference we noticed with this pad versus two separate pads was the ease of sharing body warmth. Single pads can make this incredibly difficult. The deep padding also worked to make side spooning comfortable and sustainable throughout the night.
Not only did the Primaloft work well at insulating us from the ground, our four season BD Firstlight tent turned into a furnace as the SLX worked to insulate the entire environment from the cold ground. We didn't anticipate how well this would work, but we felt an extreme 10-15 degree temperature difference inside our tent versus outside and typically found ourselves with two vents open just to cool things down, even in the cold fall desert evenings.
Ease of Inflation
Thank goodness the Tentfloor SLX comes with a user-friendly pump sack, as it would probably be impossible to inflate purely with breath. Wim Hoff himself would expire from the effort. As it is, the pump sack works quite well but still takes about five minutes to inflate. We tried to inflate the pad as quickly as possible, but the reality is this is a marathon, not a race kinda inflation job.
The time it takes to inflate this pad is noticeable compared to two separate pads inflated simultaneously, though as this pad is designed for couples, a separation of campsite chores would probably make this detail less impactful. We didn't feel like the long inflation time was a big enough red mark to alter how much we enjoy this pad.
As we have done with all pads tested, we put the SLX through the wringer. We can't stress enough; if you camp on an air pad long enough, you will have a leak or two develop. We're always pleasantly surprised when we abuse a pad, and it doesn't develop a leak. The Tentfloor SLX was one of those pleasant surprises. Even with the weight of two average-sized Americans, we didn't cause any leakage.
Do as we say, not as we do. During our testing of this pad, we decided to rough it up a bit, and while we did use a thin plastic groundsheet from time to time, we used it for an open bivy or two on the cold hard sandstone of Arkansas. It performed well and didn't develop any leaks, which was impressive.
As with all of the SLX model Big Agnes pads we have tested, the valve system is easy to use and feels chunky, flexible, and durable in hand. We have yet to experience a trip-ending issue with these valves, and while they haven't changed in a long time, why fix what ain't broke?
The performance of this pad is top-notch. We noticed benefits that were completely unexpected such as feeling our entire tent being insulated and having the ability to side spoon very comfortably. The price is surprisingly affordable for a pad that offers both a high level of comfort for couples and doesn't weigh as much as a kettlebell.
We were on the fence before diving into the duo pad world but are oh so glad we dove in. If a pound of weight between two people is an acceptable weight penalty (and it should be), the Tentfloor SLX is an amazing pad for couples. The use of this pad boosted warmth, comfort, and overall camping enjoyability. If you're skeptical, take the dive; you won't regret it.
— Brian Martin
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