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Cocoon Air-Core Ultralight Review

If ultimate comfort is also on your list, you may not find it with this pillow, despite its large size
Cocoon Air-Core Ultralight
Photo: REI Co-op
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Price:  $33 List | $32.95 at REI
Pros:  Very large, appealing price, packs up small for its size, stays in place
Cons:  Lacking in comfort, doesn't fit into a mummy hood, silky side is a little too slippery
Manufacturer:   Cocoon
By Jason Wanlass ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 13, 2020
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63
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 13
  • Comfort - 25% 6
  • Weight - 20% 5
  • Ease of Use - 15% 5
  • Packed Size - 20% 6
  • Support - 20% 9

Our Verdict

First, this pillow is big, nearly as big as a standard-sized bed pillow. Second, when fully inflated, the Cocoon Air-Core Ultralight is very firm and offers a ton of loft. It's the largest camping pillow we've ever seen, but it certainly is not the most comfortable. Overall, this product gets the job done, but we did find ourselves tolerating it during the night rather than enjoying it. The Air-Core is probably too large for most backpackers but could work for adventurists who like a larger pillow. Its primary use would be for car-camping and traveling. It's not the best pillow we've ever come across, but it's also not the worst.

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Star Rating
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Pros Very large, appealing price, packs up small for its size, stays in placeVery comfortable, great support, easy to adjust thickness, washable exteriorVery comfy, easy to adjust air volume, ergonomically shaped for back and side sleepersVery small packed size, lightweight, great supportLightweight, small packed size, easy to use
Cons Lacking in comfort, doesn't fit into a mummy hood, silky side is a little too slipperyHeavy, not for extended backcountry tripsMore expensive, down is allergenic to some users, a little heavier than its inflatable peersNot super comfortableLess comfortable than other models, can be punctured, noisy
Bottom Line This pillow may lack in overall comfort, but it is big and supportiveThis pillow provides excellent comfort and is adjustable for all kinds of sleepers in most camp settingsThis model adds significant comfort, but at a weight penaltyThis is our favorite model for extended backpacking tripsYes, you can find something more comfortable, but you won't find many this lightweight and packable
Rating Categories Cocoon Air-Core Ultralight NEMO Fillo Air Head Down Pillow Sea to Summit Aeros Big Agnes AXL Air Pillow
Comfort (25%)
6
9
7
5
3
Weight (20%)
5
3
6
8
9
Ease Of Use (15%)
5
9
6
6
7
Packed Size (20%)
6
6
7
8
9
Support (20%)
9
9
9
8
7
Specs Cocoon Air-Core... NEMO Fillo Air Head Down Pillow Sea to Summit Aeros Big Agnes AXL Air...
Type Hybrid: Compressible and Inflatable Hybrid: Compressible and Inflatable Hybrid: Compressible and Inflatable Inflatable Inflatable
Measured Weight (oz) 6.7 oz 9.0 oz 5.4 oz 3.1 oz 1.8 oz
Packed Volume (L) 1.6 L 1.4 L 0.6 L 0.4 L 0.3 L
Length 18 in 16 in 18 in 14 in 16 in
Width 14 in 9.5 in 12.5 in 8 in 10 in
Thickness 4.5 in 4.5 in 4 in High side: 5 in; Low side: 4 in 4 in
Stuff Sack included? Yes, with drawstring Integrated Stuff Sack. Velcro strap as well. Yes, with drawstring Yes, with drawstring Yes, with drawstring
Materials Polyester microfiber, 20-denier nylon/synthetic fill, thermoplastic air bladder Polyester, microfiber / microsuede outer layer Partially recycled polyester, down, urethane Polyurethane bladder, Brushed 50D Polyester Knit Cover 4-Way stretch nylon w/ TPU coating

Our Analysis and Test Results

Cocoon, makes several sizes of the Air-Core. We decided to shake things up a little and take a look at its largest model, and our first response after inflating it was — "Wow." Weighing in below a half-pound, this pillow is not only lightweight, but it's also huge. When fully inflated, the Air-Core measures very close to the size of a standard bed pillow in length, width, and loft.

Performance Comparison


We don't recommend sitting on your Air-Core; however, it is big...
We don't recommend sitting on your Air-Core; however, it is big enough to be a decent seat cushion. As far as comfort, we feel it lands in the middle of the road.
Photo: Jason Wanlass

Comfort


This is where the rubber meets the road — the Air-Core is not amazingly comfortable. However, its weight to size ratio is very impressive, as is its packed volume. It also offers very firm support and a ton of loft, all at a very reasonable price. That all said, its comfort level is decent at best.

A less-flexible bladder makes the Air-Core a little stiff and...
A less-flexible bladder makes the Air-Core a little stiff and unforgiving. It's relatively comfortable, but you always seem to notice it under your head.
Photo: Jason Wanlass

Throughout our testing, we never could find a sweet spot. The Air-Core's bladder always seemed a little unforgiving. Regardless of the amount of air we placed inside, the pillow always pushed back on our heads more than it cradled them. Campers who prefer a very firm pillow will enjoy the Air-Core.

To achieve a little extra comfort, we recommend completely inflating the Air-Core and then letting air out of the pillow little by little until you reach your perfect level of comfort. The twist-lock air valve is super easy to use and allows you to make these micro-adjustments with ease.


For its sheer size, the Air-Core is surprisingly lightweight...
For its sheer size, the Air-Core is surprisingly lightweight, weighing in at 6.7 ounces.
Photo: Jason Wanlass

Weight


Hitting the scales a just one or two ounces heavier than pillows half its size makes the Aire-Core an amazing value in terms of weight vs size. Our hats off to the manufacturer for creating such a monster of a pillow that weighs relatively so little. The combination of a thin air bladder and lightweight denier and microfiber materials all this pillow to take up a ton of space without weighing things down.

Take a big breath (or four), you're gonna need it. Simply put, a...
Take a big breath (or four), you're gonna need it. Simply put, a very large inflatable pillow needs more air.
Photo: Jason Wanlass

Ease of Use


Scoring in the middle of the pack for ease of use, the Air-Core takes a little longer to pack and unpack. The sole reason for this is the sheer amount of air required to move through a small twist valve for inflation and deflation. Additionally, it requires hand-washing and air-drying and a literal laundry list of cleaning dos and don'ts.

We love the Air-Core twist valve. It can be a little slower than a...
We love the Air-Core twist valve. It can be a little slower than a flat valve, but it allows the user to more easily fine tune air pressure. Additionally, twist-valve bladders can be removed, making cleaning, repairs, and replacements much easier.
Photo: Jason Wanlass

One thing we love about this product is its twist-lock air valve. It allows users to adjust the pillow's air volume in micro-units. In our opinion, these types of valves are simply the best option for air control in camping pillows. Twist valves are also directly fused to the air bladder. They have no permanent connection to the exterior fabric, which allows the bladder to be removed for repair or replacement. This is a huge plus.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Packed Size


When comparing Air-Core's packed size to is deployed size, we can truly say campers can have their cake and eat it too. The metamorphosis this pillow makes from stuff sack to a pillow is very impressive and certainly causes us to stop and reflect on the manufacturer's name. While certainly not the smallest bundle when crammed into its stuff stack, the Air-Core definitely holds its own when compared against many other inflatables that are literally half its size.

About the size of a standard bed pillow, the Air-Core has the most...
About the size of a standard bed pillow, the Air-Core has the most loft of any pillow we've tested. This massive pillow also has a ton of support, but it can be a little too firm.
Photo: Jason Wanlass

Support


As with most inflatable camping pillows, the Air-Core received a solid score for support. When fully inflated, it becomes one of the firmest pillows we've ever slept on. This is good on paper when simply considering a pillow's ability to provide untiring support. However, it doesn't necessarily translate to comfortable, cradling, receptive support. In our opinion, campers who love a firm pillow will enjoy this one. For the rest of sleepers, the Air-Core's unending support will be certainly noticed, but more tolerated than thoroughly enjoyed.

We didn't love this pillow, but we didn't hate it either. We feel...
We didn't love this pillow, but we didn't hate it either. We feel it's worth the cost. It's sheer size and relative comfort make it perfect for car camping or travel.
Photo: Jason Wanlass

Value


The numbers are very easy to figure. This pillow is worth every cent when sheer size, weight, packed volume, ease of use, and overall quality are considered. You simply can't get more pillow for your buck. Unfortunately, the numbers don't bode as well for the Air-Core's comfort. That being said, this pillow is comfortable enough, making it an overall great value.

Conclusion


Perfect for car-camping and travel, the Cocoon Air-Core Ultralight offers a ton of value for its price. It's well-built, and despite not being overly comfortable, it will get you through the night. Due to its size, this version is not our first recommendation for backpacking; however, it is available in smaller sizes that could serve adequately in the backcountry. Overall we feel this product is most likely best for back sleepers.

The Air-Core packs up quite small, but we still wouldn't recommend...
The Air-Core packs up quite small, but we still wouldn't recommend it for backpacking. Car camping and hammock lounging are more of this pillow's style.
Photo: Jason Wanlass

Jason Wanlass