I’m still a young whipper snapper and I can generally find a good night’s sleep on just about any outing. Good sleeping pads become more and more important as we age and need to get rest for big days on the mountain, but it’s the rare pad that will actually make me want to stay napping in my tent when adventure is at hand. One such pad is the Double Z, from Big Agnes.
Big Agnes Double Z Features:
- Superlight & compact warm weather pads
- Stabilizer construction distributes weight evenly creating a smoother, more comfortable feel
- Two piece valve which allows for one way inflation and quick deflation
- Superlight nylon rip-stop top and bottom
- Estimated R-Value of 1.5
- Stuff sack and repair kit included.
- Each pad individually inflated and tested
- Tested size: 20″ x 72″ x 4″
- Tested weight: 17oz
- Price: $79.95
Luxury in the backcountry
I suppose the first thing to mention about the Double Z is that it’s absolutely huge. This thing inflates to a height of four inches: you simply cannot escape how cushy this pad is. This is the sort of pad that could make a Buddhist monk fall away from his asceticism. These are four inches of separation from you and the cold, hard ground that is doing its best to kill you in the backcountry.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a comfortable pad. I suppose that air pads have gotten a bad rap over the years as fairly low-tech compared to self-inflating competitors. There’s still some truth to that since there are lots of air pads out there that are simply round tubes of air running up the length of your body; this is not the case with the Double Z.
Big Agnes built the Double Z with a unique, internally stabilized construction whose shape transfers the weight of your body evenly over the pad. This is not all that different from the alternating I-Beam design that we tested last summer in their Q-Core SL. The idea is simple – a lot of your weight is centered around your torso and pelvis as you sleep which tends to create something of a low spot in a traditional pad. Big Agnes’ design takes all of that weight and spreads it out across the internal structure of the pad, creating a flatter and more supportive sleeping experience.
Another fantastic feature is that the outer baffles on the Double Z are quite large while the ones in the center of the pad are smaller and more flexible. The result is a design that cradles you onto the center of the pad, making it easier to stay on during a night of tossing and turning. Perhaps my favorite feature is the one-way inflation valve that will definitely save you some light-headedness at high elevation; it captures all of the air that you put into the pad so you don’t have to block the hole with your tongue or any of those old tricks.
Deflation is made easy and very quick by the blow-off valve which is definitely good for scaring the heck out of your tentmates in the morning.
The idea of a four inch thick pad is probably a bit like anathema to many backpackers, but Big Agnes took care that the Double Z is a trailworthy product. It has their signature little repair kit stuffed into the end of the stuff sack which is invaluable for making quick repairs in the field – I used it several times this summer on another BA pad. The model that I tested weighs in at 17oz, so at just over a pound this pad is not particularly light. It does pack very well, though – the stuff sack is right around the size of a Nalgene.
I suppose the last thing to mention is the pad’s warmth. With an R value of right around 1.5, it’s a good pad for late spring, summer and early fall trips but it’ll let you down once things get colder. I used it during the warmth of the summer, but my estimate is that it would be acceptable down to around 40-degrees and marginally lower with a good sleeping bag; it’s definitely not for use on snow unless you back it up with a closed-cell foam pad.
- Supports and distributes weight effectively
- Valve design is highly functional and very practical
- Field repair kit is invaluable
- Despite its size, it still stuff down quite well
- Baffle design keeps you placed in the center of the pad
- Definitely a tad heavy at 17oz
The Bottom Line: Double Z
This pad isn’t for young, spring ultralighters but it may indeed be a godsend to more experienced, somewhat greyer ultralighters. It packs all the performance of Big Agnes’ lighter technical air chambers but it offers waaaaay more comfort than its truly ultralight brothers. I’m a young guy but the nights that I spent sleeping atop 4 inches of the Big Agnes Double Z were absolutely the most restful that I’ve gotten in the backcountry.
Buy Now: Available from REI.com