Big Agnes Dual Core Pad
By Raymond Estrella
June 17, 2006
Orange County, California, USA
6' 3" (1.91 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.
Manufacturer: Big Agnes Inc
Web site: www.bigagnes.com
Product: Dual Core Pad, Mummy Long
Year manufactured: 2006
MSRP: $105.00 (US)
Weight listed: 33 oz (936 g)
Actual measured 35.9 oz (1018 g)
Weight of stuff sack: 1.8 oz (51 g)
Measurements listed: 20” x 78” x 2.5” (51 cm x 198 cm x 6.25 cm)
Actual measurements: 21.5” x 77” x 2.75” (55 cm x 192.5 cm x 7 cm)
Packed size listed: 6” x 13” (15 cm x 33 cm) Actual measured 6.5” x 13” (16.5 x 33 cm)
Temperature rating: 0 F (-18 C)
Warranty: “If you are not satisfied with any Big Agnes product at the time you receive it, or if one of our products does not perform to your satisfaction, return it to Big Agnes for a replacement or refund.”
The Dual Core Pad is a black and purple air mattress, intended for use as a cold weather backpack sleeping pad. The top is made of 70 denier hexagonal rip-stop nylon fabric, with a Durable Water Repellent coating. The bottom is made of black 70 denier nylon fabric, without the rip-stop pattern. It has the Big Agnes logo at the top of the pad in white lettering, along with the product name and size. Just below that is a Primaloft logo, also in white. Besides the DWR coating on the outside, the inner surface has been given a polyurethane coating.
The pad is made up of eight air chambers, running lengthwise. They are described as being I-beam construction. The manufacturer describes it as follows. “The I-beam construction technique is functionally superior to the typical welded-through construction of other air mats. Die cut holes in each I-beam allow air to flow freely between chambers giving constant support and comfort.” As seen in the picture above the pad is cut to fit a mummy-shaped bag.
In one corner of the pad at the top is a two-piece plastic-coated brass screw-closed air valve. When turned clockwise it closes the valve. Turning it counter-clockwise opens the valve, releasing the air to empty the pad. Big Agnes calls the valve an “EZ-Flate mouthpiece”. The bottom section of the valve spins open or closed while the top, or end, stays stationary in my mouth. The picture to the right shows the valve, and the hexagonal patterned rip-stop.
The pad has Primaloft insulation inside it. The manufacturer says that it is “filled with Primaloft insulation”, but it is actually a layer of insulation attached to the top side of the pad. The insulation has been treated with a “silicone treatment which serves as an anti-microbial within the pad.” Since one introduces moisture into the pad while inflating by mouth, this is probably a good thing.
It also has high density foam insulation in the pad. From what I can tell the foam is about .5 in (1.25 cm) thick, and seems to be bonded to the bottom side of the pad.
The Dual Core came with a stuff sack made of the same rip-stop material as the top of the pad. A pocket inside of the stuff sack contains a repair kit consisting of a rip-stop fabric patch and a small tube of glue.
I have used the Dual Core above Little Round Valley, near Mount San Jacinto in March of 2006. I was at 10,150’ (3,094 m) elevation, on 5’ (1.5 m) of packed snow. I used it on a footprint with a fly above me. (Basically I was sleeping on a tarp on the snow.) It got down to 21 F (-6 C) overnight. I was up there again in April, with basically the same conditions.
I used it in a MSR Fling tent in the Bristlecone Pine Forest in May. The temps at night were 28 F and 30 F (-2 to -1 C). I had it set up on 4’ (1.22 m) of packed snow at 11,200’ (3,414 m) elevation, and on artic tundra (dirt, rocks, moss) at 12,600’ (3,840 m). The ground was frozen hard in the morning.
I got this pad in March of 2006. I have a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core pad also, and have felt the cold through it in temps lower than the mid twenties F (-4 C). I have used it with a Therm-A-Rest Z-Lite pad under it with good results, so when I read about the addition of the foam in this pad I had to give it a shot. My Exped pad works wonderfully, but the ability to drop half a pound (.23 kg) was to great to pass up.
On my first trip I was impressed with how well it worked on the snow. When I hike in the spring I will often set up on snow even when bare ground is available. It is cleaner and I can make a level site without too much effort, as opposed to moving a couple wheelbarrows of dirt for a regular site. (Just kidding, I am a LNT hiker.)
During one of these trips I had a major problem with a new, untested bag that led to a very cold night. The only place I was not cold was where I was on the pad. The bag I was in had no insulation on the bottom so I was especially appreciative of the double insulated pad.
On the trip my May My brother-in-law and I brought 0 F (-18 C) rated bags as we did not know what to expect. I was too warm in mine, and the Dual Core worked wonderfully on the snow the first night. Dave complained that he had a horrible night, that he was cold, and could not figure why with the sweet Marmot bag he was using. I asked if it could have been from his pad, and he said that he was cold on the bottom, so that must have been the problem. I said I did not notice. Hah, hah!
The next night we were on frozen ground. This time I figured I would start off just lying on the pad with my bag unzipped, covering me quilt-style. When I got too cold I would get inside the bag and zip it up. I never did get into the bag. The pad did an adequate job of insulating me from the frigid ground. Here is a picture of it in the Fling.
It is just as cushy as my Insulated Air Core pad, which makes sense as they are the same thickness. I have no problem staying on the mummy shaped pad, which is my first shaped in this way. I was worried that I would slip off with my feet at the narrow bottom of the pad. But some how my subconscious brain (abused though it is) keeps me aligned on it.
I like the new valve. I have always disliked having to spin a valve around between my lips as I am blowing to keep the pressure up while shutting it. That feel of the serrated stem going brrrrrpp across my lips bugs me. I may see if I can replace the valve on my other pad with one like this.
I like this pad a lot. It is going to fit a narrow niche for me. I will continue to use my Exped pad when I expect temps of 5 F (-15 C) and below. I will use the Dual Core for warmer winter hikes, and spring trips like the ones mentioned where I will be on snow.
Pros: Compact rolled size, warm, comfortable.
Cons: Expensive, heavier than advertised.
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