The 2016 DriDown Pillow vs. The 2018 Model
Sierra Designs confirmed that in 2018, the new DriDown increased its fill power and also changed the chemicals used to treat the down material for improved water resistance. Below, we dropped some side-by-side photos of the new model (left) compared to its predecessor, as well as a quote from the manufacturer on the update.
"We are so excited to offer PFC (perfluorinated carbon)-free materials as a standard feature in all 2018 sleeping bags. When Sierra Designs found out about the serious health and environmental concerns connected to PFC-based water repellents, we took it seriously and worked closely with our factory partners to develop a safer alternative with nearly identical performance."
For more information on the research to investigate the impact of PFCs on human health and the environment, check out this article from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Here's a breakdown of the key changes:
- Fill Power Bump — The fill power changed from 600 to 650, which should result in a smidge of extra loft.
- PFC-Free — Sierra Designs now treats their down products with PFC-free chemicals in response to the research of the potential health and environmental risks PFCs present.
- Price Drop — This pillow now costs $30, which is over 25% less expensive than its predecessor.
- New Look — Because, of course. The colorway and graphic design changes are quite subtle.
We expect these changes to have a minimal effect on the performance of this pillow in comparison to its predecessor, although its value has increased and we appreciate manufacturers who respond to scientific research and health concerns. The text below reflects the previous version of the DriDown pillow, and we expect our assessment to largely ring true for the updated model as well.
Hands-on Review of the DriDown Pillow
The Sierra Designs DriDown is a compressible pillow with some great features, accompanied by a few drawbacks. It's comprised of a polyester pillow and an outer shell with a down topper. The down filling helps reduce the weight of this pillow and provides a very soft pillow top. So soft, in fact, that the pillow flattens out over the course of the night, giving little support. It also heats up quickly, making it less useful in the summertime. For sleepers who prefer a thin pillow, though, this could be a great choice.
Eric Morken packs up the DriDown pillow into its stuff sack at a lakeside campsite in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
This camping pillow feels soft and smooth against the face. However, it is quite small and became rather warm several minutes after laying our heads on it. Back sleepers will likely not mind the extra warmth as much as side and stomach sleepers. For more comfort, consider the Therm-a-Rest or TETON Sports 12 x 18, which are more affordable, too.
The DriDown, weighing 5.8 ounces on our scale, is lightweight compared to other compressible pillows. Still, it's heavier than desired for backpacking trips lasting more than a few days. If weight is your only concern in selecting a cranium cushion, check out the featherweight Exped Air UL.
To reduce the weight, and packed size, of this pillow, pack only the outer shell and leave the inner pillow at home. Once at your campsite, stuff the shell with extra clothes, and you'll still have a duck down pillow top.
Ease of Use
The Sierra Designs pillow is simple to remove from and insert in its stuff sack. It also fits easily inside the hood of a mummy sleeping bag. However, it did slide around underneath us in our sleep. That, combined with its small size, caused us to lose this pillow from under our heads occasionally. Furthermore, the ripstop material of the outer shell began to show marks from our oily, dirty faces after a few nights. It is also difficult to effectively clean, as the manufacturer does not advise using warm water, washing machines, or soap. It did dry quickly in our tests.
While the Sierra Designs pillow is easy to use, you can notice the oily imprint left on the outer shell after a few days of use.
Of the compressible pillows in this review, the DriDown pillow has an impressed packed size. Measuring 2.1 L in its stuff sack, it owes its low volume to its layer of down fill, which can be compressed easier and smaller than its synthetic counterparts. Still, the hybrid and inflatable models tested take up even less space in a pack.
This pillow provides the least support of all contenders in this review. Throughout the night, the Sierra Designs pillow flattens out to be quite thin. If you like a thinner pillow, however, you may love this model. For more support, though, consider pretty much any other model in this review.
The Sierra Designs' duck down and polyester fillers don't provide a great deal of support, especially for side and back sleepers.
The DriDown is suitable for sleepers who prefer a soft, thin pillow. Used with the inner pillow, it is best used for car camping or backpacking ventures lasting only a night or two. However, if you remove the inner pillow and stuff the outer shell with clothes already in your pack, it can be justified to take along on longer trips. In this way, the Sierra Designs pillow is quite versatile.
The weight of this pillow can be reduced by leaving the inner pillow (left) at home and stuffing clothes into the back of the external duck down layer (right), making it better suited for backpacking.
The Sierra Designs model offers moderate value. Its versatility, low weight, and small packed size make it suitable for more than just car camping. Yet, it might only satisfy specific sleepers regarding of comfort.
With its highly-touted duck down filling, we expected the Sierra Designs DriDown to be a real luxury item. However, it fell to the middle of the pack in nearly every scoring metric. Although we like this pillow, it doesn't perform as well as the other products included in this review.