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

Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Insulated Review

A great three-season pad that doesn't weigh you down or sacrifice comfort.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $160 List | $86.03 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 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 5, 2019
  • 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
#7 of 17
  • Comfort - 30% 8
  • Weight and Packed Size - 30% 7
  • Warmth - 20% 6
  • Ease of Inflation - 10% 5
  • Durability - 10% 5

Our Verdict

The Big Agnes Q-Core SLX is a lightweight three-season sleeping pad that performed excellently throughout our testing period. Last year we tested this same sleeping pad and managed to pop one of the baffles loose inside the pad. It was still usable but lost some of the overall comfort. With a brand new Q-Core SLX in hand, we tried to overinflate it again but had much better results this go-around. The super plush thick pad was a great companion at camp, and the lightweight and small packed size made it a pleasure on the trail. While the Q-Core SLX didn't win any awards this year, it is an excellent sleeping pad.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  
Price $86.03 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$156.84 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$129.00 at REI$96.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$99.95 at REI
Overall Score Sort Icon
100
0
67
100
0
75
100
0
71
100
0
70
100
0
68
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, lightWarm, comfortable pad, great valueLightweight, warm for the weight, packs small, comfortable, versatileLightweight, 3-season warmth, comfortable, easy to inflate and deflate
Cons Lightweight material isn't very durableNarrow, expensiveToo heavy for ultralight enthusiastsExpensive, edges not as stable as other pad designsNarrower than other bargain pads
Bottom Line A great three-season pad that doesn't weigh you down or sacrifice comfort.This is our go to sleeping pad for a wide variety of applications.This pad is a versatile, comfortable option at a great price.Big weight savings and great all around performance, what more could you want.A versatile, all-around pad at a bargain price.
Rating Categories Q-Core SLX Insulated Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm Co-op Flash All-Season Insul... Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite REI Co-op Flash Insulated
Comfort (30%)
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
Weight And Packed Size (30%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
7
Warmth (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
5
Ease Of Inflation (10%)
10
0
5
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
0
8
Durability (10%)
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
5
10
0
5
10
0
5
Specs Q-Core SLX Insulated Therm-a-Rest... Co-op Flash... Therm-a-Rest... REI Co-op Flash...
Weight 16 oz 15 oz 21.6 oz 12 oz 15 oz
Thickness 4.5 in 2.5 in 2 in 2.5 in 2 in
Claimed R Value 3 5.7 5.2 3.2 3.7
Length 72 in 72 in 72 in 72 in 72 in
Packed Volume (L) 1.8 L 1.6 L 2.5 L 1.4 L 1.3 L
Width 20 in 20 in 20 in 20 in 20 in
Breaths to Inflate 25-30 27-33 12-14 27-33 12-14
Type Air Construction/Synthetic Insulation Air Construction/Baffled Insulation Air Construction/Synthetic Insulation Air Construction/Baffled Insulation Air Construction/Synthetic Insulation

Our Analysis and Test Results

The 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.

Performance Comparison


We hope you like Martian Smores because this thing is a big green marshmello of plush padding. Large side rails helped keep us on the pad even though some really bad night terrors.
We hope you like Martian Smores because this thing is a big green marshmello of plush padding. Large side rails helped keep us on the pad even though some really bad night terrors.

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.

If you are a side sleeper and hate having to have a pad pumped up to the point of being rigid the Q-Core SLX is a great solution. This was the thickest lightweight pad we tested and let us run low pressure and still kept us from bottoming out.
If you are a side sleeper and hate having to have a pad pumped up to the point of being rigid the Q-Core SLX is a great solution. This was the thickest lightweight pad we tested and let us run low pressure and still kept us from bottoming out.

The Q-Core SLX is plush and nearly double the thickness of other inflatable pads. 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 contained in the Q-Core SLX is that we could barely feel the ground, even when kneeling on the pad.

Compared to pads without side rails  the Q-Core SLX did help contain us. When rolling around in a sleeping bag these rails helped keep us centered and made sleeping feel a bit more effortless than with some pads.
Compared to pads without side rails, the Q-Core SLX did help contain us. When rolling around in a sleeping bag these rails helped keep us centered and made sleeping feel a bit more effortless than with some pads.

Weight and Packed Size


Our regular length (20x72) Q-Core SLX weighed in at 18.2 ounces. The claimed weight on the BA website was 16 ounces, which is a bit lighter than the story our scale told. We did measure the weight with a stuff sack and included patch kit, so perhaps their weights omit these items. Either way, the Q-Core SLX is fantastically light 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 SLX 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.

at 18.3 ounces on our scale (Patch kit included) we felt like this was a great compromise considering how comfortable and warm we were using this pad.
at 18.3 ounces on our scale (Patch kit included) we felt like this was a great compromise considering how comfortable and warm we were using this pad.

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 an absolutely 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 degrees Fahrenheit below, which 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.

Our first night out with the Q-Core SLX was an open bivy after a long day in the bike saddle. The huge lofty pad requires a LOT of air to fill up. If you feel like the Q-Core is for you check out the avaliable pump sacks to save yourself a long inflation time.
Our first night out with the Q-Core SLX was an open bivy after a long day in the bike saddle. The huge lofty pad requires a LOT of air to fill up. If you feel like the Q-Core is for you check out the avaliable pump sacks to save yourself a long inflation time.

Ease of Inflation


Expect a solid two minutes to get the Q-Core SLX from packed to pumped; the massive volume just takes time to inflate. There isn't an included pump sack, but we would prefer to have one, as several minutes of deep breathing would even get Laird Hamilton light-headed. We tested the inflation time of the Q-Core SLX with the Exped Schnozzle pump sack since it was the only one at our disposal, and it took about a minute and a half, and we didn't even feel slightly vertiginous.

The dual valve system of the Q-Core SLX has a generic sized deflate valve, and a jumbo inflate valve. We had to attach the generic Schnozzle to the deflate valve, and once the pad was mostly filled, we closed the deflate valve and finished the pad off using lung power. Even doing this convoluted inflation method still proved to be quicker than lung power alone. Long story short, if you get this sleeping pad, you will likely want to purchase the proprietary pump sack.

The Exped Schnozzle pumpsack worked great with the Q-Core SLX and greatly decreased the inflation time.
The Exped Schnozzle pumpsack worked great with the Q-Core SLX and greatly decreased the inflation time.


Durability


During the previous cycle of testing 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. 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.

The valve system feels chunky and durable compared to bargain pad systems.
The valve system feels chunky and durable compared to bargain pad systems.

Value


The Q-Core SLX isn't an incredibly affordable sleeping pad, but it does deliver the goods. This is a classic, "You get what you pay for" scenario. The trough design and four inches of padding make for an extremely comfortable pad, and the material used is light and durable. Overall, this is a quality sleeping pad that costs a pretty penny.

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 lags behind some of the ultralight yet high performing offerings on the market currently.


Brian Martin