Gear Guide: Ultralight Inflatable Pillows

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Gear Guide: Ultralight Inflatable Pillows

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 44 total)
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    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    Companion forum thread to:

    Gear Guide: Ultralight Inflatable Pillows

    Iago Vazquez
    BPL Member


    Locale: Boston & Galicia, Spain

    I really like the Montbell U.L.COMFORT SYSTEM PILLOW for camping. Thick enough for side sleepers, large enough to be stable, and nicely contoured to cradle the neck and head. Also, for $24 retail it's in my opinion a really good value compared to the top performers here. On the negative side, I have the red and it seems more prone to staining than my red Exped or my black Big Agnes. It's also too wide for hammocking, when the Exped UL is my pillow of choice. The S2S Aeros Premium does look really nice though!

    Stephen Parks


    Locale: Southwest

    Good timing for me, thanks! I've been wondering if the Aeros UL is the same as the Aeros premium with the exception of the cover. It seems logical that the bladder would be the same between these, but in pictures the premium seems to have more topside contouring than the ultralight, and your review seems to hint at this as well. Can you confirm if there is a difference in countouring between the two?

    Also, are the weights listed the mfgr's listed weight or measured weight?

    Edit: it looks like you may have the weights for the two Exped UL sizes reversed.

    Barry Cuthbert
    BPL Member


    Locale: New Zealand

    I found a buff works great as a pillowcase slipped around my Exped Air Pillow UL size Large. It helps to reduce the pillow sliding away under the weight of your head. In winter I use a buff with fleece for extra warmth.

    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Right there

    Also surprised that it is not on the list since it has been around a long time. Longer that many of the others tested. The attachment system works well also.

    +1 w/ using a Buff as a pillowcase.

    Reader reviews for the Montbell

    Billy Ray


    Locale: the mountains

    Barry, Ken:

    What is 'a buff'…

    not familiar with that term.



    Dieter .
    BPL Member


    Very nice review.

    One thing I noticed:
    According to the Specification Table the Exped Air Pillow UL Size L is lighter than the Exped Air Pillow UL Size M – which is probably not correct ?

    Trevor Wilson
    BPL Member


    Locale: ATL -- Zurich -- SF Bay Area

    Cool tip on the buff. Thanks!

    My wife and I have the Montbell (several years) and the Exped Air Pillow UL and have been happy with both.

    Robert Bailey
    BPL Member


    His assessment of this pillow is spot on. I just used it for 6 nights in Yosemite and it was barely better than useless.

    Gabriel Rhoads


    Locale: Wasatch Range

    While on a project with Klymit we tested many of these pillows and found all of them flawed in stability, compression return, orientation, and adaptability. We were, however, able to solve their problems in the creation of Pillow X. I might contend that the Klymit Pillow X is far and away more adaptable, contouring, centering, and comfortable for a larger majority of sleepers than any of the pillows tested…and it would have been among the lightest at 1.9 oz. Not sure how it missed this SOTM…but it can empirically be stated that Klymit's marketing messages from 3 years ago have been adopted by all of their competitors, which might suggest they are well ahead in design understanding and capability, but well behind in marketing budget. Check it out, although very different than what is out there, the design is nearly intuitive.

    John Topping
    BPL Member


    Locale: Peak District

    My experience with some of these (side sleeper on Neoair):

    Exped UL M – quite comfortable. Pretty mobile but has tabs to tie in elastic/shockcord to loop under the pad. Got about 20 nights on it and then it blew out with a major tear down the centre (no, I didn't sit on it!).

    Quechua – comfortable but mobile. Added a smear of silicone to the bottom surface which helps to keep it on the pad. Fiddly valve but fabric has proved to be robust. Needs to be blown up so it is firm or it "rustles/crinkles". I would guess c. 30-40 nights on this one and I will use again.

    REI Flash – quite comfortable but too small to be highly recommended. However, my sample weighs just over 30g so less than 1.1 oz not 2.6 oz. Large piece of elastic used to keep it rolled could be cut off to achieve a 1 oz weight. Excellent valve a la Klymit and small volume makes this a quick inflate/deflate. Only have about 10 nights on this so far but sticking with this for the time being.

    Klymit Cush – fiddly, too small and heavy…. Great valve and small volume makes it easy to inflate/deflate. Robust enough to sit on.

    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    I don't have experience with these two pillows, but I'd like to add them to the GG here.

    Does anyone have solid experience with these two, as well as a few or more of the other pillows in this gear guide (so we can have a common frame of reference) that would be willing to send me the specs for the spec table, as well as their 2-3 sentence overall assessment of each of them?

    Email us at [email protected], and let us know if you'd be willing to contribute these items so this Gear Guide can be as comprehensive as possible.

    (And, please disclose any relationships you have with the manufacturer/brand so we can be aware of conflicts of interest.)

    Thanks! / RJ

    David Chenault
    BPL Member


    Locale: Queen City, MT

    I have trouble not seeing pillows as very high up in the heirarchy of silly things, along with potty trowels, but the Sea to Summit UL pillow my wife bought this summer is very nice. Good height for side sleepers, non-skid, and inflates and deflates quickly.

    Tim Drescher
    BPL Member


    Locale: Gore Range

    Great article Ryan, thanks.

    "I’ve owned two Exped pillows over the past several years. Neither has ever sprung a leak. I cover the top of mine with a down pillowcase from Goosefeet Gear (which has as its shell fabric Pertex Quantum), for a luxuriously soft pillow that’s plenty warm enough for a Montana winter."

    I've owned the Exped UL pillow for the past two seasons and have thought about doubling up with a Goosefeat pillow as well. I'm also a strict side sleeper, and find that I wake up sometimes with a sore ear due to the hard surface. I've tried deflating to make the pillow softer, but I find that it isn’t a permanent solution.

    How many oz. of down would you recommend on a Goosefeat pillow for this particular set-up?

    Barry Cuthbert
    BPL Member


    Locale: New Zealand

    A buff is a stretchy seamless tube made from polyester/lycra. It can be used and worn in multitude of ways.

    Protip: Do NOT go to!!!!

    Stephen M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Way up North

    I purchaed a monkey butt pillow case a while back and its the absolute best ever. It works well with either clothing in it (just make sure to have zips on the bottom) or with an exped ul pillow. What I like the best are the straps which keep the pillow in place on my pad.

    Andy Jarman


    Locale: Edge of the World

    I have finally resolved, after three years of experimentation, that a large sized (wide) Neoair Xlite with the end folded over and held in place with my belt is THE answer for me. Unfortunately I only discovered this after cutting my L Xtherm in half – you win some you lose some!

    I've tried all those reviewed above, mostly I was irritated by the idea that I had to carry even more gear, one more thing to worry about losing/breaking!

    I thought I had cracked it with a 3 litre white plastic milk bottle. With a head lamp under it it makes a great soft glowing night light, enough light to sit around and have conversations by, it holds water AND it cradles the head nicely, and silently. Big draw back – the blue plastic lid would eventually loose its water tightness.

    I'm waiting for someone to chime in about Mike Clelland's onion net full of zip-lock bags. I haven't actually met anyone whose tried that one yet!

    Richard Kelty


    For an apparently unnecessary item there are a lot of comments.
    I would suggest a MSRP column on the chart.

    Mike M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Montana

    Dave C wrote "I have trouble not seeing pillows as very high up in the heirarchy of silly things, along with potty trowels, but the Sea to Summit UL pillow my wife bought this summer is very nice. Good height for side sleepers, non-skid, and inflates and deflates quickly."

    my wife was getting sick and tired of the ambulance pillows and she saw the S2S UL one at REI and bought it, after seeing how nice it was- I bought one too, we've used them on the last couple of trips and no comparison to the ambulance pillows- much, much better :)

    Sara C
    BPL Member


    Locale: SE Missouri and NW Arkansas

    I really like the Klymit Pillow X. I think the given weight of 1.9 oz is accurate, although I can't verify right now. My husband bought one of the Sea to Summit pillows recently (not sure which one) and my head moves around too much on that. The Klymit X design keeps my head in one place and I find it tall enough for me to sleep on my side or back. The fabric is not particularly comfortable if you sleep directly on it, but that's easy to fix as already discussed in this thread.

    Jake D
    BPL Member


    Locale: Bristol,RI

    Big fan of my Exped pillow. Easily adjustable with the inflate/deflate valves for the height you need.

    i'm a side sleeper who doesn't usually have any extra clothes or any stuff sacks to use anyway so for 2oz i'm plenty happy with it.

    recently added a cord to wrap around my pad to keep it in place better. I haven't used my buff for a pillow case but have used either the short sleeve or long sleeve shirt i'm not wearing to bed as a cover.

    Iago Vazquez
    BPL Member


    Locale: Boston & Galicia, Spain

    As silly as it may appear to some, for me it comes down to comfort. My experience tells me that if people cannot get a good night sleep because of X, and it can easily be remedied by increasing your weight by 2 or 3 oz, I think it's a reasonable addition. As much as we need to consider both the weight and the number of items to bring, if a pack is uncomfortable, a sleeping bag doesn't fit us, or there's not enough room in your tent for you and your companion, I believe most of us would be happy to bring an extra half pound if necessary to increase comfort. No need to go through a sufferfest that will detriment from one's experience just to look at some numbers on a table. It's about enjoying oneself in my opinion. I am a side sleeper, the Montbell pillow when sleeping on the ground gives me a good night's rest. Before, even when using other pillows, I used to wake up with a sore neck, a headache and tired from a poor night sleep. Repeat by X number of nights… No longer fun. Silly as it may be to some, I'll continue to bring mine. If an inflated ziplock works for you, bring that… If a extra shirt is enough for you, great!

    I mean no disrespect to those looking at numbers. I think we all here do. And I thank those of you who do push the limits of what's possible, as I have learned much from you.

    Best to all!

    Iago Vazquez
    BPL Member


    Locale: Boston & Galicia, Spain

    No connection with Montbell… The spec table can be seen at

    Joel Benford


    Locale: Surrey flatlands, England

    I have an Antigravity Gear Flex Air Ultralight pillow size 19` x 12.5` / 48 x 32 cm and weighing 0.9 oz / 27 grams. It's a simple bag looking like the Graham Medical pillow second in your photo, but bigger. It inflates with a drinking straw inserted into a tube along the side and the inflation pressure keeps the valve shut unless you squeeze it just so.

    It's the only lightweight pillow I've liked, much more than a couple of Expeds, because it's big enough for my tastes. You can tune the support/stability by not quite fully inflating it. It doesn't seem especially disposable — it has a big welded area and not much to go wrong.

    It's cheap.

    Mitchell Ebbott


    Locale: SoCal

    I was surprised to find a gear guide with not even a token reference to cost considerations. Not all of us are eager to go out and spend $40 on a pillow, so it would be helpful to have an MSRP column in the comparison chart.

    This has been something of a trend here. I've been getting the impression that BPL's writers are targeting an audience for whom price is no object. I can't imagine I'm the only one who would appreciate at least a nod to the budget-constrained among.

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