REI Co-op Camp Dreamer Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Camp Dreamer truly has all of the makings of one of the best camping pillows we've ever studied. Right out of the box, we were very impressed with its simple design and potential for high marks for comfort. The Camp Dreamer employs a self-inflating design, which incorporates small pieces of high-density foam inside the pillow's stretch nylon bladder. When the inflation valve is opened, the foam expands, pulling air into the bladder. The combination of air, foam, and stretch nylon gives this pillow amazing support and a very comfortable feel. After using the product a few times, we were pleasantly surprised to find a silky pillowcase, stitched into the interior of the Camp Dreamer's stuff sack (we thought it had been lost in shipping). Our biggest disappointment with this product is its lack of loft. At just barely two inches in thickness, it's simply too thin for the majority of sleepers.
Everything about the Camp Dreamer screams comfort: The stretchable fabric, interior foam clusters, adjustable air valve, and silky smooth pillowcase. If we based its comfort scores on how this pillow feels in our hands, few could rival it. It simply has all of the makings of amazing comfort. However, all of these positive features sadly do not add up for a comfortable night's sleep for most sleepers. At just about two inches in thickness, the Camp Dreamer measures well below the recommended loft for most side sleepers, leaving most with a crook in their necks by morning.
The Camp Dreamer will please many stomach sleepers, who require thinner pillows. However, one drawback this pillow has for stomach sleepers is its firmness. Many stomach sleepers prefer a softer pillow. To recap, the Camp Dreamer's individual components are extremely comfortable, but its lack of loft makes for an uncomfortable sleeping experience, resulting in lower-than-hoped-for comfort scores from our testers. That said, if you prefer firm, thin pillows, this model could fit your comfort bill very well.
Despite its durable build, the Camp Dreamer weighs in just a little below the middle of the pack. Consistent with most REI products, the Camp Dreamer is well-crafted with quality materials. Often, this results in a heavier product — not so with the Camp Dreamer. It's certainly not the lightest pillow we've seen, but it holds its own against nearly two-thirds of the pillows on our list. For backpackers, who are not overly concerned with weight, the Camp Dreamer is certainly a viable option, if you prefer thin pillows.
Ease of Use
Touted as a self-inflating pillow, we were slightly underwhelmed with the Camp Dreamer's ability to fill itself with air. The pillow does not fully inflate itself. That being said, the interior foam pieces do expand very quickly, filling the pillow to at least half full. It required only one medium breath from the user to fill the pillow completely. However, the pillow is so small, it would only require two medium breathes to fill it completely if the self-inflation weren't an option. In short, the self-inflating feature really does work, but it really doesn't save much time or effort. This feature feels a bit superfluous to us.
Additionally, the Camp Dreamer can be a little tricky to roll up and stow. The Camp Dreamer uses a single flat valve system with an interior, one-way, flapper which allows air in but not out. When deflating the Camp Dreamer, this flapper must be depressed by an available finger while the rest of the available hands and fingers roll the pillow up. This sounds easy enough. However, the interior foam is constantly trying to fill the pillow with air while the user is attempting to deflate it. Although not overly difficult, we do feel the process to be somewhat of a circus act that doesn't speed up clearing out of camp.
On a positive note, we loved the feel of the removable pillowcase, it is nice on the skin and can easily be removed and machine washed for a quick clean up. We also enjoy the pillow's quietness. Most inflatable pillows produce a lot of sound; the Camp Dreamer's exterior fabrics and interior foam create a very quiet pillow. It's one of the quietest inflatable pillows we've ever studied.
Although it lands roughly in the middle for weight, the Camp Dreamer falls closer to the bottom of our list of pillows for packed volume. The main reason is the high-density, interior foam has limits on its compressibility. Additionally, the Camp Dreamer simply rolls up its entire length without additional folding — the equivalent of rolling up a rectangle sleeping bag without folding it in half first. This design makes the Camp Dreamer very easy to stow, but results in a larger packed size.
When initially examined by hand, the combination of air and foam encased in a soft, stretchable bladder, create a symphony for support. However, when applied in real outdoor sleep situations, the pillow's thinness doesn't place the head at a high enough angle, resulting in restless sleep and potential neck pain for side sleepers and back sleepers. Some stomach sleepers may love this pillow because of this thinness. However, many stomach sleepers require a softer, less-dense pillow, which potentially edges out the Camp Dreamer yet again.
We were excited to use the Camp Dreamer and even felt it may compete with our current Editors' Choice Award winner. However, the second we settled our heads down on the Camp Dreamer, we knew we were in for a long night. This pillow has all of the makings of an excellent camping pillow, but its thin design doesn't produce the full comfort and support needed for the vast majority of sleepers. The result? We feel Camp Dreamer isn't worth the money when compared to the scores of many higher-performing pillows that are in the same price range unless you are one of the few who seek a flat, firm pillow.
The REI Co-op Camp Dreamer is a strange conundrum for us. We love the face fabric of the pillowcase, and it's built to last. We just didn't enjoy sleeping on it. This pillow is too thin for side sleepers, as well as many back sleepers. It has the perfect thickness for many stomach sleepers, but many may still find it to be too firm. The manufacturer does make the pillow in large (we tested the regular) which offers another inch in thickness. The large comes with more weight and a larger packed volume.
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