Big Agnes has a solid reputation for making some of the most comfortable backpacking products on the market. More comfort can often mean gear that’s slightly heavier and bulkier, but the Zoom UL pad is the best of both worlds – super light and luxuriously comfy. This 3.25 in. thick sleeping pad has an R-value that will keep you warm to right around freezing, a valve design that makes for easy inflation/deflation, and a rectangular shape providing more room for sprawling out.
LISTED WEIGHT: 14 oz. (pad only)
MEASURED WEIGHT: 14.25 oz. (pad only)
DIMENSIONS (LxWxH): 72 x 20 x 3.25 in.
Really well priced for the specs – The price of the Zoom UL places it right in the middle of the pack on our Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads list, but the pads you’ll find in its price range are almost all heavier, less thick, and/or less insulated.
While the initial cost of this pad may look daunting to some, we say the premium specs and features are well worth the cost if you can spring for it. This high-quality pad is a great deal and will be more cost-effective than replacing a cheap or uncomfortable pad in the future.
We strive to keep our pack weight as low as possible when backpacking to increase comfort and enjoyment on trail. A lighter pack will cause less strain on your muscles and joints and will leave you with more energy for hiking.
Comfortable – The Zoom UL is a very comfortable sleeping pad – it’s thicker than many others, it has side rails designed to keep you in the center, and the rectangle shape provides more space than a mummy shape. We’ll talk about those last two in more detail below.
The closest comfort comparison for the Zoom UL would probably be the NEMO Tensor – which we rank as one of the most comfortable pads on our list of the Best Sleeping Pads. The Zoom UL weighs an ounce less and has a .1 higher R-value, which may not sound all that exciting until you consider the fact that the Zoom UL also costs $20 less.
Warm– The Zoom UL has an R-value of 4.3 which will generally keep you warm to right around freezing (or a little below if you’re a warm sleeper). Of course, you’ll need to pair it with a sleeping bag or quilt rated for the lowest temperature you plan to encounter, but the Zoom UL will do a lot of the heavy lifting by keeping you well insulated from the cold ground.
Great valve design – The flat valve welded into the front of the pad is simple yet highly functional. The one-way design allows for easy inflation without having to worry about air escaping when it’s open. If you overinflate, all you have to do is press the center of the valve to let air out a little at a time until it’s at your desired level of firmness.
When it’s time to deflate, a tab on the valve closure inserts into the valve to hold it open. Most of the air will escape on its own while you pack up something else.
Compact – The Zoom UL packs down smaller than most air pads. The only real competition in the packability arena is the Therm-a-Rest Uberlite, and still the Zoom UL is almost as compact. When you consider that the Zoom UL weighs over 1.5 times as much as the UberLite does, the almost equal packability is pretty impressive.
While the difference in packability between the Zoom UL and other leading sleeping pads may not be the thing that makes or breaks your purchase decision, it’s still important. More compact gear means you can carry a smaller backpack, a smaller backpack means less weight, and less weight means more fun.
Rectangle shape is roomy – Rectangular pads are usually more comfy than mummy pads for back-sleepers and stomach-sleepers since there’s a bit more room to spread without your limbs hanging off the sides.
Rectangle pads might weigh a bit more than mummy pads, but it’s typically not by much. The increase in comfort is often worth it for back and stomach-sleepers since it’s important to get good rest when you’re logging miles in the backcountry.
Side rails keep you centered – The side rails of the Zoom UL are 3.5 in. thick while the center is 3.25 in. thick. This subtle difference in thickness is designed to keep you centered on your pad and reduce the chances that you wake up halfway off of it in the middle of the night.
Pump sack included – The Zoom UL comes with a pump sack to make inflating a lot faster. This is becoming pretty standard for all sleeping pads, but it’s still worth noting as it saves you a ton of time and effort.
While the design of the included pump sack isn’t our favorite (we’ll talk more about that in the CONS section), it gets the job done.
A little slower to deflate than some pads – While we do like the valve on the Zoom UL, we prefer sleeping pads with a dump valve for super quick deflation. Either way, the Zoom deflates fairly quickly and this is a minor gripe.
Included pump sack isn’t our favorite – The included pump sack is designed with thick material and a wide opening that makes it a little tougher to keep air from escaping before you can roll it up. It still works, but it’s certainly less efficient than thinner sacks or those with more narrow openings like the Vortex pump sack included with the NEMO Tensor.
Many pump sacks are designed with clips so you can close them and use them as a dry bag. We love items that serve a dual purpose as this can save you some weight. Unfortunately the pump sack that comes with Zoom UL doesn’t have a closure and isn’t really useful beyond pumping air.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better pad than the Big Agnes Zoom UL in this price range. This rectangular sleeping pad is plenty warm for most three-season adventures, and its compact, ultralight design will help keep your pack weight and bulk to a minimum. We highly recommend the Zoom UL for hikers looking for a good balance of cost, weight, and comfort.
We hope this review helps you determine if the Big Agnes Zoom UL sleeping pad is right for you. As always, please leave a comment below if you have any recommendations, questions, or suggestions or visit our Facebook page and Instagram to join the community conversation. If you found this review helpful, please share on social media and click the little heart button below to give us a digital high five!
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