There are those who consider a pillow a luxury when out camping. I am not one of them. To put it quite simply, for me no pillow = no sleep. At the end of a long day walking, the last thing you want is to get insufficient sleep and be tired for the next day. Anything that can be done to be comfortable and increase the likelihood of good quality sleep is a good thing.
I have been using a very good but very heavy pillow up until now, the Nemo Fillo Luxury pillow. This weighs in at 368g, so certainly does not class as lightweight (they do however offer other, lighter options). It has been very good, with a washable cover, and a mixture of foam and inflatable bladder providing the support. However it’s heavy, has no way of strapping it to the sleep mat meaning it slides around all over the place, and I found myself getting back ache in the morning. As a side sleeper, I suspected that latter issue was caused because it wasn’t supporting my neck well, so I started looking for an alternative that would address some of these issues.
After some research I settled on the Exped Airpillow XL. The advertised size is an impressive 52 x 34 x 13 cm, not a mile away from a standard pillow. It weighs just 95g, a considerable improvement on my Nemo pillow.
The pillow comes in a remarkably small stuff sack, as you can see in the photograph below. It has a one-way valve, covered by a plastic plug with a pull attached. This means as you blow it up it self seals, so you don’t have to rush to get the plug in before all the air comes out. When do want to deflate it, you simply push on the self sealing valve and it will deflate easily. It is easy to get it back into the stuff sack.
The material feels robust, and is slightly soft to the touch. No repair kit is offered with the pillow, but I imagine if it were punctured it could be easily repaired with tape. I also imagine it would be possible to wipe the pillow clean quite easily. The pillow is large when inflated, as can be seen in the picture below. Note that some condensation had fallen from my tarp onto the pillow during the night hence it was slightly wet!
The party-piece for this pillow is that it’s wedge shaped as you can see from the photograph below. This is good because you can turn it around to alter how high it is. If you are a side sleeper, the thicker side is a good choice and I found this supported my neck in almost the perfect position for me. You can also see from the photograph that there are tabs through which you can run some cord to attach to your mat (cord is not, however, supplied). This stops the constant repositioning of the pillow that can be quite common with slippery camping pillows and mats.
The pillow is available in other sizes, so if you wanted to save even more weight you could go smaller. This might be a good idea if you like to put the pillow inside your sleeping bag hood to keep it in position. Otherwise for me personally the small saving isn’t worth the sacrifice in comfort.
Overall I have been very impressed with the level of comfort this pillow gives for the relative light weight. It has to be said that I changed from a very heavy option to this, so my weight saving was quite high (but to reiterate, the Nemo options are also very good). However it’s resolved all of the issues I had previously, and at a very reasonable cost.
If you’d like to buy an Exped AirPillow, please consider using this link and purchasing from Alpinetrek.co.uk. I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to yourself, and this helps me to maintain the site. Thank you.