Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ultralight Pillows

Sleeping in the backcountry can be a challenge without the right gear. Sleep system components must consider ground comfort, warmth, protection from elements (and possibly animals), and often something to cradle your head. Lightweight backpackers have been known to cut any pillow from their gear list and substitute a rolled up jacket, stuff sack, or even a flexible water bladder instead. Some find this comfortable and some don’t. If you’re looking for something a little more substantial which won’t add too many ounces, here are some to think about.

Lighter than those offered by Thermarest or off the shelf at Walmart, but one of the heavier lightweight pillows, is the Cocoon UL Air Pillow which is $19 / 13”x17” / 3.7oz and can be found at http://www.basegear.com/cocoon-ultralight-air-core-pillow.html. This is a very comfortable pillow, but it might be a little heavier than you’d like. Comfort is comfort though, and it might work for you.

A popular mainstream pillow is the Montbell UL Comfort Pillow which is $29.00 / 10.6”x18.5”x3.9” / 2.4oz and can be found at http://www.montbell.us/products/disp.php?p_id=1124290. This is a very durable and long lasting solution. At 2.4 ounces, it is a fair weight for a lightweight pillow, but there are lighter options.

One new vendor which is fairly unknown is Kookabay. This is simply a guy who figured out how to bond materials to form pillows and sleeping pads and is slowly bringing them to market. In my view, he offers likely the lightest and most hearty solution for the weight. That means there are others which are less hearty and more prone to failure and others which are more hearty and unnecessarily heavy. Kookabay’s UL pillow is $30 / 12”x7.5”x3.5” / 1.3oz and can be found at http://kookabay.com/.

There are three pillows offered by BackpackingLight which are worth discussing. They are nothing but disposable hospital pillows and are sold in three packs for the simple reason that they will fail after a handful of uses. Out of those discussed here, these are also the only pillows made of lightweight plastic and don’t have a standard twistable valve. If you’re only using them for a very short period, other than rolling up a jacket or using a stuff sack, these are the lightest option. Quite honestly, they are fairly comfortable too. I’ve found adding a thin 1/4” to 1/8” CCF pad cut to size on top and stuffed into either a shirt or soft pillow case makes it very comfortable and remains lighter than any other option I’ve discussed. BPL pillows include the FlexAir Ultralight Pillow for $10 3-pack / 14.5”x10.5” / .56oz) at http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/flexair_ultralight_pillow.html, the FlexAir Dual Compartment Ultralight Pillow for $13 3-pack / 19”x12.5” / .98oz) at http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/flexair_dual_ultralight_pillow.html, and the FlexAir Plus Ultralight Pillow for $12 3-pack / 19”x12.5”/ .85oz at http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/flexair_plus_ultralight_pillow.html.

UPDATE (23 Feb 2012):
Regrettably, I can no longer recommend or support Kookabay.  In late 2011 and well into 2012, numerous customers came forward to say Kookabay (Ben Neubrander) had defrauded them.  Concerns included taking money for products never provided and providing products with bad valves which were returned for repair and were never repaired (or returned) or refunded.  I was one of those customers.  I attempted to contact Ben numerous times of the last 5 months and he simply did not respond.  Others experienced the same.  He eventually shut down his website and his PayPal account.  It was reported that he had gotten burned out, and just simply walked away without fulfilling his obligations.  Ben had a great product and was plenty fine to deal with when he chose to manage his company responsibly.  It's a shame he experienced some kind of personal hardship, but he did not handle it well.  Simple correspondence with his customers and extended timelines would have likely made everyone happy.  Instead, he just chose to cut and run.  I personally wish him the best and hope to see his products return somewhere, someday, somehow.


Anonymous said...

I ordered the pillow last week, and can see that my payment was drafted from my account (used PayPal), but haven't otherwise heard from Kooka. Sent e-mail requesting dleivery date...how soon have others received delivery? I'm anxious to use the thing!

Jolly Green Giant said...

"Bender" should communicate pretty quickly. I'm guessing he might be out. Don't fret, he's a good guy and easy to track down if anything happens. Most of his orders go out in a week or so unless he's really behind.