Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Greatest Lightweight Pillow?

Since having children, pillows have become more important to me both at home and in the backcountry. For example, in order for me to sleep while the kids are raising a ruckus, my body has engaged its own survival instinct which includes essentially turning my head to the side to the point that one of my ears is at least partially muffled by the pillow. Another pillow over my other ear and “voilà", a wonderful system which enables me to sleep peacefully while my wife plots my emanate death because she now needs to deal with the kiddies.

I had recently written about some lightweight pillows (http://jolly-green-giant.blogspot.com/2009/11/ultralight-pillows.html) and wanted to follow-up with some additional thoughts and observations after being unsatisfied with the pillows offered on the mainstream market. Although these pillows provide a tolerable night of sleep, I was looking for something a little more comfortable. I found that there wasn’t enough height/depth for commercial backpacking pillows. Those that had decent height/depth, were nothing more than a big pouch of air which was uncomfortable to me as it was like sleeping on a basketball. Other versions were generally unrealistically and laughably small or made to last only for a couple of hours. With that, I set out to design my own pillow. As I tell my wife, I’m an idea man and therefore I needed someone else to do the dirty work as thus far my homemade pillows consisted of a wadded up shirt/jacket/stuff sack, etc.

As I mentioned earlier, Bender with Kooka Bay (http://www.kookabay.com/) figured out how to use heat sealable nylon to manufacture pillows and inflatable mattress pads at very competitive weights. So, I contacted him with the hopes that he would make my idea into a reality. I’m happy to report his efforts were a great success.

The end product was a $40 62 gram (2.18 oz) 16” x 10” x 5" nylon pillow with internal baffling made from lightweight noseeum mosquito netting which gave the pillow shape to cradle my head on the larger than life 5” of height/depth. Basically, the size in every dimension coupled with the baffling was far more “pillowesque” than anything on the market. When compared to likely the most popular other alternative, the Mont-bell UL Comfort Pillow, mine is .3 ounces lighter and offers greater height/depth which means more flexibility to let air out and adjust the comfort. If you were wondering, the Mont-bell comes in at 2.4 oz, $30, and 18.5” x 10.6” x 3.9”. It too is smartly baffled.

In the picture, my custom pillow is the large dark blue one which is sitting next to some FlexAir pillows from Backpackinglight (white), a Kooka Bay UL pillow (dark blue), and the Cocoon UL Air Pillow (gray).

If you think this might benefit you, give Bender a shout. Unfortunately, Kooka Bay doesn’t give warranties to protect you from spousal retaliation when dodging childcare.


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.

1 comment:

Hendrik M said...

Awesome pillow, Jolly. I shot out an email right away to Bender, thanks for bringing this to my/ our attention!