Inflatable travel pillows are the easiest to transport; when deflated they can fold down to the size of a wallet. They also have the advantage of added customization, because users can choose to deflate it slightly for a less-firm pillow. And most only require one or two breaths to fill. However, the most common problem cited with inflatable travel pillows is that they tend to leak air over time. In some cases, users say their heads end up on the floor of a tent before the end of a single night.
The Travelrest Travel Pillow (Est. $25) , however, is most commonly used for flights or long car rides. This unique pillow is shaped like a long cone, offering both head and neck support for travelers resting in a number of different positions. The straps can be configured in a few different ways, either to affix the pillow to a seat or to strap it around the body like a messenger bag. Nancy Keates, who reviews the Travelrest for The Wall Street Journal, says it offers excellent comfort and is versatile -- but she points out that it's slightly embarrassing to use due to its unusual shape. Users would agree. "On the plane we felt a little silly blowing them up and strapping them to the back of our seats. After we started using them, however, we didn't care what they looked like. The thing I like the best is that it offers a stable place to rest your head -- supporting both your head and neck," says a reviewer at Amazon.com.
Owners at Amazon.com contribute the Travelrest's overall score of 4.1 out of 5 stars by offering mostly positive feedback. Many say that this pillow eliminates stiff necks and neck pain common for travelers thanks to its neck support features. It also folds down compactly when it's deflated and is lightweight at just 7 ounces, so it won't take up much valuable space or weight in your luggage.
If you're looking for a rectangular pillow, the Cocoon Air-Core Pillow Ultralight (Est. $20) can be used for camping, hiking, flights or in cars. It weighs less than the Travelrest at just 4 ounces and is super-compactable, folding up to about the size of a canned vegetable. This simple pillow makes use of an air-filled core, adjustable to the user's preferences, and a simple outer shell that has both a fuzzy and a smooth side for different weather conditions. However, the smooth side may slide around if it's placed on a smooth surface, which can be annoying for some users. Owners posting feedback to Amazon.com have mixed feedback, with the most common complaint being that the pillow tends to leak air overnight, losing firmness and comfort. "Like every air filled sleeping device I have ever purchased, it eventually failed to hold air after about 20 uses," says an Amazon.com user.
The Exped Air Pillow (Est. $25 to $35, depending on size) isn't rectangular, but it does offer some advantages over the standard-shaped Cocoon Air-Core Pillow Ultralight. The Exped has a contoured shape, cradling your head for a more comfortable sleep -- and less of the sensation that you're sleeping on a bag full of air. The baffled construction also means the air won't shift as easily within the pillow, so you get a more consistent feel instead of the bouncy feeling some inflatable pillows offer. Folding down to approximately the size of a pill bottle, the Exped Air Pillow is also super-lightweight; at just 3 to 3.5 ounces (medium or large) it weighs less than both the Travelrest and Cocoon Air-Core. Though it looks small, most users are surprised by how comfortable this pillow is to sleep on.
If sleep is your top priority on a flight and you're not concerned about what other travelers think of you, the SkyRest Travel Pillow (Est. $30) offers an alternative solution to catching some Zs on a flight. With a large, inflated, rectangular shape that has one angled end, this pillow sits in your lap while you lean forward to rest your head on the angled side. Not everyone is comfortable sleeping in that position, however, and some users posting reviews on Amazon.com and SkyMall.com say this pillow is so large that it is sometimes an annoyance to passengers sitting next to or in front of you on a flight. Not only is it large in depth, but it's large in weight. At 16 ounces it's significantly bigger than the other airplane favorite, the Travelrest. Some users say the SkyRest isn't for everyone. The position you feel most comfortable sleeping in will help determine whether or not this pillow is right for you.
If neck pain is an issue for you, the Ezysleep Inflatable Travel Pillow (Est. $30) offers a full 360 degrees of neck support, preventing you from bobbing your head forward or off to either side when you fall asleep. This pillow has been endorsed by Alan Hedge, director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory at Cornell University for its ergonomic and supportive design.
Of all of these travel pillows, the Travelrest is the only one with a machine-washable cover. But the SkyRest and the Exped travel pillow are easily wiped down. As for the Cocoon Air-Core, its double-sided fabric makes it a little more difficult to clean.
Inflatable travel pillows come in a wide range of styles and designs. The Travelrest Inflatable Travel Pillow earns the most positive feedback overall, therefore earning our pick as the Best Reviewed product, but if you're looking for a travel pillow for camping or backpacking, the Exped Air Pillow or the Cocoon Air-Core Pillow Ultralight are more practical options.