Gear Review: Field Testing the PackPillow Backpacking Pillow
This past weekend we went backpacking on the Trans-Catalina Trail on Catalina Island in California and I decided to test out a new backpacking product called the PackPillow. Backpacking pillows seem to always be one of those controversial topics among avid backpackers and thru-hikers. Do you really even need one? I've tried out my fair share of backpacking and camping pillows, and mostly I find that they take up too much space, they weigh too much, and they aren't that comfortable. I particularly dislike the backpacking pillows of the "blow-up" with air variety. My neck just doesn't like an inflatable pillow. So in an effort to try and be as "ultra-light" as possible when I go backpacking, I usually don't pack a pillow at all! That's why you will never see me mention them on my backpacking and hiking gear lists. In place of a backpacking pillow I usually throw my backpack under my sleeping pad, or use my extra clothes and jacket all bundled up in my sleeping bag. It has worked well for me so far.
When I heard about this new backpacking pillow product from PackPillow, I almost dismissed it at first, but after reading more about the product on Kick Starter, I was pretty intrigued. The team at PackPillow claims that their backpacking pillow is the world's best backpacking pillow. On their site they have detailed that it is not only a light weight and comfortable pillow, but it also doubles as a stuff sack, a day pack, and a seat cushion! It sort of sounded like it would address all of the things I hate about backpacking pillows. So I decided to give it a try, and I'm back here to give you guys my honest opinion review.
*Note: This is not a sponsored post, but I did receive this product for free in order to test it. As with everything you find on the blog, you can expect that all thoughts expressed below are my honest compiled opinions. You'll never get anything different from me. The below post may contain some affiliate links though.
packpillow Field Tested Review
The PackPillow Claim: The PackPillow definitely claims to be versatile! Not only is it a backpacking pillow, it is a day summit pack, a water resistant seat cushion, and a stuff sack all in one.
- What I thought: I definitely liked that I could stuff my extra clothes and a few random loose items from my backpack into the PackPillow to keep it all contained, and then at night I stuffed anything I wasn't using into the pillow to give it more firmness for sleeping. I honestly didn't use it as a seat, but you could. I just sat on the ground. I also didn't happen to use it as a day pack either, in fact, I purposely left the strap that comes with it at home because I didn't want the extra weight. I usually just empty the contents of my backpacking pack into my tent and use that when I need a day/summit pack. So yes, the pack is versatile, but I didn't really need it to be. I was a bit more interested in the other aspects of the pillow, but I guess these are just nice added bonuses to the product.
- The PackPillow Claim: Their claim is that if you were to pack a stuff sack, a backpacking seat, a day pack, and a backpacking pillow you would be carrying over 8 oz of extra weight. Since the PackPillow is all of those items in one item, it saves you weight and comes in at a total weight of 4.5 oz.
- What I thought: Ok my first impression of this item was that it actually seemed a bit heavy, but I guess when you think about the product in terms of the items they list above that the PackPillow replaces, then this item definitiely would save you some weight. I would argue though, you don't really need to pack a "backpacking seat" or a "day pack" or a "pillow" for that matter. I never usually pack those things, so for me, this added weight to my normal backpacking gear weight. Personal preference I guess.
- The PackPillow Claim: On the PackPillow website the say that this product, "provides a comforting surface, and adjustable support that suits your individual needs. Enjoy nature’s beauty without the neck pain."
- What I thought: Yes, I agree 100%. I really thought it was comfortable, probably the most comfortable backpacking pillow I've ever tried. I put my clothes and jacket into the stuff sack portion to give it added volume too when I went to sleep. It was perfect and I never woke up feeling like my neck or head was twisted up or in pain.
- The PackPillow Claim: PackPillow claims that their product is durable and made with quality, field-tested materials.
- What I thought: I haven't used the product enough yet to say whether or not the long term durability is in fact true or not, but it did seem to hold up very well on its first 3 day backpacking trip with me. I kept it at the bottom of my pack and treated it like my other gear. My only thought is that the zipper seemed a little unstable, like it might have issues in the future, but I'm speculating at this point.
- PackPillow Price Point: At the time of writing this article the PackPillow (not including the "day-pack" strap) is going at $44. If you want the whole package PackPillow with day pack strap, you'll be paying more like $53.
- My Thoughts: If I had seen this product in stores at that price point, I probably would never buy it. Not because I don't think its a good product (because it actually is a great backpacking pillow!), but more because I just don't think I need it. I've been backpacking for years and have never needed a backpacking pillow. I asked my friend who went backpacking with me what she thought about the product, and she was excited at first because she says she always has trouble sleeping when backpacking, but she also mentioned that she probably wouldn't pay more than $20 for the product. I think that if you really have been looking for a perfect solution to your backpacking pillow problems (if you have them), then ya, maybe $44 would be worth spending. It is sort of a luxury item. Looking at other similar products on the market though, it looks like the $40 range is typical of backpacking pillow prices, so this may be a draw.
My Overall Conclusions:
Ok, here is my overall opinion on the product. I really loved how I could use it to compartmentalize my extra clothing and some gear to keep things a bit more organized in my backpack, and it truly was really comfortable. I also liked how the shape of it fit perfectly into my sleeping bag head compartment. However, will I use this normally? I'm not sure. Ya it is light weight, but not bringing any pillow with me and just using what I already have is more light weight. Ya its a stuff sack, but I wasn't really needing another stuff sack. Ya it doubles as a seat cushion and a summit pack, but I haven't really had issues sitting on the ground or my bear can when I'm out backpacking (you usually are required to bring a bear can into the Sierra Nevada) and I usually just empty my big backpack into my tent and use it as a summit day pack whenever that is necessary. I give this product five out of five stars as far as their claims go, but for my personal preference I just don't usually want to add extra weight to my pack. I will probably only bring this pillow with me on shorter (1-2 night) backpacking trips when weight is less of an issue.
I think this product is great for people who really need the extra support for their neck when backpacking and have trouble sleeping while camping in the backcountry. It was very comfortable, and I have no overall complaints with the product. If you like to pack a pillow when you go backpacking, this option really will save you space and give you ultimate comfort.
In the end, it all depends on what kind of backpacker you are! Do you like the creature comforts or do you like to go ultralight?
Interested in purchasing the PackPillow?
If you're not convinced the PackPillow is the right backpacking pillow for you, check out these other backpacking pillow options below. I've added the weights of each compared to PackPillow, since weight is one of the bigger deciding factors when backpacking.
1) Nemo Fillow Pillow : Weight comes in at 9oz compared to the PackPillow's 4.5oz
2) Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow: Inflatable pillow that packs down small, weight comes in at 4oz compared to the PackPillow's 4.5oz
3) Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow: Weight comes in at 7.4oz compared to the PackPillow's 4.5oz
4) Exped Air Pillow: Another inflatable pillow, weight comes in at a low 3oz compared to PackPillow's 4.5oz