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Hands-on Gear Review
Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Review
Cons: Irregular surface isn't as comfortable as pads with a flatter surface, side rails feel a bit slippery/bumpy
The Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core is a slightly warmer, more durable, and heavier version of the Big Agnes Q-Core SL pad. We tested both over a winter of climbing and skiing, on a month-long expedition to Greenland. Although we liked these pads, we found their performance was not quite as high as the very best pads on the market.
Between the Insulated Q-Core and the Q-Core SL, we preferred the SL, which performs better in our ratings due to its lower weight. In short, the Insulated Q-Core boasts a good value for a cold winter sleeping pad but is a little heavier than we'd like. Continue reading to see how this pad compares in our side-by-side review.
RELATED: Our complete review of men's sleeping pads
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
The Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core performs above average and is an excellent pad barring its relatively high weight. It is one of the most comfortable pads we reviewed and is warm enough for year round use.
The Q-Core could have been a little more comfortable, but ultimately our testers loved sleeping on it. The unique baffling was both an asset and a detriment to this pad's comfort. The benefit of this quilt-like design is that the pad escapes the bouncy sensation of vertically baffled pads and the edge collapsing instability of horizontally baffled pads. Instead, the Q-Core feels structurally supportive. The downside of this design is that it yields a sleep surface riddled with potholes. Back sleepers will find that the increased stability and plushness of this pad make up for the absence of a smooth sleep surface. When you sleep on your side, however, your body will fall into the craters of each pothole.
Ultimately, we found that pads with smooth, even surfaces are more comfortable than those without. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture embodies this design and scored slightly higher. Though we don't love the potholes on the Q-Core, we think that the increased plushness and stability greatly increase the overall comfort of this pad thus offsetting our complaint about the potholes. We give it an 8/10 but could easily see it being the most comfortable pad in the review if the aforementioned issue wasn't present.
Weighing in at 25.5 ounces on our scale, the Insulated Q-Core is far from ultralight. That's a full 10 ounces more than the Editors' Choice winning Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm (which is warmer!). This Big Agnes pad weighs as much as many ultralight tents and top of the line three-season sleeping bags! If your outdoor fix involves human powered ventures into the backcountry, this pad leaves a lot to be desired. With that said, the high weight gives you a pad that's very durable, relatively inexpensive, and warm.
This pad is packed with insulation and as a result is quite warm. We have no complains regarding it's warmth. It is one of the warmest pads we reviewed and we wouldn't hesitate to use it in winter. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir All Season is about as warm but packs down much smaller and is 4.5 ounces lighter.
This pad is far smaller than a foam pad, but isn't nearly as packable as the highest performing pads. If packed size is of supreme consideration, you should read our review of the Sea to Summit UltraLight.
The Insulated Q-Core is constructed with durable fabrics on the top and bottom, which is one of the reasons why it is so heavy compared with its Q-Core SL brother. We expect that this pad will survive years of abuse.
This pad is best used at base camp or for trips where you aren't hiking very far and want a warm and comfortable pad. It is not suited for ultralight, weight-conscious endeavors.
While it provides a sufficient amount of warmth for the price, we would rather spend a few extra dollars to upgrade to a lighter weight pad. That said, if you don't need lightweight gear, this pad is a decent value.
The Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core scored well in every metric aside from weight. It is very durable, comfortable, and is warm enough for winter use. It was far from our favorite pad in the review, but scored higher than most.
Big Agnes Q-Core SL
Big Agnes Air Core
— Jeremy Bauman
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: January 17, 2016
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