Recently my beloved Big Agnes Q Core SL was refusing to hold air throughout the night. After locating a few pinpricks I sealed them up and thought I was good to go. Unfortunately the leak continued, but I was unable to locate the holes. Big Agnes runs a repair program that allows you to send in your air mattress for a repair. BA couldn't locate the holes on my pad and decided to issue me a warranty replacement instead. When I received the box a few days later it came as quite a surprise that they had issued my a replacement upgrade to their newest model. The Big Agnes Q Core SLX is the predecessor of the Q Core SL and boast a lower weight, smaller package, and more durability. That is a tall order to serve up, but I was willing to test that out.
Initial Thoughts- The Big Agnes Q Core SLX is their top of the line insulated air chamber pad. The pad is constructed with different rip stop material then the previous model. It is claimed to be a stronger and lighter material. The SLX takes the cake by being 4.25" thick and comes in multiple lengths to fit multiple body sizes. Because my previous model was a Regular length, that is the SLX I received. The new material contributes to an overall reduction in the weight dropping by a full ounce and placing the pad right at the 1lb mark. Taking note from other manufacturers the Q Core SLX has raised side rails which are designed to help keep the sleeper in the center of the mattress. The biggest chance to the pad is in the inflation department. Rather then the old screw style valve, BA went with a flip top inflation port and quick deflation valve. The larger inflation valve also provides a one way flap that allows easier inflation, as well as the ability to micro adjust the air pressure easily. The separate and large deflation valve allows more air to exit and creates for easier camp breakdown.
Use- The Q Core SLX is very similar to the previous version, as it should be. The comfort level is just as high in regards to the thickness. Although the SLX has raised side rails, I did not notice a difference. They are designed to keep you centered in the pad. The material of the pad definitely feels sturdier then the previous model, but only time will tell. One thing I did notice was the pad seems more narrow. Even though it measures out the same as the previous model, it felt like I had less area to work with. If you are someone who sleeps with their arms on their side, I would suggest getting the wide version. The real area this pad shines is in the inflation and deflation area. The new inflation valve took some getting use to but once I did it was significantly easier to inflate. By securing your mouth around the opening, a maximum amount of air enters the pad. The one way valve design works great at keeping that air in the pad. Because of the thickness of the pad, I hope BA comes up with a similar inflation stuff sack that they have for previous models. Deflating the pad is ridiculously fast. No longer do you have to open the valve and lay on the pad till it deflates. Pop it open and it is empty. This makes rolling the pad much easier, and ensures a nice tight roll.
Final Thoughts- The Big Agnes Q Core SLX is flashy, light, and well designed. They took an already great design and improved on it successfully. Although there are some things I would change about it, the pad provides premium comfort in a reasonably lightweight package. The combination of tougher materials, and the new valve designs are excellent for backcountry use. Although the pad is an improvement, I would not suggest upgrading just for the sake of upgrading. The previous model provides similar comfort and can probably be found discounted. If your like me and want the best of the best, check out the details of the Big Agnes Q Core SLX.
*This product was provided as a replacement to the previous model when it was returned to Big Agnes for repair.