Preview: Big Agnes AXL Air Pads || Finally, competition for the NeoAir

The AXL Air Pad and Insulated AXL Air Pad (photo) are new for Spring 2018 from Big Agnes. They are the first pads to rival and even surpass the specs of the NeoAir.

In addition to the new Tiger Wall UL tent, the other Big Agnes product that caught my attention at Outdoor Retailer was the AXL Air Pad. It’s new for spring 2018, and like the Tiger Wall is available exclusively from REI through May 31. It comes in two versions:

  • AXL Air ($140, 9.6 oz), for summer conditions and “warm” 3-season campsites; and,
  • Insulated AXL Air ($180, 11.9 oz), for 3-season conditions and mild winter weather.

Reigning champ: the NeoAir

The AXL is the first sleeping pad that truly competes with the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite which since the late-2000’s has offered an unmatched combination of weight, warmth, and comfort. Some pads are lighter (e.g. a torso-length foam pad), but not nearly as warm or comfortable. Other pads can match or exceed the XLite’s warmth and comfort (e.g. Exped MegaMat 10), but are not in the same weight class.

The XLite version been my go-to for years, and I’ve put hundreds of nights on mine. Besides its price, the chief drawback of the NeoAir is that it crinkles like a potato chip bag. Occasionally, I have heard of and seen delamination issues, but I think the technology has improved with time; plus, there’s a solid warranty behind it.

Typical summer camp for me: sleeping under the stars with a quilt or mummy bag, and a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite.

Insulated AXL Air

The Insulated AXL Air goes head-to-head with the NeoAir XLite. They both:

  • Weigh about 12 oz and cost about $175 for size Regular;
  • Have R-values of about 3; and,
  • Give the sensation of sleeping on a potato chip bag, although BA claims the AXL pad is “much quieter” than the NeoAir.

But in some respects the the AXL ups the ante:

  • It’s 50 percent thicker than the XLite (3.75-inch max height versus 2.5 inches);
  • The outer tubes are oversized, to better cradle the sleeper; and,
  • It should be more stable and even, since it has quilted construction, not horiontal baffles.

The Insulated AXL Air is available in five versions: one mummy-shaped in size Regular, and four rectangular versions with varying widths and heights.

To insulate the sleeper from the ground, the Insulated AXL Air relies on Primaloft Silver synthetic-fill insulation, which is laminated inside to a heat-reflective film. Big Agnes says that it can be inflated by mouth, although in consideration of the volume of air that it holds I might recommend the Big Agnes Pumphouse. I can inflate a 2.5-inch XLite with 13 breaths, so the the AXL will probably take about 20. When camping at 10,000 feet above sea level you might discover the downside to such a thick pad.

Damn, those weights are impressive. Even better: it’s 3.75 inches thick!


Meanwhile, the non-insulated AXL Air seems to be in a league of its own. A 3.75-inch thick pad for 9.6 oz in size Regular? Awesome. Currently, this niche is serviced only by delicate inflatable pool toys and by the Sea to Summit Ultralight Pad, which has an R-value of 0.7 and weighs 13.9 oz in size Regular.

The non-insulated AXL will struggle in non-summer conditions. To supplement its warmth, try:

  • Using an extra warm sleeping bag;
  • Layer it over a thin foam pad or extra gear, like a backpack; or,
  • Using it on soft ground that is less thermally conductive, instead of hard-packed ground.

The AXL Air will be available in fewer sizes than the insulated version, which is probably a good indication of BA’s sales forecasts.

The non-insulated AXL Air Pad is lighter and less expensive, and packs smaller than the insulated version.


Big Agnes sounds excited about the construction techniques used in the AXL pads. The lamination process uses aviation-grade technology, and the production and quality assurance processes are the same as those used for aviation and medical products. Durability should be good.

Spec comparison

How do the AXL Air and Insulated AXL Air compare to the longstanding reigning champ of 3-season ultralight sleeping pads, the NeoAir XLite?

Questions about the AXL Air Pads? Leave a comment. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll get it from Big Agnes.

Disclosure. I strive to offer field-tested and trustworthy information, insights, and advice. I have no financial affiliations with or interests in any brands or products, and I do not publish sponsored content

This website is supported by affiliate marketing, whereby for referral traffic I receive a small commission from select vendors like Amazon or REI, at no cost to the reader. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


  1. ColoradoDrew on February 6, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Hey Andrew! As usual, stellar write-up. Do either of these new variations from BA sound like an annoying bag of Lay’s Potato Chips like the Therm-a-rest versions do? It’s my only irritation with the NeoAir.

    • Andrew Skurka on February 6, 2018 at 12:44 pm

      The AXL pads use mylar film, so it will sound similarly crinkly.

      • ColoradoDrew on February 6, 2018 at 1:22 pm

        Bummer! Thanks Andrew!

    • Andrew Skurka on February 16, 2018 at 10:45 am

      I have an update on this, according to the BA development team: “Our AXL pads are much quieter than NeoAir. Our lamination process is different than theirs and that helps to tone down the crinkle sound.”

      I can’t confirm it, but I would hope that a claim of “much quieter” would translate into noticeably less crinkly-ness, not just something measurable by a decibel reader.

      • Drew on February 16, 2018 at 11:04 am

        Oh NOW you have me intrigued to try it! I have a foam pad and don’t want to sacrifice weight for an inflatable – but also HATE the potato chip bag sound so never wanted to buy a NeoAir. This may be a good alternative if it’s quieter. Thanks for the follow-up, Andrew!

      • Brian Vinci on February 17, 2018 at 2:25 pm

        Do you think it is a competitor to the Xtherm in terms of warmth?

        • Andrew Skurka on February 17, 2018 at 2:31 pm

          The insulated version should be comparable to the XLite.

          BA has no answer to the XTherm. But, Therm-a-Rest has no answer to the non-insulated AXL Air, either.

          • Scott on March 13, 2018 at 7:29 pm

            Review video online says no sound with the insulated version.

          • Paul on May 17, 2018 at 5:43 pm

            Hi Andrew – what do you mean by this, exactly?

          • Andrew Skurka on May 17, 2018 at 5:48 pm

            BA’s warmest pad, the Insulated AXL, is not nearly as warm as the XTherm (and not as warm as the XLite either).

            But Therm-a-Rest’s lightest pad, the XLite, is 30 percent heavier than the non-insulated AXL.

          • Paul on May 17, 2018 at 6:14 pm

            Gotcha. Ordering the AXL. Sounds best overall for my needs, though not easy to obtain in Canada yet. Great review.

  2. PaulK on February 6, 2018 at 2:49 pm

    I always thought of the exped synmat as a good competitor to the neoair. Similar specs, etc.

    • Andrew Skurka on February 6, 2018 at 4:39 pm

      Exped is close, but not quite there. And its distribution is not nearly as widespread.

      • Jack Brauer on February 7, 2018 at 9:43 am

        Just wondering why you think the Exped Synmat is not quite there? I was a Neoair user for years, and was forced to buy a Synmat when the Neoair developed a leak while on a long road trip. Turns out I actually like the Synmat better — basically because it’s more comfortable. The vertical tubes of the Synmat are more comfy than the horizontals on the Neoair, the side tubes are bulkier to keep you on the mat, and the surface is smoother and not crinkly. Also the inflation valve system is superior. Downside is that the warranty is only 2 years vs lifetime.

        Anyhow it’s nice to see a Big Agnes competitor in the mix too!

      • Tyler on February 7, 2018 at 11:31 am

        The Exped Synmat HL has an R-Value of 3.3 and weighs 12.3 oz. I think it’s fair to say that it’s “there” as far as specs go. I personally don’t like the Exped mummy cut, but if you do then it’s directly comparable to the the two pads in this blog post.

        Nice to have 3 very different design options at the same weight and warmth… Horizontal, vertical, or square type baffles. It seems everyone has their own preference on which is most comfortable.

      • John on February 10, 2018 at 6:17 pm

        I too have the synmat hyperlite. So much less noisy than the neoair and I like the feel of it better as well. Plus you can get a wide version of it at 14oz. As I’ve trimmed to more zpacks and other ul gear, I actually went to the wide as a “luxury” 2 oz. But to say its not there? Maybe if you had a strong preference of baffle direction. But weight is a push, shape is a push, and noise and feel hands down go to the exped. The axl is intriguing- but I want to see how many complaints there are on leaks before I invest. Maybe next Christmas.

  3. dizzy on February 6, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    How about the valves? I’m on my 4th neoair from busted valves (usually happens around 800 miles in on a pad), which is my main complaint with that pad. I’m also curious about how comfy it should be for side and belly sleepers, definitely looks better than a cutout pad like klymit, but that “lip” around the edges has me wondering. Thanks for the review btw.

    • Andrew Skurka on February 6, 2018 at 4:37 pm

      I’ve used a similar valve on a prototype SD pillow, and they’re awesome, much better than the conventional twist style on the Thermarest. It’s a flap over the hole that stays in place when there is pressure inside the mat. Imagine water inside a room — if the door is designed to swing into the room, the pressure of the door will keep it shut. But it’s a fairly big hole, about 1 inch in diameter. To release the pressure, stick your finger through the hole to break the seal.

  4. jorvack on February 6, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    I have been super happy with my Klymit inertia, the cut-outs providing significant insulation where the down fills in. How would you rate the V ULTRALITE SL?

    11.9 oz R 1.3 99.95 ?

    I had the Therma Neo for a few years but it had some leak issues, it was loud, and I found the beam construction bouncy.

  5. Justin on February 6, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    Great write-up, Andrew.

    The valve on this pad sounds similar to those of Exped mats. Are they comparable? In particular, for those who already own the Exped Schnozzel Pumpbag, would that likely work rather than having to buy a Big Agnes Pumphouse?

    • Andrew Skurka on February 6, 2018 at 6:07 pm

      They appear similar, but I’m not familiar enough with both to specify the differences.

      • Dave on April 12, 2018 at 3:04 pm

        The valves on the AXL air pads are not the same as the Exped pads. I just bought the AXL air, and my exped schnozzle pump sack doesn’t fit! I agree with others in this posting, the Exped mats don’t get enough credit. They are a solid product.

        • Maria on April 24, 2018 at 6:37 pm

          Hey Dave : have you already used it? I’m so tempted to buy it….is it noisy?

          • Andrew Skurka on April 25, 2018 at 2:44 pm

            Amanda and I spent two nights on them last weekend. They’re not crinkly, but they are noisy, more of a squeaking. I need to do some additional testing to determine if it was related to the tent floor (brand new PU-coated nylon) or if it’s independent of that.

  6. Colin McVey on February 6, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    Thanks for the write up!

    My only complaint with the NeoAir is that the sides aren’t supportive; roll off the center portion and you’ll collapse it or just slide off the side. As mine got quiet(er) after about 30 nights on it I’m otherwise pretty happy. I’d be very curious to see if this BA pad supports all the way across as I’m a side sleeper.

  7. Richie on February 6, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    I’m pretty sure the BA valves are the same size as the Exped. Not owned a ba pad though so maybe best to compare.

    • Kristin on April 6, 2018 at 2:19 pm

      They are not the same. Just bought the AXL and the pump sack, the pump sack will not work on my current exped7 as the hole is smaller on the exped.

      • Kristin on August 5, 2018 at 9:11 pm

        I have now used my pad a few times and I love it. It is a little noisy, but it is also some of the best sleep I have ever had in a tent.

  8. Joshua McDowell on February 7, 2018 at 10:05 am

    Looks like a rip off of sea to summits line of sleeping pads.

  9. MarkL on February 7, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    I have an XTherm and the Seatosummit Insulated Ultralight. The S2S is a little heavier, but is stable, has a really solid, durable feel, is a little less crinkly (but still noisy), and the valve is fantasitc, especially paired with the Jet Stream pump. Unfortunately as a side sleeper and not exactly svelte, I’ve found it is not quite thick enough and I get some hip contact and soreness. I have been considering sacrificing the weight to get the Insulated Comfort Light. A better night’s sleep is probably worth a few ounces to me.

    Do you have a sense of whether the BA fabric is as durable as the Seatosummit? And do you know if the valve is compatible? It looks very similar.

    • @unnamedpeaks on February 8, 2018 at 11:46 am

      I have had two Xlite pads. One lasted one night before getting a leak, the other two. (I slept on a clean ground sheet). From what I can tell, I got unlucky as many people have been using the same pad for 2 years. I also hate the old style stem valve.

      At REI, to return the second one and try to figure out what to do, I watched a sales rep from Sea to Summit, who was there for a demo, jump up and down as hard as he could on the STS Insulated Ultralight with heavy mountaineering boots. He also poked a hole in a pad and patched it with the included sticker, reinflated it, and proceeded to jump up and down on it again. The STS is thick enough for me, and I can inflate it in 12 breaths, and it deflates completely instantly. I was sold, have used for two seasons and am happy with it.

      Both the BA and StS pads use a nylon with TPU lamination. The BA uses a 20 denier and the StS uses a 40 denier. They both use synthetic insulation laminated to a silver piece of mylar. The StS is 1.5″ wider, the BA is 1″ thicker. Given how similar they are, I can only assume the BA pads lighter weight would come at the cost of durability. I’ll give it a year and see what luck people have before I upgrade, but the 5 oz of weight savings sounds good.

  10. Kango on February 10, 2018 at 12:56 am

    For some reason my Neoair Xlite regular weighs 14.46oz or 410grams.

    I’d like to get something that is thicker and the larger outer baffles is great. This hits pretty much everything I want.

    • Andrew Skurka on February 11, 2018 at 8:40 am

      Are you sure it’s a Regular? 20 x 72?

      It’s such a precisely manufactured product that I’m surprised the weight would be off by 2.5 oz versus the spec. I can’t think of an explanation for that discrepancy. In fact, I’d call Therm-a-Rest and ask for an explanation. It just doesn’t seem right.

      • Kango on February 16, 2018 at 3:40 am

        Yup, I was surprised too and did send them a email about it with the serial number of the pad and never got a reply.

        I just took these photos just now.

        I appreciate your reply.

        • Shannon W on February 27, 2018 at 2:26 pm

          Kango did you measure this when you got your Neoair, or after a few nights? If after a few nights could it possibly be from trapped condensation from your breath?

          • Kango on March 1, 2018 at 5:10 pm

            That would be a lot of moisture retention. Also I store all my pads flat with the valve open and use a pump sack. I own the Thermarest pump sack but found it too heavy and just use a compactor bag and a elastic instead.

  11. Hunter on February 11, 2018 at 1:07 am

    Why wouldn’t they offer the insulated pad in a mummy shape? Bizarre decision if they truly want to compete with the neo air considering so many people have dialed in their kids around a mummy shaped sleeping pad already. Not to mention it would actually weigh less…I pre-ordered one and I’m looking forward to checking it out.

    • Andrew Skurka on February 11, 2018 at 8:36 am

      The Insulated AXL Air is available as a mummy, but just in one size: 20 x 72. It’s 10.6 oz.

      Refer to the third image from the top for a listing of available sizes and weights.

      • Hunter G Hall on February 17, 2018 at 7:48 pm

        I struggle to see the reasoning to buy the non-insulated version then, which weighs only 1oz less…

        • Andrew Skurka on February 17, 2018 at 7:59 pm

          1. Save $40.

          2. When nighttime temperatures are warm, maybe even mild for hot sleepers, the warmth of the insulated pad is a liability, not an advantage.

  12. Hunter G Hall on February 24, 2018 at 5:15 pm

    Seems they also have new CCF pads:

    I saw one in person and it claims to be a ‘4 season mat’.

    Any insight from OR?

    • Andrew Skurka on February 24, 2018 at 11:31 pm

      I saw them from about 10 feet away, but don’t find foam to be very interesting.

  13. Patrick on February 25, 2018 at 9:06 pm

    I’m a very cold sleeper especially at about 3am. Hypothyroid, I never get too warm on the ground. Any recommendations for a pad with a higher R value that that’s not for car camping.

    • MarkL on February 25, 2018 at 9:34 pm

      Neoair XTherm R-5.7. Has standard stem valve and is crinkly. a 3/4 length Z-rest under a pad adds R2.7 for 10 oz or 14 oz for full length.

    • Andrew Skurka on February 26, 2018 at 9:17 am

      If you’re getting cold at 3 AM, you problem may not be that you’re a cold sleeper. It may be that your body has burned through dinner, and has no wood to keep the fire burning, so to speak. This happens to me frequency, especially when the nights are longer and I’m spending more time in my bag. The solution is simple: bring some food to bed, and have a midnight snack when you wake up from being cold. Your dentist will hate the idea, but you’ll probably warm back up and sleep well until morning.

      • MarkL on February 26, 2018 at 1:34 pm

        Just be aware there are places you should definitely not bring food in your tent. The mouse population around some of the sites at Ross Lake in WA is insane. 🙂

  14. Patrick on February 26, 2018 at 10:07 am

    Thanks for posting the summer gear picture. Do you have a list of your summer gear somewhere and or links?

  15. Hunter G Hall on March 1, 2018 at 9:26 am

    I slept on this pad (20×72 insulated) last night in 40 degree weather on a concrete slab with no bivy or tent and a 20º ZPacks quilt.

    First impression:

    Hands down MUCH quieter than the NeoAir. Not even a comparison.

    More comfortable than NeoAir.

    Edges are certainly more stable than the NeoAir, but not as stable as I think they’d like you to believe. I purposely got a regular size to see if I could deal with it since I have a large NeoAir XLite and Xtherm.

    The valve on BA pads is lightyears better than NeoAir.

    Of most concern is the warmth factor though… I found this pad to be less warm than an X-LIte, at least in my unscientific experiment.

    No beta on durability obviously.

    If TAR can get a valve like that on their pads and incorporate a vertical baffle on the edges to make them more stable, it would be a lightsaber tier product in my opinion, irrespective of the crinkling.

    • Colin on March 1, 2018 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks for the info!

    • MarkL on March 13, 2018 at 9:55 pm

      I live in Seattle where Cascade Designs/ThermaRest is king, but the valve has really become a deal-breaker for me. I don’t want to go back to the stem.

  16. chris on March 27, 2018 at 11:23 am

    Like many who will be considering this pad, you likely have been or will be looking at the NeoAir Xlite pad as well. It is my belief that BA wanted to do one better than the NeoAir, and in their pursuit of saving grams, utilized a flawed design for the insulation – If you hold it up to the light you see that the insulation has a Swiss-cheese pattern with large holes placed in it where the tacking connects the top and bottom of the pad – Imagine if you placed quarter-sized holes every inch or so throughout your puffy – do you think it would still be effective at insulating you? I just returned from what was planned to be a two night outing in the North Woods of Michigan. I only stayed out one night due to this pad. The pad is rated to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. It dropped to 20 the night I spent on this pad, and I got the worst sleep I’ve had yet in the woods – worse sleep than when with the flu sans meds. I slept perhaps a total of 2 hours which was accumulated in-between waking up shaking uncontrollably and getting a little nervous for my safety, I must say. Praise be to the Z-Seat I had to place under my torso. That is what made a potentially unsafe situation merely a miserable one. Had this pad held to it’s claimed rating, I would have given it 5 stars. Minus the insulation, it is designed very well, using what seem to be very durable materials. The slightly-larger outside baffles are a nice touch, and the valve seems durable and well-designed. It packs very small and at under 12 grams, is very light. I think it’d be fine for summer camping and perhaps the milder parts of the shoulder seasons. Were the flaw, or my complaint with this item associated with basic design, the valve, baffle placement, etc. I’d maybe knock off one star. But, because the flaw has to do with the most important property of this pad (keeping you warm, thus safe) I have to give it one star. I feel BA is risking your safety by claiming a temperature rating that this pad absolutely cannot hold to. That is negligent as well as unethical. Important details: I was in a 20 degree bag that I’ve taken to lower temps comfortably, had on multiple synthetic layers (including tights), a wool sweater, my puffy, a Buff, gloves, (finger less) and my beanie.

    • Andrew Skurka on March 28, 2018 at 12:30 pm

      I’ve written BA a long list of questions, and will try to get a response back for you about the supposed warmth of this pad and the “missing insulation” concerns that have been raised elsewhere online.

  17. chris on March 28, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    I believe that the Swiss-cheese pattern for the insulation has been used by other manufacturers successfully – to what temp rating, I’ve no clue. It may be an effective design, but I wonder if the poor performance can be attributed to the insulation not being secured internally to one of the opposing faces of the pad – it floats freely inside, so it seemingly falls to the bottom of the pad when prone, leaving the user to enjoy inches of freezing cold air. I called BA yesterday to relay my experience and disappointment. Unfortunately, I was met more with company defense than I was customer service. It’s a shame, because I believe that my experience and input (and that of others) should be welcomed and acted upon. But, it’s early yet with the pad being so new and unrealistic to expect a jump to action on the part of BA. We’ll see what time brings….and their response to your list of questions. Cheers.

    • Andrew Skurka on March 28, 2018 at 5:02 pm

      Since I’m not an engineer and I’ve never developing a sleeping pad, I’m going to be very cautious with assuming that some of what has been observed (e.g. holes in the mylar for the quilting, free-floating mylar in the torso half) adversely affects its warmth. I imagine some of it does — but some of it could be intentional (because it’s better that way) and some of it may be a function of manufacturing limitations, in which case it is what it is.

      The more important thing is that BA provides technical explanations for these observations and that it helps to set customer expectations appropriately. For example, REI has specified 15- and 30-degree temp ratings for the insulated and non-insulated versions, respectively. But what the heck does that mean? Does that mean I won’t die if it’s 16 degrees? Is that rating valid on snow or compacted ground that is thermally dense?

      BA confirmed receipt of my questions and it sounds like they’re serious about answering them. Will let you know.

      • Kango on April 3, 2018 at 9:19 pm

        Looking forward to the response. Can you create a updated post with the answers?

        • Andrew Skurka on April 4, 2018 at 12:36 pm

          I’m still waiting on the answers. Was told an hour ago that, “The crew is working on it for sure.”

          Not sure if it will be a separate post or if I will add it to this one. Depends on length of the answers and how they will affect the readability of this post.

          • Kango on May 8, 2018 at 9:39 pm

            Did you get a answer yet?

          • Andrew Skurka on May 9, 2018 at 4:02 pm

            I did. I’ll share them when I post a product review, which is in the works.

  18. Patricia on April 7, 2018 at 11:46 pm

    You don’t mention the Nemo Tensor Insulated. It’s much quieter than both and takes only 12 puffs to inflate its 3″ thickness. Just 11 oz. It packs down smaller than both. Because I usually bring a 10 oz, 51″ z-lite Thermarest with me too for so many uses including a seat or to lay on a rock in the sun with, I will place that under the Nemo and talk about perfection. And quiet. No potato chip bag. I’m never cold, never had a leak with the Nemo or lost air.

    • Langleybackcountry on May 23, 2018 at 10:55 am

      I was really interested in the Tensor/Vector series, but saw multiple Vector reviews on REI that call the quality/durability into question with tiny pinhole leaks.

  19. Hunter on April 13, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    I tested the x-lite alongside the AXL insulated and an XTherm last night in Mammoth with temperatures down to 14°.

    The XLite is a bit warmer than the AXL, but not as stable or comfortable and much louder.

    I will probably use the AXL mummy for most three season trips but if temperatures dip below freezing reliably, I will just use the XTherm.

    • Andrew Skurka on April 19, 2018 at 10:07 am

      We took two Insulated AXL pads with us to Utah. They are definitely comfortable, but we found them quite noisy — no crinkling, but lots of squeaking. I wonder if it was related to the coating on the brand-new tent floor, but it seemed independent of that contact point. What was your experience?

      • Langleybackcountry on April 19, 2018 at 11:04 am

        Is it similar to the Sea to Summit? I had that issue with the Ultralight Insulated when I first got it. It has quieted down somewhat after a few nights and rolling/unrolling. How was the warmth? I have seen other reviewers complaining it is not nearly what they thought it should be or what BA claims.

        • Andrew Skurka on April 19, 2018 at 11:08 am

          It’s sure as hell not a 15-degree pad. But I think it’s a solid 3-season pad, with temps down to around freezing. On our second night we camped on a slickrock slab, with temps in the low-40’s and a steady wind. It seemed a little cold, but I was under-dressed for that combination of conditions.

  20. Shawn on April 23, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    I’ll be curious to see someone try and trim and reseal one of these. I have a Klymit V ultralite SL that I trimmed to 48″, which makes it 6.7 oz. I prefer a 25″ wide torso length pad, but they don’t really exist as far as I know. I use my pack under my legs, but I roll around a lot so the 25″ width of wide pads is much better for me.

    The Big Agnes AXL non insulated (wide) would be perfect to convert, as I would assume it would come out around 7-8 oz.

    • Andrew Skurka on April 25, 2018 at 2:54 pm

      This seems obsessive to me. Why buy a high-tech 9.6 oz pad, cut 22 inches off the length, and reseal it with glue and thread in order to save 2-ish ounces? If it fails, you’re out $180+ and the warranty is not valid. And if it works, you have a 3.25-inch to 3.75-inch displacement between your body parts that are on your pad versus those that are off. I’m not a sleep doctor, but I can’t imagine the body prefers that arrangement.

  21. Katie on May 22, 2018 at 6:18 pm

    Hey Andrew, thanks for the review. I’m in the market for a thicker pad being a side sleeper. My Thermarest Trail Lite isn’t cutting it anymore. I’m looking forward to your full product review, which you mentioned is in the works. I’m debating between this one, a Q Core, and a Sea to Summit. It would definitely be nice to have a lighter, smaller pad like this. But based on the reviews, I wonder about the warmth, though I usually sleep pretty warm and don’t really do any winter camping, so it might be fine for me. I also wonder how durable it is as it seems a lot thinner.

    • Langleybackcountry on May 22, 2018 at 11:24 pm

      I have a S2S Insulated Ultralight. I an a 50+ year old side sleeper, not in exactly svelte condition. 🙂 I’ve had it for a couple of years. In most respects I love it.
      -The valve is fantastic.
      -The support is very good. It has a very durable feel.
      But there are some caveats.
      – The feel of the material is kind of plastic, so a base layer or cover (I sometimes use the Thermarest sheet) makes it more comfortable with a quilt in warmer weather. It is somewhat ironic that you might want to add a few ounces in warmer weather.
      – It isn’t the lightest pad out there, especially given the thickness. I have a Nemo that is thicker and lighter, but it deflated part way in moderate temps (~40 degF +/-). I tested it after the trip and it doesn’t leak.
      – It was very noisy at first. It has gotten better, but not as quiet as the Nemo.
      – It isn’t quite thick enough to prevent hip contact. I am considering the Comfort Light Insulated. I am of an age where carrying a few more ounces is a very fair trade-off for better sleep.

    • Langleybackcountry on May 23, 2018 at 10:38 am

      BTW: I am not badmouthing Nemo. They have some good options. The integrated pump is a little heavier, but a totally unique option as far as I know, and worth checking out.

      Even as someone who lives in Seattle, the home of Cascade Designs/Thermarest, I believe they are falling behind, especially in valve design. I never want to go back to a stem valve.

  22. Patrick Ploenzke on May 23, 2018 at 5:36 am

    I gave up searching.
    Purchased the Outdoor Vitals pad.
    I tested it a couple of nights down to 25F. I was too warm in my 30 degree bag and had to shed my sleep layers. I always got cold on my old self inflating pad.
    For the price I’m happy with it. For now.

  23. meee on May 24, 2018 at 12:18 am

    The web is full of reports of ppl complaining about the uneven insulation, resulting in cold spots.
    What’s up with this? It’s the mat a product fail?

    • Andrew Skurka on May 24, 2018 at 9:02 am

      My experience so far (which my cold-sleeping wife shared) consisted of sleeping in mid-40-deg temps on sand and slickrock slabs. No issues for us.

      REI’s original marketing was definitely inappropriate. They were calling it a 15-deg pad, and I don’t think it’s close to that. One of the co-founders of BA told me in an email, “We don’t publish R-values as we believe they 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. As for temp rating, we are adjusting this as REI posted this differently than we anticipated. We call it a three season pad on our site and packaging showing range of 15-35 degrees F. As you know, there are so many variables related to sleeping warm in terms of what you’re sleeping on ie. Frozen ground or dirt, the bag you’re using, fatigue, dehydration, nutrition, etc…”

  24. Asolthane on May 26, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    That’s all well and good, but the reports coming in online are all saying it’s nowhere near as warm as the x-lite. I hope you will report back with your experience pushing it to below freezing temps, Andrew.

    I use a Sea to Summit ultralight insulated. Similar insulation strategy, though a thinner pad (not sure if that would mean warmer or colder). I find it adequate for 3 season use, but would appreciate more warmth when I am not able to find an ideal campsite.

  25. John on June 15, 2018 at 11:26 am

    I just completed 3 months on the AT. I started with a Neoair and switched to the BA AXL by the end of the first week. I am very happy with the rectangular shape and thickness. However, after 2+ months on the trail, the noise did not subside at all. I’m gearing up for a New Zealand trip in Oct (Te Araroa) and am questioning whether my AXL will make the trip. I’m a tummy sleeper and every time i shifted, the noise woke me up. Even other hikers mentioned the noise from my pad. It could be the fabric of my sleeping bag against the sleeping pad material results in an unfortunate combination, but noise definitely needs to be considered with this mat.

    • Andrew Skurka on June 15, 2018 at 1:34 pm

      Right, it’s not a “potato chip crinkle” but it’s a deep squeak/groan, almost like rubbing balloons against each other.

      • Langleybackcountry on June 15, 2018 at 2:29 pm

        That description is similar to how I would describe the Sea2Summit pad.

  26. meee on August 5, 2018 at 9:16 am

    Any latest reports regarding insulation?

    • Andrew Skurka on August 6, 2018 at 7:49 am

      Per Len at Big Agnes:

      The insulation layer does have die cut sections in it to make space for the welding of the top and bottom fabric layers and the mylar is actually bonded to the Primaloft Silver insulation and there are two sheets of insulation within each pad so there may be a slight gap between them when held up to the light. We don’t normally share the insulation weight for pads as we view it as proprietary information.

      • ooops on August 6, 2018 at 10:08 am

        Thanks for confirming.
        The web is full with reports of cold in exactly that area – which happens to be in the torso region where you absolutely don’t want cold spots.
        Looks like another BA pad failure after all the other rather unsuccessful attempts – too bad!
        I was really hoping for that one too dinghy get it right.

  27. Patrick on August 5, 2018 at 7:28 pm

    My current mat is a noise maker too. In a quiet camp my movement is loud enough to wake others. It’s both the mat, and the rubbing of my bag on my mat. Even louder is my mat and sleeping bag in my bridge hammock. That is combination of nylon on nylon and balloons rubbing together. The only mat I have that is quiet is the 10 dollar one with a crushed velvet top. Its only for car camping thou, the thing weight 3 pounds.

  28. John on August 5, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    After 3 months on the AT I’ve caved in and sent the pad back to Big Agnes. I’ve switched to a Klymit Static V Luxe. Definitely heavier but as silent as the grave from day one. No crinkle or balloon rubbing noise at all. Maybe someday the ultralight fabrics will be capable of silence. Until then, I’ll enjoy the larger, quieter pad and know the extra ounces equate to a quiet night’s sleep.

  29. Boyan on September 12, 2018 at 1:42 am

    After a TERRIBLE experience with a BA Q-core I will not touch this pad with a 10-foot pole. Me and another user experienced the same failure – some type of a stress induced tear around the “ribs” that produce the waffle pattern. Go check out our reviews on Amazon for details
    These same “ribs” are present on this pad. I surely need to loose a few pounds, but I would not think that at 215 lbs the thing should tear.

  30. Jeff Bartlett on September 17, 2018 at 1:00 am

    Bringing up an old post, but we took the bait and bought one Air and one insulated Axl pad for a thru hike this summer.

    Sadly, they both failed in exactly the same way and, even after 14 patches, ours can’t hold air through the night.

    While these BA pads are way more comfortable than a neo air, they aren’t quite there, in our opinion.

    NeoAir, with all their noise, remain the king.

Leave a Comment