Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Review

Finally - a really lightweight, thick, comfy inflatable sleeping pad. Used properly, it's a cushy alternative to a thin torso length pad.

Recommended

Overall Rating: Recommended

The 20-inch wide by 60-inch long by 2.5-inch thick Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad weighs just 11.7 ounces, a smidgeon more than a 1-inch thick torso length pad, and it's a whole lot more comfortable. It looks fragile, but our field and puncture tests showed that it's adequately durable for backpacking conditions using reasonable care. However, it can't be abused; sharp objects can definitely puncture the pad, and it can over-inflate and rupture if left out in the sun. It's easy to repair if it does puncture. Like other ultralight gear, the Clearview Pad requires some care and technique to use it properly.

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by Will Rietveld, with input from Carol Crooker |

Overview

I have been looking for a really lightweight, thick, shorter length, comfy inflatable sleeping pad for a long time. Inflatable Air Core pads are available, with or without insulation inside, but they are too heavy, at sixteen ounces or more. Finally, we have the Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad, a 2.5-inch thick polyurethane inflatable pad that weighs just 11.7 ounces (measured weight) in the 20 x 60-inch mummy size (their smallest and lightest). I have been sleeping on a Bozeman Mountain Works TorsoLite Pad (10 ounces, 1-inch thick, 32-inches long) for several years, and find it just barely comfortable enough (for me). For just 1.7 ounces more, the Big Agnes Clearview Pad is 2.5-inches thick and nearly twice as long. I'm flipping out on this pad! Also, for lightweight backpackers who enjoy their comforts, Big Agnes has the 6.3 ounce (measured weight) Cyclone Chair SL Kit that the Clearview Pad (or other 20-inch wide pads) fits into, reviewed here.

Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Review - 1
The shortest and lightest Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad is 60 inches long, 20 inches wide, 2.5 inches thick, and weighs 11.7 ounces. For my six-foot height, the sixty-inch pad is adequately long. Photo by Travis Ward.

The Clearview Pad is made of thin polyurethane with welded seams. Okay, I know what you are thinking at this point: 1) is it adequately puncture resistant to withstand backpacking conditions? and 2) how insulating is it? The short answers are: yes - it is quite puncture resistant, but there limits; and no, it doesn't contain any insulation, but it's warm to sleep on down to about freezing (Big Agnes rates it at 35 F). Read on to get the details of our testing.

Carol Crooker reports: "I used the Clearview pad on four trips, for a total of seventeen nights. The trips were a five-day CDT trek and desert and canyon country packraft trips, one in Arizona on the Gila River and two on the Green River in Utah (Desolation/Gray Canyons) and Colorado (Gates of Lodore). I slept on the pad inside a Bozeman Mountain Works Vapr bivy sack or Six Moon Designs Serenity NetTent. The prototype sixty-six-inch rectangular pad I used on two trips was two ounces over the specified weight of fourteen ounces and made of a slightly thicker material than the production sixty-inch (11.5 ounce) mummy pad I used on the CDT and Gates of Lodore trips.

The Clearview is very comfortable. For times when insulation is not needed, it is more comfortable than two other pads I've slept on in that weight range: the Bozeman Mountain Works TorsoLite and the Pacific Outdoor Equipment Uber Lite. These are both torso length, one-inch thick self-inflating pads. The Clearview is more comfortable than those pads because it has enough thickness to keep my hip off the ground when I sleep on my side. Interestingly, the Clearview is also more comfortable than Pacific Outdoor Equipment Max Thermo (an older version of the Ether Thermo 6) and Big Agnes Insulated Air Core pads I've slept on, which are just as thick as the Clearview pad. The reason? The Clearview is made of polyurethane, which is softer and more flexible than the nylon rip-stop material in the other pads. I've been careful with the Clearview and haven't needed to repair it. It even survived the torture of being used in the Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit on my CDT trip. I'd love to see a torso length, thirty-one-inch Clearview pad! Now that would be light!"

I used a sixty-inch long Clearview Pad on nine trips totaling twenty-three nights. Using my backpack as a pillow, I found the sixty-inch length pad to be adequately long for my six foot height. The pad inflates fairly quickly, about fifteen deep blows. As far as comfort, I found the Clearview to be much more comfortable than the Bozeman Mountain Works TorsoLite and Therm-a-Rest Prolite 3 Short pads I have used in the past. The Clearview is very flexible and "absorbs" the lumps and bumps of the surface I am sleeping on, which included spruce cones and sticks. I always had a groundsheet or tent floor under the Clearview and did not get any punctures at all.

How warm is it? On several spring and early summer mountain backpacking trips, and summer nights in the mountains after a shower cooled things down, I encountered nights near or below freezing, and found the bottom side of the Clearview getting a bit chilly (but not cold). I wore insulating clothing inside my sleeping bag, but it compresses on the bottom side. Big Agnes's rating of 35 F is about right.

So, how durable and how repairable is it? To try to answer those questions, I napped on the Clearview on top of some nice sharp lava rock. I succeeded in puncturing the pad between the tubes, a hard place to repair. It was not hard to find the leak by immersing the pad in water, and I easily repaired it with McNett SeamGrip. I wanted to try other repair methods, so I punctured the pad with a sharp nail on the top of one of the tubes and tested various patching materials. I first tried duct tape since many backpackers carry it. It worked just fine as a field repair. For a permanent repair I tried McNett's Tenacious Tape, McNett SeamGrip, McNett FreeSole, Therm-a-Rest Repair Patches, and Platypus Repair Patches. All adhered very well and made a permanent repair.

Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Review - 2
To test the Clearview's puncture resistance, I napped on the Clearview on top of some very rough lava rock. I managed to puncture the pad between two of the tubes.

Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Review - 3
The Clearview is easily repaired in the field with duct tape or a Platypus Repair Patch (left). McNett SeamGrip also works well in tighter locations (right), but it takes time to dry, so it's not a good field repair method.

The next time I used the pad, I discovered a different issue. While working on the Hardrock 100 Endurance Race in Silverton, Colorado I left the inflated pad (inserted in the Cyclone Chair Kit) out in the sun. Heating from the sun overinflated the pad and caused some of the tubes to rupture where they were folded in the chair, and also caused a leak where the valve is attached to the pad (see photos below). The ruptures are cosmetic so far and have not resulted in any problems, and I successfully repaired the leak with McNett SeamGrip.

Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Review - 4
Over inflation of the pad from letting it sit in the sun caused some rupturing of the tubes (left) and a leak at the valve (right), which I repaired with McNett SeamGrip.

From our field testing and my home tests, I conclude that the Clearview is adequately puncture resistant under normal field conditions, with reasonable care. However, it won't withstand outright abuse, and I'm sure it would be no match for thorns or other very sharp objects. Other inflatable pads would have the same vulnerability. Also, I found it to be easily repaired with a variety of patching materials.

Overall, the Big Agnes Clearview Pad has made my backpacking nights a lot more comfortable. It has proven to be adequately durable to resist punctures, and easily field repairable if it is punctured.

Specifications

  * Manufacturer:

Big Agnes (http://www.bigagnes.com/)

  * Year/Model:

2008 Clearview Air Pad

  * Sizes Available:

Rectangular or mummy, 20 or 25 inches wide, 60-78 inches long (20 x 60 inch mummy and 20 x 66 inch rectangular pads tested)

  * Materials::

Polyurethane

  * Insulation:

None

  * Features:

Plastic valve, welded seams, mesh stuff sack

  * Weight:

measured weight Will's 20 in x 60 inch mummy pad 11.7 oz (332 g), Carol's 11.5 oz (326 g); manufacturer specification 11 oz (312 g)

  * MSRP:

20 in x 60 inch mummy is $35USD

Read BackpackingLight.com's companion review, the Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit Review, here.


Citation

"Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Review," by Will Rietveld, with input from Carol Crooker. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/big_agnes_clearview_air_pad_review.html, 2008-08-26 00:06:00-06.

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Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Review on 08/26/2008 21:27:28 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Review

Sven Klingemann
(svenklingemann) - F
Re: Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Review on 08/27/2008 07:09:21 MDT Print View

Carol and Will -
could you comment on the stickiness issue that quite a few people have had issues with, including myself?
Thanks!
Sven

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Review on 08/27/2008 09:27:16 MDT Print View

I am not Carol or Will... but I also will note that the first time I used the Clearview I also noticed a slight stickiness. On the plus side... I didn't have to apply silsealer to the bottom to prevent it from sliding off my ground cloth. I won't think the slight "stickiness" would bother someone using a sleeping bag. Quilt users like me have more exposure to the pad.

I did find the Clearview some what more unpleasant against the skin than the Insulated AirCore... but neither is an ideal next to skin material :-) With both, I want some sort of cloth between me and the pad. This is normally not a problem since I sleep in clothing. When I was wearing a short sleeve shirt to bed I wrapped the top of the pad with a clothing item so my bare arms didn't directly touch the pad which worked fine.

I was very surprised that the pad was warm enough in cooler temperatures. In the past I had used air mattresses that started to chill around 50-55F. I have used the Clearview down to 27F. When the pad was fully inflated I didn't notice any sense of chill until the temp was around 32F and had no problem sleeping at 27F. I did notice that when the pad is not fully inflated that I noticed a chill from the ground more quickly. When I let out a bit of air for maximum comfort, I noticed a chill through that pad somewhere between 35-40F.

--Mark

Scott Van Doeselaar
(vandoe) - MLife

Locale: Southern CA
Re: Re: Re: Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Review on 08/27/2008 09:40:44 MDT Print View

I am a sleeping bag user and I found the stickiness to be an advantage. I never had issues with the pad sliding out from under me.

In comparison to other 2.5 inch air mattresses, I found this one to feel thinner than other's and required extra inflation to keep my hip off the ground. It still feels comfortable though because the material itself stretches a little.

I also found the length of 60 inches to be adequate for even though I am almost 6' 1". Occasionally I would find my shoulder landing on the valve but usually I could avoid this.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Review on 08/27/2008 10:26:28 MDT Print View

Good review and comments. I'm going to try it if I can find one somewhere.

Forrest G McCarthy
(forrestmccarthy) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Air Matress on 08/27/2008 10:58:02 MDT Print View

I would like to try the Big Agnes Air mattress. In recent years I have used a similar product made by POE and sold by Alpacka Raft. It is 2/3 length 2.5 inch thick air mattress that weighs 12 ounces. I originally bought one to use as an inflatable floor for my pack raft. After my first overnight, that I used it as my sleeping pad, I was completely converted. I now use it on overnights even when I don’t have a pack raft.

During winter and cold weather snow camping I use it in combination with a thin foamy. The foamy goes on top. I have used this combo on Denali and even at 17,200 feet I stayed plenty warm. In extreme cold you do need to be careful when inflating the pad. Lung moisture can freeze and crystallize resulting in small punctures and leaks.

It would be interesting to know how tolerant the Big Agnes is to ice crystals. I would be equally interested in how it would fit in the floor of an Alpacka Raft.

https://www.alpackaraft.com/store/index.cfm?ProductID=76&do=detail

Edited by forrestmccarthy on 08/27/2008 10:59:38 MDT.

John Carter
(jcarter1)

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Review on 08/27/2008 10:59:11 MDT Print View

Mark,

Did you have your Clearview inside a bivy? I would think that would make a big difference.

Darin Banner
(dbanner) - MLife

Locale: Pacific North West
Re: Air Matress on 08/27/2008 11:02:53 MDT Print View

How thick is the foam pad you put over it in the winter?

Tim Garner
(slowhike) - F

Locale: South East U.S.
add insulation? on 08/27/2008 11:37:01 MDT Print View

Since I sleep in a hammock, both on the trail & at home, I have found the BA insulated to feel slightly cool in the low 50s & upper 40s (F), probably because of being suspended in air.
I'm excited to see this good report on this new, lighter pad, but I suspect that even though I also wear clothing as part of my sleep system, I strongly suspect it will need some insulation help in a hammock at those temps.
What if a person made a hole & added a couple ozs of down, then resealed the hole?
I guess a valve from Exped's D.A.M. might need to be used to allow inflating it by the stuff sack.
...Tim

Edited by slowhike on 08/27/2008 11:41:31 MDT.

Forrest G McCarthy
(forrestmccarthy) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Foamy on top for sleeping on snow on 08/27/2008 17:58:55 MDT Print View

Darin,

On Denali I played it safe and used a full length 1/2" closed cell. On other winter trips I have been content with a 1/4". I have some 1/4" foam that I got randomly as packaging material and have never been able to find it elsewhere. Roman has a similar 1/4" inch thick foamy that he got special from POE. If anybody can recommend a good source for light weight 1/4" closed cell foam I would be interested.

Unless it is truly cold or I am sleeping on snow I don't find the foam necessary. I just returned from 8 days in the Wind Rivers. It dipped below freezing almost every night. I was on nothing but my air mattress (with a light weight down bag) and was plenty warm. And I am not a particularly warm sleeper.

I mentioned this in another thread: The 2.5" air mattress is great for mediating ground conduction when sleeping on snow. There is some heat loss in an air mattress through convection. The heat loss from convection can be mediated with a foam pad over the air mattress.

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Foamy on top for sleeping on snow on 08/27/2008 19:18:29 MDT Print View

To alleviate the ice crystals from forming, put the foam pad on the ground UNDER the air mattress and your body heat will prevent the crystals from forming.

Walter Underwood
(wunder) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Not Recommended on 08/27/2008 23:14:35 MDT Print View

This failed in three different ways during the test! The big bulges count as a failure. Sorry, this cannot be "recommended".

Forrest G McCarthy
(forrestmccarthy) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
re on 08/28/2008 10:04:23 MDT Print View

Michael,

I think you missed the point. You don't want to waste body heat by heating the air mattress. That is why it much warmer to have the foamy above. In sub-zero environments having the foamy below is not enough to prevent ice crystals from forming.

Joe Westing
(pedro87) - F
Re: Not Recommended on 08/28/2008 13:10:56 MDT Print View

Walter -

I would disagree that it "failed" three different ways in the this test (maybe only once) and that it should not be recommended. I do not know of any inflatable pad that would survive a nail being shoved into it (if such a pad exists, then it would be totally overbuilt for backpacking!). Also, few (if any) inflatable pads would survive being used on top of lava rocks (which are incredibly sharp). I would agree that the bulges were a failure, but that is more of an issue with the pad being used as part of a chair kit rather than as a sleeping pad. As Will stated in the article "it won't withstand outright abuse" but in normal conditions it will do just fine. It is tradeoff that you would have to make for the light weight of this pad (and many BPL readers would probably make that tradeoff). If you want bombproof durability, I would advise against insulated pads in general.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: re on 08/28/2008 17:54:37 MDT Print View

> You don't want to waste body heat by heating the air mattress. That is why it much warmer to have the foamy above.
The thermal mass of the air in the mattress is probably less than the thermal mass of the foam. Not a good argument imho.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Re: Re: Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Review on 08/28/2008 18:13:41 MDT Print View

To answers john's question... I was not using a bivy. Most nights in general, and the coldest in particular, it was polycro ground cloth, clearview, me, quilt. A couple of nights I was inside a tarp tent.

About temp range for comfort... I was sleeping on light vegetation or granite which had been heated during the day, and was a bit warmer than the air temperature at night. I don't think the air pad would have been sufficient at 32F if I was sleeping on snow, or in a hammock.

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Review - stickiness issue? on 08/29/2008 12:26:47 MDT Print View

A few readers have commented about the Clearview being sticky. I have not personally noticed that myself, but perhaps the urethane absorbs some moisture in damp weather? I have noticed that it squeaks sometimes when I slide on it, and it does resist sliding on a tent floor.

Best,
Will

David Heath
(snowguy) - F

Locale: Boulder Colorado
Clearview pad alternative to foam topper on 10/04/2009 13:13:27 MDT Print View

My clearview pad does fine down to around 32f . Below that down to about 25f I simply lay any extra shirts/pullovers on top of the pad. That slight stickiness holds them in place well. This works about as well as bringing that extra 2.5 oz 1/8th inch foam. Below about 25F I bring my BA insulated aircore.