Gear Review: Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air Sleeping Pad

Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air Sleeping Pad

At-a-Glance

MSRP: $179.95
Weight: 11.9 ounces
Size: 20-inch by 72-inch rectangular.
Materials: Ultralight patterned random rip-stop nylon designed to increase fabric tear strength and decrease material weight. PrimaLoft insulation.
Thickness: 3.75 inches.
Packed size: Three inches by 6.5 inches.
Warmth: Big Agnes does not give this pad an R rating but says it is good down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

Overview

Big Agnes takes a serious run at the lightweight sleeping pad market with the new insulated and warm weather AXL Air pads. The insulated AXL comes in mummy and rectangular sizes. Mummy: 20 inches by 72 inches, 10.6 ounces, three by 6.5 inches rolled; rectangular: 20 by 66, 10.7, three by 6.5; 20 by 72, 11.9, three by 6.5; 25 by 72, 15.2, 3.5 by eight; 25 by 78, 15.9, 3.5 by eight. The AXL Air warm-weather pads come in a 20- by 72-inch, 9.6-ounce mummy, and a 25- by 72-inch, 13-ounce rectangular. Prices range from $139.95 to $249.95, according to model and size.

Circumstance of Use

Three-and-three-quarters inches of air under your back.

What happened to that boy who threw down a sleeping bag in friends’ backyards during the summer with just the grass for padding? Who after college slept on a thin pad in northern Maine’s sapling-floor shelters on the AT?

It ain’t me, babe.

And so, reaching an age where comfort and sleep are paramount, I took the Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air Sleeping Pad (rei link here) for a multiday hike on Vermont’s Long Trail north of Maine Junction. And I have to tell you, my back thanked it twice. For a comfortable sleep at night and for the light weight it added to my pack.

On the coldest night the temperature dropped to 38 degrees Fahrenheit and I was plenty warm sleeping on the AXL in a 20-degree sleeping bag. And this on a shelter floor with cold air underneath. Big Agnes credits PrimaLoft Silver insulation with a reflective film that traps heat and reflects it back to you.

Features

 

The AXL, a Nalgene bottle, and the Big Agnes Air Core.

Air valve: The low-profile, two-way air valve keeps air from escaping while blowing up the pad. When it’s time to pack up the pad, insert the tongue of the valve cover inside the valve for quick deflation.

Warmth: Big Agnes does not give an R-value but says it insulates down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit and rates it as a three-season pad. A reflective barrier traps body heat and reflects it back to you.

Comfort: 3.75 inches thick, large outer chambers to keep you from rolling off the pad.

Weight: Light (15.9 ounces), lighter (11.9 ounces), lightest (9.6 ounces).

Packed size: Three by 6.5 inches for the smallest size rolled up.

Pros

Did I say that the pad was comfortable? Three and three-quarter inches of air underneath me and long enough that my feet weren’t hanging over the bottom. I know, I know. Three-quarter length pads are smaller and weigh less, but I slept on several three-quarter length brands over the years before trying a full-length pad. And I’m not going back. I also liked the AXL’s air-release valve, which prevents air from escaping while you’re blowing it up. Press the inside of the valve to release air for adjustments. When it’s time to pack up in the morning, insert the tongue of the valve cover into the valve for quick deflation.

I’m a tosser and turner when I sleep. Left side, right side, back. I hit them all except my stomach. The AXL at first appears narrow but I didn’t roll off with all my tossing and turning. Big Agnes credits larger outer chambers that keep you cradled in the middle of the pad. And the pad was quiet. No snap, crackle, pop during the night. The pad is light at 11.9 ounces and rolls up to three inches by 6.5 inches, taking up almost no space in my pack. Compare that with my current Big Agnes Air Core mummy at 20 by 72 inches, four by 10 inches, and 18 ounces. I have had Big Agnes air pads for nearly 10 years and their reliability has been good. I’m expecting the same from this pad.

The tongue of the valve cover inserts into the valve for quick deflation.

Cons

Big Agnes rates this pad down to 15 degrees, but many reviewers have questioned that rating. All I can say is I slept on the pad on a 38-degree night in a 20-degree sleeping bag and was warm. At the same time, my current Big Agnes Air Core is rated to 35 degrees and I’ve slept comfortably in the upper 20s in my 20-degree bag. Maybe I’m a warm sleeper. Blowing up the pad takes me about 35 breaths, which can be a lot at the end of a long day. But the reward is a comfortable night’s sleep.

Overall

The insulated AXL 20-inch by 72-inch rectangular pad I used is priced at $179.95, comparable to the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite. The AXL I used is well worth the price for its small packed size and low weight. It has a permanent home in my pack.

Disclosure: This product was donated for the purpose of this review.

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Comments 1

  • Brewerbob : Jun 12th

    Am I missing something or am I just a HOT sleeper? In this review (and others here and elsewhere), I see the same type of write-ups…

    “All I can say is I slept on the pad on a 38-degree night in a 20-degree sleeping bag and was warm. At the same time, my current Big Agnes Air Core is rated to 35 degrees and I’ve slept comfortably in the upper 20s in my 20-degree bag. Maybe I’m a warm sleeper.”

    “I slept fine in a 15° bag when the temps dropped to the mid 50s” … (over exaggeration but you get the point). Well, I should certainly hope so but that had NOTHING to do with your sleeping pad nor bag liner. Have I got it wrong thinking I should be able to sleep at 20° in a 20° bag with nothing else? Yes, I know there’s a huge amount of subjectivity in personal comfort, warmth, etc. but there’s still an almost +20° differential between rating and actual temp.

    For an experiment, I went backpacking with the gf one New Years’ Eve with a Field & Stream (read as CHEAP) 40° sleeping bag in 25° weather. For full disclosure, I was wearing mid-weight thermals, summer socks (kept the winters dry for the next day), and a knit cap that was way too small. I was in a Flycreek 2 tent set up inside the shelter (park requirement) on a REI 1.75″ self inflatable pad (R 5.6). I slept with the sleeping bag pulled over my head (first time ever). I was cold but survived the night. This is a -15° delta. I would do it again with the only changes being winter socks and my own knit cap.

    Anywho, I think I read somewhere that the temp ratings are supposed to be with clothing on (quite possibly including light to mid-weight thermals). Please correct me if I have that wrong. I’m off to the Google machine to research this (again) for clarification. I bought the sleeping pad purely for comfort and the R value was never even a consideration. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that’s a fairly high R value for sleeping pads.

    I highly doubt any company will ever bother, but I would love to see some better (and more scientific) research done. In my experiment, the weather station nearby reported 25°. I had condensation inside the tent which means inside the tent must have been 32° or above. That’s still below the bag’s rating. I’ve yet to see a write-up where the author was below the rating (not that I read tons of reviews).

    Hugh,
    This isn’t a bash at you or your write-up. More curious about how you define “warm sleeper”. I know I sleep VERY warm. I almost never complain about waking up cold when everyone else around me is freezing. Except for summer months, I guess that’s a good thing.

    Reply

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