By Jason B
I love camping in all of its forms – backpacking, car camping, cabins – you name it I like being in the wilderness. However, as I have gotten older I find that I want thicker sleeping bags, and more cushy confines, but the one thing I have not been able to find yet is a good backpacking pillow. Sea to Summit thinks they have solved this dilemma with the Aeros Ultralight Deluxe Pillow. I have the good fortune of reviewing the pillow over the next few months.
Sea to Summit is an Australian based company, and their founding story is pretty cool. You can read about it on their website, but the cliff notes version is that the name is based on one of their founders trek to climb Everest by starting at sea level in the Bay of Bengal in India and making the trek to Everest from the bay on foot, thus the name Sea to Summit. The company’s goal is to “create truly ingenious, well-made but affordable outdoor equipment.”
Sea to Summit has clearly put significant thought into pillows as they offer three distinct options – the Aeros Premium, Aeros Ultralight and Aeros Traveller. I am reviewing the Aeros Ultralight Deluxe. According to Sea to Summit, the Aeros Ultralight pillow is designed to be light, compact and comfortable. It features 20 denier fabric that is quiet, weighs 4.6 oz and can be stuffed into a small sack that is the width of large smartphone and about as thick as two smartphones. Unfolded it is 23.5 inches by 16 inches and fully inflated has a depth of 5.5 inches. It comes with a small silnylon pouch for storage.
My initial thoughts on the pillow are very positive. I am surprised that the size of the pillow is almost the size of a regular size pillow. The outer fabric is soft to the touch and quiet, and the thickness of the pillow is the full five inches advertised. This is great because I am a side sleeper.
Inflation is easy, I just blew into the valve. I looked on the Sea to Summit website and the included material to see if there was another method, but I didn’t find anything. Deflation is just as easy, open the deflation valve and it dumps all the air. Then I rolled the pillow to get all the air out. At this point, I folded it in thirds and stuffed it right back into the sack. Super easy.
Sea to Summit has care instructions on their website. The pillow can be washed by hand with normal laundry soap and then air dried. They caution to make sure that the valve is securely closed so that water does not get inside the pillow. They also suggest that the pillow should be stored flat or lightly rolled with the valve open instead of stuffed tightly inside the stuff sack. I am glad that they included the storage instructions because I would have probably just kept it stuffed in the sack that it came in.
I will look for the following criteria over the next few months as I review the pillow. First – comfort. I am a side sleeper but I toss and turn some. Does the pillow stay in place? Can I use it hammock camping in addition to camping on the ground? Second – durability. I am hard on gear and this is an inflatable pillow. Will it survive repeated use and being shoved in my pack? Finally – cleanliness. Does the pillow accumulate dirt? Do I need to wash it after every trip?
Update June 7, 2017
Have you ever had that perfect night of sleep while camping? I have, and the right pillow contributes greatly to my night of comfort. I have used the Sea To Summit Aeros Ultralight Deluxe pillow car camping and hammock camping over the last month, and it has performed admirably.
I took two trips with the pillow over the last month or so. I did a two night car camping trip with my daughter at Buccaneer State Park on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and I did a two night backpacking trip where I covered the 40 miles of the Black Creek Trail also in Mississippi. The weather for the Buccaneer trip was nice with highs in the 70s and lows in the 60s with abundant sunshine. The weather for the Black Creek trip was stifling hot with temperatures in the mid-90s and mid-80s at night with 100% humidity and no breeze. We tent camped in Buccaneer State Park and I used my ENO hammock for my Black Creek trip.
I mentioned in my intro that I would evaluate the pillow on comfort and durability. The Aeros pillow is supremely comfortable. Inflation is easy; it only takes a few breaths to inflate it fully. I usually start with the pillow fully inflated and then let some air out until is cradles my head. I find that this works for both side sleeping and lying on my back. The fabric on the top of the pillow is soft and comfortable against my head. I also like that it is quiet. This was especially important while sharing a tent with my daughter. I could toss and turn and the pillow did not make any noise.
The pillow also worked well in my hammock. I only needed to inflate it slightly to give the pillow just enough air to cradle and wrap around my head while lying in the hammock. It also did a nice job of muffling forest sounds while cradling my head. The pillow held my head in place all night and I woke up without any soreness.
Durability with the pillow has also been superb. I have had no issues with the pillow getting dirty or otherwise not operating properly. I did change how I put it into the stuff sack. Instead of deflating and rolling it, I deflate the pillow and shove it in the pouch. This seems to work well.
I did have on accident with the pillow after my Black Creek Trip. Upon returning and unpacking, I dumped my stuff sack full of dirty clothing in the washing machine without paying attention to what was actually in the stuff sack – the pillow. The Aeros pillow went through a full washing machine cycle and as I found it as I was transferring clothes to the dryer. I thought all was lost, but I took the pillow out of the pouch dumped out as much water as I could and then hung the pillow with the inflation valve open to make sure the remaining water could evaporate. After a few days the inside of the pillow was dry and there does not appear to be any ill effects, and as a bonus the pillow smells really nice. I won’t intentionally make this mistake again.
Final Update October 16, 2017
Since my last update, I have used the Aeros Ultralight Deluxe pillow on car camping trips to Fontainebleau State Park and Bayou Segnette State Park, both in southern Louisiana; an overnight backpacking trip in the Black Creek Wilderness in Mississippi; and my daughter used it for 5 nights at Echo Ranch camp in Juneau Alaska while sleeping in a rustic cabin. Temperatures have been in the 90s with high humidity and in the 50s in Alaska.
I evaluated the pillow on comfort and durability. Comfort has been great. I find that I don’t want it fully inflated so that it is hard, but rather slightly underinflated so that it cradles my head. This works for both sleeping on my back and on my side. The shape also worked well, with it longways I can cradle the pillow while sleeping on my side and lengthwise is perfect for sleeping on my back. I have continued to appreciate the softness of the outer fabric. Even while sweating on a hot night in Bayou Segnette, my head was comfortable even if the rest of me wasn’t.
Durability has proven to be superb as well. I have had no issues with the fabric or the valves. The biggest test I put the pillow through was giving it to my 12 year old daughter to use at camp. Like most teenagers she hears about 40% of what is said, so I am not completely sure she heard my instructions on how to inflate and deflate the pillow. However, the pillow did great and the only casualty of her camping trip was the stuff sack which has disappeared and not returned.
Overall, I am extremely impressed with the Aeros Ultralight Deluxe pillow. No more putting clothing into a stuff sack and suffering through another uncomfortable night in the backcountry. This pillow from Sea to Summit will be on all my trips from here forward.
Thank you to 4alloutdoors.org for allowing me to participate in this review and to Sea to Summit for providing the product for this review.