I never imagined I’d backpack with an inflatable pillow.
As a semi-ultralight hiker, I subscribe to the idea that gear should have multiple uses.
Almost anything can serve as a pillow – like extra clothing, shoes,
or even your food bag (I used a fleece hoodie).
Then one day my girlfriend came home from REI with a couple of shiny new air pillows – one for me, one for her.
I agreed to try it out.
Not only did I sleep better, but I soon realized that on cold nights, my extra layers (that were previously used as a pillow) could serve to, you know, actually keep me warm.
Therefore I could carry a lighter sleeping bag, and ultimately save weight! Yay!
Seat to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow (Regular) Review
Sea to Summit has a variety of designs for the Aeros Pillow, so it’s important to note that I’m reviewing the “Premium” version (as opposed to Ultralight or Down), in a “Regular” size (as opposed to Large or Deluxe).
I’ve owned and regularly used this pillow since the spring of 2019, or for 2.5 years at the time of this writing. It’s been on all my backpacking trips in that time, and most car camping trips too.
I haven’t washed it yet (gross), and it still functions like new. In other words, it hasn’t popped any holes or leaks, and the valve continues to operate as it should.
Otherwise there isn’t very much to say, and that’s a good thing.
It improves my sleep and helps to lighten my load.
Rather than inflating it to the maximum allowance, I find it’s most comfortable to leave a little air out of it. Sometimes I’ll have trouble with it sliding away on the smooth surface of my tent’s floor, but this is easily solved by placing something like a bandana underneath it to create some friction.
I haven’t used it for airline travel, but I’ll try to remember to bring it next time I fly.
It comes in a choice of 3 sizes – Regular, Large, and Deluxe.
Large vs Regular
An inflatable pillow is somewhat of a luxury item in the first place, so if you’re using this mostly for backpacking, then the Large and Deluxe sizes shouldn’t even be a consideration.
Premium Regular: Specs & Features
This premium model, regular-sized pillow weighs in at just 2.7 ounces. The Large size jumps up to 4 ounces, and the Deluxe size jumps up to 7 ounces.
The Regular size, when fully inflated, measures in at 13.4 x 9.4 x 4.3 inches – more than enough size to cradle the biggest of egos. The Large and Deluxe sizes measure even larger.
It inflates and deflates via a single unique valve system. It blows up (featuring internal baffles) and deflates quickly.
It includes a stuff sack and packs up nice and small.
For a more poetic take on its materials, you can read phrases like “50-denier brushed polyester stretch knit face fabric features a soft feel” and “Synthetic fill between the face fabric and thermoplastic urethane bladder increases comfort and wicks away perspiration” on the REI sales page.
And yeah like everything else it’s made in China.
Where to Buy It
The cost of the Regular size Premium pillow usually runs about $43. Retailers like Amazon will sometimes jack up the price when supplies are limited, especially for specific colors.
On the Sea to Summit website you can see the full selection of colors available, including Lime, Navy Blue, Magenta, and Grey. Lime seems to be the most widely available color, and it may be difficult to find specific colors like navy blue or magenta via an outside retailer.
The Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow Case
Ah yes, of course there’s a way to accessorize it! That’s right, for only $14.95 and one extra ounce you can be the proud owner of a dedicated pillow case for your fancy backpacking pillow.
I do NOT own one of these for my Aeros pillow.
All kidding aside, I suppose there’s a handful of (maybe) legitimate reasons to get a case. For example:
- You’re worried your pillow could spring a leak, and you want to increase its life span.
- You want a different color, like maybe magenta, ’cause that’s how you roll.
- You may be scared to wash the actual pillow.
- You want to stuff the case with something like a puffy jacket, in lieu of a pillow. If that’s the case, you’re better getting this stuff sack / pillow case from Hyperlite.
- You can’t help it, you must buy all the things:
How to Inflate a Sea to Summit Pillow
Open the first tab, as pictured above, hold your mouth to it, and blow it up. It only takes about three good breaths. Best of all (as you find with some sleeping pads), you don’t have to use your lung power to hold the air in the pillow as you inflate it. The magical valve takes care of this for you.
It’s best to inflate it to its maximum pressure. Then, you can press the little blue button pictured above to gently release air to your desired comfort level.
Deflating and Packing
As shown above, opening the bottom layer of the valve allows you to deflate all the air.
If you’re using the stuff sack and want to compress the pillow to its smallest possible size, it’s best to leave the valve open as you’re rolling it up. Begin rolling from the most distant side of the valve, and then roll the ends in in such a way that the valve’s area is the last to be compressed. This way it will easily fit in to the stuff sack.
Cleaning and Washing Instructions
Yes, you can wash your Aeros pillow.
You may have missed it, but there’s a Care Instructions tag in the stuff sack.
- Machine Wash with valve closed
- Do Not Dryclean
- Do Not Bleach
- Do Not Tumble Dry
- Do Not Iron
So basically, throw it in the washing machine like you would for anything else. Just make sure the valve is closed, and let it air dry.
Competitors: Other Backpacking Pillows
I’ve only used the Aeros Premium Pillow, but here’s my take some others.
vs the Sea to Summit Aeros DOWN Pillow (Regular)
The down pillow has a top layer of (you guessed it) down feathers, and it’s shaped as more of rectangle. Otherwise, it’s design is essentially the same as the Premium pillow.
It weighs in at 2.5 ounces (about a half ounce lighter) than the Premium.
Its dimensions are 13.4 x 9.4 x 4.7 inches. These dimensions are virtually identical to the Premium, except the Down is a half inch taller.
It tends to go for about $60, or almost $20 more expensive than the Premium.
vs the Sea to Summit Aeros ULTRALIGHT Pillow (Regular)
True to the Aeros lineup, the Ultralight is similar to the others in all the essential ways – namely the valve, baffles, and sizing.
Surprisingly, the Ultralight is larger than the Premium and the Down, measuring in at 14.2 x 10.2 x 4.7 inches. (The Premium is 13.4 x 9.4 x 4.3 inches).
The Ultralight is almost one ounce lighter, weighing it at 2.1 ounces, versus 2.7 in the Premium.
The Ultralight and the Premium cost virtually the same (about $40), but if you want to split hairs, the Ultralight runs at about $3.00 less than the Premium.
If I were left to my own devices to choose a backpacking pillow, I likely would have chose this Ultralight version, rather than the Premium.
vs the Sea to Summit Premium Traveler
The Premium TRAVELER pillow is an interesting one to list here – it’s basically shaped like your classic airline neck pillow, but its design otherwise mirrors the Premium backpacking pillow. If you’re looking for a one-size-fits-all sort of traveling pillow this could fit the bill – and why not use it for backpacking?
With that said, the normal Aeros Premium pillow can serve as a travel pillow, but does not have the same neck support that some travelers may have come to expect.
It weighs the same and costs the same as the regular Premium pillow, just note that the Traveler is not machine-washable.
vs the Exped Air Pillow
The cost is about the same and the weight is about the same as the Sea to Summit series. Otherwise I can’t say more about these without trying them out and using them.
I will say however, that I’m very happy with the Aeros, and Sea to Summit is a trusted, quality brand – I had never heard of Exped until I started doing the research for this article.
vs the Trekology Ultralight Pillow
As with most other products nowadays, Amazon.com has its own top-rated recommended super duper one million reviews knockoff product available at a steep discount. It comes in a wide selection of colors, of course.
If I were on a tight budget I’d get one of these. Heck, even without a tight budget, I’ve been curious about the rise of all the no-name, generic backpacking gear for a few years now.
Like I say in my ultimate gear list, If you’re just starting to get in to backpacking, maybe get one of these (and similar minded gear) instead of blowing the bank on a new, un-tested hobby. You might discover that you don’t even like backpacking.
The Trekology Pillow weighs 3.9 ounces, or one ounce heavier than the Aeros Premium.
It’s dimensions are 16x12x4 inches – wider and longer (but not taller) than the Aeros Premium.
Most notably, at the time of this writing it sells for $16.50, or less than half the price of the Aeros Premium.
What’s your experience with backpacking pillows? Let us know in the comments.