Now I’m well on this journey. I have moved off of the hammock as a regular use item, I liked the thickness of the NeoAir but not the durability. I also discovered around this time that I really did not enjoy having my feet confined in the bottom of a mummy bag. After many nights spent out camping in a few different bags over the years, I came to the conclusion that part of my issue is that I move around a lot in my sleep, and I like to move my feet independently, like raising one knee up when I’m half on my side and half on my front. This creates two problems: with my feet kind of constrained together in the bottom of a mummy bag, moving one of them was difficult if not impossible, and the resulting struggle would usually wake me up; in addition, all this thrashing around would eventually slide the pad out from under me, also causing me to wake up.
Enter the Big Agnes sleep system. If you haven’t heard about this, it’s basically a sleeve in the bottom of BA sleeping bags that your mattress fits into. Using the right size mattress creates a snug fit, and ensures that you cannot roll off the mattress in the night. Smart. BA also removes the down from the bottom side of the bag, reasoning that you crush this with your body anyway, so it doesn’t insulate. With a pad with a decent R value, you can stay warm without any underside insulation. I purchased both a bag and a pad from them. The bag is the Big Agnes Mystic SL 15, and the pad is the BA Q-Core SL, although it looks like this has now been replaced with a newer model, the Q-Core SLX (ooooooo, fancy).
With this bag I have something that is warm to low temperatures (although BA’s bag ratings are notoriously incorrect), yet cut wide enough in the foot box to allow me to move around comfortably at night without waking up. The mattress provides an R value of 4.5 and comes in at a weight of 483g for the medium rectangular pad. At 3.5” thick, it will keep even heavier side sleeper off the ground. While it is a bit heavier and bulkier when packed than the NeoAir XLite, it is made of more durable material (both are ripstop nylon but the BA is noticeably thicker). I have used this for about fifteen nights in total now and it has been incredible. Best sleep I think I’ve had in camp since I was a child and could fall asleep anywhere. The combination of a larger cut sleeping bag, and the thick mattress that I can’t slide off of in the night has made a world of difference. Add to this that the Big Agnes Q-Core SL has yet to have any leaking issues make this the hands down winner for me. I’m happy to take a slight weight and size penalty for the comfort this system gives me. Since I mostly do cycle touring and camping, the weight is not on my back and so doesn’t factor as much into my decision making process as it might if I were schlepping it all around on my shoulders.
Big Agnes Q-Core SL
Thick and comfortable
More durable than other air mattresses (in my experience)
Attaches to BA sleeping bag
Not the lightest or smallest when packed
Needs a fair amount of breathes to inflate
Buy it if you need a comfortable mattress and don’t mind a slight weight penalty.
Look elsewhere if weight is your most important priority.
If you’re still reading, and still have the will to live, click here for the final (seriously, it’s the last one) chapter in my search for sleep saga…