The White Monkey Talks Gear: Pillows

Aug 6, 2012 by

Sometimes, small creature comforts are important, especially when you’re new to backpacking.

One of those is a pillow. And no, we’re not talking about your big king-sized Tempurpedic version that weighs 20 pounds. Keep that one at home.

There are actually pillows designed for backpacking and some of them weigh next to nothing at all. Now “gram weenies” and purists will scoff at bringing such a “luxury.” That’s their choice. In keeping with their rugged outdoor minimalistic approach, they’ll jam clothes in some stuff sack, like the one the tent comes in, and call it a night. Yes that’s an option, and yes, it doesn’t cost anything.

The Writer and I have tried that. You can call it a night, but it’s not a good night.

There are various versions out there, and I’d like to show you a couple. One comes with a small inch-thick memory foam pad that also inflates; the other is your basic inflatable pillow.

Both these backpacking pillows come with their own stuff sack. On the left is the Fillo by Nemo; on the right, the Exped Air Pillow.

First up, the Fillo by Nemo. Let’s just say The Writer and I may leave our American Express at home, but we never leave home without this baby.

It comes with an attached stuff sack. Folded up, it’s only 6 inches by 4 inches, or about half the size of a regular Nalgene water bottle. Total weight is only 10.8 ounces and full dimensions are 17 inches long and 10 inches wide.

The beauty of this is is also has a one-inch memory foam pad with a micro suede cover. In other words, it’s nice and soft. You can also blow it up and add about three inches of height.  And that only takes about three breaths. The great thing about that is if by chance the air-filled section springs a leak, you can still use the foam part.

One more neat little trick. On the back side is some shock cord in a criss-cross pattern. You can put some clothes within that shock cord and elevate your neck even more.

The Writer loves his, as does the Eldest Son of Thunder. For about $45, it might seem a little pricey, but a good night’s sleep is worth it.

Another option is more of your basic air pillow – blow it up to whatever hardness/softness you want.

A very nice one, that get’s lot of high marks, is the Exped Air Pillow.

It has two values – a deflate and inflate. Both are large, meaning you can blow it up in a couple of breaths and deflate it in a couple of seconds. It comes in two sizes – medium and large. Prices are $39 and $45, respectively.

The medium only weighs 2.8 ounces and is 15 inches long, 10 inches wide and up to 4 inches thick. The large weighs 3.5 ounces and is 20.5 inches long, 13 inches wide and up to 5 inches thick. Both also are designed so one end is actually taller than the other to accomodate different head positions.

Because it’s inflatable, it’s easy to adjust the firmness, which is nice. But because it’s inflatable, it is possible it could puncture. Fortunately, the material seems pretty strong, and a repair kit is included.

The Writer and I have tried this version, but we like the Fillo better. That’s probably because neither of us are real keen on the whole “air” pillow idea. However, we have friends who swear by it.

One thing everyone agrees on with this model – it’s best use some type of pillow cover. That can be a T-shirt or some other type of clothing.

So there you have it. A couple of pillow options for those who don’t want to completely “rough it.”

Here they are opened up and ready to sleep on. On the left is the Nemo Fillo coming in at 15 inches by 10 inches; on the right is the large version of the Exped Air Pillow, measuring 20.5 inches by 13 inches.

Both are lightweight, pack down small and provide a nice comfort level.

So until next time, see you in the woods.

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