Big Agnes Q-Core SLX (the 2016 upgraded version of the SL)
Price: $159.95 USD (Regular Length 72")
As a sufferer of chronic back problems, I have had issues sleeping on the ground. Thin mats are uncomfortable and create pressure points on my hips when sleeping on my side. Over the decades I have tried multiple inflatable mats made from Therm-a-rest, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Exped, and Big Agnes. They offer greater comfort from pressure points and back discomfort and allow me to fall into a deep slumber. The difference that sets the Big Agnes Q-Core SL apart is its I-beam construction.
When comparing the thickness of these brands, Big Agnes is at the top of the list. This is what initially what drew me to invest in their array of inflatable mats intitally buying a regular basic Air Core Pad. The Q-core SL caught my eye as it's design is not only thick, but has I-beams that provide multi-directional stability. This added engineering is what I believe has enabled me to have the best sleeps ever. I could never get comfortable on my back, even on other plush mats, but this mat is hands down the best mat I have ever slept on for comfort.
The R-value of a mat is important when 3 season camping or camping in colder regions. I have successfully used this mat to just under the freezing mark and it has kept me warm without question, definitely better then my basic Big Agnes Air Core Pad.
Weight is also a significant factor for me as woman and I participate in many backpacking trips. Coming in a package no bigger than the size of a pack of bagels, the mat weighs a total of 16oz. Sure, there are lighter mats on the market, but I would gladly play a small weight penalty to ensure sound sleep and comfort.
Length: I love how Big Agnes creates different lengths of mats for purchase. This ensures that someone is not carrying unnecessary weight. I am 66" long and bought the 72" mat.
Cons: Price. These 3 season mats are not cheap. I am hoping my investment will stand the test of time and be worth it in the end. So far, it has been worth every penny and I look forward to sleeping on it again in the near future.
If inflating the mat when you arrive at camp and then not sleeping on it until 5 hours later, you may need to top up the inflation before bed. I find the inflation level decreases especially when temperatures drop throughout the evening. I find if it's not fully inflated, the mat isn't supportive enough.
If I was going to offer one suggestion for re-design, it would be to raise the centre baffles of the mat to match the height of the sidetubes. The extra height would decrease the chance of my hips making contact with the ground below like they do sometimes if the mat isn't 100% inflated.
Best Uses: Backpacking, canoe tripping, general camping.
**Note: The Q-Core SL that I bought in 2015 has been upgraded in 2016 to the Q-Core SLX which boasts to be even lighter and more comfortable! Would love to try it!