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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Pads and Air Mattresses > Big Agnes Sleeping Giant Pad Upgrade > Test Report by Michael Wheiler
BIG AGNES SLEEPING GIANT
PAD UPGRADE KIT
Test Series Report
By Michael Wheiler
Click Here To Go To The Initial Report: December 13, 2007
Click Here To Go To The Field Report: March 11. 2008
Click Here To Go To The Long Term Report: May 4, 2008
December 13, 2007
Battle Mountain Hinman Pad and Sleeping Giant Up-grade Kit
Sleeping Giant Up-grade Kit
Product Specifications And Features For Sleeping Giant Pad Upgrade Kit Per Big Agnes Unless Otherwise Noted:
Manufacturer's Warranty: "Our #1 priority is to make dependable outdoor products. If you are not satisfied with any Big Agnes product, return it to Big Agnes for a repair, replacement or refund. Damage due to misuse will be repaired at a reasonable charge."
TESTER'S INITIAL OBSERVATIONS:
The Big Agnes Sleeping Pad Upgrade Kit arrived late in the afternoon on December 6, 2007 carefully packaged in clear plastic wrap and in excellent shape. The kit looked like what I expected after viewing the manufacturer's website. After a quick examination to make sure the kit was undamaged, I read the information contained on the attached hang-tag which provided specifications and the warranty information noted above.
The Up-grade Kit comes with Memory Foam enclosed in a bright green nylon mesh type material which is then placed inside a removable cover made of a bright green nylon rip-stop material on top and a gray nylon rip-stop material on the bottom. According to Big Agnes, Memory Foam is "open cell foam that molds to the curves of your body and reduces pressure points to offer unsurpassed comfort. This is the same memory foam that you can find as a topper for your mattress at home." The idea is to place your regular sleeping pad inside the cover and underneath the Memory Foam pad to "up-grade" the comfort of your existing pad. According to the representative I spoke with at Big Agnes, when using this combination as a sleeping pad under my sleeping bag, "You won't even miss your bed." The Kit is designed to fit with any rectangular shaped pad which is 20 in/51 cm wide. It is available in various lengths.
The Up-grade Kit also sports a "wrap around closure flap." This is simply an extension of the rip-stop nylon at the top of the cover cut in the shape of a triangle with nylon straps and black plastic buckles attached. The kit is simply rolled up from the bottom and onto the closure flap. The nylon straps then wrap around the rolled kit and buckle closed to keep the kit in the rolled-up position.
Wrap-around Closure Flap
For most of this test series, I will be using a Big Agnes Hinman Pad with the kit. After inflating the pad, I then inserted it inside the cover of the Sleeping Giant with the valve toward the wrap-around closure at the top of the pad but under the memory foam pad. The Hinman is a rectangular shaped pad that fits snuggly into the Sleeping Giant cover. Once fully inserted, the valve can be accessed from one the holes cut in both the right and left top corners of the Sleeping Giant cover depending upon which way the pad is inserted into the cover. The cover on the Sleeping Giant was then zipped closed without difficulty.
The combined pads are designed to then be inserted into the sleeping pad sleeve on the bottom of any rectangularly shaped Big Agnes sleeping bag, such as the Battle Mountain which I am testing concurrently. The sleeve has corresponding holes cut in the upper right and left hand corners so as to be able to access the valve on the pad. Each pad separately slipped into the sleeve of the Battle Mountain without too much difficulty but I found that the combination was a tight fit. However, once nestled into the sleeve, the Battle Mountain lay flat on the floor and was very comfortable to lay on. Due to the tight fit inside the sleeve, the combined pads were a little difficult to remove but using the holes in both ends of the pad sleeve made it easier and given the nature of the sleeve's fabric, I expect it will stretch a bit with time thereby making it easier to insert the pad combination.
Valve opening in Kit
The Combined Pads In the Pad Sleeve of the Battle Mountain
Upon close examination, the Sleeping Giant appears to be well constructed. I found no loose threads or open seams. The zipper on the cover of the Sleeping Giant worked smoothly but did tend to catch on the interior pad material if I didn't use one finger to separate the two while I was zipping the cover closed. This procedure, however, was not difficult.
After having been in possession of the Sleeping Giant for only four days, we received a winter storm leaving some snow on the ground. During the 10:00 p.m. news, the weatherman promised at least -2º F/-19º C temperatures overnight. After setting up my tent in the back yard, I put the Big Agnes pad system together, installed it in the Battle Mountain, and hauled it out to my tent where I spent the night. As it turned out, the weatherman was wrong. According to the thermometer hanging near my head inside the tent (and the local news the next morning), the temperature dipped to a chilly -7º F/-22º C. I'll let you know how the Sleeping Giant Pad Upgrade Kit fared when I post my Field Report.
March 11, 2008
In the words of Paul Harvey, "And now, for the rest of the story." The Up-grade Kit worked wonderfully during my night out on December 11, 2007 even though the temperature dropped to -7 F/-22 C. I used the Kit in combination with the Battle Mountain sleeping bag and a Hinman self-inflating pad. The total thickness of the two pads combined was approximately 2 1/2 in/6 cm. I found it to be a bit of a task to slide the combined pads into the pad sleeve on the Battle Mountain and I struggled a little to get the pad in place. However, once in place it was held firmly in place despite my frequent rolling over during the night. I slept comfortably all night. I was so comfortable, in fact, that I really didn't want to get up the next morning. I did not notice any dampness or moisture in the pad the next morning.My thanks to Big Agnes and BackpackGearTest for giving me the opportunity to test the Sleeping Giant Pad Up-grade Kit.
I next used the Kit during two over-night cross-country skiing trips in Harriman State Park (elevation 6,270 ft/1,911 m) on January 11-12, and 18-19. Temperatures during both outings ranged between 13 and 19 F/-10.5 and -7 C. There was 5 ft/152 cm or more of snow on the ground but during the second trip we received approximately 8 in/20 cm of new snow overnight. While we were skiing during the first trip, the wind was blowing up to 6 mph/10 km/h. There was little to no wind during the second trip. On both trips, I rolled the Kit up and fastened it together with the attached wrap around closure flap and buckle. I then secured it to the side of my pack using the exterior compression straps on the pack. I secured the Hinman pad on the other side in the same fashion. We then cross-country skied into our destination wearing full backpacks.
During the first of these outings, I slept in a Yurt (a heavy canvass shelter with a wooden floor). I slept on a futon style bunk bed with the Battle Mountain and pads laid on top of the bed. There was a wood burning stove available for our use, but after we stoked it up for the night and set the damper so that the temperature was just enough to keep the room temperature from dropping below freezing. I could still see my breath in the morning. I slept very comfortably all night. I did sleep with the bag partially unzipped due to the temperature inside the Yurt. Again, I used the combined Hinman/Sleeping Giant pads and found it difficult to insert the pads into the sleeve. However, once inserted, the pads did not move. I was able to roll from side to back to side without the pad slipping or moving at all.
During the second outing, I slept in a tent outside a friend's cabin not far from the Park. I used snowshoes to pack a platform in the snow, then I placed two closed cell foam pads on the platform and a footprint ground cloth over the pads. I then pitched my tent over the pads. Kneeling inside the tent, I put the Hinman pad inside the Sleeping Giant and then inflated the Hinman. Once the Hinman was inflated and inserted into the Kit, I attempted to insert the pads in the sleeve of the Battle Mountain. Again, I met with stiff resistance but ultimately got the pads inserted into the sleeve. It snowed most of the night. The newly fallen snow dampened any sound and I slept very soundly. I felt no cold spots. I was able to roll over as desired without any movement of the pad or bag.
After coming home from work on January 21, I learned that we were expecting overnight temperatures down to at least -12 F/-24 C. I decided to set-up my tent in the back yard and test the Kit in extremely cold temperatures. At about 10:00 p.m., when I finally ventured outside, the thermometer read 12 F/-11 C with a stiff wind out of the north. I pitched my tent over two closed cell foam pads and a footprint ground cloth. The pads were placed over a small amount of snow that had built up on my patio (at that time, the law was covered by about three feet (91 cm) of snow). I then combined the Hinman with the Kit and attempted to insert the combined pads in the Battle Mountain's pad sleeve. I found that it was still difficult to insert the combined Hinman and Sleeping Giant pads. I slept soundly and comfortably until about 6:00 a.m. I noticed no cold spots through the pads.
The Sleeping Giant Up-grade Kit provides a layer of comfort to my outdoor sleeping that I had not previously experienced. The memory foam conforms to the pressure of my body just enough to cradle it on top of the self-inflating pad located under the memory foam. I really can tell a difference in the comfort level over just using the smooth, firm surface of a self inflating pad. I was a bit skeptical when the factory rep told me that with the Battle Mountain/Sleeping Giant/Hinman pad combination, I wouldn't even miss my bed. I am now a believer!
I have not noticed any cold spots in the pad system. I have not yet tried the pad combination without a closed cell foam pad under the tent (mostly to protect the floor of my tent) but with the temperatures warming as spring approaches, I will test the pad combination without the added padding. I also haven't observed any signs of wear or tear yet in the Kit, though the exterior material is a bit more wrinkled than when I first got it. The zipper still pulls smoothly and rarely catches on the cloth material. In the coming months, I intend to experiment with other brands of self-inflating pads in combination with the Kit.
LONG TERM REPORT
(May 4, 2008)
I used the Sleeping Giant Pad Upgrade Kit on February 22-23, 2008, during an overnight snowshoe hike near Kelley Canyon (elevation 6,177 ft/1,883 m). I had planned to leave work early but, as usual, I was delayed so I ate a hamburger and French fries while driving. By the time I reached the trail head, it was completely dark and I had to hike in by the light of my headlamp. The temperature was 26 F/-3 C. It was overcast and threatening to snow but there was no wind. The snow pack, typical for late February, was hard and icy. The trail I chose was fairly flat at first but then climbed steeply to the spot where I intended to camp for the night. I was carrying a fully-loaded backpack (48.5 lbs/22 kg). After about a 3/4 mile (1.2 km) hike, I reached my destination for the evening. I pitched my tent and set-up camp. I used the Hinman pad with the Sleeping Giant. After setting up my camp, I went for a night snowshoe hike. The temperature remained pretty constant at 26 F/-3 C throughout the night even though it snowed approximately 1/2 in/1.3 cm. I slept in just light cotton underwear. I was warm and comfortable throughout the night.
On March 21-22, I snowshoed into Lower Palisades Lake (6,131 ft/1,869 m elevation). The round trip for this hike is 8 miles/13 km. Typical spring snow conditions existed--icy hard pack which, during the heat of the day, turned soft and grainy. However, with cold overnight temperatures, the snow froze hard and turned icy again. I was carrying a pack weighing 48 lbs/22 kg and I used snowshoes for the entire trek. While I was packing into my camp site, the temperature was warm enough that I only had to use a light jacket but it was overcast. I was sleeping in a single wall tent with a closed cell foam pad between the floor of the tent and the snow. I used the Sleeping Giant Pad Upgrade Kit with a Therm-a-Rest ProLite 4 pad. This pad is tapered from the head to the foot but it fit well in the Sleeping Giant. When I settled into my tent for the evening, the temperature was 34 F/1 C. That evening, I ate a bagel and spaghetti with meat sauce. I drank nearly a liter of water mixed with Crystal Lite and a cup of hot chocolate. I slept in polypro long underwear.
Sometime during the night the weather cleared and the temperature plummeted. By 6:00 a.m., my thermometer outside the tent read 0 F/-18 C. Both water bottles were frozen solid as were my eggs which were in a plastic container wrapped in my extra clothes inside my pack. I had a second thermometer inside the Battle Mountain and it read 72 F/22 C. I slept well on the Sleeping Giant with the ProLite 4 pad. This combination provided great insulation and a comfortable bed. I was warm all evening.
I next used the Sleeping Giant on April 11-12, 2008 in Island Park near Henry's Lake (6,470 ft/1,972 m elevation). After eating lasagna, French bread, and brownies which were washed down with Crystal Lite punch, I set-up my single wall tent with a closed cell foam pad between the snow and the tent floor. While kneeing inside the tent, I unpacked the Battle Mountain, put the Hinman Pad inside the Sleeping Giant and inserted the pad into the sleeve of the Battle Mountain. This task was a bit awkward and difficult given the tight quarters in which I was working. Previously, I had performed the same task while kneeling outside the tent with the Battle Mountain and pad inside the tent. When I retired for the evening the temperature was 24 F/-4 C. Again, given the temperature, I slept in only light cotton underwear. By 7:00 a.m., the thermometer inside my tent read 6 F/-14 C. I was so comfortable and warm inside the Battle Mountain that I really did not want to get up.
During the week of April 14-18, 2008, I used the Sleeping Giant while camping along the Clearwater River near Kooskie, Idaho (1,293 ft/394 m elevation). Temperatures during this four-day outing ranged from below freezing to high 60 F/16 C. We saw everything from snow storms and freezing winds to warm sunny days with light breezes. We were sleeping in a canvas wall tent with lots of room so I used the Battle Mountain with the Hinman Pad/Sleeping Giant Pad Upgrade Kit and a cot. While I have found the Hinman Pad/Sleeping Giant combination to provide ample insulation and padding, the cot increased the comfort of this sleep system and I slept soundly each night.
Of note is the fact that, on this last trip, the Sleeping Giant was rolled-up for the better part of 8 hours while traveling to our campsite. We arrived in a cold rain storm, set-up the tent and cot. I removed the Battle Mountain from the compression bag, placed it on the cot, assembled the Hinman Pad/Sleeping Giant combination and placed the pad into the sleeve.
On each outing, I slept very comfortably on the memory foam of the Sleeping Giant in combination with a self-inflating pad and the Battle Mountain sleeping bag. I never felt any cold spots through the Sleeping Giant/pad combination. Although the Sleeping Giant has been rolled tightly on multiple outings and looks rather wrinkled, the foam always rebounds from the compression. The zipper worked properly and snagged only when I failed to pay attention to what I was doing while operating the zipper. I found it was helpful to place my pointer finger between the zipper and the foam/pad while zipping up the Sleeping Giant. Other than the wrinkling, I have not found any wear or tear in the shell material or the foam pad to date.
The memory foam conformed to the pressure points from my body and added a layer of comfort that I had not experienced previously in an outdoor sleep system. Clearly the Sleeping Giant adds to the weight of my pack but sometimes a piece of gear is "worth its weight in gold." For me, the Sleeping Giant fits into this category. My aging body really appreciated the added comfort and while it may not always make it into my pack depending upon the time of year and length of trip, the Sleeping Giant will be a regular piece of gear in my backpack.
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