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Pillow woes
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Zack Freije
(oldskool) - F

Locale: Ohio
Pillow woes on 06/29/2010 17:34:07 MDT Print View

I have come to the conclusion that I need a real pillow for backpacking in order to sleep well and to avoid waking up with a terrible pain in my neck.

I've tried the BPL inflatable pillows and sold them:
I wasn't happy with the size, shape, feel or firmness.

I purchased a Snoring Cub Pillow from Arrowhead designs:
I promptly returned it. The stuff size was much too large for a lightweight pillow, yet the pillow itself was way too small. It barely fit under my neck. The pillow itself had so much loft that it felt like resting my head on a brick.

I purchased a Cocoon Ultralight Air-Core Pillow:

I was very disappointed and will return it promptly as well. First, they don't list the weight on designsalt, but I remember reading a review on the beta version and it was just over 3oz, with the production model expected to be just under that. In actuality it is 3.7 oz, and that weight is a total waste because all it is is a pillow case over an air bag. I wish I had realized that REI sells this, because not only is it easy to return to them, but they charge less in shipping and they list the actual weight of the item.

Apparently, they make a Hyperlight pillow that is only 2.4 oz.

This is a very uncomfortable pillow. In order for it to not bend my chin down to my chest, I have to barely inflate it, which means that based on its size, as I move my head, the pressure of the air shifts suddenly and is not comfortable. Plus I read many reviews on REI after I received this pillow that complain of an inability to retain air overnight. At least it does pack small. I think the insulation that they claim is much exaggerated and perhaps it will be much colder in the winter than a full fill pillow.

I've tried the lightweight stuff sack lined with microfiber that you turn inside out and fill with clothes. While this is somewhat comfortable, it is too heavy and sometimes it is difficult to find good clothing to put in there.

So, having purchased and sold/returned 4 different pillows now, I am quite frustrated and out the price difference and shipping both ways. I wish it was possible to handle these products prior to purchasing.

Designsalt sells a down "travel" pillow that comes in several sizes, but again, they have no information on dimensions or weight, so chances are it is heavy.

I want a 3oz or less pillow preferably with one microfiber side, though I suppose that is not absolutely essential, that is made out of either down or synthetic with good loft, but compressibility, that stuffs small, yet is large enough to go under my entire head.

I suppose I may have to make my own, though I am not experienced in doing so, and I imagine purchasing the necessary materials will be quite expensive. At this point, with double shipping, etc. I've already spent a bit of money hunting for a good pillow and coming up empty handed. I'm a bit burnt out on buying to try, only to return the same day I get it. says the Cocoon down travel pillow has these specifications:
Weight: 2.6 oz (60 g)
Fill: white goose down (no idea on fill/loft)
Dimensions: 10" x 13" (25 x 35 cm)
3" x 4" (packed)
MSRP: $24

They say that it is too compressible for some people (may be perfect for me), and that it doesn't have a microfiber side so it is a bit loud and scratchy against the hair/face. They suggest getting a cover (too heavy) or putting clothing over it (may not be an option).

It would probably be easier for me to just make a pillow rather than buy this one and attempt to change out one side to microfiber.

At this point, it's an aggravation issue more than anything else. I've invested too much time into it. I've contacted a friend of mine who knows how to sew. I suppose I could try to find material available in very small quantities. Still it might be more cost effective to just make a few and see if I can sell them or perhaps have extra in case the first attempts fail miserably.

Please offer your suggestions/sage advice.

Richard Rini
(rarini) - MLife

Locale: Southeast
Pillow Talk on 06/29/2010 17:46:16 MDT Print View

Funny, we share the exact same frustration and have tried many of the same solutions unfortunately to no avail.
Here is what I have done that has been the best option for me. I use the Pacific Out Door Equipment "Aero Pillow" (210g) coupled with some clothing in a stuff sack (Usually my socks) to add some stability. The baffles seem to help add head stability when under inflated so my head is not so darn jacked up. It's not the weight you were shooting for but in my experience it's about the best I can come up with.

Good luck on your search for comfort. I too seek pillow bliss!


Edited by rarini on 06/29/2010 17:47:46 MDT.

joseph peterson
(sparky) - F

Locale: Southern California
Pillow woes on 06/29/2010 18:27:04 MDT Print View

I am weird about pillows also.

When I was younger, I carried the kitchen sink so I always had plenty of clothes for a pillow.

After lightening up, I used to use my fleece jacket before I got an alpine light parka. Both were/are extremely comfortable as pillows and allow me instant sleep that lasts all night.

I don't put them in a stuff sack as that isn't comfortable. I ball it up within the hood of my mummy bag. The main thing I like about doing this is I can change from firm to soft, larger smaller, and easily shape it how I want it.

Edited by sparky on 06/29/2010 18:28:30 MDT.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Pillow woes on 06/29/2010 18:46:09 MDT Print View

I use the Cocoon Ultralight Air-Core Pillow as does my girlfriend and neither of us have problems with them. They are definitely not what I would call UL (not that it matters much when the rest of your gear is so light) but they work quite well and we've had no problems with air leaking out.

Edited by simplespirit on 06/29/2010 18:46:36 MDT.

Brian Camprini
(bcamprini) - MLife

Locale: Southern Appalachians
Re: Pillow woes on 06/29/2010 18:47:05 MDT Print View

Montbell makes the best inflatable one I've seen and I generally don't like inflatables. It cradles your head nicely--side to side and comes up a little to meet your neck. Best part is that it connects to a Montbell pad and won't slip around. You'll still might want something soft between you and the material, but almost any piece of clothing will work. When it's cold you'll probably have a hat on anyway, so that's really only a summer concern if at all.

Of course really good down is hard to beat, but not cheap. Check out Feathered Friends, Western Mountaineering, and REI carries a pretty nice one too. Thermarest makes some nice ones from their pad scraps but they are a little heavy.

Any of those should be far better than the things you've tried.

Ryan McCabe
(3Tree) - MLife
Re: Pillow woes on 06/29/2010 18:53:40 MDT Print View

I have the Montbell. It is comfy, but doesn't feel good on bare skin. Try the Exped at REI - I noticed it the other day and it has a better feel and also cradles your head like the Montbell. Supposedly 3 oz...

Joseph Reeves

Locale: Southeast Alaska
Re: Re: Pillow woes on 06/29/2010 19:01:41 MDT Print View

Up until this spring I used my fleece and pants as a pillow. I bought my wife an Exped inflatable and, as I was checking out of the store, got one for myself as well. I've been pleased with the level of comfort.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Pillow woes on 06/29/2010 19:04:13 MDT Print View

How about the Luxurylite pillow? Or a custom from Bender? I've actually had pretty good luck with the $5 Walmart air/memory foam pillow.

Justin C
(paintballr4life) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
pillow problem on 06/29/2010 19:48:41 MDT Print View

I currently use the thermarest compressible pillow. Its heavy 7.3oz, but it is so worth it.

I own the cocoon down pillow and absolutely hate it. Even folding it in half doesn't give me enough support. If I am bringing a pillow I want support if not I would just use my clothes sack.

Zack Freije
(oldskool) - F

Locale: Ohio
Re: pillow problem on 06/29/2010 19:58:24 MDT Print View

Cocoon down pillow.

Would you consider selling it to me if you hate it? I generally like a fairly flat pillow...PM me if you are interested in getting rid of it.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Pillow woes on 06/29/2010 20:27:55 MDT Print View

I use the inflatable pillow that BPL used to sell, with the two compartments, and put it inside my stuffsack with any extra clothing. the combination works well. Neither the inflatable or the clothing alone is comfortable, but together I get just the height and softness I need.
When I get the cash, I'm thinking of switching from the disposable-type inflatables to a Kooka bay pillow, which seems like it would last me just about forever, and I wouldn't have the slight tinge of doubt about the reliability of the disposable type.

Vince Contreras
(pillowthread) - F

Locale: like, in my head???
call it a day... on 06/29/2010 20:30:35 MDT Print View

...and get the WM cloudrest pillow. Yes, it's a single use item, but at 4oz the weight is worth it, in my opinion.

>> Bender <<
(Bender) - MLife

Locale: NEO
Re: Pillow woes on 06/29/2010 20:33:53 MDT Print View

I made a few down pillows and I love them. My first one was 17x8" with 4.6oz of 750fp goose down. Final weight was just under 5 oz. Since the pillow is long it can be folded over for extra support. When I sleep on my side, folded over works great, but on my back I like it flat. The second pillow I made was 10x7" and only 1.9 oz! This works great sleeping on my back or on top of some cloths for more support.

This is the 1.9 oz pillow. Only .2 oz is fabric!

Timothy Cristy
(tcristy) - F

Locale: Ohio
Heavy by BPL standards, but extremely comfy on 06/29/2010 20:38:02 MDT Print View

I've tried and gave up on many of the ultralight pillows before finally giving up and deciding an extra half pound was worth a good night's sleep. The 11 oz Nemo Fillow is the most comfortable by far of the eight pillows I've tried (including the Western Mountaineering down, Montbell inflatable, and many others) in the last couple of years.

Edited by tcristy on 06/29/2010 20:40:26 MDT.

Jeffrey McConnell
make your own on 06/29/2010 20:53:51 MDT Print View

It may be worth trying to make your own. I took an old down pillow and used the down to make my own. Well, actually I had my grandmother sew it, but it was my idea. ;) It was similar to Bender's.

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: make your own on 06/30/2010 06:19:37 MDT Print View

My wife solved this problem by purchasing a Montbell UL Down Inner Parka. Around camp she wears the parka for warmth. Then she stuffs it in a stuff sack and uses it as a pillow. I suppose she could make a pillowcase/stuff sack out of microfiber or some such to improve comfort.

Given her general cold nature, she brings (and wears) the parka even on summer hikes. So she gets the dual use on every hike.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Clothing in a stuff bag on 06/30/2010 06:30:21 MDT Print View

I often wear all my cloths to bed when it's cold out so clothes aren't an option.

The Montbel is the most comfortable for me. We've added straps to hold it on our sleeping pads.
Not needed if you use a sleeping bag with a hood to hold it in place.

Although the surface is not bad for sleeping, I wrap mine with a bandanna.

Chris Peichel

Locale: Eureka
pillow woes on 06/30/2010 08:17:55 MDT Print View

I too need a real pillow, or I wake up with neck pain. I rarely have enough extra clothes to use as a pillow. My final answer, feathered friends geoduck pillow. 6oz, a little heavy I know but I consider it my luxery item. I might even remove the built in stuff sack (geoduck neck) to save a little weight.

John McAlpine
(HairlessApe) - M

Locale: PNW
Exped Air Pillow @ REI on 06/30/2010 09:04:57 MDT Print View

I like this 3 oz pillow from REI. I believe it weighed 3.15 on my scale. I throw a shirt over it to make it 'softer'.

Bill Markwood
Another vote for Thermarest on 06/30/2010 09:08:57 MDT Print View

My wife and I have the small thermarest pillows. We liked them so much that we bought the large size for use at home.