For years I’ve struggled with pillows in the backcountry. Back when clothes were bulkier, I’d carefully fold and stack clothes, strapping them together before slipping them into a sleeping bag stuff sack. Serious stuff.
As clothes became less bulky I had to search for an alternative or my neck and back would complain all night long. Inflatable pillows seemed like the next logical place to look. I tried beach pillows, “ambulance” pillows, even dry bag stuff sacks. I was either sleeping on a unstable “bag of air” — that would roll you off the side unless you were perfectly centered — or it wasn’t thick enough to keep my neck straight while sleeping on my side.
The new generation of inflatable pillows, such as the Exped’s or Klymit’s, provided the stability but not the thickness. If you stand with your shoulder against a wall and measure the distance to your ear, it’s about 7-1/2″ (19cm.) A single inflatable pillow with a thickness of 2.5″ – 5.5″ (6-14cm) is simply is not going to provide the thickness I want/need.
Then one day my wife gave me an empty plastic case, the kind a blanket or bedspread comes in. Once filled, it seemed to provide that level of stability and height I was looking for. Lucky for me she is an artist with a sewing machine and created the near perfect pillow case for me out of lightweight silnylon. I swear by this thing. Nights in the backcountry are now as comfortable or more comfortable than sleeping at home. Yes, I just said that.
I’m using the Exped Air Pillow UL Size Large and the Klymit X-Pillow and I’m really happy with this combination. Total weight for the two inflatable pillows and case is 5.8oz, which is extra weight I’m totally willing to carry for a good night’s sleep.
Here’s what it looks like when I set up for the night.