I am one of those hikers that carries a pillow when backpacking. A pillow is a must in order for me to get the best nights sleep possible, so I am comfortable with taking a weight penalty in order to make this happen. In the past I have tried a number of different pillows, as well as pillow cases, and while they all pretty much worked out one way or another, they weren’t perfect for one reason or another. To be fair though, I have come to the conclusion that the only way I will get that perfect pillow like the one at home is to actually carry the one from home, but this just ain’t going to happen! Not only is it too heavy, but it is also way too bulky…
A while back I had the privilege of hiking with Ben from GooseFeet Gear and got to check out his pillow set-up, which I found to be quite interesting. What drew me to it the most I think is that the pillow was so big. One of the problems I had with other pillow set-ups was that they were a little narrow, and at times I found that my head would tend to slip off of one of the sides. The pillow that Ben was using was wider though, so I knew that I would have to check it out.
The Exped pillow I ordered from REI came in before the pillow case I had ordered from Ben. After getting the Exped pillow in, my mind started turning. The one thing that I knew I needed was a way to secure the pillow to the air pad in order to keep it in place (similar to the Monkey Pillow Case from Wallace Hunter). I noticed that the Exped pillow actually has a loop on each side of the pillow that I could easily attach a piece of shock cord to, which could be used to hold the pillow in place. So I messaged Ben and asked him if he could install a grommet in the closed end of the pillow case. He informed me that he didn’t have any grommets on hand so instead he put a single, small loop on the closed end.
As I mentioned in my down pants post, I love ordering items from GooseFeet Gear for the simple fact that I can choose exactly what I want the product to be. For the pillow case, I was able to choose what sort of material I wanted (gray 10D), the size (which was custom to fit the Exped pillow) and the amount of down inside the pillow top (1 oz).
When the pillow case from Ben arrived I found that the loop actually works quite well (better than the grommet would have worked I believe). I simply tied off a piece of 1/16″ shock cord to one of the loops on the Exped pillow, then attached a mitten hook to the other end of the shock cord. Now I can just slide the pillow into the stuff sack pillow case with the end that has the shock cord attached facing out. I cinch up the pillow case, which holds the pillow inside the pillow case, and then hook the mitten hook to the loop on the closed end of the pillow case. Then I just slip the pillow over my air pad, with the shock cord under the air pad. So far, this has worked out quite well.
So, what are my thoughts on it so far?
The Exped pillow is more comfortable than other air pillows I have used simply due to its size. The larger width does indeed increase the amount of comfort for me. As well, the pillow provides enough support (thickness) to properly support my head and neck.
The GooseFeet Gear pillow case has also been a great choice. The 10D material has a nice hand to it, so it is comfortable to me next-to-skin. And the down does a great job at dampening the feel of laying my head on an air pillow by lofting up around my head and neck and actually replicating the feel of a real pillow. As a bonus, the down will also help keep my neck and face warm in the colder seasons. I am not sure if this will be a downfall during the warmer months though…
And of course I have to talk about the weights. After all, I am a bit of a gram counter, and despite the fact that I am willing to take the hit of a weight penalty on a specialized item such as a pillow, it does need to be as light as possible. In my opinion though, this set-up offers a great weight/comfort ratio, and I deem it worthy to be placed in my pack… So, how about the weights then:
- GooseFeet Gear Stuff Sack Down Pillow: 1.6 oz
- Large Exped “UL” Air Pillow (No stuff sack): 2 oz
- Shock Cord w/ Mitten Hook: 0.1 oz
When I put all the components of this pillow set-up on my scale, it fluctuates between 3.6 & 3.7 oz. For a more definite number, it sits pretty firmly at 104 grams.
So, do you use a pillow, and if so, what do you use?
Disclaimer: I paid the full price for both, the Exped pillow ($55) and the GooseFeet Gear pillow case ($41). I am not affiliated with any of the companies listed in this post. This post reflects my own thoughts and expectations of this particular pillow set-up. I am not getting anything in return for writing this post, other than the fact that I can share this information with my readers… so thank you for reading!