The Latest Version of the Air UL
Exped made some changes to the color (now orange) and bottom-side material (now more grippy) of the Air UL, but we think the most significant change is the drop in price to $39. This is a big plus since the sticker shock was a significant drawback to this model. Pictured below is the latest version of the Air UL on the left, and the previous model on the right.
Here is a summary of the critical changes made in the updated version of this pillow:
- Material — The new Air UL is bright orange and is constructed with Gripskin fabric. This material is honeycombed and designed to improve grip so that the pillow doesn't slide away under your head.
- Price Drop — For the medium size, the price has dropped from $49 to $39, improving the overall value of this product.
We haven't gotten a chance to rest our heads on this new pillow, so the following review refers to the prior version.
Hands-On Review of the Previous Exped Air UL
The Exped Air UL is an inflatable pillow made of polyester with the explicit intention of being incredibly small and lightweight, which it has achieved. This pillow was the lightest and also packs to the smallest volume. It provides good support throughout the night, too. However, this minimal design left no room for comfort.
This pillow makes napping anywhere easy due to its incredible portability. Ross is seen here catching some sleep to the sound of rushing water in Minnesota.
This was the least comfortable pillow that we reviewed by a significant margin. Despite its contouring, this pillow didn't feel much different from an inflated stuff sack. The polyester tricot fabric cover is not soft, nor pleasant against one's face. It was also the noisiest model.
To somewhat improve the comfort of this pillow, our reviewers recommend sliding it inside a t-shirt or fleece pullover.
Packed in its stuff sack, this pillow weighed a remarkable 1.7 ounces on our scale. It is the lightest of the pillows we reviewed. However, we would recommend either sacrificing a few more ounces and carrying the Sea to Summit Aeros or just using a pile of extra clothes as your backcountry pillow.
Ease of Use
The Air UL fits inside the hood of a mummy sleeping bag and can be hand-washed. However, we were frustrated that we were never able to fully inflate this pillow. The amount of air was much more difficult to accurately adjust than both the Nemo Fillo and the Sea to Summit Aeros. We also found that if not positioned precisely in the middle of the pillow, our heads would easily roll off to the side. We woke up several times without this pillow under our heads.
Inflating this ultralight pillow is not as easy as with the other inflatables. We were never able to fully inflate it.
When packed in its stuff sack, it's truly impressive how this pillow transforms to the size of a thin wallet. At 0.2 L, the Air UL scored the best in this category.
With its thin, small packed size and negligible weight, it's easy to have this pillow handy for a nap at any time.
Being inflatable, the Air UL is a firm pillow. However, because we were unable to fully inflate the pillow due to its design, it did not score as high in this category as the Sea to Summit Aeros or Exped REM.
Being inflatable, this pillow does give good support, even when not fully inflated.
Hypothetically, this pillow would be best used on backpacking trips lasting several weeks or months, such as the Appalachian Trail, where minimizing volume and weight will have a great effect on the success of your trip. Given how little comfort this pillow provides, however, many hikers would do better to stuff a down jacket or other clothing into their sleeping bag stuff sack and use that for a pillow instead.
We found this pillow to have little value. At $49, it is the most expensive pillow we reviewed, yet did little to make our nights camping more enjoyable.
Stowed in a backpack, we loved that the Exped Air UL all but disappears. This made it great during our days of hiking. However, it just didn't deliver when we unpacked, inflated, and slept on it. In situations where ultralight pillows with a tiny packed size are called for, we are more tempted to fill the stuff sack from our sleeping bag with extra clothes already in our pack.