Till final spring, Big Agnes had no sleeping pads in its line that me. The pads seemed snug, however they have been significantly heavier than my time-tested Therm-A-Relaxation NeoAir XLite ($170, 12 oz).
However with the AXL sleeping pad, Big Agnes caught my consideration — its weight and thickness seemed promising. The AXL is available in two flavors:
The listed costs and weights above are for the 20″ x 72″ mummy model. Each pads are additionally obtainable in rectangular shapes: a large AXL (25 x 72); and petite, common, regular-wide, and long-wide Insulated AXL (20 x 66, 20 x 72, 25 x 72, and 25 x 78).
This yr I’ve slept on the Insulated AXL (as a traditional floor pad and as under-insulation in a hammock) for about 30 nights in southern Utah, the Colorado Rockies, and Excessive Sierra. Big Agnes despatched me two pads, and I loaned out the opposite to my spouse and to guided shoppers for extra suggestions.
Evaluation: Big Agnes Insulated AXL Sleeping Pad
The Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air is a very light-weight and cozy sleeping pad, and is greatest fitted to weight-conscious backpackers who need high quality sleep within the backcountry.
The 20″ x 72″ rectangular Insulated AXL specs at simply 11.9 oz (though mine weighs 12.6 oz, or 12.9 ounceswith the included stuff sack). In its manufacturing unit packaging, it’s concerning the measurement of a 1-liter bottle — though, it’s troublesome (and not well worth the time, IMO) to pack it that tightly once more. I roll mine full-width, fold it in half, and maintain it in a bigger stuff sack.
Of the pads that compete with the Insulated AXL’s measurement and weight, none match its thickness (Three.25 to three.75 inches) or have over-sized outer tubes that assist to cradle the sleeper — it’s a delicate function, however useful.
The Insulated AXL is fairly quiet, avoiding the “potato chip bag” sensation of different main pads. On my first journey out with it, on which I additionally used a brand new tent, it produced a sound just like rubbing balloons collectively. However I’ve not observed it since, main me to assume that it was the brand new pad, the brand new tent flooring, or the mixture of the 2 supplies.
The Insulated AXL is acceptable for Three-season circumstances, however not for shoulder seasons and undoubtedly not for winter. Personally, I discovered the Insulated AXL to be amply warm in temperatures of 40+ (four+ C) and to be acceptable in temperatures of 30+ (Zero+ C) as long as I took different measures to maximise my nighttime heat (e.g. deliver a warm sleeping bag, decide a delicate campsite, sleep in my insulated clothes, and eat and hydrate nicely earlier than mattress).
- Rated to 32 levels
- Three.75-inch thick outer tubes, Three.25-inch internal
- 20d high-tenacity rip-stop nylon prime and backside shell
- Primaloft Silver artificial insulation laminated to a Mylar sheet
- 5 SKU’s, various with form, size, and width
- 10.6 to 15.9 oz, relying on the dimensions
- $160 to $250, relying on the dimensions
For many who prioritize pack weight and quantity, the Insulated AXL is one in every of two Three-season pads that I can personally advocate, together with the aforementioned XLite.
On paper, different contenders embrace the:
- Exped SynMat UL ($170, 13 oz), which is probably the most similar to the AXL and XLite, and which is reportedly snug, warm, and quiet;
- Klymit Insulated Static V Ultralight SL ($120, 16 oz), which is a couple of ounces heavier however a superb worth;
- NEMO Tensor Insulated Ultralight ($160, 15 oz), which has been up to date for 2019, probably inflicting closeouts of the present mannequin; and,
- Sea-to-Summit Insulated Ultralight ($140, 17 oz), which is heavy however has confirmed dependable.
Big Agnes Insulated AXL vs Therm-A-Relaxation NeoAir XLite
The Insulated AXL is extra snug than the XLite. It’s thicker and has outsized outdoors tubes, and it’s quieter.
However the XLite is hotter. I do not hesitate in utilizing the XLite on elk searching journeys within the Colorado Rockies in November, and even on winter journeys once I should sleep on snow. I might not use the Insulated AXL past Three-season circumstances.
In case your backpacking season extends into colder months, the XLite might cowl you utterly. Whereas should you have been to buy the Insulated AXL, you’d want a further cold-weather pad.
When the Insulated AXL was first launched, Big Agnes advisable a usable vary of 15 to 35 levels F (-9 to 2 C) on its web site and product packaging. Based mostly on my expertise I consider these tips have been beneficiant, and sadly REI — which was the unique distributor of the AXL and Insulated AXL when it was first launched — hyped expectations much more by promoting it merely as a 15-degree pad.
Clients have been not happy, and revenged their sleepless nights by giving the Insulated AXL many 1-star critiques.
Per the producer web site, presently the Insulated AXL is “rated to 32 degrees.” There’s no dialogue of how Big Agnes arrived at this quantity, or precisely what it means — i.e. Is 32 levels a consolation restrict, or a decrease sure? And beneath what circumstances (e.g. sleeping bag temperature score, shelter sort, floor floor composition) would this score apply?
What’s the R-value of the Insulated AXL?
Big Agnes does not publish (and, from what I can inform, does not check in-house) R-values, which is a exact measure of a pad’s resistance to conductive warmth switch. These values are helpful in evaluating absolutely the and relative heat of a sleeping pad.
Why? Len Zanni, a co-owner of Big Agnes, defined to me in an e mail that, “We believe [R-values] are still not consistent. Different brands use different testing methods. Until there is a standard (we’re involved in industry efforts here) we’re trying to guide users into the right pads using recommended season and a season spectrum guide (on product packaging).”
Why is the Insulated AXL not very warm?
To know why the Insulated AXL is much less warm than different pads, it’s helpful to know its development. The pad is sort of constructed like a sandwich:
- The bread: 20d high-tenacity rip-stop nylon; and,
- The meat (or the vegies, for my Boulder readers): Primaloft Silver artificial insulation laminated to a Mylar sheet.
Primaloft Silver is obtainable in several weights (e.g. 30, 60, perhaps 100 grams per sq. meter). Big Agnes will not share the insulation weight used within the Insulated AXL, which it considers proprietary info. However based mostly on what I can really feel and see, I think that the lightest model of Primaloft Silver was used. It could possibly be shortly confirmed, utilizing primary geometry formulation and understanding that there’s a 1.Zero-ounce distinction between the 20″ x 72″ mummy AXL and Insulated AXL (that are in any other case precisely the identical).
Not solely did it use a very light-weight insulation, however Big Agnes additionally needed to:
- Minimize holes within the insulation, in order that the underside and prime sheets could possibly be quilted collectively; and,
- Minimize the insulation in two (one half insulates the higher physique; the opposite half, the decrease physique), creating a niche between these sheets.
Big Agnes was additionally unable to connect the insulation to the sides of the pad, leaving an insulation-less hole round its perimeter.
With all of those holes and gaps, body-warmed air and ground-cooled air can flow into too simply, particularly with lively sleepers. Hotter pads extra successfully lure air.
If Big Agnes might have produced a hotter pad with out affecting the load or worth of the Insulated AXL, I’m positive that it might have. That is merely the price of a 12-oz.pad that’s almost 4 inches thick.
My Insulated AXL has not but sprung a leak. However I’m cautious with it. YMMV.
A shopper managed to interrupt the valve on certainly one of my pads. I didn’t hear an evidence, however I guess it occurred whereas rolling it up — if the valve flap is not in a “closed” place, it might get caught between the sheets and be torn off.
Fortunately, the broken pad continues to be usable: I blow it up utterly and cap it as shortly as I can. About 25 % of the air is misplaced, however that’s nonetheless a lot — and, in reality, that degree of inflation is nearly good.
Inflation and deflation
It’s a chore to explode the Insulated AXL, requiring about 20 robust exhales. That’s just a few breaths greater than the XLite however it appears worse, as a result of the valve permits for unrestricted inflation. The reducer on the XLite slows the method, serving to to keep away from light-headedness.
In the event you assume backpacking is tough sufficient already, contemplate the Big Agnes PumpHouse Extremely ($35, Three oz), which doubles as a stuff sack.
Deflation of the Insulated AXL is quick and straightforward: open the cap and press the valve flap. I do it whereas laying on the pad earlier than I rise up — the physique weight helps to expel a lot of the air.
Purchase now: Big Agnes Insulated AXL Sleeping Pad
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