Blowing up the Big Agnes AXL Air. Most of the air construction pads take a long time to inflate.
GEAR INSTITUTE RATINGS
Ease of use
The Big Agnes AXL Air proved to be one of the lightest and most compact pads in the class. Yet the AXL Air offers poor insulation qualities and marginal durability. The AXL Air is best suited for fast-and-light backpacking in mild 3-season conditions.
The Big Agnes AXL Air comes in four different sizes (3 lengths and 2 widths) and two shapes, mummy or rectangular. Big Agnes intends the AXL to be a fast and light three-season pad.
Unfortunately, in our testing, we did not find the AXL Air to be adequately warm. Big Agnes does not list an R-value for this pad, which makes it difficult to compare with other pads by specs alone. The company does state that it is insulated with Primaloft Silver that is laminated with a layer of Mylar that will reflect body heat back at the sleeper, preventing heat loss. At first, we were excited about how small and light this pad was, so one tester eagerly took it along on a spring ski tour up Mt. Lassen in California. She paired it with our favorite Feathered Friends winter sleeping bag. Then she spent an unexpected, uncomfortable night shivering. It wasn’t the sleeping bag: we weathered Alaskan winter storms in that bag. This tester could actually feel cold creeping from the snow below the tent, through the sleeping pad. The cold sensation was not coming from above, it was distinctly coming from below, from the pad. She ended up stuffing all of her jackets and extra layers underneath her body to insulate herself from the sleeping pad. Because of this experience, we gave this pad the lowest warmth score that we could: 1. Other online reviews seem to support this conclusion. We cannot recommend it for cold weather camping. It might suffice for late spring, summer, or early fall backpacking when there is no snow.
As an air construction pad, the AXL Air feels a little like sleeping on a pool raft. We found that we preferred the soft support of the self-inflating pads.
The AXL Air is an ultralight sleeping pad. It is the lightest pad in this review, weighing 12.4 ounces on our scale. For backcountry adventures, this is certainly attractive, but because of its lack of warmth, we don’t recommend it for the same types of adventures that other pads in this review could withstand. For a winter mountaineering trip or an overnight ski tour, we would much prefer the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm, which is slightly larger and heavier but vastly warmer.
Along with its lightweight, the AXL has a tiny packed size, the smallest in this test. It tucks easily into a backpack, and because of this, could be a great choice for summer backpacking.
This pad feels thin and fragile, and multiple online reviews have mentioned that people have had it pop on the first night of using it. We did not have this problem but could believe it. Big Agnes does not list the denier of the material used on its website like all of the other products in this test. Instead, it simply mentions that is nylon “made with a high tenacity yarn and high filament count.”
Ease of Use
This pad takes a while to inflate, but the valve works well.