Gear Review: Big Agnes Air Core SL

Big Agnes Air Core SL sleeping pad

When backpacking you have to decide what is worth taking and what you will have to leave behind. One thing that you shouldn't have to sacrifice is a good night’s sleep. Finding the right sleeping pad can make all the difference while spending a night in backcountry. The Big Agnes Air Core SL is a solid option for someone who is looking for a lightweight, yet durable air mattress.

The Air Core SL (superlight) is new for 2013 and has been an enjoyable pad to sleep on. This is the thickest lightweight sleeping pad that I have ever testing. Coming in at 3.75 inches, it is over an inch thicker than most backpacking sleeping pads. Which make it ideal for those that like a little more cushion. You have the ability to adjust the air level in this pad to give you a little more customization. This pad also has a nylon rip-stop material on the top and bottom that is tough. As I have mentioned in previous reviews my kids are some of the best durability gear testers in the world. They thought when I blew the pad up it was a mattress to jump on. Luckily it held up to a 2, 4 and 6 year olds abuse.

Being a little thicker pad this did take a little more air to blow it up. It take about 35 breathes to fill this pad. The air valve is an easy to use twist valve that opens easily and closes tight. The hardest part of this sleeping pad is blowing it up when you get to camp. But with a few breathes you can be sleeping great all night long. As Big Agnes says the "V" shape does conform nicely to your body for a comfortable night’s sleep.

bigagnes AirCoreSL2The Air Core SL weighs only 17 ounces and rolls up small. I have been amazed each time that I have rolled it up at how small it goes. The dimensions on this pad are 72" long and 20" wide. This is probably the biggest downfall for me. The length is fine, as I am only 5' 9", but it could be a little wider. If you are using a Big Agnes sleeping bag or other method to keep the pad underneath you, this might not be as big of an issue. But a little wider pad for me does make a better nights sleep. The Air Core SL does come in a wider sleeping pad but you do pay for the extra length and width.

Retail on this pad is only $99.95, which is a fair price for a great sleeping pad. If you are looking for a pad that is more comfortable than your old foam pad and only weighs a few ounces more, this might be the pad for you. If you are someone who loves camping and backpacking but struggle getting a good night’s rest in the backcountry, I would suggest looking into your sleep system. And the Big Agnes Air Core SL might be the perfect fit.


  • Durable fabrics
  • One thick sleeping pad
  • Rolls up small


  • A little narrow
  • More money than your old foam pad
  • You have to puff and puff to blow the pad up!

The following is right off of Big Agnes's Website about the Air Core SL.

• Superlight and compact summer pad, with 3.75" of comfort

• I-beam construction eliminates welded seams to reduce cold spots and ensures quick inflation/deflation, consistent air flow and stability

• Durable nylon rip-stop top and bottom

• Durable Inflation valve

• Internal heat reflective polyurethane coating

• Add a closed cell foam pad in colder temperatures for extra insulation

• Store unrolled with valve open

• Stuff sack and repair kit included. The repair kit is in a small pocket on the inside of the stuff sack. It's sort of hidden, so look twice!

• Each pad individually inflated and tested

• For complete specs and to compare all pad models, see our Pad Specs Chart at the left, under Tips & Resources

• Alternating I-Beam construction creates smoother, more comfortable feel.

• Ergonomic "V" shaped air chamber design conforms to your body.

• 20" x 72" x 3.75"

• Weight: 17oz

• MSRP: $99.95

Product provided for free by the manufacturer for review purposes.