Field Tested: Big Agnes Pitchpine SL and Air Core SL

I’ve known about the Big Agnes sleep system for years, but never had a chance to try it until we received this ultralight sleeping bag and pad. The key to the system is a sleeve on the back of the sleeping bag that slides over the pad. A thin strap goes around the bottom of the pad to keep everything in place while allowing for plenty of leg movement.

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Pitchpine SL 45 – $350

There are plenty of down sleeping bags on the market, but setting the Pitchpine apart is the Downtek water-resistant down insulation. Down is an amazing insulator, until it gets wet, and once wet it takes forever to dry. Downtek is a treatment that claims to repel water, absorb less water when wet, dry 60 percent faster and retain more heat when wet than untreated down.

Combine the treated down with a water-repellent, ripstop nylon shell and you get all of the positive aspects of down with much less worry about getting it wet and spending a cold night in the woods.

The Pitchpine is roomy enough for me to turn over inside without issue, but I do push the limits of the regular bag’s length, but that is my own fault, as looking at the sizing chart would have put me in a long if I was paying attention. The 5’10” max height recommendation is spot on.

In the name of weight savings, the Pitchpine has no hood, but there is still a drawstring and draft collar to prevent drafts. A nylon sleeve is provided for a pillow or rolled up jacket, and fabric loops inside keep a liner (sold separately) in place. The sleeping pad sleeve on the back can accommodate any 20-inch wide pad, from any manufacturer, so if you have something you like already, no need to upgrade.

Air Core SL – $100

The Air Core comes in both rectangular and tapered mummy shapes. I tested the regular length rectangular pad, and the extra leg support might be enough to keep away from mummy pads forever. Instead of the more typical long baffles, the Air Core uses a diagonal I-beam construction, which seems more supportive for me. This also makes the pad easier to deflate completely on the first try.

While this rolls up very small, once inflated it’s really quite thick, and my first night on it was one of the best I’ve had in the woods. While the sleeping pad is very comfortable, I’m sure the fact that the bag was attached and I couldn’t fall off in the middle of the night had a lot to do with it as well.

While expensive, there is no denying a 18 ounce sleeping bag that packs down small, resists wetness, and keeps you warm is worth spending some money on. Combine that with a sleeping pad that weighs the same and provides an excellent nights sleep, and I call this a winning combo for riders looking for a comfortable nights sleep while ultralight bikepacking.

For 2015, the Air Core SL is gone from the Big Agnes catalog, but is replaced by the similar Green Ridge pad, which is claimed to weigh the same, while being about $20 or so less expensive.


Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.

 

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