Big Agnes knows how to put people to sleep, but it was only with the recent launch of the Q-Core SL that trekkers could get at that comfort in a lightweight package.  I’ve been snoring and drooling all over this hot new pad throughout the Sangre de Cristos and the Rubies, so if I can stay awake long enough I’ll spill the beans on BA’s newest hit.

Big Agnes Q-Core SL Features:

  • Superlight version of the Insulated Q-Core pads
  • Light and compact three season pads at 3.5”/9cm thick for extra comfort
  • Estimated R-Value of 4.5
  • X-Static synthetic insulation with the natural performance of silver filament to enhance thermodynamic, anti-microbial and anti-odor properties
  • Alternating I-Beam construction creates a smoother, more comfortable feel
  • Durable, light-weight nylon rip-stop top and bottom
  • Internal polyurethane coating
  • Larger outsider air chambers keep you cradled in the middle of the pad
  • MSRP: $139 – $219 (depending on size and shape)

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My Experience

Perhaps the single biggest component in this pad’s comfort is its alternating I-Beam construction.  The idea here is to have support both vertically and horizontally across the pad to replicate the feeling of a bed.  In practice, I’d say it works pretty well – the construction eliminates pressure points and supports your body evenly while you’re lying down.

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The Q-Core has insulation enough to be a comfortable three-season pad, but you’ll want to add a closed-cell foam pad when temperatures dip.  The pad has a very light synthetic insulation composed of silver threads which bounce your heat back at you.  The insulation is also antimicrobial, so you can expect the pad to resist odor and bacterial growth from inflation.  On that note, the pad inflates pretty quickly considering how much volume that 3 inch depth creates.  Naturally, inflation times are a little less impressive at 12,000 feet.

Another key component to the pad’s comfort is its height – the center of the pad sits a whopping 3 inches off of the ground.  To further supplement comfort, the edges of the pad raise to 3.5 inches in order to cradle the sleeper in the center of the pad.  I’m not much of a back sleeper, but I really appreciated how the pad kept me off of the ground during my nighttime perambulations around the tent.

In the provided stuff sack, the Q-Core SL packs up slightly larger than a Nalgene.

In the provided stuff sack, the Q-Core SL packs up slightly larger than a Nalgene.

The pad that I tested was a 72″x20″ mummy style and it’s the lightest model that Big Agnes offers at 16 oz.  That isn’t bad for a lightly insulated pad, but you could easily shed another two ounces with the Big Agnes Air Core SL.  Weight aside, one of the best ways to find a good sleeping pad is to go to your local REI; just about every REI I’ve been to has a ton of sleeping pads set up for customers to test.

The Good:

  • Light, comfy and lightly insulated for three-season use
  • Construction eliminates pressure points
  • Impressive 3″ thick, yet packs small
  • Includes a field repair kit

The Bad:

  • Quality comes with a price

The Bottom Line

I slept really well on the Q-Core SL – isn’t that really all the bottom line we need?  Big Agnes is defending their reputation as the mother of comfort, and I’d be happy to put some money on this product as the best sleeping pad of its style on the market right now.  It’s pretty expensive considering you can pick up a Therm-a-Rest for less than half the cost, but I can’t say that I’ve ever slept this well on a Therm-a-Rest.  Regardless, go check out the pad for yourself at your local gear store – just try not to snore.

Buy Now: Available from REI.com

About Author

Kevin Glover is an outdoorsman living, climbing and biking in Spokane, WA. Originally from the Nevada high desert, he moved to the PNW for its mild winters and allergen-free summers. He has guided throughout the Cascades and Enchantments for Peak 7 Adventures.

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