air mattress reviews

Backpackers on the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.

The Best Backpacking Gear of 2021

By Michael Lanza

The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. The Wonderland Trail. The Teton Crest Trail. Yosemite. The Grand Canyon. Glacier National Park. The Ruby Crest Trail. Yellowstone. The Wind River Range. The North Cascades. Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. The High Uintas Wilderness. The Tour du Mont Blanc. These are just some of the numerous places where I’ve tested the backpacking gear you see reviewed at The Big Outside. I treat gear roughly in places that are hard on outdoor gear and apparel so that I can give you brutally honest and thorough, field-tested opinions that help you make the best gear choices for your adventures.

And that’s exactly how I came up with these picks for today’s best backpacking gear.

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A young boy the morning after sleeping under the stars at Precipice Lake, Sequoia National Park.

10 Pro Tips For Staying Warm in a Sleeping Bag

By Michael Lanza

Head into the mountains in summer, or almost anywhere in fall or spring, and you can encounter nighttime and morning temperatures anywhere from the 40s Fahrenheit to well below freezing. That’s more than cold enough to pose a real risk of hypothermia or, at the least, result in a miserable night for you or a partner or child you’ve taken backpacking or camping—and would like to take more. Here’s the good news: The very simple techniques outlined in this article can turn a potentially unpleasant night into a comfortable one.

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Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite air mattress.

Gear Review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Air Mattress

Insulated Air Mattress
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite
$195, 9 oz. (regular, 20×72 inches, in its stuff sack)
Sizes: small (20×47 ins., $140), regular (20×72 ins.), large (25×77 ins., $210)
moosejaw.com

As I was loading my backpack at the start of a six-day, 74-mile backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon, I smiled as I held the stuffed Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite air mattress in my hand; call me a gear geek, but unusually small ultralight backpacking gear just has that effect on me. One of my hiking mates glanced over and said, “Is that your air mattress?!” Yea, it’s that tiny. And if you’re serious about reducing your pack weight—as any backpacker should be—you should be taking a serious look at the NeoAir Uberlite. Here’s why.

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Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air Mattress

Gear Review: Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air Mattress

Insulated Air Mattress
Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air Mattress
$180, 20×72 inches rectangular, 13 oz. (including its stuff sack)
Sizes: 20×66, 20×72, 25×72, and 25×78 inches rectangular and 20×72 mummy
moosejaw.com

As air mattresses have continued getting lighter, more compact, and more comfortable, one would think a limit has been reached on how small they can get before sacrificing real comfort. But Big Agnes has raised that bar again—or lowered it, if you will—with the AXL Air. For four nights backpacking the Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop off the Grand Canyon’s North Rim in May, and several spring nights camping at Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve, I slept like a baby on this plush air mattress, while it all but disappeared inside my pack on the trail. I’ve tested and own many air mats, and I don’t think there’s another I’d now carry instead for three-season backpacking. Here’s why.

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Gear Review: Klymit Insulated V Ultralite SL Air Mattress

Klymit Insulated V Ultralite SL air mattress.
Klymit Insulated V Ultralite SL air mattress.

Insulated Air Mattress
Klymit Insulated V Ultralite SL
$120, 1 lb.
One size
klymit.com

Air mattresses for backpacking vary significantly in a few ways: comfort, price, weight, and packed bulk—and you often pay more for better comfort or low weight and bulk. But the Klymit Insulated V Ultralite SL bends that rule. So I took this relatively affordable air mat on a three-night, 39-mile backpacking trip in Wyoming’s Wind River Range in mid-September, and camping in Idaho’s City of Rocks in spring, to see whether sleeping on it proves as sweet as its price.

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