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Long-term review: Therm-a-Rest UberLite || 3-season pad for 8.8 oz

By Andrew Skurka / August 19, 2019 /

Therm-a-Rest revolutionized the sleeping pad category in the late-2000’s with the NeoAir XLite, which was lighter, warmer, and more comfortable than the prevailing self-inflating pads of the day. Use of the NeoAir technology was expanded, and other brands developed competing products, but the XLite has remained dominant among backpackers concerned with the weight of their…

Long-term review: Western Mountaineering AstraLite || Very warm & light

By Andrew Skurka / June 13, 2019 /

In a one-week period in April I fielded three inquiries about the Western Mountaineering AstraLite, which was released in spring 2018 and which I’ve used for about 30 nights while scouting the Yosemite High Route in August, guiding trips in Sequoia-Kings in September, and enduring cold-and-wet conditions in West Virginia in May. I will use…

Review: Big Agnes Insulated AXL Pad || Very light & comfy, not very warm

By Andrew Skurka / October 20, 2018 /

Until last spring, Big Agnes had no sleeping pads in its line that interested me. The pads looked comfortable, but they were considerably heavier than my time-tested Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite ($170, 12 oz). But with the AXL sleeping pad, Big Agnes caught my attention — its weight and thickness looked promising. The AXL comes in two…

Review: Sierra Designs Animas Pillow || Comfortable 2.1-oz inflatable for $25

By Andrew Skurka / March 14, 2018 /

Last summer I used a prototype of the new Sierra Designs Animas Pillow ($25, 2.1 oz) for about 30 nights. It was a similar experience to when I first used a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite (instead of foam): it’s hard to imagine reverting back to my old approach, which included sleeping on my: Soft-sided water bottles (full…

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

By Andrew Skurka / February 6, 2018 /

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…

Preview: Western Mountaineering Nanolite & Astralite || Premium UL quilts

By Andrew Skurka / January 30, 2018 /

Western Mountaineering is known for not chasing trends and for being supremely loyal to its retailers. So the news that it’s offering a sleeping quilt for spring 2018 says two things to me: Quilts are not a fad, and have perhaps reached critical mass; and, WM retailers became convinced — by either a compelling WM…

Stay warm when it’s wet: How to protect down insulation from moisture

By Andrew Skurka / November 7, 2017 /

When shopping for a sleeping bag, insulated jacket, or insulated pants, you will have a choice of insulations: Down, which is a commodity product measured by fill power, e.g. 800-fill; or, Synthetic, which is normally made of interwoven plastic fibers and which may be marketed as Primaloft, Climashield, or a proprietary version like TNF Thermoball.…

Review: Sierra Designs Nitro 800 mummy || Great price, ordinary design

By Andrew Skurka / October 18, 2017 /

The Sierra Designs spring 2018 line-up has two themes: (1) back to basics, and (2) better pricing. Innovation is not entirely lacking, evidenced by the “zipperless mummy” Cloud series (my review) and the High Side Tent (my review), but the “better and different” mantra was no longer a requirement of new products. Review: Sierra Designs…

Review: Sierra Designs Cloud 35 & 20 || Premium mummy/quilt hybrid

By Andrew Skurka / September 14, 2017 /

For eight consecutive nights in July, I slept in the https://goo.gl/ywp58a, which is new for spring 2018 and which may establish a new sleeping bag category. SD describes it as a “zipperless mummy,” but it takes just as many design cues from top bags and quilts. Review: Sierra Designs Cloud Sleeping Bag I can think…

Preview: Sierra Designs 2018 sleeping bags || Highlight: “Zipperless mummy”

By Andrew Skurka / July 30, 2017 /

The Sierra Designs 2018 sleeping bag program includes four distinct models, each with several temperature rating options and in a male and female version: an updated Backcountry Bed and Zissou mummy, and an entirely new Nitro and Cloud, which are an ultralight mummy and “zipperless mummy,” respectively. The Backcountry Bed and Nitro will be available…