Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Camp Pillow Comparison

While trying to develop my camping gear kit, I have learned that some items tend to lose their comfort level after some use.  This is not a good thing for somebody like me who likes to buy lots of gear whether it be camping, fishing, or photography.  One such item I have learned is a camp pillow.  I know some people consider this to be a silly issue because traditionally people did not even consider taking a pillow with them on a camping trip, and especially not on a backpacking trip.  However, recent advancements in materials have allowed for a surge in very compact and compressible pillows.  Four such pillows that I have tested are the Cocoon AirCore Travel Pillow, Therm-a-rest Compressible Pillow, Exped Air Pillow, and Exped ComfortFoam Pillow.  This review will focus on the first of these three as I actually exchanged my Exped ComfortFoam Pillow for the Exped Air Pillow.  So, let's get started:

Cocoon AirCore Travel Pillow

This was the first pillow I purchased while trying to develop my gear kit.  I was lured in by the low price, compact size, and weight.  I used this pillow many nights, and even took it with me on work trips just in case I got stuck in the airport with weather delays. 

Cocoon AirCore Travel Pillow
This pillow has two distinct sides to it; 1) a slick nylon and 2) a soft microfiber on the other. 
Soft Microfiber Finish

While this was originally a selling feature of the pillow for me, it ultimately became one of my greatest frustrations with it.  You see, the microfiber feels really nice against your skin, however that means the slick nylon is down against the surface you are laying on.  Did I mention that it was slick?  It would slide all around, and like physics suggests it would end up in the completely opposite place of my head.  Occasionally I would sweet talk the pillow and promise to be nice to it, and it would stay in place well enough for me to get a good nights sleep. 

Cocoon AirCore Travel Pillow Packed

Additionally, the material used for the internal air bladder had zero stretch and actually came across as hard, especially when used on a cool night.  This is not a pillow that one would want to sleep on inflated 100%, for that matter probably not even 75%...  I found that it worked best when inflated to somewhere between 50% and 75%.  This allowed the pillow to form to my head while laying on my back.  Unfortunately, this was not very comfortable when laying on my side.  Finally, the valve has been very moody at best.  On a trip the valve actually failed after a nights sleep, and I could not get the pillow deflated.  It took a good ten minutes of piddling around with the valve before it finally became unstuck and allowed me to deflate it.

Therm-A-Rest Compressible Pillow

I actually purchased this pillow on my way to Great Smoky Mountains National Park with my son for his first father/son camping trip.  While walking around a camping store picking up some last minute supplies he saw this pillow and asked that I get it for him.  He used it that first night and asked to use it in his bed instead of his regular pillow.

Therm-A-Rest Compressible Pillow
Eventually, I got it away from him long enough to try it myself.  I have to say this is a very comfortable pillow, and that is probably because it is the only one of the bunch that begins with an actual pillow pedigree.  This pillow has a very nice feel to it, and stays where you put it (unlike the Cocoon AirCore). 

Therm-A-Rest Compressible Pillow Compressed
There are no valves with the Therm-A-Rest to mess with or foul, but the downside is the extremely large packed size in comparison to the other two pillows.  Depending on an individuals limitations, this could be a huge negative with the Therm-A-Rest. 

Exped Air Pillow

This leads us to the last pillow in this review, the Exped Air Pillow.  Prior to purchasing the Exped Air Pillow, I bought the Exped ComfortFoam Pillow.  The ComfortFoam Pillow was immensely comfortable, but had a significantly large packed size.  Not quite as large as the Therm-A-Rest, but about 2.5 times larger than the Cocoon.  So, I chose to exchange the ComfortFoam Pillow for the Exped Air Pillow.  I have had previous experience with Exped products, and was very pleased with their quality and the flat valves. 

Exped Air Pillow
The Exped has a very unique design in that it has an asymmetrical  shape that forms to the back of your neck for comfort.  This actually makes the pillow extremely comfortable for both back and side sleepers.  I can inflate this pillow to around 80 - 90%  full and it is almost perfect.  The materials and the texture are very comfortable as well, and this helps prevent the pillow from sliding all around during the night.

Exped Air Pillow Shape and Texture
The Exped is by far the most compressible and smallest packed size pillow of the group.  Couple that with the wonderful Exped flat valves and this is a wonderful combination. 

Exped Flat Valve

Although this is an air pillow, it is very comfortable.  I attribute this not only to the shape of the pillow and materials, but also that the pillow feels to have a little stretch to it that allows it to conform to my head. 

Side-by-Side Comparisons:

From L to R: Therm-A-Rest, Cocoon, Exped
From L to R: Therm-A-Rest, Cocoon, (Pepsi Can), Exped

In conclusion, my choice for a pillow will be the Exped.  It gives me the combination of packability, comfort, and weight that I am looking for in a camp pillow.  I hope you have found this review helpful, and please feel free to leave a comment or question.

No comments:

19" Clinch River Brown