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Hands-on Gear Review
Sea to Summit Aeros Review
Cons: Not super comfortable
Bottom line: This backpacking model increases nighttime head support and decent comfort at minimal weight and volume.
The Aeros might become one of your favorite pieces in your backpacking setup. It's small and light enough to hide away almost unnoticed in your pack, but its presence is appreciated when laying down to rest. There is also plenty of adjustable support with this Sea to Summit contender. Some inflatable pillows feel like a blown-up ziplock baggie, but this one stands apart from those models with its soft polyester cover, baffled air chamber, and ergonomic shape for mummy sleeping bag hoods. It is our pillow of choice for extended backpacking trips.
In comparison to the hybrid and compressible pillows in this review, its comfort is inferior, and it's more of a hassle to use. Our Editors' Choice winner, the Nemo Fillo, is more comfortable and suited for car camping and overnight trips. If these sound more like your needs, then we recommend the comfortable and supportive Fillo. Our Best Buy for Backpacking, the REI Co-op Backpacker, doesn't pack up as small or light as the Aeros, but it is much easier to use and offers greater comfort for trips lasting under a week.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
For this review, we tested the regular size of the Sea to Summit Aeros, an inflatable pillow that costs a little over $40. We were excited to find an inflatable pillow that offered a decent amount of comfort, in addition to its small packed volume and light weight. We also liked that the thickness of the pillow was simple and easy to adjust, allowing us to hone in on our ideal thickness. Although the Aeros' comfort did pale in comparison to the compressible pillows in this review, our Top Pick for Backpacking is a worthy addition to your pack on multi-day backcountry ventures.
The Aeros was significantly more comfortable than the other inflatable pillow in this review, the Exped Air UL. This is mostly accomplished thanks to its soft outer polyester cover over the baffled air chamber design and greater thickness. Additionally, one side of the Aeros is elevated an inch higher than the other side, giving you a couple options to help fit your ideal thickness. Despite these features, it is less comfortable than the NEMO Fillo and all of the compressible models we tested. While the Aeros' contouring did help cradle our heads, there is still a noticeable wobble to the pillow. This is also one of the smallest pillows we tested, so it doesn't offer any extra real estate for your head. It isn't unbearable, but comfort is not where this pillow excelled. the Backpacker outshined the Aeros here as well.
If you are a side sleeper, try sleeping on the thicker side of the pillow for maximum comfort. Back sleepers, try the opposite.
Weight, or lack thereof, is an area where the Sea to Summit model performed very well. Weighing only 3.1 ounces on our scale, this pillow is the second-lightest in this review. Although it is 1.4 ounces heavier than the Exped Air UL, we prefer to take the Sea to Summit on extended trips because it's more comfortable and easy to use. Weight is where spending extra money often pays off. The REI model can't compete with the low weight of this model, and is, therefore, less useful on long backpacking ventures.
Ease of Use
The Sea to Summit is the easier inflatable pillow in this review to operate. It only takes 3 large breaths to fully inflate it. If you want to let out some air, simply adjust by pushing the small button inside the inflation valve to slowly release air. This is easy to do without risking all the air escaping. It easily fits inside the hood of any sleeping bag we put it in, too. Packing the pillow back into the stuff sack was also a breeze, unlike the difficulty of squeezing the Fillo into its intended sack.
Being on the small and slightly wobbly side, though, this pillow did work its way out from underneath our heads occasionally in the night. It cannot be machine washed or dried either. Also, as with all inflatables, blowing it up and adjusting until it fit our comfort level was more work than simply unpacking a synthetic fill pillow like the uber-comfy Therm-a-rest Compressible or Backpacker.
Our Top Pick for Backpacking packs away to a small cylinder. Taking up only 0.4 liters of space, it is easy to justify bringing it along. Here again, the Aeros was second best only to the Exped Air UL, yet soared ahead of the REI Co-op Backpacker.
To save even more space, squish this pillow inside a compression sack along with your sleeping bag.
The Sea to Summit provides firm support in comparison to most other models reviewed. If you like firm pillows, fill this one up on three breaths and it will stay that way until sunrise. The only model that scored higher in this metric is the Exped REM.
This pillow was made for backpacking trips lasting several days or longer. We also like bringing this pillow along while traveling, as it doesn't take up much space and is handy on long car or plane rides.
Although the Aeros is great for longer backpacking trips, if you want a little more overall comfort, less expense, and don't mind a few extra ounces, pick up the REI Co-op Backpacker.
If you take long trips into the backcountry and yearn for some lightweight comfort, this pillow has good value, costing $43. For its small packed size and weight, it provides way more comfort than your dirty fleece jacket.
Overall, we are impressed with the Sea to Summit Aeros. For backpackers, using this pillow is a definite upgrade from a mound of clothes from your pack. Its packed size and low weight make it almost unnoticeable in your pack. However, what you will notice is a lack of neck discomfort/pain the following day. While it's not the best choice for primarily car campers, backpackers and even travelers who want an actual pillow without the extra baggage will appreciate this one thoroughly.
The Aeros Premium is available in two sizes, regular (featured in this review) and large.
— Ross Robinson
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