Big Agnes Q-Core Mattress Pad Review
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Big Agnes has taken the camping air mattress concept to another level with the Q-Core mattress pad. Multiple companies make inflatable mattress pads but most are designed one of two ways; with horizontal or vertical rows of air chambers. Each has its downsides, with the vertical baffles providing less head comfort and the horizontal baffles can become uneven if you’re not spread out evenly. The Big Agnes Q-Core takes a best of both worlds approach and combines horizontal and vertical baffles into what they call an “alternating i-beam construction”. This creates a more balanced sleeping platform when inflated. The Q-Core has an estimated R-value of 5, putting it in the upper middle range of insulation.
Big Agnes designed the Q-Core to be lightweight and packable while still offering a lot of sleeping comfort. When deflated, the mattress pad is about the size of a Nalgene bottle and can be stored easily in your pack. It comes with a mesh storage sack that can be used to keep it from unrolling. The sack is made of X-static material, which is a silver based thread that is antibacterial. Because the Q-Core is not rigid like a foam pad, you have another method for storage and it is one that I sometimes prefer when using a Big Agnes sleeping bag. If you keep the pad in the sleeping bag’s pad sleeve, you can pack the bag and pad together when it is deflated and just stuff it into the bottom of you backpack. I find this to be more convenient than putting the sleeping system into separate stuff sacks.
The Q-Core takes about as long to inflate as any other air mattress I have used; that is to say, a lot longer than I want to take to set up for bed. Unfortunately, it is just the tradeoff you have to accept for the comfort and packability offered by an air mattress pad. When inflated, the Q-Core mattress pad gives you around three and a half inches of cushion to support you. The pad’s baffles are constructed in a way that cradles you in the middle, with a full length baffle on both sides of the pad and the I-beam baffle layout in the middle. It works to create a sleeping surface that makes you feel secure and not like you could slide off the sides. Big Agnes did a great job with their I-beam baffles and I think a lot of manufacturers will be creating similar systems. It really helps to prevent dead spots in the cushioning. The inclusion of X-Static fibers in the Q-Core mattress pad’s fabric was also a nice touch by Big Agnes. I have experienced the anti-bacterial wonders of this material in shirts and I am sold on its effectiveness. Having it on a sleeping surface that is generally hard to clean is a simple yet genius decision.
The Big Agnes Q-Core mattress pad is definitely a winner in my book and has displaced my previous pad for 3 season camping. It also is perfect for carrying in your car for when you need a place to sleep and don’t want to end up on a couch. For winter camping, the insulation falls a little short and Big Agnes recommends combining the Q-Core with another pad for added warmth. The Q-Core comes in 3 sizes to accommodate taller campers and ultralighters willing to sacrifice comfort for weight.
For more info on the Q-Core Mattress Pad and other Big Agnes gear, visit www.rei.com.