This is the most compact alternative to the traditional self-inflating mattress. The Air Pad packs down incredibly small, but inflates to a respectable 200x50x5cm. There is no foam filling, and it’s clear to look through as the name suggests
The Clearview comes packed in a tiny mesh stuffsack that can be easily slipped into a pocket of a rucksack, unlike most mats, which are so large that they need to be stashed to the outside of the pack, or the user may have to be prepared to lose some of their main compartment to their sleep mat.
The mat is made from polyurethane with welded seams and comprises of a series of longitudinal baffles. A plastic valve allows airflow, and while other mats can be left to self-inflate this model requires some lung power to achieve maximum comfort in the shortest amount of time.
Once inflated the Clearview mat is eerily clear to look through, and when grabbed it flexes with the tone of a large party balloon that has been kicked across the room. It also has the appearance and feel that it would burst like a balloon. Putting it to use on the hill was the only way to judge how good this mat actually is.
On the hill
Taking this onto the hill was a breeze due to that small packed size. Unpacking and blowing it up was easy too and pretty soon it was inflated and ready to sleep on. Clambering around on this mat during the evening did not give me the confidence that it would take too much abuse, and once again I felt it would be as easy to pop as a balloon, a feeling which I’m finding hard not to associate this mat with. It is a bouncy cushion but it does not provide as much comfort as others on hard or jagged surfaces, even though it is 5cm thick. I suspect this is because there is no foam padding inside it. A knee easily compresses the air-filled channels and a bony hip also receives minimal cushioning. A minor niggle is that when rolling around trying to get comfortable you can hear the air moving through the air channels. Having said that, when lying down on flat grass the mat was excellent as my body weight was more evenly distributed, and in this situation the Clearview Air Pad worked really well. So this mat does provide protection and insulation, but it works best when the ground is flat. Indeed the manufacturers recommend adding a closed cell foam mat for extra insulation.
Thermal resistance unknown
Temperature rating unknown
Inflated size 200x50x5cm
Packed size 20x14x8cm
Weight with stuffsack 486g
Made in China
Stores in the UK 6
Stockist details – tel. (0131) 668 4171; www.bigagnes.co.uk
Verdict: The Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad boasts an extremely small packed size and very lightweight; superb price. But it felt less durable than other options on test; the least warm in this test. Overall, perfect for backpackers on a budget who don’t need the lightest mat, but do want the smallest packed size and good comfort
Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine Spring 2009