Sea to Summit combined feathers with air in its latest effort to make a camping pillow that is lightweight, packable, and comfortable. The Aeros Down is a new take on the company's existing Aeros pillow, offering a quilted, down-filled pillow top. While at first a little skeptical, we discovered the down cushion to add some comfort. It actually takes the edge off the reverse pressure that comes from most inflatable pillows. In the end, the only skepticism we still have centers on the price tag; however, adventurists looking to cut weight without losing comfort will probably be happy to ante up the extra cash.
Sea to Summit Aeros Down Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, small packed size, down pillow top
Cons: High price tag, not overly comfortable, pillow top fabric is noisy
Manufacturer: Sea to Summit
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Our Analysis and Test Results
A majority of inflatable camping pillows combine a soft outer fabric with an interior bladder. To the casual observer, this inner bladder often resembles the look and feel of the plastic bag you'd place a sandwich. It ends up being a cushioning system that often doesn't stretch or displace pressure very well, resulting in a pillow that pushes back at your head and face all night long. The Aeros Down takes the edge off of this reverse pressure with a half-inch layer of down, held in place by a thin, comfortable denier fabric. Although the outer fabric is a little noisy, we found this Aeros Down to be quite comfortable (for an inflatable). It also has high marks for its weight and packed size, making it ideal for backpacking.
The Aeros Down is about as comfortable as you can get with a lightweight, inflatable. When competing solely against other inflatables, it certainly offers more comfort than the majority of its peers. This pillow inflates high enough to provide comfortable loft for both side and back sleepers. The pillow top's Denier fabric is extremely thin and smooth, making it nearly see-through. The thinness of the denier allows the down to stay at a pleasant temperature against the face. One of our only comfort complaints is in regard to the pillow's bladder, it's thinner and relatively unforgiving. The denier fabric on top also doesn't stretch much. We feel the manufacturer should have used a more rubbery bladder that would allow for a little more displacement of pressure, making the pillow more comfortable. In turn, this would cause the pillow to be heavier, so maybe this was an intentional decision. In the end, the down top makes this pillow one of the more comfortable inflatable pillows we've ever slept on, although the difference might not be as large as it is sometimes marketed to be. We found it to be the most comfortable when we let a little air out.
Weight is certainly not an issue for the Aeros Down. Landing near the top of our list in this category, makes this product one of the lightest pillows we've ever tested. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that even with the added comforts of a down pillow top, the Aeros Down is still lighter than its featherless sibling rival, the down topper-less Aeros. The result is one of the lightest and most comfortable inflatable pillows that has ever crossed our path.
Ease of Use
Although lightweight and relatively comfortable, scores for the Aeros Down do slip a little when we consider its overall ease of use. In our timed tests, we found the pillow's stuff sack to be a little undersized — good for packed volume but bad for trying to stow a silky, slippery pillow. On average, our timed tests show it takes almost twice as long to pack up the pillow than deploy it. Eventually, the pillow can be crammed into the stuff sack, but it does take a little bit of effort. Washing and cleaning the pillow isn't very difficult, but it also isn't very convenient. The Aeros Down must be hand washed (preferably with special down washing detergent) and air-dried.
The pillow's two-part, flat air valve allows for easy inflating and deflating. The inflation valve has an internal stopper that prevents air from escaping in between breaths, while the separate deflation valve allows air to escape instantly when it's time to break camp. This system is fantastic to use. However, one negative of Aeros Down's flat valve system is its permanency. The bladder and the exterior fabric cannot be separated. In pillows using a twist valve system, the interior bladder can be removed from the outer shell for repair or replacement. With flat-valve systems, like the one on the Aeros Down, this generally is not an option.
To end on a positive note, the Aeros Down, fits nicely into most mummy bag hoods and boasts a gritty back fabric that aggressively keeps the pillow in place during the night. The pillow's flat-valve also snaps easily to a pump sack for easy, mouth-free, inflation. The main benefit of this is to avoid expiring moisture into the bladder from your mouth, which could lead to bacterial and fungal growth inside the bladder. While this is probably the best practice, we have been inflating our pillows with our breath for years and haven't had a major issue with it.
There's really not much to say here, since the numbers speak for themselves. When stacked up against pillows with the smallest packed volume on planet Earth, the Aeros Down competes strongly. Landing near the very top of our list, this pillow's packed size is within just a few tenths of cubic liters from our leaders. In short, it packs up very small, so you best keep an eye on it.
As with the majority of air-bladder pillows, support isn't much of a challenge. More often, because of the general inflexibility of most air bladders, the issue can be too much support or not the right kind of support. After all, a granite boulder provides infinite support, but can it offer comfortable, cradling, dynamic support? Such is the dilemma with air-filled pillows. The Aeros Down does an acceptable job of taking the edge off of the pillow's natural tendency to push back. The soft, down pillow top allows the pillow to provide more cradling support than its inflatable peers.
We test every pillow we look at against five core metrics. Of the five, comfort is the most important to us. If we strictly compare the price of the Aeros Down to the overall comfort it provides, we feel this pillow is overpriced for the general consumer. When looked at strictly as a backpacking pillow, we feel the product still comes with a steeper price than its peers, but offers more comfort and support, all with a lighter weight and packed size, making it possibly worth the price.
It's certainly not the most comfortable camping pillow on the market; however, the Sea to Summit Aeros Down could easily be a favorite among adventurists concerned with weight and packed size. Ounce for ounce, this pillow offers a noticeable higher level of comfort when compared to its non-down peers.
— Jason Wanlass