GearCamping
Q:

Do you prefer self-inflating or inflatable sleeping pads?

Which is better, an insulated inflatable sleeping pad (such as the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core) or a self-inflating pad? I want to pack light, but I also want something durable and warm enough for three-season camping. Rick St. Louis, Missouri

A: It’s surprising to find how light an insulated air-filled sleeping pad can be. The Big Agnes Insulated Air Core in the 78-inch length and mummy configuration (meaning it’s tapered at the foot and head) gives you a comfortable cushion of air-filled chambers plus insulation from PrimaLoft. Yet it weighs a very competitive 23 ounces, and costs an equally competitive $75 (www.bigagnes.com). Not bad.

ProLite 3


Its chief competition would be something such as the Therm-a-Rest ProLite 3 ($80), a super-light edition of the famous, and original, self-inflating pad. It’s not as thick as the Big Agnes pad, and not quite as long, yet despite its high-tech materials it still weighs a fairly porky 20 ounces. So for a few extra ounces, you get a more comfortable night’s sleep on the Big Agnes pad.

Both, I will say, are perhaps a bit fragile, as they use very lightweight materials. The ProLite is even billed as a pad for extreme conditions, meaning it’s not an everyday knock-around pad. That would be something such as the Therm-a-Rest Trail ($50), which is a good everyday pad but weighs more than two pounds. Or, the InsulMat Max-Lite 1.5, regular length, which sells for $63 and weighs 29 ounces (www.rei.com).

You can go lighter, of course—Cascade Designs’ Z-Lite pad weighs 15 ounces, costs $35 (www.thermarest.com), and is really pretty comfortable (this being a relative term, of course). These days I find that while I can sleep on a non-inflatable pad such as a Z-Lite, I really, truly prefer the comfort of an inflatable pad and I’m usually willing to lug the extra eight to ten ounces to get that benefit. Call me a wimp.

Read more sleeping-pad reviews in Outside’s 2004 Buyer’s Guide .

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.
Contribute to Outside
Filed To: Sleeping Bag Accessories
Lead Photo: courtesy, Therm-a-Rest
More Gear