I have an ultralight, tiny inflatable pad that is my go to for fast and light adventures. But sometimes at the end of a moderate backpacking trip, you just want something soft and warm to lay down on. Something that make it worth carrying a few extra ounces. Enter Big Agnes. An amazing company who makes not only pads, but incredible tents, backpacking chairs, sleeping bags and more recently apparel. Big Agnes is the go to company for comfortable, lightweight sleep systems. A few days before leaving for an overnighter, I decided it was time to acquire a more comfortable air mattress for less aggressive trips in the backcountry. I investigated the options, but ultimately chose the Big Agnes Q-Core SL.
Initial Impressions- The Q-Core SL is the lightest weight insulated sleeping pad from Big Agnes. They offer a more economical version of the pad known as the Q-Core. The reason I decided to give Big Agnes a try was that my girlfriend has been using their Insulated Air Core pad for years, and has loved it. Even though she loves the comfort of the pad, there have been untraceable leaks. A quick email to Big Agnes and a few bucks to ship it back to them has resulted in incredible customer service. All products are destine to have issues overtime. Quality customer service practices are what keep customers coming back. Anyway the Q-Core SL is rated to 15 degrees and has a estimated R-value of 4.5. These measurements are great guidelines, but these numbers are highly individualized. Everyone sleeps comfortably at different temperatures, so don't get too hung up on these numbers. The pad has a generous 3.5 inches of thickness. I ended up going with the rectangular pad instead of the mummy style, only because it is what was immediately available. I believe the mummy would have been a better fit in our tent. The pad uses X-Static insulation which is bonded with a permeant layer of silver. This layer is antimicrobial and helps to reflect heat. The pad uses an I-beam construction that allows the pad to be a more flat surface then horizontal or vertical chambers. Each of the sides have oversized 'rails' that help to keep you centered on the pad throughout the night. The real deal sealer for me was the bright orange color it comes in.
Use- The Big Agnes Q-Core SL pad was the most comfortable pad I tried out in the store. The 3.5" of thickness provided maximum comfort with minimal bulk. But who cares what it felt like in the shop, what about on the trail? Well the pad lived up to all my expectations and more. Sleeping on this pad was the second best night of sleep I have had in the backcountry. Coming in only second after that one time I got my hammock insulated, hung, and balanced perfectly. The Q-core immediately reflects your heat when you lay down on it. It takes a few seconds, but you can feel the heat bouncing back and beginning to warm you. The pad material feels the same as any other higher end pad, and is slightly slippery. The Q-core is designed to create heat pockets between you and the pad. Although this design seems to work, I could see these being magnets for dirt/debris. Even thought the pad has insulation it is compact. I know multiple people who own Big Agnes pads and are satisfied with them, except that the valve has failed. Big Agnes customer service has stood behind their product line in every case.