Kammok Pongo Inflatable Sleeping Pad and Puffin Pillow Review
Kammok’s Pongo Pad and Puffin Pillow are a lightweight inflatable sleeping system offering comfort and versatility for various sleeping positions in a hammock or on the ground. While the concept of using an inflatable sleeping pad for back insulation in a hammock sounds simple, it’s harder to securely attach it than you’d think in a satisfying and vendor-neutral way that’s usable across different hammocks and on the ground. While the Pongo and the Puffin are tailored for use with Kammok hammocks, we demonstrate how easy it is to adapt their use for hammocks with and without integrated bug nets from other hammock vendors.
The Pongo Sleeping Pad
The Pongo pad is longer (74 inches) and wider (26 inches) than many sleeping pads. The extra width is specifically for use in a hammock, but it is also helpful on the ground for side and stomach sleepers and those who’ve always wished for more elbow room on their pad.
Pongo Pad Specs
- Dimensions: 26 inches at shoulders tapering down to 20 inches x 74 inches long x 3.35 inches / 66 cm at shoulders tapering down to 50.8 cm x 188 cm long x 8.5 cm thick
- Packed dimensions: 4 inches x 8 inches/ 10 cm x 20.3 cm
- R-value: 1.4
- Material: 20D Polyester
- Weight: 16 oz (15.6 oz actual) for the pad alone, 2 oz (1.6 oz actual) for the tie-down kit, patch kit, and stuff sack
- Included accessories: Tie-down cords for hammock use, patch kit, stuff sack
The pad has a three-inch-thick spot-welded baffle design that looks similar to an egg-crate mattress topper and is made of a soft-touch polyester that feels nice against the skin, not plasticky. When I put a knee on the pad or sat on it, I could feel myself bottoming out, but when I lay down, the pad felt fully supportive. In a tent, I was able to sleep on my stomach on the Pongo with my arms up and elbows out and nothing touched the ground. Having come from using closed cell foam and self-inflating pads, those nights in a tent in the upper 50s/ lower 60s Fahrenheit with the Pongo have been the most comfortable nights of ground sleeping I can remember.
Four rows of silicone cross-hatches on the underside of the pad limit the pad’s movement, either in a hammock (more on this below) or on a slippery ultralight tent floor. If you struggle to keep a bag or quilt on your pad at night, flipping the pad over so that the silicone is on top can help keep it in place.
Use in a hammock
When hammockers use a traditional top quilt/underquilt setup in a hammock, the underquilt cocoons your backside, shoulders, and sides of your body. A standard 20-inch-wide sleeping pad can easily leave your shoulders exposed to the cold, so hammockers who use pads often put a second pad across the top like the letter “T” or use a wider pad.
Kammok made the Pongo wider at the shoulders for better shoulder coverage as well as to help push the sides of the hammock out for a flatter lay. It does both these jobs well. While using the Pongo in a hammock on a night in the upper 50s Fahrenheit, I noticed that I needed to seal my quilt around my shoulders tighter than I usually do at that temperature to keep the sides of my shoulders warm, but it was definitely better than if I were using a standard-sized pad.
Usually, using sleeping pads in a hammock is maddening as they tend to slip around and are hard to readjust without getting out of the hammock. Some hammock companies use a double-layer of fabric on the bottom with an opening to slide the pad into. Kammok took a different approach, solving this problem by including tie-down cords which affix the pad to the hammock and using silicone cross-hatches to grip the hammock’s fabric.
The silicone cross-hatches work so well that I found I didn’t need to tie the pad down to my homemade hammock, even though I’m a rotisserie sleeper. I placed the pad in the hammock oriented on the diagonal, got in, and it didn’t move. I’ve noticed some other reviewers having different experiences with this and strongly advocating for using the tie-down cords. It may depend on your hammock’s material and how intensely you move around in the night.
The tie-downs are two elastic cords with toggles at one end (which connect to loops on the head end of the pad) and plastic J hooks at the other, which were designed to clip into a loop Kammok puts at the peak of their gathered hammocks’ head end.
What do you do if your hammock doesn’t have one of these loops? If using a hammock without bug netting, you can hook the cords together and loop them around the gathered end of your hammock. If your hammock has integrated bug netting and no peak loop, but does have an internal ridgeline, I figured out a workaround: take a small piece of extra guyline or utility cord, tie it into a loop, and Prusik hitch it to your ridgeline close to the end of the hammock. Then clip the attachment tie-down hooks to your Prusik loop, and adjust their length with the Linelocs. When under tension, the Prusik won’t slide forward and your Pongo pad will be held in place.
Make sure to check the dimensions of your hammock, as the Pongo pad may be too big for the most minimalist, narrow hammocks out there. For example, in Kammok’s own line, they recommend the Pongo for all of their hammocks except the Roo UL.
The Pongo pad is very simple to deflate as it has both a one-way inflation valve (to prevent air from leaking out as you inflate it) and a deflation valve. Open the deflation valve (just a big hole) and the pad collapses. The pad comes folded and rolled, but I found it even quicker to roll first, and then fold the roll in thirds and easily stuff it in the stuff sack. If you’re used to self-inflatable pads, where you have to force the air out of the little valve as you roll them as tightly as possible, the simplicity and speed of the Pongo’s deflation will be a welcome change.
The Puffin Pillow
The Kammok Puffin Pillow is made with sueded polyester that feels soft and slightly fuzzy, like a cozy pillowcase built right in. It’s cut in what Kammok calls a “tapered macaroni” shape, a curved rectangle with the corners cut off and a more aggressive curve at the neck. As with any inflatable pillow, you can inflate the Puffin with more or less air for a firmer pillow or a softer one.
Puffin Pillow Specs
- Inflated Dimensions: 17.5 inches x 10 inches x 3 inches / 44.45 cm x 25.4 cm x 7.6 cm Packed Dimensions: 4.5 inches x 2.75 inches x 1 inch / 11.4 cm x 7 cm x 2.5 cm
- Material: 50D stretch polyester with a suede finish
- Weight (manufacturer’s specs): 2.1 oz (2.0 oz actual) for the pillow, plus 0.8 ounces (0.8 oz actual) for the tie-down kit and stuff sack
Using a dedicated, single-purpose pillow in the woods is fairly new for me. In the past, I’d just ball up a fleece or a puffy jacket and use it as a pillow. I tried an inflatable pillow once and felt like I was sleeping on a plastic pool toy. But after testing the Puffin Pillow, I’m a convert and I plan to bring it with me on future trips. For me, it was just the right amount of pillow for back and side sleeping in a hammock, and side and stomach sleeping on the ground.
Hammock pillow attachment system
The pillow has an attachment system which is is a Y-shaped elastic cord with mitten clips on each of the three ends. Two clips attach to the pillow, and one clip attaches to your hammock–either a tie out, a gear loft loop, the Pongo pad, or, in my case, a whoopie sling suspension. Using the attachment system in my hammock, I appreciated how much it helped by limiting the movement of the pillow. As I turned from my back to my side, the pillow stayed close enough to where I initially put it, but had enough play for slight adjustments.
Similar to the Pongo system, if you have a hammock with integrated bug netting and no internal gear loops, you may have to add a Prusik loop to your ridgeline as a clip-in point or connect the pillow to the Pongo pad itself, if you’re using both together.
If using the Puffin with the Pongo pad on the ground, you can clip the attachment cords of the pillow to integrated loops on the pad. This is helpful if you move around a lot in the night to keep the pillow in place. Unlike the Pongo pad, the Puffin pillow has a single one-way valve. It inflates quickly, and to deflate it, just push the valve stem in with your finger and the pillow collapses.
Additional notes on both the pillow and pad
Kammok makes an inflation bag (sold separately) called the Ponga Air Pump to be used with its inflatable gear. In this way, you can inflate a big pad like the Pongo with just a few bagfuls of air, instead of dozens of breaths, making inflation much faster and less tiring.
But a more important reason to use inflation bags instead of your mouth is that your breath contains lots of moisture which becomes mold inside your inflatable over time and can hasten a pad’s breakdown. Pump bags are also multi-use gear as they can be used as a pack liner or dry bag for your insulated clothing and sleeping gear when you’re on the move. Just check the specs to make sure your inflation bag is the right size for your stuff. See our review of the Exped Schnozzle for more information about multi-purpose inflation bags.
I don’t have Kammok’s Air Pump, which is mated to fit with their inflatables’ valves, so I used a simple hack instead: Take your pack liner or any plastic garbage bag, hold it open and swing it around to fill it up with air, then grasp the neck of the bag in one hand and put it over the valve. Squeeze the air from the bag with your arms and body while holding it tightly onto the valve. This is not as elegant or efficient a solution as a dedicated pump bag, but it works quite well. I was able to fully inflate the Pongo pad with three to four bagfuls of air and the Puffin pillow with less than one.
The Kammok Pongo Pad is a comfortable dual-use inflatable sleeping pad that can be used for back insulation in a hammock or on the ground. It’s extra wide for use in a hammock and designed to stay inside it without slipping or porpoising out through the use of cords, hooks, and an anti-slip silicone coating. While it’s tailored for use with Kammok hammocks, it’s pretty easy to modify any gathered end hammock to use it as I explain above. It’s companion, the Puffin Pillow is tethered to a hammock similarly and also super comfortable to use. Their small packed size and reasonable weight makes them suitable for backpacking in milder temperatures. While Kammok rates the Pongo for temperatures 40 degrees and up, I’d take that rating with a grain of salt since sleeping pad temperature ratings are so subjective and unreliable. I imagine Kammok will rate the Pongo with an R-value when the new sleeping pad R-value standard rolls out next year and I’d wait for that rating before venturing beyond summer use.
Disclosure: Kammok provided SectionHiker with a sample pad and pillow for this review.