I like packing light, but I don’t like to skimp when it comes to my sleeping arrangements. I have a good friend who can fall asleep on a granite slab without an ounce of cushion, but I need a few more creature comforts to get a good night’s sleep. Chief among those is a pillow, and the Cocoon Aircore Ultralight Travel Pillow’s favorable comfort-to-weight ratio means it will always have a spot in my pack.
Construction is pretty simple: Essentially, it’s a bag inside of a nylon liner with synthetic fill. You can inflate the bag with just a couple breaths, and there’s plenty of flexibility in the bag to vary level of firmness. Granted, it’s no oversized down-pillow with 1500 count Egyptian sheets, but a half-inflated air core does a good job of cradling your melon, and blowing it up to full strength will satisfy those who prefer to sleep on something more akin to a boulder.
The synthetic fill adds a padded cushion between the pillowcase and air-filled core so it doesn’t feel like you’re lying on an inflated grocery bag. One side of the pillow is covered with a soft microfiber, and the other side is nylon. Unfortunately this means the pillow is prone to sliding around if you prefer the softer side. I just stuffed it inside of my mummy sleeping bag hood, and it wasn’t a problem.
I’m a side sleeper, and after breaking both of my clavicles and one shoulder (in three different accidents), I have pretty specific wants when it comes to camp pillows. I have tried cramming jackets inside of ditty bags and using compressible pillows, but neither was able to provide enough support for a decent night’s sleep. I tried the Aircore Ultralight on a recent winter trip to Mt. Whitney, and I was able to comfortably lie in bed for twelve hours, save the occasional answer to Mother Nature. I could quickly deflate the pillow to a comfortable level while stargazing on my back, and then re-inflate it when it was time to actually roll over and pass out. It even served suitably as a car trip pillow, which certainly made the five-hour car ride significantly more pleasurable.
Like all inflatable backcountry toys, you’ll want to treat this pillow carefully to avoid any unwanted punctures. It’s not designed for field fixes either, although a knife and some ingenuity might allow you to get to the inflatable bag for impromptu repairs.
Bonus: The pillow also shrinks down to about the size of a tennis ball. Just be sure to fold it as snugly as possible, as the stuff sack is an extremely precise fit.
Bottom Line: For you stalwarts who watch their weight, please continue to wrap your spare socks around your Nalgene as a cushion for your dome. I’ll sacrifice the 3.7 ounces for comfort and chalk it up as a win.