Big Agnes earns magazine award

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— The Big Agnes sleeping bag system designed by partners Brad Johnson and Bill Gamber won the prestigious "Killer Value" award from Outside Magazine.

The system consists of several components all meant to work together. The line includes three different sleeping bags, foam sleeping pads intended to fit easily on a backpack, compact stuff sacks for the bags, and a girdle. The girdle is actually a system of compression straps that allow backpackers to squeeze their Big Agnes bag into a remarkably small package.

At the core of the big Agnes system is a sleeve in the bottom of each sleeping bag where campers insert their sleeping pad. It ensures they won't roll off of it during the night.

However, Johnson and Gamber also realized there was an opportunity to give their customers roomier bags and still make them pack smaller than any other sleeping bag they had ever owned.

"What do you need when you buy a sleeping bag?" Gamber asked. "You need a warm comfortable bag you can pack in."

The two partners realized that a good portion of the insulation in traditional bags, whether down or synthetic, is wasted. That's because the insulation you lie on while sleeping is compressed to the extent that it really doesn't afford any insulating properties. And if you're sleeping on a good pad, which you're guaranteed not to roll off of, that insulation is superfluous anyway. Consequently, Big Agnes has eliminated insulation form the bottom of its sleeping bags.

Gamber and Johnson believe they make the best sleeping pad in the business, but they're also smart enough not to exclude the fine pads made by Therma-Rest, that have dominated the industry for more than a decade. Big Agnes is designed to easily accommodate customers' existing pads.

"We're right in there with the biggest market," Gamber said.

Big Agnes also offers unprecedented versatility in its system. The Cross Mountain bag, at $119 to $129 depending upon size, offers sleeping comfort in a range between 40 and 60 degrees. Customers can purchase the three-season Encampment bag (synthetic insulation, $170 or $180), or the Lost Ranger (down, $199 or $209) and slide them inside the Cross Mountain to achieve a winter camping bag. Gamber said it's like getting three bags for the cost of two modestly priced bags.

Along with the major features of the Big Agnes sleeping bag, Outside took notice of the built in pillow sleeve, which allows backpackers to stuff a fleece jacket into the pocket for an instant pillow.

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