Woman lying on sleeping pad

Review: Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Sleeping Pad

The Big Agnes Q-Core SLX sleeping pad takes luxury backpacking to the next level providing superior comfort and quality in a lightweight and tiny package.

If you’re looking for a one pad fits all arrangement for your outdoor sleeps, then the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX might just be exactly what you need. Although designed as a three-season sleeping mat, this air construction pad provides adequate warmth when winter camping too. It is mega light for backpacking, small enough to disappear into your backpack and cosy enough to forget you are camping at all!

Big Agnes Q-Core SLX Sleeping Pad: The stats

Size20 x 72 x 3 inches (50.8 x 183 x 7.6cm)
Weight:16oz (454g)
Pack down size:1.4litres
Temperature rating:15ºF / -9ºC

Design features of the Q-Core SLX

Warmth

Woman lying on sleeping matBig Agnes doesn’t rate the warmth of their sleeping pads with an R-value, but instead gives a minimum temperature at which the mats will keep you warm. The Q-Core SLX is rated to 15ºF/ -9ºC, which will see you through most moderate winter camping conditions nicely. If you plan on sleeping directly on the snow then you may want to add a closed cell foam mat underneath. The mat is insulated with a high-loft synthetic material that is also highly durable and super light. And there is also built-in heat reflective technology to help harness as much warmth in the pad as possible.

Comfort

Sleeping pad next to bottleThe SLX is incredibly luxurious for a lightweight sleeping pad and I find it super comfortable when I sleep on my side. When fully inflated it is as firm as a self-inflating mattress with comparable stability, making it a good option for back sleepers too. It relies on an improved off-set I-beam construction that keeps things as consistently stable as possible. However when you let a little air out for a softer pad, the Q-Core loses some of its stability and becomes a little bouncy.

Weight and size

Comparison with XLite sleeping matThis is one tiny sleeping pad, especially for the comfort and warmth that it provides. It packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle and fits in the outside pocket of my backpack nicely – handy when you’ve left it until last to pack! Although just over 100g heavier than the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite, it is still one of the lightest backpacking sleeping pads around, and ideal for most backpacking scenarios bar ultralight thru-hiking. It’s also really easy to pack down to the minuscule little package and doesn’t take much effort at all to get all of the air out.

Valves

Valve of sleeping padCompared with the earlier version of the Q-Core, the valves are dramatically improved, and I much prefer them to the XLite as well. There are two separate valves for inflation and deflation. The inflation valve is a one-way valve which means you can take breaks whilst you are blowing the pad up, without the risk of letting any air out! You can also tweak the air levels in the pad by letting small amounts of air out of the inflation valve using the red micro air pressure button.

Durability

Big Agnes Q-Core SLXBig Agnes claim to have improved the tear strength and durability of the SLX by a huge 25% (compared with the earlier Q-Core SL). They have upped their game by using a new double rip-stop nylon and aviation grade TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) that is super lightweight and mega durable. I’ve yet to have any reason to doubt the durability of the SLX, but it is so lightweight that I am still a little cautious about where and how I use it.

Big Agnes Q-Core SLX sleeping pad review

As a bit of a nighttime wriggler I like to be able to mix between back sleeping on a firm mattress and side sleeping on something that will give a little beneath my hips. I thought the XLite was the comfiest sleeping pad I’d ever slept on, but it turns out that for my restless sleeping habits that extra half inch of thickness is well worth it for improved comfort levels. Now that’s not to say I find the XLite uncomfortable, far from it. But I find it easier to get the perfect balance of firmness, stability and comfort with the Q-Core.

My first few nights on the Q-Core were not out in the wilderness like I’d hoped, but in the comfort of my bedroom in an attempt to get a better nights’ sleep. My bad back was playing up so I thought I’d give it a go. And it was truly more comfortable than the average mattress on my bed! It was more firm and less lumpy and I was able to fall asleep with only a few turns before I found the most comfortable spot.

Knowing how well I slept on it at home makes it even more exciting to go camping now. I really feel for those who complain about not sleeping well when camping – lack of sleep can be a real trip spoiler. So I am delighted that I have found such comfort in my sleeping pad.

Big Agnes sleeping pad

I’ve yet to try it out in sub-zero temperatures, but it has kept me toastie warm in conditions just above freezing. And although I am nervous about putting it on rough or uneven ground, it has so far held strong and I barely feel the lumps and bumps beneath that luxurious 3 inches of insulated cosiness.

The Q-Core is most certainly not a mat that I reserve for backpacking trips only. It is far too comfortable to deny myself of good sleeps in all camping scenarios. Even when car camping, when there is the option of packing bigger and heavier pads, I will choose the Q-Core every time. I mean I choose it when I’m at home for goodness sake! And I love the fact that I don’t need three or four different mats to cover all my camping needs. The Q-Core does it all.

What I love the most about the Q-Core SLX

If you haven’t guessed yet, I love just how comfortable this sleeping pad is. Truly luxurious! But that’s obvious, so I think the next thing I love the most is the fact that all that warm comfort is so light and packable. I barely notice it in my pack and often forget whether I’ve even put it in or not!

What I don’t like so much

I’m going to have to get a bit pernickety on dislikes as there are very few. But for me, the inflation time is a little long. (Im pretty impatient!). It takes a couple of minutes to inflate fully, which is longer than I’ve experienced with other mats. If it weren’t for the new one-way valve this might be a game-changer for me as I get light headed very quickly. However the one-way valve really saves the day and means that I can take regular breaks between breaths to stop myself from keeling over!

It is also a tiny bit on the narrow side when I am sleeping on my back. When tucked up in my sleeping bag this isn’t an issue, but with a quilt over me I find my arms tumbling off the sides. If you are a back sleeper then you may want to consider the wide version which adds an extra 5 inches onto the regular width.

Verdict

If comfort is what you need to sleep well in the wild, but you don’t want to compromise on all the other things that a great backpacking sleeping pad should be, then the Q-Core is most certainly the mat for you.

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI | Backcountry

To compare the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX with the other pads and mats that are currently on the market, then check out our guide to the best sleeping pads for backpacking. Or go for something even more luxurious with our guide to the best air mattresses for camping.

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