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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Pads and Air Mattresses > Big Agnes Q Core Sleeping Pad > Test Report by Ralph Ditton
Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Rectangular Pad
Test Series by Ralph Ditton
Initial Report : 30th June, 2012
Field Report : 30th August, 2012
Long Term Report : 24th October, 2012
(Photo courtesy of Big Agnes)
My playgrounds are the Bibbulmun Track, the Coastal Plain Trail, Darling Scarp and Cape to Cape Track. I lead walks for my bushwalking club and they consist of day walks and overnighters. My pack weight for multi day trips including food and water, tends to hover around 18 kg (40 lb) but I am trying to get lighter. My trips range from overnighters to six days duration.
The pad came inside its stuff sack and my initial thought was "This looks a good size. It shouldn't take up too much room in my pack."
At the base of the stuff sack inside a pocket covering ¾ of the base were two hang tags. One giving a bit of a blurb on the insulation, regulation of temperature, antimicrobial and eliminates odour. The other relates to the size and temperature rating of the pad with a tick in the box indicating the size that I received. They looked very professional.
stuff sack with pocket
Extracting the pad from the stuff sack and unfurling it I could see the alternating I-Beam construction. It looked exactly as depicted on the web site. Inside the stuff sack at the base was another pocket containing the repair kit. This was indicated also on the web site as to where to locate it.
The next step was to inflate it as it was not a self-inflating pad. It took me 46 strong breaths to fully inflate it. I felt quite dizzy after that effort for a short time. I am on blood pressure tablets so that could have had an impact on me. What did surprise me was that the pad developed a slight arch when I laid it down. This is not a cause of concern as the pad will lay flat when weight is placed on it. Just an observation.
To see in real life and not just a statistic of measurement, was how high the pad was when I blew it up. I was most impressed. It was quite high with the outside edge tubes higher than the centre tubes. I guess that is to help contain a body within the confines of the pad.
To deflate the pad I found it easier and quicker to lay on it to expel the air. I initially tried to roll it up from the non-valve end and it was taking an age so I just plopped my full body length onto it. Worked a treat.
To roll it up and replace it back into the stuff sack was very easy. I initially rolled the pad up from the non valve end expelling the residue air left behind from my initial effort, closed off the valve, unrolled it again, halved it length wise and re-rolled it up again opening the valve to get rid of the last vestige of air. When completely rolled up, closed off the valve. The pad then slipped very easily into the stuff sack. That was a very pleasant surprise. Just about any item that I try to replace into the provided stuff sack relating to camping gear is always a battle with lots of lumps in the final product. This pad and stuff sack are trouble free. It is great to see a manufacturer providing a decent size stuff sack for the re rolling of their product without causing a rise in blood pressure of the person trying to fit said product into said stuff sack. I have resorted to throwing away the manufacturers stuff sacks and providing my own larger stuff sacks from a well known company for my sanity and blood pressure.
The model that I received comes in at 198 cm (78") long but only 51 cm (20 in) wide. See above table for full details. The other models are 51 x 168 x 9 cm (20 x 66 x 3.5 in), 51 x 183 x 9 cm (20 x 72 x 3.5 in) and 64 x 198 x 9 cm (25 x 78 x 3.5 in).
According to the manufacturer, the pad is designed for three seasons with a minimum temperature of -9 C (15 F). In my part of the world, this pad is definitely suitable for the six seasons we experience. (They are Birak [hot and dry], Bunuru [late summer, early autumn], Djeran [cooler weather], Makuru [cold and wet time which is now], Djilba [weather getting warmer, but still wet] and Kambarang [decreasing rain]. We only get down to -3 C (26 F).
This pad is NOT self inflating. It has to be blown up manually. The inflation valve is located at the top left hand corner. It is a very easy valve to use. It twists clockwise to close off and anti clockwise to open.
From the manufacturer's blurb, the insulation is X-Static which is a synthetic and it has the natural performance of silver filament to enhance thermodynamic, anti-microbial and anti-odour properties. I'll have to take their word for that, however, I'll check out the odour aspect during the testing to see if there is any odd smell.
A hang tag that came with the pad has a schematic image showing how the X-Static works. Three red bent arrows from Skin Surface to the arrow head of Body Heat. There is a reference to 100% Polyester Fiberfill and 10% X-Static 90% Polyester Fiberfill. I'm not too sure if it is helpful as I am still trying to get my head around it to work it out. The manufacturer states that the insulation is X-Static. There is no reference as to how much they use in their "Features" section. Is it a combination of 10% X-Static and the rest Polyester Fiberfill?
The pattern of the mat is impressive. It has been constructed using an alternating I-Beam system. It is not apparent when the mat is deflated. The only giveaway is the series of seals that are 75 mm (2.9 in) long and 9 mm (0.4 in) wide. There are five rows of these. They are spaced along the length of the mat at 100 mm (4 in) intervals with the second and fourth rows lining up against the gaps in the first, third and fifth rows. When inflated, the I-Beam stands out. See top photo.
The material used for the top and bottom is light-weight nylon rip-stop. The edges of the top and bottom pads have been heat sealed together with a sealed border of 10 mm (0.4 in).
The pad repair kit contains a tube of glue and two patches 10 x 7 cm (4 x 2.7 in). One is silver and the other gray. There is also a set of instructions. One for a small puncture leak and the other for a large cut or puncture. I love the bit in italics. "If the cut is larger than your supplied patches, contact us for further instructions". Very handy when out in the boondocks.
This pad looks very interesting from a comfort point of view. I do love the height of the pad, some 9.5 cm (3.7 in) high in the middle part with higher sides to prevent sliding off on a slight slope. Been there, done that on pads wondering why my legs are cold underneath.
It certainly feels light when inflated and very easy to maneuver through a tent side door. I selected a larger size pad to my height as I like having my pillow on the pad and not the ground which occurs with shorter pads of my height. No, I don't like having my legs sticking off the end onto the ground either. I need to have my head sufficiently elevated for comfort.
In this phase of the testing I have only had the chance to test this mat on one overnight camping trip. This will be rectified in the next phase as I have an excursion slotted in for September and I have five people coming on the Wellington Dam trip. It will be over 4 nights. This will be followed up in October with another trip with a few overnights use.
I used this mat in the Coastal Plains Region, north of Perth. The overnight temperatures when I went to bed around 11 pm ranged from 8.8 C (47.8 F) to a low of 2.8 C (37 F) at 2 am. When I got up at 7.30 am the temperature was 6 C (43 F). The Relative Humidity during the night was ranging between 93% and 95%. (Figures taken from the Bureau of Meteorology at the nearby Pearce Airbase). There was the odd shower.
A friend sent me a big plastic sleeve named an "Instaflator". It is 2.43 m (8 ft) long and when flat, 25 cm (10 in) wide. The theory is that the tube at the end of the sleeve fits snugly over the valve of the mat. It is just a matter of then rolling up the inflated sleeve thereby pushing the air into the mat.
I ran into two problems. The first one was that the tube did not fit over the valve. It was a tad too small. The second was that when I tried to inflate the sleeve, there was absolutely no breeze. So I stood up on the camp table as the ground was wet and sandy, waved the plastic bag like crazy trying to fill it with air but the static electricity was having none of it by keeping the sides together. I then tried to blow it up without success. This last method defeats the whole purpose of the exercise. I get dizzy blowing up the mat by mouth as it takes me around 50 breaths to fully inflate the mat. As an aside, when I got home I adapted the tube with another piece that will allow me to fit it over the pad's valve.
After failing dismally in trying the "Instaflator", I blew up the pad by mouth and got dizzy again. My sleeping environment was a Bibbulmun style three sided shelter with a plywood floor raised off the ground.
Bibbulmun style shelter
I laid a groundsheet on the board to protect the mat from the white powdery residue that had settled on the board. I did sweep the board but there was still a fine residue present. My boots show the fine gritty powder.
After inflating the mat by mouth, I then set up my sleeping arrangement by laying the sleeping bag (Selk'Bag), pillow and thermals on top of the mat. The photo of the Selk'Bag was taken on a previous trip.
getting into the Selk'Bag
sleeping mat set up
As the floor of the hut is level, I had no issues of sliding off the mat, or the mat moving around on the groundsheet. I found the width of the mat at 52 cm (20 in) adequate as I am normally a side sleeper. I always at some stage during the breaking of dawn lay on my back to watch the changing light. This is when my arms tend to fall off the side of the mats that I have used, this mat included. That is when I notice the cold coming up through the floor. The contrast was quite stark. My arms felt the cold from the floor, but my torso and legs were warm as toast. The mat insulated me from the cold coming up through the floor.
In addition to the insulation, I also had a wonderful, restful sleep due to the inflated height of 9.5 cm (3.7 in) where my body lay. The higher sides of the mat cradled me.
Due to the atmospherics of the evening and the synthetic clothing I was wearing, I did get zapped by static electricity. However, I suffered no such problem when I touched the mat.
Packing up to leave, I deflated the mat. This took two goes to get all of the air out of the mat by rolling the mat up with the valve open. Normally it takes me two goes with any of the mats that I use. The first gets rid of most of the air but there is always some left in the mat. On the second try I fold the mat length ways then roll it up towards the open valve. When done, I then close the valve.
At home, I open the mat out, open the valve, drape it over the back of my couch and left it for three days to make sure that any moisture from my breath had evaporated, then I store it flat with the valve open under my bed.
Sadly, I only got to use it once during the past two months, however, I'll make up for it in the next phase as I am leading two backpacks involving multi-day excursions.
With the one test during our mild winter, the mat performed very well with regards to its insulation properties. Nor did I have to get up in the night/early morning to inflate it a bit as it did not go a bit flat during the night. The mat was as firm as when I initially inflated it. I am happy with the amount of space it took up in my backpack which is a 90 litre (5492 cu in) bombproof MacPac shown in the Bibbulmun style hut photo. My Selk'Bag takes up twice the amount of space as the mat when rolled up.
My Thumbs Up/Down remain unchanged.
Long Term Report
During this phase I spent four nights and six days camping out in Gelcoat on the Collie River. Elevation where we camped was at 80 metres (262 ft). The river was only 30 metres (98 ft) away. Temperatures for each night ranged from 13.3 C to 14.3 C (56 F to 57.7 F), 6.2 C to 14.3 C (43.1 F to 57.7 F), 6.2 C to 8.5 C (43.1 F to 47.3 F), and 6.4 C to 9.1 C (43.5 F to 48.4 F).
During the Thursday and Friday it rained continuously. Officially at a weather station some 7 kilometres (4.4 mi) away at the Dam Wall recording station, they recorded rain totaling 22.4 mm (0.9 in). We are of the opinion that we had much more than that in our location as we had torrents of water flowing through our camp and under our tent floors.
water running through camp
After setting up the tent in between showers, I was fortunate to get my gear inside before the rain came back. I was able to unpack in shelter so my sleeping bag and sleeping pad were dry. To give an indication as to how cool it was I had steam coming out when I spoke. Unfortunately, I had to inflate the pad by mouth so that moisture went into the bag. After about 40 big puffs it was firm enough to take my weight. The photo shows the set up on the first evening.
setting up my bed
Due to the rain, the first night was relatively warm so I did not wear any thermals under my clothing when I went to bed. The pad cradled my body beautifully as I drew my knees up towards my chest whilst lying on my side.
Only once did I have to get up during the night for a call of nature. Upon my return I checked the pad for firmness. It was still inflated to my satisfaction so no further introduced air was required.
The second day was a shocker. It rained on and off all day and it just did not get warm. Needless to say we did not go bushwalking, just hung around under the tarp watching the rain pour off it and then run down the hill under my tent. Fortunately, the tent had a very robust tub floor so no moisture came inside the tent. In the afternoon I went to have a lay down (nap) as it was just too depressing watching the rain from under the tarp. The pad was down a little, so I had to blow more air into it with my mouth and yes, I still had steam coming from my breaths, hence moisture going into the pad.
rain flowing off the tarp
The photo above shows the rain pouring off the corner of the tarp and my tent is the green one in the background. Whilst having an afternoon nap, I discovered that there was a big Honkey Nut from an eucalyptus tree under the mat but it was partially buried in the ground. I discovered it when I sat up and my buttock felt the lump. As it was raining, I had no inclination to go out into the rain, forage under the tent looking for it, so I left it in place. I could not feel it when I was lying down and it is a bell shape without any sharp angles. No damage was being caused to the pad by its presence. The second night was very cool and I did wear my thermals to bed. The night passed uneventful.
For the subsequent nights I had to add air to the pad. Just 4 to 5 puffs. There is no leak that I could see. I put it down to the natural seepage of air through the fabric. Most pads that I own usually need to have a bit of air added after being left inflated all day.
I have had the most comfortable night's sleep using this pad and it will become my favourite. I just loved the length of the pad. This meant that I was able to have my pillow on the mat and my feet still on the pad. That is why I selected the 198 cm (78 in) as I am 176 cm (69 in) in height.
Deflating the pad was easily done. It took me two attempts to get all of the air out of it. The first roll up gets the majority of air, some 98%. The second roll up gets rid of the final 1 %. I can never get it to a total vacuum state.
When I got home, I hung it up on the line to air with the valve pointing towards the ground. I was not surprised to see moisture dripping out of the valve. I guess that the amount of moisture that I watched drip out would have been around 0.75 ml (0.15 teaspoon). I left the pad hanging on the line inside the garage, so that it was out of the sun, for 5 days to thoroughly dry out the inside of the pad.
Instead of storing it under my bed with the valve open, I have hung it up in a cupboard with the valve open just to ensure that the pad has the best of TLC.
There is no change to the Thumbs Up/Down. The manufacturer should really consider another valve in the other corner. This would assist in an easier deflation and drying out of the interior.
This concludes my Long Term Report. Thanks to Big Agnes for making this product available through BackpackGearTest.org
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