Big Agnes Q-Core SL Review

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

Q-Core SL packedThe 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

Big Agnes Q-Core SLThe 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.

Big Agnes Q-Core SL ValveThe pad inflates fast enough, and the pad is compatible with the BA pump house for easier inflation (about 12 pumps and a breath to top it off).

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.

Overal

Q-Core SL LongDespite 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.

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5 thoughts on “Big Agnes Q-Core SL Review

  1. Good review. I have the Q-Core, the not SL version of this. I’d love to upgrade, if only I can find someone to take my pad off my hands. This one is close to half a pound lighter, but at the expense of a little bit of insulation. You have to balance comfort in camp against comfort on the trail…

    Anyway, I’d agree with all of this. It was the most comfortable air mat they had in the store. I tell people (when I’m trying to convince them to try camping, or, as my friend put it, “driving 100 miles to sleep on dirt.”) that it feels like a regular bed. It’s quiet and warm, it’s nice to be able to flip it over during that one heat wave in August for a cooler night’s sleep. Takes a while to deflate, that’s the slowest thing I do while breaking camp, although it helps to open the nozzle while it’s still “in” the sleeping bag. And yeah, a little slippery if you’re not on a flat surface, much worse with a bag that doesn’t have that sleeve.

    • It feels nice in the store, but it feels even better on the ground. I would wait it out just a few weeks. I’ve contacted Big Agnes about the size issue, and their either changing the sizes, or changing the specs. I’m hoping for correcting the sizes. It would be perfect in that case.
      Thanks for commenting! Very well said.

      • So, I’ve been using the Q-Core for about a year. I agree, it’s just as comfortable on a granite slab as it is on the floor at the store. A friend told me REI is having a sale, so I went last night, and the Q-Core SL is on sale for $120 (I think?) until Friday. The dilemma grows.

  2. That’s an excellent price. It would be hard to pass up if it was me. I really don’t think you would be disappointed. Being REI, if you’re not happy with it it’s always returnable, which is a huge park.

  3. Pingback: How to Sleep Better in the Backcountry | TreeLineBackpacker

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