The Therm-a-Rest Down Pillow is a versatile down shell that can be wrapped around an inflatable pillow or clothing to provide a good night’s sleep. The pillow is stuffed with 650 Fill Hydrophobic down and has a cinchable cord that contains the inner padding of the user’s choice.
I readily admit that a pillow is a luxury I choose to carry. When I started backpacking many years ago, I quickly realized that a good night’s sleep was critical to my enjoyment of the backcountry. Stuffing a Therm-a-Rest Trekker pillowcase (https://www.thermarest.com/pillows/trekker-pillow-case) with clothing was soft against my skin and comfortable as long as I had plenty of clothes to spare in a temperate climate. My pillowcase is at least 15 years old and still going strong. As I reduced my clothing to lighten my load, I sometimes found that I was wearing everything I had with me on cold nights. That didn’t leave anything left over to use as pillow stuffing. I solved that problem with a small, inflatable pillow that I slipped inside the trusty pillowcase. When I saw the Therm-a-Rest Down Pillow, I knew that it would add a touch of luxury to my sleep system, which already included two Therm-a-Rest products: the Trekker Pillowcase and Neoair XLite inflatable mattress.
The down pillow is lightweight, weighing just four ounces, but is fairly bulky for this light backpacker. It can be stuffed into a small stuff sack but it’s still one more item to pack. I brought it on an overnight trip to Point Reyes National Seashore when I had plenty of space but for longer trips, I kept discarding it. However, I found that it made a luxurious sleeping experience for the car-camping nights that often precede a backcountry trip. One on of these, I stayed in a rustic cabin with wooden bunks before a trip to Yosemite while another time, I stayed in a campground at Lake Almanor prior to backpacking at Lassen National Park. I tried stuffing clothing in the down pillow but found that the hard bulk of the fabric was not as comfortable as the inflatable pillow.
The Therm-a-Rest Down Pillow looks like a small down bag when turned upside down with the cinchable cord visible. The best way to use it is to stuff something inside. The way this worked for me was to place the down pillow upside down with the cord extended all the way. I placed the inflatable pillow on top of the down. I then rolled the edges of the down pillow over the inflatable pillow and pulled gently on the cinch cord to secure the down pillow. My Exped UL inflatable pillow, partially inflated, was the perfect size for the interior space of the down pillow. It was heavenly to have the extra layer of down and the polyester fabric lining was soft against my skin. I often don’t sleep well in noisy campgrounds but the extra comfort helped the quality of my slumber greatly.
Backpackers who have a hard time getting a good night’s sleep and desire a comfortable pillow would likely find the size and weight of the down and inflatable pillow combination to be acceptable while ultralight backpackers might find it too bulky. It’s ideal for car campers as well as travelers who dread the flat, hard or overstuffed synthetic pillows found in some hotels. The manufacturer suggests that the down pillow can be used on its own but I doubt that most people would find that it provides adequate support.
The Therm-a-Rest Down Pillow is a useful addition to a luxurious sleep system as long as the user has the right expectations. When paired with an inflatable pillow or clothing, it adds a significant measure of comfort that could mean the difference between a good night’s sleep and insomnia. It’s ideal for short trips, car camping and travel. It could be useful for backpackers seeking that extra measure of comfort even on a longer trip.
All photos by Inga Aksamit, unless otherwise credited.
Disclosure of material connection: I received a sample for testing purposes, but the opinions expressed are solely my own.