These days, just about everyone has a travel pillow. Right?
Most people use them whenever they’re traveling on airplanes.
I use mine when I’m traveling on a plane, driving long distances in a car, and when I’m camping.
My travel pillow is so comfortable that I actually use it for more than just short trips when I need a place to rest my head temporarily. I also use it for sleeping comfortably through the night at hotels and at friends’ & relatives’ houses.
Here’s my all-time favorite travel pillow…
(It has lasted me well over a decade!)
The Best Travel Pillow
I used to do long-distance bike rides all the time.
I was cycling 60 miles or more a day just about every weekend when I lived in Florida. And when I wasn’t riding leisurely on my own or with friends, I was participating in 2- and 3-day bike rides cycling up to 100 miles a day.
Overnight bike trips require overnight camping. And the smaller (and lighter) your camping gear is, the better!
In case you’re wondering, there are SAG vehicles (Support and Gear) which follow behind the slower riders to make sure that no rider is left behind. Those same vehicles also transport all of the riders’ gear (tent, clothes, bedding, personal care necessities, etc.).
So that’s when I first started using this particular travel pillow. And I still use it to this day — well over a decade later — every single time I travel.
Why I Like This Inflatable Travel Pillow…
It’s not just a neck pillow. It’s an all-in-one sleeping pillow that also serves as a temporary neck rest pillow. It’s more like a camping pillow in that it’s larger in size than most travel pillows, yet it packs relatively small and is lightweight. Personally, I can’t stand those u-shaped travel pillows. They’re just neck rests, not sleeping pillows!
It has an inflatable bladder in the very center and a piece of memory foam on both sides of the bladder — so it’s firm, yet soft. Most travel pillows are typically either/or. You usually get just the inflatable bladder (so they’re too rigid and your head slides off or you get a sore neck) or just the memory foam (so they’re too soft & wimpy and you hardly get any support at all).
It can be inflated to a level of firmness that’s most comfortable for you. When using it as a sleeping pillow, I don’t fully inflate the bladder because I don’t want it to be like I’m resting my head on a rock! Instead, I underinflate it a bit so that I can move my head around and it conforms to my head each time. When using it as a backrest (leaning against a gymnasium wall to read a book, for example), I do fully inflate the bladder in order to get the most support and prop myself up a bit.
It’s a cinch to adjust the amount of air that’s in the bladder. Just push in the inflation valve (while your head is resting on it!) to let some air out, then pull out the inflation valve to lock it in place. Need a little more air? Just blow directly into the inflation valve. It’s a super heavy-duty valve that is durable and stands the test of time. It doesn’t bend or kink in any way.
The pillow cover is soft and comfortable, not slick or scratchy. Many travel pillows have nylon pillow covers (similar to luggage) or no pillow covers at all. This travel pillow has a soft fleece cover.
The pillow cover is removable and washable! I’ve washed mine several times. I comes off easily and goes back on just as quickly each time. The soft fleece cover actually gets softer every time you wash it.
It folds into itself (much like a pack jacket or pouch jacket does — which is another one of my favorite pack & go items!). Just leave the inflation valve “open” to expel all the air as you’re rolling it up into itself. Then, once folded as small as you can get it, “close” the inflation valve and it will stay in that shape until you release the valve again.This means is packs smaller and expands bigger than most travel pillows!
It can also be used as a lumbar support pillow. If you’re driving or sitting in a chair, you can inflate this pillow just enough to give you some lower back support — just as a lumbar pillow would. Or, after removing all of the air and folding it into itself, just tuck it behind your back for a soft cushion that provides a little extra support. Most travel pillows cannot give you this level of firmness (for the times when you want added support) and this much softness (for the times when you want the most comfortable rest).
The construction of this pillow makes it incredibly durable and long-lasting. Like I said, I’ve had mine for over 10 years now, and it shows no signs of aging!
Now For The Bad Part…
I don’t know what brand this pillow is, who made it, or where I got it.
I think I got it at REI — because that’s where I got most of my other lightweight packable camping gear for those cycling trips. And that’s where I continue to turn first whenever I’m on the hunt for the latest and greatest outdoor gear.
Similar Travel Pillows
The best I can tell, these are the travel pillows that most closely compare to mine:
- Thermarest Compressible Pillow – my self-inflating, compressible sleeping pad (which I bought at the same time as this pillow and still use whenever I’m camping) is a Thermarest. It’s one of the best brands available as far as lightweight, packable gear goes! The reviews for this travel pillow speak volumes.
- Minezzz Travel Pillow – this pillow combines the best of both worlds like my travel pillow does: an inner core that’s inflatable to whatever firmness you desire, plus a “real” soft pillow on which to rest your head. Plus it’s larger than many travel pillows, yet still lightweight. Both the pillow and the cover are also washable! (Here’s a video showing how the pillow is made.)
- Cocoon AirCore Pillow – while this pillow is a little wimpier than mine (and the Thermarest pillow), it is recommended as a decent travel pillow. It compresses into a smaller size than mine (and the Thermarest pillow), and it’s extremely lightweight. If you don’t need much support, then this is a great travel pillow. (Here’s another version of the same pillow, plus a few more reviews.)
- Zami Travel Pillow – this one is super-versatile! It’s got 3 separate air chambers which enable you to use this durable pillow in a number of different ways. Check out this video which shows how the Zami pillow works.
- Travelon Self-Inflating Pillow – while it’s called a “neck and back” pillow, this one is a tad larger than some of the others and I like its features enough to recommend it as a sleeping pillow. (Yes, I myself would use it as such.) I like it because it’s self-inflating, washable (though it should not be immersed in water), and it packs really small. (More detailed specs and a video here.)
For the record, as nice as a down pillow might sound when you’re camping or traveling, personally I would never want one. Here’s why: When you’re camping and traveling, you’re often sweating, and sometimes you get rained on. (Because you can’t control the weather, right?) Constantly cleaning and maintaining a down travel pillow takes more effort than it’s worth.
The travel pillows mentioned in this article are not high-maintenance pillows! They are extremely durable — and comfortable — travel pillows that are definitely worth their weight in gold!
UPDATE: My 2nd Favorite Travel Pillow
The folks at MyPillow recently came out with a brand new travel pillow… and it’s awesome!
As soon as I saw it, I ordered a MyPillow travel pillow.
The reasons I like it so much:
- I already use a regular, standard size MyPillow every night when I sleep. I love how it conforms to you… and the way you sleep. It truly is different than any other pillow I’ve tried.
- The MyPillow travel pillow is lightweight and packs super small (…like most travel pillows do).
- But it packs even better than other travel pillows because of the way it’s made — the many foam chunks inside truly “smush” and conform into any space! I bet you could pack it as flat as a pancake, if you’d put enough heavy stuff on top of it.
- It always bounces back to full size with some simple “plumping” of the pillow with your hands. (For extra pumpness, toss it into the clothes dryer for 5-10 minutes.)
- It’s machine washable! And dryable! So it will last forever. (It even comes with a 10-year warranty.)
- The pillowcase is attached, so it’s all one piece — that means no parts to wash separately or keep track of.
- It rolls into its own travel cover (pillowcase) like a pocket.
- It’s great as a child-size pillow for everyday use, or a travel pillow for adults.
For what it’s worth, there’s even a MyPillow pet bed for your dog! It’s not a travel-sized pet bed, but it comes in many different sizes. I’m getting one for my dog when his current dog bed wears out.