Exped Air Pillow

Exped UL Pillow in my Bivy Sack

Exped Air Pillow in my Bivy Sack

I am a side sleeper, but I sometimes have a hard time staying asleep all night on backpacking trips because I don’t have a pillow to cradle my head and prevent me from rolling onto my back.

Lately, I’ve been bringing an inflatable Exped Air Pillow with me on backpacking trips and it’s really improved my sleep while helping to keep my snoring volume level down (especially important in shelters)  because it keeps me on my side all night long.  Weighing just 2.6 ounces, it’s a little luxury that makes a big difference in my comfort and has quickly gained a permanent place on my gear list.

This pillow is also cleverly designed. It has two separate values on the back for inflation and deflation which lay flat and don’t alter the height of the pillow. The surface fabric is quite comfortable on one’s face and doesn’t slip, and the front and rear sides of the pillow are at different heights: side sleepers (high position) and back/stomach (low position)

The Exped Air Pillow comes with a repair kit and stuff sack – both of which I promptly lost and discarded. I store the pillow deflated with my NeoAir Xlite and roll them both up into my bivy sack so I don’t need to carry 2 storage sacks. At night, the air pillow stays in position on my pad because it’s held in place by the mosquito netting on my pad, although the Air Pillow does come with side eyelets that one could use to couple the pillow to one’s sleeping pad.

I haven’t used the Air Pillow yet with a hooded sleeping bag, but I plan to this winter. I really hate sleeping in mummy bags because they force me to sleep on my back, so if the air pillow can let me use a mummy bag and still sleep on my side, I’ll be in heaven.

Exped has recently come out with an even lighter weight version of this pillow called the Exped Air Pillow UL, which weighs one ounce less but has the same design as the Exped Air Pillow.

Disclosure: Philip Werner purchased an Exped Air Pillow with his own funds. 

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  1. I have the same pillow and air mattress and they work great for me. Tried the UL version, but it has a different finish and a somewhat crinkly sound when your head shifts around on it. Unfortunately, my pillow tended to try to run away during the night. I tried to lash it down with a strand of shock cord tied to the eyelits, but, as the xlite pad tapers at the top, this was not a complete fix. I then came across Thermarest Snaps, which are adhesive backed two part snaps intended to fasten a Thermarest blanket to the side of a Thermarest pad. I used four of these attached to the top of the pad and the bottom of the pillow. The weight is negligable and my pillow now stays put.

  2. Nice to see what kind of setup you have. I’ve never used an inflatable pillow, just stuffed a folded jumper or some other clothing under my head. Would you say a dedicated pillow is better/more comfortable and worth the extra space/weight?

    Mosquito net: great idea! Would you have any advice on those? And are you under a tarp there or is that a tent?

    Thanks for sharing your experience Phil!

    • Old school square tarp, 8×8. Before this I just used an insulated coat as a pillow, but the Exped is worth the added weight because it locks my head in place so I don’t roll onto my back. Such a simple idea. Mountain laurel designs bivy sack and a down quilt make up the rest of my sleep system. Cheers.

  3. The mosquito net is interesting. Would it keep leeches from crawling on your face during the night too? Can you cinch it down around your sleeping bag or bivvy? What is it called and where can you get it?

    • It’s a mountain laurel designs superlight bivy sack with the headset option. Back in 2010,they were the only company that made it, but there are lots of USA cottage manufacturers who make them. Down under, you might ask Terra Rosa to make one for you. I like their work.

  4. I use the same pillow with my mummy sleeping bag and can confirm that the combination works very well for side-sleeping. I tend to put the pillow inside the hood of the bag which has the added benefit of preventing it from escaping in the middle of the night! I’ve had my Exped pillow for a few years now and it has definitely more than earned its place in my backpacking setup.

  5. I’ve been loving this pillow for a couple years now. So much more comfortable than wadding up jackets or extra layers to make a pillow. Totally worth it’s weight. I really like the quick adjustment that can be made by slowly releasing air from the inflate valve. For some reason I always start with a very firm pillow but like to soften it up in the night. I also usually throw it in my bag if I’m going to be staying with friends or family because I’ve found it to be a hell of a lot more comfortable than the “guest pillows”.

  6. Am I the only one who just cannot sleep on the Exped pillow, because it is designed with one side higher than the other, with a valley in the middle? Pillows should not have terrain features.

  7. I may check this out. I generally don’t like single puroose items, however upon reflection, my pack is full of them, such as sleeping bag, ground cover, sleeping pad, shelter, etc.. In the old days, I stuffed my giant fluffy synthetic fill parka into a sleeping bag stuff sack and turned it into an awesome pillow. I don’t carry the parka any more, and my stuff sack is pretty small. My down coat fluffs out and goes in a sack, but it then compresses and I don’t bring it on summer hikes. I usually have to put my shoes under my head to get more elevation. Since I carry about half the weight now that I did in the old days, I think I can spring for 2.6 oz.

  8. It’s definitely more comfortable part inflated. I place mine inside the hood of my sleeping bag, cinching the hood draw-string slightly to help keep it inside.

    Unfortunately it has started to slowly deflate during the night, though I can’t find a leak.

  9. Philip,
    Interesting comment that a mummy bag forces you to sleep on your back. Can you say more on that? I think I may know what you mean, but I’m curious. I too am a side sleeper, and I use a mummy bag all zipped up when it’s cold.
    HJ

    • Maybe it’s just my mummy bags, but I feel like I have to lie on my back with my WM Ultralight 20 when I sleep to keep the hood around my head. and prevent my breath from soaking it.

  10. I really like my Exped Pillow, I used it a lot last year both as a pillow and to inflate my Synmat UL 7, I stopped using it this winter as got a Snozzle pump dry bag (put a buff over it and a down jacket inside it) I was only thinking the other day I should start packing the pillow again.

  11. I use the exped too. I think its great as I am a side sleeper & the valley helps cradle my head & keeps it from sliding off. I stuff it in the hood of my mummy sleeping bag.

    I tried the ultralight version of the Exped. I didn’t like it as the material is slippery & the pillow wouldn’t stay put (& my head would slide off it). The UL version also has only the inflate valve, so thats mainly how they lowered the weight. The UL would have been great, IF they would have kept the same material on its cover, sigh.

  12. I have the same pillow and really like it. I found that if I pull a shirt or fleece over the top of my sleeping pad, then shove the pillow under the shirt, it stays put pretty well and allows me to roll around freely.

  13. I have an Exped pillow pump that I’d gotten to inflate my Neoair until I figured moisture inside it really wasn’t an issue. It was pretty comfy, but heavy at 5.5 oz so now my son uses it and I just use a 2 L platypus for a pillow. However, the seams in the Exped are giving out for some reason. I just fixed one side and the very next trip the other side split open. Grrr.

  14. Hi Phil,

    I have the ultralight version, and can confirm that it moves around more than the standard version. I sewed up a pop-in cover (opening slightly narrower than the inflated pillow so it stays put) from 50-100wt fleece and it is the most comfortable pillow I’ve ever had in the outdoors.

    Mike

  15. Phil,
    Love your site! Im a side sleeper as well, and understand your dilemma. I use these; http://www.cascadedesigns.com/therm-a-rest/accessories/fast-and-light-mattress-snap-kit/product to keep the pillow in place. Here’s a link to my pillow review; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INMUOMsk3zw, towards the end of the vid, you’ll see how I placed the snaps. Works great year round! I have the snaps on my Xlite, and Xtherm mattress’. Thanks again for this excellent site Phil!
    Ben

  16. I have the slightly older version with the eyelets at the top (a completely stupid position). I made a loop of shock cord to that wraps around the pillow and my POE Ether Elite and keeps the pillow in place well. I’m also a side sleeper, and find it pretty comfortable. Like Nick, in winter I stuff it int the hood – works great.