Review: Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra Air Mattress

Insulated Air Mattress
Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra
$100, 1 lb. 6 oz. (regular, with stuff sack)
Sizes: petite ($90, 66x20x3.5 ins.), regular (72x20x3.5 ins.), long ($110, 78x20x3.5 ins.), wide regular ($130, 72x25x3.5 ins.)

The ultimate measure of an air mattress comes at the moment when my family discovers it—and when my wife and kids saw the new Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra, they all wanted to sleep on it. I used this air mat for two nights backpacking in the Panamint Range of Death Valley National Park in May, and I (reluctantly) shared it with my family while camping at Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve and on a mid-July rafting and kayaking trip on the Green River through Lodore Canyon in Dinosaur National Monument, and I haven’t found an air mat for backpacking that’s more comfortable and this compact.

Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra air mattress valve.
Insulated Air Core Ultra air mattress valve.

With 3.5 inches of thickness, the Insulated Air Core Ultra packs a lot of comfort for its reasonable weight and low bulk (slightly larger than a liter bottle). Big Agnes took its Insulated Air Core mat and gave it larger outside tubes to help prevent you from rolling off it; a smoother surface; higher-volume, separate valves for faster inflation and deflation; double ripstop fabric that Big Agnes says improves tear strength by 25 percent (I had no leaks); and a lamination process that makes it lighter, more durable, and smaller when packed (5×9 ins.).

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Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra air mattress packed.
B.A. Insulated Air Core Ultra air mattress packed.

Inflating it still took me 26 strong breaths—I’d like to see a valve that allows inflating it using an oversized stuff sack, as you can do with the Exped SynMat Hyperlite—while deflating takes just a few seconds.

The Insulated Air Core Ultra has high-loft, synthetic insulation and heat reflective technology to help retain heat. Big Agnes doesn’t provide an R-value, but rates the air mat at 15° F.

It’s not the lightest air mat you can buy; but it’s one of the two most comfortable for backpacking that I’ve used, and the other one, the Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Air Mattress, is an ounce lighter but significantly more bulky.


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See all of my reviews of air mattresses and all of my reviews of backpacking gear at The Big Outside. See also my related Pro Tips articles “How to Choose a Sleeping Bag” and “Staying Warm in a Sleeping Bag.”

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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.

—Michael Lanza

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2 thoughts on “Review: Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra Air Mattress”

  1. Good review, thanks. How would you compare this to the Exped line? They look to have very similar designs but the expeds are a bit lighter and have better valves (ie. can use pump bags, as you mentioned).