The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Insulated Review

A great three-season pad that doesn't weigh you down or sacrifice comfort
Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Insulated
Photo: Backcountry
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $150 List | $129.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, good for three season use, packs small, comfortable
Cons:  Lightweight material isn't very durable
Manufacturer:   Big Agnes
By Brian Martin ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 18, 2020
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 17
  • Comfort - 30% 8
  • Weight and Packed Size - 30% 6
  • Warmth - 20% 6
  • Ease of Inflation - 10% 7
  • Durability - 10% 6

Our Verdict

The Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Insulated is first and foremost a chunky pad when inflated. This is a three-season sleeping pad that performed excellently throughout our testing. This is certainly not an ultralight pad but retains a respectable weight for the high level of comfort and seasonal versatility it offers. Side sleepers should take a long hard look at this pad, as the massively thick pad guards from bottoming out even without pumping to maximum capacity, and clever side rails make tossing and turning less problematic.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $129.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$219.95 at Amazon$149.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$199.95 at Backcountry$149.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
67
77
76
70
66
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Lightweight, good for three season use, packs small, comfortableSuperior warmth, small packed size, lightLightweight, warm for the weight, packs small, comfortable, versatileComfortable, dual air chambers are redundant, quiet, warm, stable, and supportiveWarm, durable, wide, quality construction
Cons Lightweight material isn't very durableNarrow, expensiveExpensive, edges not as stable as other pad designsHeavy, expensiveHeavy
Bottom Line Ready for all adventures, this versatile model doesn't disappointWith a warmth to weight ratio that is off the charts, this is one of our favorite pads of all timeA comfortable, lightweight, and versatile sleeping pad that has withstood the test of timeIdeal for folks who think sleeping pads cannot provide mega comfort; prove them wrongA true all around sleeping pad that offers exceptional four season comfort, thoughtful design, and durable build
Rating Categories Q-Core SLX Insulated Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Comfort Plus Insulated Exped Synmat XP 9
Comfort (30%)
8
7
7
9
9
Weight And Packed Size (30%)
6
8
9
4
3
Warmth (20%)
6
9
7
8
8
Ease Of Inflation (10%)
7
8
8
7
7
Durability (10%)
6
6
6
8
7
Specs Q-Core SLX Insulated Therm-a-Rest... Therm-a-Rest... Comfort Plus... Exped Synmat XP 9
Weight 22.2 oz 18.2 oz 16 oz 25.5 oz 38.5 oz
Thickness 3.25 in 2.5 in 2.5 in 2.5 in 4.5 in
Claimed R Value 3.5 6.9 4.2 5 6
Length 72 in 72 in 72 in 72 in 72 in
Packed Volume (L) 1.5 L 1.8 L 1.8 L 3.1 L 5.4 L
Width 20 in 20 in 20 in 21.5 in 20.5 in
Breaths to Inflate 15-20 15-20 15-20 25-30 N/a
Type Air Construction/Synthetic Insulation Air Construction/Baffled Insulation Air Construction/Baffled Insulation Air Construction/Synthetic Insulation Air Construction/Synthetic Insulation

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Big Agnes Q-Core SLX is an excellent balance of warmth, weight, comfort, and durability. It doesn't put all of its eggs in one basket; instead, this pad performs decently in all areas. While all of our testers enjoyed using the Q-Core SLX, it lacked the wow factor that typically associates itself with award winners, but the strong performance throughout metrics does make it a strong contender.

Performance Comparison


The Q-Core is a great all-around sleeping pad. We felt the warmth...
The Q-Core is a great all-around sleeping pad. We felt the warmth, comfort, ease of inflation, and packability were all on point. This pad is more of a "jack of all trades" kinda pad and less of a specialist in one area.
Photo: Brian Martin

Comfort


The quilted baffle design of the Q-Core SLX offers over four inches of plush, insulated comfort. The laminated quilt pattern creates a trough with large edges, which help keep you centered when squirming around in the middle of the night looking for the chocolate bars. While the four-plus inches of loft may seem excessive, it was an excellent barrier between our bodies and the ground. Even with minimal site clearing, we felt absolutely no debris or bumps under the pad.

As our main pad tester this year is an aging Xennial (born in 85)...
As our main pad tester this year is an aging Xennial (born in 85) the massive amount of padding offered by the Q-Core was greatly appreciated.
Photo: Brian Martin

The Q-Core is plush and nearly double the thickness of other inflatable pads we tested. This thickness did come with one downside. While pads with tight baffles and narrow channels have almost eliminated the annoying bounce felt in early sleeping pads, the Q-Core SLX still has a bit of the annoying bounciness when shifting around. It is nothing compared to early inflatable sleeping pads and a far cry from the dangerously bouncy inflatable mattresses your relatives pull out of the garage when you come to visit but, the bounce is present. The upside of the massive air volume in the Q-Core is that we could barely feel the ground, even when kneeling on the pad. To further boost the versatility of this pad, there are six sizing options of varying width and length to match your specific needs. We tested the 20 x 72, which was right on the mark for our 6 foot 175-pound tester.

The thick padding and raised side rails made for a very comfortable...
The thick padding and raised side rails made for a very comfortable sleeping pad. While it wasn't the absolute most comfortable pad we tested, if we were testing purely for weight to comfort ratio this might be the grand champ.
Photo: Brian Martin

Weight and Packed Size


Our regular length (20x72) Q-Core weighed in at 22.2 ounces, which is slightly heavier than previous versions of the same size, but that's about right on the mark, considering this version comes with a large pump sack. The claimed weight on the BA website was 18 ounces, which is a bit lighter than the story our scale told, but perhaps they measure without the pump sack, repair kit, and stuff sack. That said, the Q-Core is a decent weight for how well it performs.

The 4x7.5 inch packed size is pretty reasonable considering how big this pad is when it's inflated. On a recent bikepacking trip around flagstaff, we were able to stuff the Q-Core SLX and our Western Mountaineering 30 degree sleeping bag into a small 5-liter bike seat pack. We were impressed with how packable the Q-Core was. The ripstop material, while not incredibly thin, was pliable enough to allow stuffing the pad instead of rolling, which made filling every nook and cranny pretty easy. Some pads are just too stiff to allow for this.

To make a pad this comfortable and capable through three seasons...
To make a pad this comfortable and capable through three seasons, sacrifices have to be made. For our aging gear tester, the extra ounces were justified.
Photo: Brian Martin

Warmth


What kind of gear testers would we be if we didn't spend a few nights shivering, just to test the limits of each sleeping pad!? If you're expecting frosty nights, either supplement this pad with your old clapped out Z-Rest or pick a pad with a beefier R-value. We spent a frigid and windy night out around Humphreys Peak in Arizona. This was enough to know the limits of the Q-Core SLX lie right around 30-32 degrees Fahrenheit below that our bones started to ache with cold. It's also important to note that on that night, we had a 30 degree Western Mountaineering sleeping bag that doesn't handle frigid nights well either. A beefier sleeping bag or warm pad might have done the trick.

We found chilly alpine summer nights to be absolutely pleasant while counting sheep on the Q-Core. We didn't get any middle of the night chill coming up from below as we have with some ultralight pads with almost no insulation, and with the right sleeping bag, shoulder seasons were also quite pleasant.

Our first night out with the Q-Core SLX Insulated was an open bivy...
Our first night out with the Q-Core SLX Insulated was an open bivy after a long day in the bike saddle. Temps dropped quickly and we were quite warm throughout the night.
Photo: Brian Martin

Ease of Inflation


The most notable update for the Q-Core was the addition of a pump sack. While it isn't a feathery light and easily deployed pump sack, it does make inflating this sleeping pad significantly easier than previous versions that omitted this feature. The huge baffles of the Q-Core require an absolute ton of air, and we previously found ourselves dreading the head rush that was sure to hit us while inflating the previous version.

The dual valve system feels quite solid and utilizes a no-leak inflation valve that saves you from losing any effort from unwanted backflow. This was helpful during the middle of the night adjustments made to how firm the pad was, either allowing us to trickle a bit of pressure out or add a puff or two depending on our needs. Additionally, the material this valve is made from feels like a dense compliant rubber rather than brittle plastic, which bodes well for durability and the likely scenario of someone stepping on the valve at some point.

Filling past generations of this pad proved difficult as they didn't...
Filling past generations of this pad proved difficult as they didn't have a pump sack included. Now, BA has thrown in a pump sack that really speeds up the task. While the sack isn't anything to write home about, it does get the job done.
Photo: Brian Martin


Durability


During the previous testing cycle with the same model, we managed to pop the lamination on the inside of one baffle; this didn't result in any air leakage, and we were still able to use the pad. We also accept some of the responsibility as we were pumping the pad up to use as a floaty. Other than this event, we haven't experienced any adverse events or leakage even after testing multiple versions of this pad. After having this pad inflated in our house for several days, it had barely lost any air and was still firm. We've found that most pads lose some air, especially if left inflated for days. That said, even on the Big Agnes website, multiple people reported having issues with this pad holding air through the night.

The valve system feels chunky and durable compared to bargain pad...
The valve system feels chunky and durable compared to bargain pad systems.
Photo: Brian Martin

Value


While the Q-Core isn't the most expensive sleeping pad out there by far, it is still pretty pricey. We feel that the high comfort level and solid three-season usability make this pad a solid competitor and thus a decent value. If side sleeping is a must and thick plush padding can help you get a good night's sleep, the Q-Core should be on your shortlist of pads to consider.

Conclusion


The Q-Core SLX is an excellent sleeping pad. While the regular size may be a bit narrow for some, there are plenty of sizing options to accommodate wider shoulders. The weight, comfort, and warmth are all on point, but the overall package does lag behind some of the ultralights yet high performing offerings on the market currently.

The Q-Core isn't ultralight but it is a well-rounded pad with that...
The Q-Core isn't ultralight but it is a well-rounded pad with that performed well throughout our testing.
Photo: Brian Martin

Brian Martin