There are sleeping pads that weigh everywhere from a few ounces to a few pounds. When I got into backpacking I thought it would be worthwhile to get a thick inflatable pad that would be puncture resistant and very comfortable. The pad I initially bought was the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core. Today that pad has been changed over to the Air Core Ultra. I’ll do my best to compare them alongside
- 21 ounces – regular
- Double ripstop nylon
- synthetic insulation
- 72″x 20″x 3.5″ – regular
- 4″ x 8″ packed size
- 4.1 R Value
So going off of the specifications we have a pretty typical sleeping pad in the market these days. I got it on a decent sale and thought like most people that I needed a cushy air pad to get a good nights sleep.
Reasons to buy
If you have tried out closed cell pads and even lighter pads such as the NeoAir and don’t find them comfortable then I would suggest this pad. I found that the Insulated Air Core did one thing right. Its comfortable, if you like the pad firm then you can easily inflate it to a point where it is firm. You can also keep it soft because the value is easy to use.
Some people bash different air pads because in a very cold situation a leak can have serious implications. Though I agree that a secondary pad should be brought for those extreme conditions, I found this pad to be quite durable. I have used this pad on services everywhere from the desert to the Appalachian rocks. I had one experience with a slow leak which was easily patched using the kit that they provided.
Now this isn’t the highest R value, it is still high. This would easily be used for all 3 season trips and I would even use this pad in the winter assuming it isn’t getting below 0 degrees F. You sacrifice some weight by going with the higher R value but it gives you more flexibility if you don’t want to own a bunch of pads.
Why I switched after less than 50 nights on this pad
I used this pad for about two years. In the course of these two years, I slept on it a total of probably 50 nights. I ultimately switched during my thru hike of the Appalachian trail mostly due to weight. The weight of my pad was 24 ounces, I switched to a Thermarest closed cell pad and saved nearly a pound. In addition to the weight savings, after blowing that pad up every single night I became annoyed. I didn’t want the hassle of blowing up that pad all the time, so getting rid of an inflatable pad was the right option. I never looked back to the Insulated Air Core after switching. The first few nights weren’t as comfortable but I found as with other things you tend to adapt.
If you’re in the market for a sleeping pad then I would say in 75% of cases, this isn’t the one for you. I would make a checklist to see if this pad is for you.
- Do want to do a bit of winter backpacking?
- Do you only want one pad so you don’t have to switch?
- Is an inflatable pad necessary?
If you want these three things then I would say that the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core isn’t a bad fit for you. If you’re looking to save every ounce in the summer then definitely look elsewhere to the NeoAir or a closed cell pad.