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EXPED Ultra Pillow Review

Pillows are controversial topic in backpacking communities.

Some hikers won’t talk too you again if they find out you’re using a pillow.

The others have given up faking they can sleep without a pillow and just bring a lightweight pillow and actually get a good sleep.

A couple years ago I gave up sleeping on down jackets or inflated drybags and have been looking for a good pillow.

Prior to this year, I was testing the Sea to Summit Aeros pillow. It’s small, inflatable, soft and not very loud. For an inflatable it’s pretty good. Still feels a bit like a balloon.

Below are my thoughts on the EXPED Ultra Pillow and if it will be my go to going forward.


  • lightweight
  • comfortable
  • not crinkly
  • eyelets to attach to mat


  • 1 valve
  • no mat strap
  • no squishy outside material

About the EXPED Ultra Pillow

The Ultra pillow from EXPED is an inflatable pillow made out of the same 20 denier recycled polyester as the the new Ultra mats. Right beside an ultra mat it’s actually softer and fuzzier feeling than the material on the mat so there’s a slight difference, but a good one.

The outside is very thin like an air mat, without any sort of plush or pillow top material. When it’s fully inflated, it can be a stiff to lay on, but letting a touch of air out gives it a bit more squish like a normal pillow.

What I really like about this pillow is the anatomical shape. It’s cut out at the bottom for your shoulder to rest in and is slightly taller. This shape keeps it under your head on your shoulder for longer during the night. Other pillows and stuff sacks I’ve tried have migrated all over the tent at night and rarely stay under your head.

With it fully inflated, it’s quite tall which I like being a side sleeper. It’s almost too tall for sleeping on your back but it can be rotated to sleep on the lower side.

It doesn’t come with straps to tie it to your mat but there is eyelets on each side of the pillow to do that. You’ll just need to find your own strap or paracord.

Overall it’s been the most comfortable inflatable pillow I’ve tried.

Out testing the EXPED Dura mat and Ultra pillow


The packed size for the Ultra pillow is tiny. It comes in a large and medium size.

The large size is wider at 18 x 11.8 x 4.7 inches and 2.3 oz. The medium is 15 x 10.6 x 3.9 inches and 1.8 oz. I prefer the wider size so my head stays on it longer. Pillows are always a battle to stay positioned well so extra width helps with that.

The stuff sack is generous in it’s sizing so it’s easy to get back into the bag. It can even fit a couple other smaller items. Stuff sacks that are too small are frustrating and I end up stop using products because of it.

The small green sack doesn’t take up much space


The 1 valve on the Ultra pillow is the same FlatValve as on the Ultra and Dura sleeping mats. The Schnozzel pump bag fits on them.

With 2 breaths or 1/2 a Schnozzel bag the pillow is full, it doesn’t take long.

There’s an adjuster to tap the check valve to let some air out. Having the 1-way check valve there keeps the air in while you’re inflating. If that wasn’t there it would be next to impossible to keep a full amount of air inside.

Deflating requires the check valve to be open so you have hold the adjuster on the flap to let them air out while rolling the air out. Doesn’t take long to get it right. Having an ‘out’ valve would have made it easier but that means 2 valves.

2 breaths or half a Schnozzel to inflate


EXPED also have the Versa pillow, made of a softer, thicker materials. It’s slightly heavier than the Ultra pillow at .5 oz more.

Sea to Summit also have the Aeros Pillow which I quite like. it’s got a shoulder cut out but doesn’t have the raised bottom to it. It’s got a softer feel to it on the outside than the Ultra does but is double the weight.


Pillows can be a tough sell in the backcountry. We all want a good sleep but have to carry everything and it seems like non-essentials like pillows get cut sometimes.

After I hit a certain age (intelligence?) I gave up on having the absolute minimal weight for everything and require heavier gear for a better sleep. Part of that weight is a pillow.

The EXPED Ultra pillow is comfortable pillow that weighs almost nothing and actually stays under your head. I do wish it had a bit of plush or squish around the outside but am not willing to carry more weight to get it! I’ll have to experiment wrapping it with a down jacket or something.

If you’re a side sleeper looking for an real, lightweight pillow I’d try the Ultra from EXPED.

Not a bad place for pillow testing

Disclosure: EXPED provided the Ultra pillow to to review for free.

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