Big Agnes gear comes highly recommended from the helpful staff at Out-n-Back, and I see it all over the place, so when I learned that they have the biggest packpacking sleeping bag, and have some unique features that you do, indeed, want, my decision was made. Because the store was out of the size and model of sleeping bag I wanted, I ordered the sleeping bag and pad from two different online retailers. I ordered the pad from www.campsaver.com and the sleeping bag from www.moosejaw.com. For the pad, I chose the Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad, entirely because it was the cheapest one that fit into the sleeping bag I want.
Moosejaw.com usefully decided that their 3-5 day shipping can take 8 days, so I don’t have the sleeping bag yet, and I couldn’t use it on my camping trip last weekend, so I don’t have anything to say about it yet. It’s supposed to arrive tomorrow, so wait for me to sleep in it once or twice before I review it.
The pad, though. I slept on the pad. I’m an incredibly finnicky sleeper. It’s one of my numerous charming faults. When I don’t sleep well, I tend to become a terrible, cranky person, so being reasonably comfortable while sleeping on the trail is of primary importance to me. My big concern with the pad was that it would suck and be useless, but I’m pleased to report that such was not the case.
Firstly, the actual experience of laying on the thing is really not bad. It won’t keep your hip or tailbone off of the ground, especially if you weigh as much as I do, but it does support everything else, which made it so I didn’t feel like I was laying on bare ground. My back wasn’t stiff in the slightest the next morning, I’m pleased to report.
My second concern was that I would pop it. I thought that I might have to leave it slightly underinflated or something, but I was wrong. The plastic, despite being suprisingly light and thin, is very, very durable. After a while, I was confident that I could roll over, sit up, lean on an elbow, etc, without doing any damage to the pad. That was quite a relief, because I got the thing on sale for $60, and that’s a lot of money for something that you have to replace every trip.
It has a clever mechanism for inflation. The thing unscrews a bit and you blow into the screw to inflate it. Then, when it’s as full as it gets, you spin it to close. It didn’t deflate at all when I closed it. Also, that rounded bit immediately inside the pad? It holds the plastic apart right there so that it deflats properly. I had a little trouble getting it deflated, but that was because then it’s folded, the air chambers can block themselves off. I still haven’t mastered the art of deflating the thing, but that’s my only complaint.
I haven’t slept on any other brand of pad. I picked this one solely because it was Big Agnes branded and designed to fit into the sleeping bag I ordered. However, after sleeping on it once, I don’t think I’ll have a need any time soon to branch out to any other equipment in this area. It does exactly what I wanted it to: let a fat person sleep comfortably while backpacking. What more can you ask?