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Big Agnes Q-Core SL Review

   

Men's Sleeping Pads

  • Currently 4.2/5
Overall avg rating 4.2 of 5 based on 2 reviews. Most recent review: June 11, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $140 - $220 | Compare prices at 8 resellers
Pros:  Moderately light, compact, and comfortable.
Cons:  "Pot hole" surface is not as comfortable as the mostly flat NeoAir series, slippery surface, bumpy side rails, low quality mesh stuff sack.
Best Uses:  Backpacking and camping.
User Rating:     
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 (5.0 of 5) based on 1 reviews
Manufacturer:   Big Agnes
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ July 14, 2013  
Overview
The Q-Core SL is a high quality lightly insulated sleeping pad that scores near the top of the pack in our ratings. It's moderately lightweight, reasonably warm, compact, and reasonably comfortable. Our testers found that the pad's "pot hole surface" wasn't as comfortable as Therm-a-Rest's NeoAir series. That's the pad's largest drawback. Even so, it's still a Top Five finisher.

Check out our Backpacking Sleeping Pad Review to compare all of the models tested.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Performance Comparison
Weight
The Q-Core SL weighs 19.5 ounces on our scale. This is 7 ounces more than the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite and 4 ounces more than the deep winter worthy Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm. Thus, the pad is moderately light, but not impressively light.

Packed Size
It packs down to a moderate size, but is still larger than the NeoAir XTherm.

Durability
We haven't tested the pad over the long-term, i.e. multiple years. However, based on our experience testing more than 30 pads and dozens of fabrics used in the outdoor industry we suspect that the pad offers average durability. The only concern we have lies with the dimple-like surface design; surface complexity increases the difficulty of repair. That is, a smoother, flatter surface is generally easier to patch. So, that could be potential drawback if the pad were to tear in or along one of the dimples.

Comfort
Originally we decided not to include the Q-Core series in our sleeping pad reviews because we didn't think they competed at a high level. After a while, however, we read a bunch of other reviews online that raved about the pads' comfort, read Big Agnes' description of the Q-Core as "the most comfortable pads on the planet," and we decided to test them (this and the Insulated Q-Core). But our testers were largely disappointed with their comfort. We expected the pads to be considerably more comfortable than they are. Here are the two primary problems we've found:

(1) One tester described the top as a "pot hole surface." There are big holes all over the pad!! They collect dirt and adventure grime and are not as comfortable to lay your head on directly as flatter surfaces, such as Therm-a-Rest's NeoAir series pads. Several testers went head-to-head with the Q-Core SL, Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm, and [Therm-a-Rest NeoAir All-Season]] on a backcountry ski expedition in Greenland. Their conclusion after a month on the pads: "Though the Big Agnes pad was the thickest, we all agreed that its baffles were a bit uncomfortable. We could always feel them, whereas the surface of the Therm-a-Rest pads was much more smooth and even."

It's also important to note that there are "rails" along the edges that aim to keep your body centered. We really dislike these because they prevent you from fully utilizing all of the surface area. Also, they prevent you from lining two pads up next to each other to create a larger flat surface; spooning with someone else or using a double wide sleeping bag is a pain at best with the Q-Core series. This eliminates the pad from consideration for use on fast and light winter trips where weight is the absolute top concern, i.e. where you share a Feathered Friends Spoonbill sleeping bag with another person-- the rails push you away from the other person to such an extent that the Spoonbill is neither comfortable nor thermally efficient.

(2) The next most significant drawback to the Q-Core SL is its slippery surface. This is a problem we've experienced with other Big Agnes pads, such as their Air Core, and it's detrimental for people that toss and turn a lot because you can easily slip off the pad. This is readily apparent when comparing various pads side-by-side. If you feel motivated you can lay strips of SeamGrip on the flatter parts to the pad to create more friction between you and the pad and between the pad and the ground.

Warmth
The pad is sufficiently warm for most winter applications. Our testers felt that the XTherm was slightly warmer, but not but too much. BUT, we haven't yet used the pad in very cold conditions, like -20 F.

Stuff Sack
The pad comes with a very low quality mesh stuff sack that's basically worthless. Mesh!? It doesn't protect the pad from dirt or grime and it ripped within the first week of testing. C'mon Big Agnes!

Best Applications
Winter camping and backpacking.

Value
Like all top-tier pads, the Q-Core SL is pricey. If it were more comfortable we would think it a better value.

Conclusion
The Q-Core SL is almost the best lightweight pads we've tested. If it were more comfortable and a bit lighter it might be closer to #1.

Other Versions and Accessories
The Insulated Q-Core, $120, is slightly warmer, more durable, and heavier.
The Big Agnes Q-Core SL Mummy, $160, is shaped for your mummy sleeping bag.

Looking for a cheaper alternative? The Big Agnes Air Core, $50, is shockingly compact for its weight. At 22 ounces, its moderately light, reasonably comfortable, and is the cheapest inflatable pad weve tested. This pad is a great value for a first backpacking pad.

Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: June 11, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (5.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (1)
4 star: 50%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 1 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Jun 11, 2014 - 03:20am
Traci Walker · Snowboarder · CA
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Credit: Traci Walker
LOVE this! I am not reviewing women's sleeping pads being 5'8" and 180lbs. I went with the q core SL wide and X long after sleeping (poorly) on an older thermarest and vowing to get the best most comfortable sleeping pad ever or not sleep on the ground again. Honestly being in my 40's I thought maybe my backpacking days were just done. This has renewed my love for backcountry camping and I have slept on it well over 30 nights in the last 6 months. 11 nights in january, 16 nights in march and a few other trips… I slept on it last night too at around 9000ft. The Q core seems to regulate my body temperature and the dogs really like it too, so far no problems with them walking on it. I am a 3 season camper. I think I sleep better on Q core then in my very comfortable bed for at least several consecutive days at which time my bed seems to become more desirable. I find the baffles and the whole design to be very ergonomic even when I side sleep or sleep on my stomach. To me the well rested sleep far compensates the small amount of extra weight.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Big Agnes Q-Core SL
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