Gear Review: Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SL Air Mat
Insulated Air Mattress
Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SL
$140, 1 lb. 2 oz. (20x66x3.5 ins., rectangular, with stuff sack)
Sizes: four rectangular, two mummy
In the competition to make backcountry air mattresses lighter, more compact, and more comfortable, the Insulated Q-Core SL has raised the bar. I slept on the shortest (and least expensive) of the six sizes of this three-season air mattress for seven nights in southern Utah in early spring, including backpacking trips in Coyote Gulch and Capitol Reef National Park, and found it heavenly for comfort.
The simple reason is the bodacious, 3.5 inches of thickness—a half-inch to an inch fatter than most competitors that are either heavier or comparable in weight. The polyester insulation is woven with heat-reflective silver filament to boost warmth, while the quilted design of the baffles—welding them in an I-beam pattern of alternating horizontal and vertical tubes—creates pockets to trap warm air for added insulation value. But it does that without creating gaps in the insulation, where you’d feel the cold ground. Larger air chambers on the edges help prevent you from rolling off the pad. The price for all that comfort? The 66-inch-long version takes 22 strong breaths to inflate. But the biggest downside is that the Q-Core SL creaks loudly when you shift around on it, which some tent mates won’t appreciate.
See my reviews of two other three-season air mats I like, the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite and the Exped SynMat UL 7 air mattress—and an item I never sleep outside without, my Cocoon Ultralight AirCore Pillow. See also my related Pro Tips articles “How to Choose a Sleeping Bag” and “Staying Warm in a Sleeping Bag,” and all of my reviews of backpacking gear.
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.