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 cushion that offered a decent amount of comfort, in addition to its small packed volume and lightweight. 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.
Blake Stave proudly shows off the Aeros pillow during a five day canoeing trip in northern Minnesota.
The Aeros was significantly more comfortable than the Exped Air UL, another inflatable pillow reviewed. This is accomplished mostly 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 of 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.
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 performs very well. Weighing only 3.1 ounces on our scale, this pillow is lightweight enough to all but disappear in your pack. 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 much more comfortable and easier to use. Weight is where spending extra money often pays off.
Ease of Use
The Sea to Summit is the easier inflatable pillow in this review to operate. It only takes three large breaths to inflate it fully. If you want to let out some air, 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 fits inside the hood of any sleeping bag we put it in, too. Packing the pillow back into the stuff sack is 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 merely unpacking a synthetic fill pillow like the uber-comfy Therm-a-rest Compressible.
Inflating this pillow is achieved in just three quick breaths.
Our backcountry Top Pick 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 is bested by the Exped Air UL, yet soars ahead of the rest of the competition.
To save even more space, squish this pillow inside a compression sack along with your sleeping bag.
This pillow's stuff sack is large enough to easily slide the pillow inside and pull the drawstring tight.
This pillow provided firm support throughout the night. We also liked that you can adjust the support you need with the valve.
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.
This pillow is 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.
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.
This small, lightweight inflatable pillow was handy on a backpacking trip in Alaska.
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 or a climbing rope. 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.
Our Top Pick for Backpacking easily fit into the hoods of the mummy sacks we tested them in.