Hands-on Gear Review
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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.
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 finisher.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Unfortunately our testers didn't think the SL was very comfortable. 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 the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm or the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir All Season. Even though the Big Agnes pad is thicker than these two NeoAir pads, 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. Some backpackers love these types of rails, which are also found on the REI AirRail 1.5, but they also prevent you from lining two pads up next to each other to create a larger flat surface. It's also difficult to impossible to spoon with someone else.
(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 the Big Agnes 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.
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.
The pad is sufficiently warm for most winter applications. Our testers felt that the XTherm was slightly warmer, but not but too much.
It packs down to a moderate size, but is still larger than the NeoAir XTherm.
Based on our experience, 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.
Winter camping and backpacking.
Like all top-tier pads, the Q-Core SL is pricey. If it were more comfortable we would think it a better value.
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.
Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core
Big Agnes Air Core
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: March 24, 2015
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