A good nights sleep is priceless, but Big Agnes puts a tag on it anyway. Does $160 (regular length) deliver the goods, or will you be left flat on your back.
About the pad
The q-core SL is basically the popular Big Agnes Q-core built with super light materials (hence the SL tacked on). Instead of the typical tubular design, BA has “quilted” the pad in an effort to provide a more even weight distribution. The pad is built from rip-stop nylon, utilizing the “X-Static” insulation by 3M. It’s basically Thinsulate insulation with a silver lining for more insulation and better antimicrobial properties. Gone are the all brass inflation valves from past pads. Instead now they have a brass core, with plastic housing. The pad weighs in at 1 lb. 2 oz. for the regular length. Dimensions are supposedly(more on that key term later) 72 x 20 x 3.5 inches for the regular size.
What I liked about the pad
The pad is quite comfy. Most pads feel like you’re laying on a pool toy, but the Q-core feels more like a bed thanks to the quilting across the pad surface. The quilting does a great job of dispersing your weight across the entire pad, which helps to eliminate soreness in the hips and shoulders. I slept soundly on the pad throughout the entire night, and stayed very warm against the insulated surface. I never woke up with a general sense of “can’t get comfy” like I have so many times with other pads. When you lay on the pad you can actually feel the heat reflecting back onto your body. Flip it logo side down for a cooler nights sleep. The pad is rated at 15 degrees F, but I haven’t tested the lower limits yet.
Weight is minimal for an insulated pad. 1 lb. 2 oz isn’t too bad for the quality sleep you’ll gain from carrying it around. It packs up small into the included 5 x 10 stuff sack. The pad includes a pad repair kit comprised of a patch and sealant in case you spring a leak.
Build quality feels top notch just most of the BA products I’ve tested, thanks to the rip-stop nylon and quality valve construction. Adjusting yourself on the pad is also quieter than most pads I’ve tested.
What I didn’t like
The dimensions of the pad are wrong, with no debate about it. The pad is a full .75 inches narrower than advertised on each side(that’s missing 1.5 inches in total width). While and inch and a half doesn’t sound like much, for many, myself included, it can be the difference between your arms resting on the pad, and on the ground. I actually tested the “long” and it’s only 1 inch longer than my Insulated Air Core Regular from BA. I’ve contacted BA about this, and they’re working on a solution. Until then, it’s a burning,irritating quibble I have about the pad.
As usual, the pad material is pretty slick. If you’re camping on a slope you’ll be somewhere between deep,beautiful sleep and competitive luge racing. While it’s not terrible, it can be a challenge if you’re trying to stay off the walls of your tent. This is par for the course, however, with most modern inflatable pads. Camp accordingly.
Despite the gleaming miscalculation of width and length, it’s still the best nights sleep I’ve had on a sleeping pad. 160 bucks is pretty steep for a sleeping pad, but if you’re big on quality rest, it’s a sound purchase. The pad feels comfortable and soft against the body without pressure points. Warmth is abundant and soothing on cool nights in the back country. The pad is light, inflates quickly, and without making you too dizzy after a long hard trek. Build quality is excellent despite the “super light” nomenclature.
Recommended, with reservation
You’ll like this pad. Keep in mind the misdemeanor of dimensions when purchasing, but otherwise a fantastic pad.