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Exped REM Backpacking Pillow Review


Aaron Zagrodnick

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The Exped REM backpacking pillow is a newer pillow from Exped that's a hybrid air pillow with a layer of foam above. The REM foam layer (That's recycled extracted modules, not the band or the sleep you'll hopefully get) consists of chunks of soft foam that make this pillow a little closer to a non-backpacking pillow you might find at home. The foam layer is all contained in a soft pillow case, with an inflatable air chamber underneath than can be removed for washing or even if you wanted to use either piece on its own.

Exped REM Pillow

The Exped REM pillow offers extra comfort on the trail.

Exped REM Design & Impressions

The Exped REM pillow is available in two sizes, but with the large at a listed weight nearing half a pound it's a little heavier than what I'd personally like to bring along on a legitimate backpacking trip. The medium, which I picked up, is listed at a more reasonable 5.3 ounces but still isn't too compact at around 15x10x5". Mine weighed a half ounce over this at 5.8 ounces. While pure air pillows are light (such as the Exped Air Pillow UL – reviewed here), I'm all for carrying a little more weight if it makes for a better night's sleep. And after using the REM pillow over the summer I've found the extra weight to be worth it.

Exped REM Pillow - Inflated

Inflation and deflation is achieved via a single Exped flat valve by mouth or via something you might be using for your sleeping pad already like an Exped Schnozzel – and the level of inflation can be fine-tuned by briefly depressing the valve. To help with deflation you can insert the tab attached to the valve cover to hold the valve open. The baffled air chamber itself has a fair amount of give, and combined with the foam layer it's nice to not have to fully inflate the pillow for the necessary height and comfort. Between the air chamber, foam pieces, and the cloth case the entire pillow is also quite warm on cold nights. While I did notice some crinkle while testing the pillow out at home that I thought might be annoying, on the trail I have not found noise to be an issue.

Exped Pillow Inflation and Deflation Valve

One nice touch are the included loops on either side of the pillow, and using a length of shock cord and a cord lock I'm able to secure the pillow to my Synmat UL7 sleeping pad so that I don't lose it at night. Running the shock cord through both loops underneath the pillow allows you to slide it side to side, running the pillow along the cord, while still keeping the pillow from sliding off the top of your pad (more detail here). This setup will add around half an ounce worth of materials. I'm also a fan of the rectangular shape. A lot of backpacking pillows have a contoured shape around the neck that I find myself fighting with all night – but obviously personal preference applies here and many may prefer this shape. In any event, between the loops, shape, and soft tricot cover this isn't a pillow I have to chase throughout the night.

Exped REM Pillow Attached to Synmat UL7 Sleeping Pad

The pillow is designed to pack into its own pocket – but it's not exactly compact. Using my attached shock cord system I'm able to wrap the pillow up inside the shock cord and then compress the pillow a bit more than by the stock method, but it still packs much larger than the ultralight air pillows that are out there. Luckily, I always have enough pack space and just throw the pillow in with my sleeping bag. After around two weeks or so of use, I did find the foam seemed to have lost quite a bit of its resiliency. Removing the air chamber (it secures inside the cover using Velcro) and giving the case with the foam inside a quick wash brought the cushion back to life. Since the pillow is comprised of two parts – both of which could make for some type of pillow on their own – you could even use the separate parts of the REM to some extent if you really wanted to save some weight.

Exped REM Pillow Removable Air Chamber

Also of note from Exped is the Exped Down Pillow, which is essentially the same design except using down instead of foam above the air chamber and with a contoured vs. rectangular shape. The down pillow will run about $15 more, and is listed around the same size and weight in both sizes and presumably would pack up smaller. Foam seems to work better for pillows in my case though since down compresses so easily, and thus at around the same weight, I elected to go with the REM and prefer the REM's rectangular shape, but it just depends on what you're after.

Conclusion

Overall, while the Exped REM is heavier than many ultralight pillows and packs up larger, it's also been the most comfortable pillow I’ve ever used in the backcountry. I’ve ended up taking it on every trip since late spring and it's even in the comfort range to be suitable for other types of trips like traveling or car camping. The REM pillow from Exped retails from $49 to $55 depending on size. You can find it here at REI as well as here at Amazon.com.

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