Lighter, comfier, better. It’s the gear we want this season
Big Agnes is a company obsessed with getting you outdoors in comfort. The newest set of Big Agnes backpacking gear for spring—the Insulated AXL Air sleeping pad, Upper Slide and Katherine SL 20 sleeping bags and the Tiger Wall UL2 tent—definitely delivers on that mission.
From a pad that is just as thick but 25 percent lighter to synthetic sleeping bags that drape like down and a featherlight tent with plenty of room, these three pieces of gear are truly made with comfort in mind.
When Big Agnes employees talk about comfort in the outdoors, you can sense their excitement—they live to create rad gear. “We’re authentic because we can’t help ourselves. We’re a bunch of little kids who like what we do,” said Garth Evans, Big Agnes sales manager.
Many ideas come straight from their environment. “Our location in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, breeds innovation within our products,” said Garett Mariano, Big Agnes’ marketing director. “We’ve had tents evolve on recent employee backpacking trips. Bill Gamber, our co-founder and president, didn’t like the way a zipper was working and redesigned the door during the trip.”
We talked with Big Agnes about what makes these products unique.
When asked what makes the Insulated AXL (Awesome Xtra Light) Air Pad most impressive, Garett couldn’t pick one thing. Not only is it super light (11.9 ounces for the regular size) and rolls up to the size of a soda can, it’s comfortable too. The outer edges are taller than the inside of the pad, cradling you in the center for a more restful night of sleep. The larger outer edges also make for comfy nights in your hammock—in case you prefer sleeping above the ground.
Even better? It is quiet—unlike many other lighter pads on the market, thanks to the fabric Big Agnes uses. The aviation-grade TPU lamination plus high-tenacity ripstop nylon shell means that the fabric is 25 percent stronger than their other pads while still decreasing trail weight. “The AXL air pads are the lightest-weight full-featured pads on the market. … I never thought anyone would be able to make something as comfortable as our Q-Core SLX at more than 25 percent less weight. We definitely pushed the envelope with this one,” said Big Agnes designer Will McElwain. It’s also garnering industry recognition—the Insulated AXL Air Pad received a Backpacker Editors’ Choice 2018 award.
Big Agnes Pro Tip: Although very durable, since the AXL pads use some of the lightest materials possible, care needs to be taken when using and storing them (just as you would with any air pad). Clear your campsite of any sharp objects and store them in the included storage sack for a little extra protection in your gear closet or pack.
Packed Size: Regular: 3 x 6.5 inches
Pad Thickness: 3.75 inches
Dimensions: Regular: 20 x 72 x 3.75 inches
Weight: Regular: 11.9 ounces
1101 Series Bags Katherine (Women’s) and Upper Slide (Men’s) SL 20 Sleeping Bags
Backpacking gets easier with these synthetic bags. They keep their loft, even after sustained compression—which is necessary for longer trips. Big Agnes has achieved this through the exclusive use of the new PrimaLoft® Black Insulation Hi-Loft Ultra—which is a fancy name for 80 percent recycled synthetic insulation with super fluffy loft that keeps you toasty warm. It also packs down small (it compresses down to just 11.6 liters for the women’s regular), so you can take it on a one-nighter or thru-hike.
Plus, Big Agnes designed the bag so that it drapes over your body the way a down bag does. “It took many in-house mock-ups, full samples and working closely with our manufacturing partner to finally find the right construction,” said Big Agnes designer Sally Gentling. “The bags have some body mapping, meaning there is extra loft in the torso and feet where you need it, but a more simple construction in the areas you compress when using the bag, like the back.” Add in the minimal exterior stitching, and you have a sleeping bag that actually sheds water instead of drops getting stuck in stitch marks, making it perfect for damp trips.
These sleeping bags are part of Big Agnes’ 1101 Collection—inspired by the 3,100-mile long Continental Divide Trail (CDT) that winds from Mexico to Canada. A portion of proceeds from this collection will benefit the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, an organization dedicated to protecting the CDT. Big Agnes has also adopted a 75-mile section near the company’s Steamboat Springs headquarters and has committed to maintaining and protecting that section through partnership with nonprofits in the area and through spending plenty of time on the trail helping to remove debris.
Big Agnes’ Pro Tip: Just like any other kind of bag, be kind to the insulation, dry it out and don’t leave it stuffed in the small stuff sack for long periods of time.
Temperature Rating: 20 degrees F
Weight: Women’s Regular: 3 lbs. 8 oz.; Men’s Regular: 2 lbs. 13 oz.
Insulation Type: Synthetic
Sleeping Bag Shape: Mummy
Compressed Volume: Women’s Regular: 11.6 liters; Men’s Regular: 14.4 liters
With a minimum trail weight of 2 pounds, 3 ounces, the Tiger Wall UL2 tent is Big Agnes’ lightest two-door backpacking tent yet. (The Copper Spur HV UL2 tent previously held that title, at 2 pounds, 12 ounces.) To cut down on weight, Big Agnes used a minimalist pole structure, called the DAC Featherlight NFL pole system. With that lightness claim, you’d think the tent would be lacking in space. You’d be wrong. It’s spacious, thanks to the intelligently designed pole system and structured foot corners that offer more usable space at the bottom of the tent. “I think of our tents as equivalent to apps on your smartphone. They work the way we think. You open a door, and you think it would be nice if a latch was right here. There is. It would be nice to put a gear loft right here. There is,” said Garett.
They also cut weight by using hyper-light silicone-treated ripstop nylon fabric. It seems paper thin at first touch, but still retains the durability you expect out of a tent made with thru-hikers in mind.
We love what they call the “low vent toggle.” There is a toggle near the top of the vestibule to attach the bottom loop of the fly to. This gives you a half-open door for more ventilation and coverage from weather—which differentiates it from other tents.
Big Agnes’ Pro Tip: Zippers need attention from time to time. Spray them with compressed air to get grit out and keep them working for years to come.
Minimum Trail Weight: 2 lbs. 3 oz.
Packaged Weight: 2 lbs. 8 oz.
Sleeping Capacity: 2-person
Floor Dimensions: 86 x 52/42 (L x W head/foot) inches
Peak Height: 39 inches