The Q-Core SL keeps you a solid three and a half inches above ground. PHOTO: Matt Coté
The Q-Core SL keeps you a solid three and a half inches above ground. PHOTO: Matt Coté

Big Agnes Q-Core SL Sleeping Pad

A lot of plush, without the weight, for a good night's snooze in the backcountry

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Details Details

Price: $139.95 to $169.95, depending on size

Sizes: 20"x66" to 20"x78"

Weight: 16oz

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Weighing a mere 16 ounces, this burly pad rolls up to less than the size of a Nalgene bottle. Which is even more impressive given that it is insulated.

Typically, to make a pad ultra-packable, it needs to be nothing but air. Here, though, Big Agnes squeezed in packable synthetic insulation that stays warm regardless of moisture. What that means is you can blow this pad up with your own lungs and there's no fussing with a pump. You also get a fun little head rush, as it takes a lot of air. Silver filament helps produce the 4.5 R-value insulation, but also keeps the inside microbe-free as silver kills bacteria. But the bigger boon offered here is the amount of loft you get.

The Q-Core SL keeps you a solid three and a half inches above ground and is far more comfortable than the average pad. The two outer baffles are bigger to keep you centered while you sleep. It comes in a straight rectangle or you can get a tapered version with some minor weight savings.

The Colorado-based company does suggest you use a microcell foam mat in winter, which is always a good idea for two reasons: One, if you pop your pad, you don't end up flat on the cold floor of your tent. Two, so you don't pop your pad. Sleeping on a bit of extra foam offers some protection from debris that might be sharp. If you do get a leak, though, there's a sweet little patch kit in the mesh carrying case to help get you out of that jam.

The one thing that could perhaps be improved upon here is how slick the pad is, but this is part-and-parcel with the lightweight construction, and if you prepare a good flat surface, you won't slide around much. One benefit here again—this makes it quiet. While other pads crinkle and keep you awake, this one is perfectly silent.

For winter, one of the coolest features is how Big Agnes integrates their pads with their sleeping bags. Recent pushes in the outdoor-sleeping world have left many rethinking the mummy-bag concept, as the insulation under you gets squished and doesn't do much. A down quilt is one solution, where the bag is open but leashed to your pad, but this leaves some air flow, which can be cold. Big Agnes has found a sweet solution where one side of the sleeping bag has no insulation; you instead inflate your pad right inside to make the bottom. This eliminates half the bulk and weight of the sleeping bag and further helps keep you from rolling you're your pad while you sleep.

Whether you're on an alpine col in the dead of winter or a couple hundred feet from your car in summer, this is one of the comfiest outdoor sleeps a person can get.

PHOTO: Matt Coté