The Exped Air Pillow is one of the top-rated backpacking pillows on the market today, but does it live up to expectations?
After months of using this pillow in the mountains, we’ve put together this ultimate review so you can decide if it’s the right pillow for your needs.
What we cover in this review:
Best Suited for: Backpackers who prioritise weight and packability.
- MSRP: $35.00
- Weight: 2.5 ounces (70.9g)
- Construction: Inflatable
- Packed Size (for Medium): 2in x 2.7in (5cm x 6.9cm)
- Sizes Available: Medium and Large
What We Like:
- The Exped Air Pillow is one of the lightest models available that doesn’t sacrifice comfort for weight savings.
- This pillow packs down to a surprisingly small size, making it ideal for backpackers.
- The pillow’s asymmetrical shape and scalloped bottom make it versatile enough for both back and side sleepers.
What We Don’t Like:
- The Exped Air Pillow isn’t machine washable, and it can start to stain after a few uses.
- Other models on the market provide more comfort, particularly for side sleepers.
Final Verdict: Excellent all-around choice for backpackers that want a good mix of weight savings, packability, and value.
To learn about the different types of pillows, check out our Backpacking Pillows Buying Guide.
Who Is The Exped Air Pillow Best Suited For?
The Exped Air Pillow is designed for avid backpackers and other keen outdoor enthusiasts that spend a lot of time deep in the wilderness.
When making this pillow, Exped prioritized weight savings and packability above all else. So, it’s an ideal option for someone that wants to get a better night’s sleep but doesn’t want to carry a lot of extra weight.
However, while we wouldn’t, by any means, say that this pillow is uncomfortable, there are certainly better options for someone who wants a super plush place to rest their head at night. But, if you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of comfort for weight savings and packability, then the Exped Air Pillow is a solid bet.
Performance Guide & Key Features
We’ve spent months sleeping on the Exped Air Pillow and have been thoroughly impressed by the quality of sleep we’ve gotten during that time.
Here’s what you need to know about how this pillow performs in the real world:
At 2.5 ounces (70.9g), the Exped Air Pillow is one of the lightest models around. For reference, that’s less than half the weight of an iPhone X, which tips the scales at 6.1 ounces (172g).
When compared to its top competitors, only the Sea to Summit Aeros UL (2.1oz/60g), Exped Air Pillow UL (1.6oz/45g), and the Big Agnes AXL (1.6oz/45g) are lighter. However, all of these pillows are specifically marketed as “ultralight” models, while the Air Pillow is considered Exped’s standard model.
The Exped Air Pillow packs down into a stuff sack that’s about 2in x 2.7in (5cm x 6.9cm) large. This is more or less the size of a small pill bottle and is easy enough to stuff into a backpack, even if you’re out for a more extended trip.
We personally choose not to use the included stuff sack while hiking as we’ve found that the pillow folds up nicely into the bottom of our sleeping bag stuff sack. That way, we have all of our most important sleeping items all in one place.
Either way, the Air Pillow is super tiny when folded up, so it’s easy to fit into even the fullest of backpacks.
Asymmetrical Shape And Scalloped Bottom
One of the more obvious features of the Air Pillow is its asymmetrical shape and scalloped bottom. Due to this shape, it looks more like an inflatable seat cushion that you might take to a sporting match, rather than a pillow.
But, this shape is intentional as it provides decent head and neck support. The scalloped (aka curved) bottom edge is particularly useful for side sleepers. This is because it helps the pillow nestle under your head and around your shoulder for maximum support while you sleep.
Plus, the asymmetrical shape of the pillow allows you to flip it around and adjust it to find the right amount of support for your head. While Exped chose not to include any foam padding on this pillow to cut weight, its design still manages to provide a decent amount of comfort for its weight class.
Two Way Inflation And Deflation Valve
The inflation valve of an air pillow is often one of the most overlooked parts of the product’s design. While you hopefully won’t have to spend more than a few seconds inflating your pillow at night, a quality valve is essential for streamlining the process.
We particularly like the valve on the Air Pillow because it is simple, flat, and easy to use. Additionally, it takes just a few breaths to completely inflate the pillow before bedtime.
A key benefit of this pillow’s valve is its one-way design. Exped put a thin piece of silicone in the valve so that air doesn’t rush out of it as you blow up the pillow.
However, it’s also super easy to deflate the pillow. You can either use your finger to push open the one-way valve stopper manually, or you can use the included “deflation pin” to do the job for you. Either way, the pillow is easy enough to deflate and roll up in well under a minute.
Attachment Points For Securing To Sleeping Pad
Finally, the sides of the Exped Air Pillow feature two grommets. These grommets can be used as attachment points for a piece of paracord or bungee cord.
That way, you can secure the pillow to your sleeping pad so that it doesn’t fall off in the middle of the night. Alternatively, the pillow is small enough to fit into the hoods of most sleeping bags, which is usually enough to keep it in place as you sleep.
This is one of the main areas where the Exped Air Pillow falls short of expectations. The pillow isn’t machine washable, but it does get dirty after months of frequent use. While you can just hand wash it with non-detergent soap and a moist towel, it would be easier if it was machine washable.
Although we found the Exped Air Pillow to be fairly comfortable, it’s worth noting that it doesn’t have a plush covering or any down/synthetic insulation. This means that it doesn’t feel like your pillow at home, which is why we’ve often heard others say that they didn’t enjoy sleeping on it.
However, for what it is (e.g., a lightweight air pillow), this model is pretty comfortable. If you want lots of next-to-skin comfort in your pillow, you’ll probably have to compromise a bit, either on weight, packability, or price with a different model.
Is the Exped Air Pillow Good Value for Money?
At $35, for a size medium, the Exped Air Pillow isn’t “cheap,” per se. But, when compared to some of the other top models, which go for as high as $60, the Air Pillow is a good deal.
Although you can spend about $5-$10 more and get a slightly lighter pillow, these do come at the cost of comfort. The Exped Air Pillow offers good value for the money, especially when you consider that it offers a decent amount of comfort, a small packed size, and a reasonably low weight.
Other Exped Backpacking Pillow Models
Besides the Air Pillow, Exped offers four other pillow options that you can consider for your next camping trip. Here’s how they stack up to our tried and tested model:
Exped Air Pillow UL
The Air Pillow UL is the ultralight version of our standard Air Pillow. The main difference between these two models is that the Air Pillow UL is just (1.6oz/45g), making it a solid 0.9oz (25.5g) lighter than the original Air Pillow.
It’s also about $10 more expensive and tends to make a crinkly noise, due to its thinner fabric. But, if you want to maximize your weight savings, the Air Pillow UL is the best option in Exped’s line-up.
Exped Mega Pillow
The Exped Mega Pillow is an extra-large pillow that combines an easy-to-inflate air chamber with a cozy polyester tricot fabric. This pillow actually has a completely separate cover, which can be removed for cleaning in a standard washing machine.
Additionally, it has fleece padding for added support and comfort as you snooze. At 6.5 ounces (184g), though, it’s a bit on the heavy side for backpacking. It’s also $15 more expensive than the Air Pillow.
So, the Mega is a solid choice for people who primarily car camp and want to maximize their comfort levels. However, it’s a bit heavy for frequent wilderness campers.
Exped Deepsleep Pillow
The Exped Deepsleep is a compressible pillow that’s made from up-cycled foam. It has a plush brushed tricot fabric cover and is designed for comfort, not weight savings.
This pillow is quite affordable, but it tips the scales at 6.3 ounces (178.6g). It’s also not very packable, so we’d recommend this pillow mostly for campers that prefer frontcountry adventures.
Exped Down Pillow
The Exped Down Pillow is quite similar to the Mega, but instead of a fleece padding, this model has a down-filled cover. This added down insulation provides added warmth and comfort, which makes it feel more like the pillow you have at home.
It also has a central air chamber to help provide extra structure to the pillow. Plus, the cover of the Down Pillow can be removed and cleaned in a washing machine. However, all that down does add up, so this pillow is a bit on the heavier side, at 6.7 ounces (189.9g).
Exped Air Pillow Accessories
In addition to their line-up of camping pillows, Exped also has a set of accessories that you can use with their pillows and sleeping pads.
If you decide that the Air Pillow or the Air Pillow UL are right for your needs, but are bummed that they’re not machine washable, then we have good news: Exped created pillowcases just for this purpose.
The Exped Pillowcase is made from a brushed tricot fabric and is soft against the skin. Then, at the end of your trip, you can quickly remove the case and toss it in the wash to help keep your gear clean and tidy for years to come.
Exped Pillow Pump
For campers that already have an Exped air sleeping pad, the Pillow Pump is a decent alternative to a regular pillow.
This pump acts as either a foot or hand pump to help inflate your Exped sleeping pad. Then, when you’re done inflating the sleeping pad, you can inflate the pump and seal it off to turn it into a pillow.
The Pillow Pump is a bit heavier (5.6oz/158.8g) than the Air Pillow. But, if you need to bring a pump for your sleeping pad, it’s an excellent way to cut down on the amount of gear on your packing list.
If you’re not quite sure that the Exped Air Pillow is the right model for you, here are some recommended alternatives to check out:
Nemo Fillo Elite Ultralight
The Nemo Fillo Elite Ultralight is just 2.8oz (80g). It features a large central air cell that’s covered by a cozy layer of recycled Primaloft insulation. Plus, the pillow has an ultra-soft machine-washable jersey blend cover that feels comfortable next to the skin.
This pillow is one of the most packable around as it can fit into an integrated stuff sack that’s about the size of a lime. It also inflates in just seconds and feels just like your pillow at home.
The main drawback of this pillow is that it’s a bit more expensive. But, it’s a good alternative if you’re looking for a bit more comfort and can handle slightly more weight in your pack.
Big Agnes AXL Air Pillow
When weight savings are the absolute top priority, the Big Agnes AXL Air Pillow might be your best bet. This pillow is just 1.6oz (45g), making it one of the lightest options available.
It features an offset I-beam air cell design that is shaped to support your head as you snooze. The pillow also fits well inside the hood of a Big Agnes Sleeping Bag and packs down small for storage.
Additionally, this pillow has an internal antimicrobial treatment that helps prevent microorganism growth. It also has a built-in heat reflective panel to keep you warm at night.
The downside to the AXL Air Pillow is that it’s just not as comfortable as other models. However, when weight savings are your primary concern, it’s a reliable option.
Overall, the Exped Air Pillow is an excellent all-around choice for backpackers that want a good mix of weight savings, packability, and value. While it’s not the lightest option available, it still offers a decent amount of head support as you sleep.
However, if you’re willing to pay more, there are lighter and more comfortable models out there.
But, for a pillow that can perform well in a variety of conditions, the Exped Air Pillow should be on the top of your list of contenders.
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