Gear Reviews: Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SLX Sleeping Pad
While raft trips are sort of like a car camping trip, there is a limit to how much stuff you should bring. Wether you are on a private trip with friends or working a commercial trip you may want to think about simplifying your kit. This season I decided to leave my paco pad at home and give a Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core sleeping pad a try.
This rendition of the Q-Core SLX sleeping pads comes in a handful of sizes. While I am not a big person at 5'9" 165, I enjoy all the room I can get. I previously owned a mummy shaped Big Agnes AXL and quickly decided it was too small. So I went with the 25"x72" since that is the size of most paco pads. It packs down pretty small, weighs only 22oz, so it takes up a small amount of space in your bag.
If you are trying to gett your kit down to minuscule size and weight you may want to go with one of the smaller sizes. While this pad isn't big or heavy, there are some smaller and lighter options out there. Since it is insulated there are a few extra ounces compared to non insulated pads. If you are looking for the lightest smallest option you may want to consider the Insulated AXL Air.
Sleeping comes pretty easy to me, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy a really comfy pad. You can inflate this pad to near rock hard, or easily let air out for a softer feel. A one way valved makes inflation a breeze, while making micro adjustment a breeze. A second valve makes deflation and rolling this thing up quick. The outside chambers are a little bit larger than the in the middle. This helps keep you on your pad if you like you toss and turn in your sleep.
This redesigned pad claims to be lighter, tougher, and easier to inflate. I used this pad on a number of overnight river trips this past summer. In total about 30 night. The rip stop nylon top feels durable and soft. However, it is a little loud when moving around in the night. I think some of the noise also comes from the Primaloft silver insulation. Reduced noise could be a selling point for getting a Big Agnes sleeping bag with a build in pad sleeve.
I have become a fan of using a ground cloth when sleeping out under the stars. This helps protect you pad and aids in having a semi sand free sleep experience.
My goal of reducing the amount of gear I bring was reached. This sleeping pad packs down to a nice small size and is hardly noticed once in my dry bag. While I only used it on the river about 30 nights it looks pretty much brand new. While the included inflation sack works, it takes a long time to completely inflate. A raft pump works awesome or get a Pumphouse Ultra. While a nice big paco pad may seem like a better sleep choice I will be continuing to use this pad for a while. The packability and comfort make this thing an exceptional sleeping pad choice.