Historically I’ve prided myself on my bare bones, durable sleep set-up: a classic foam Thermarest pad with a pile of bundled fleece clothing for a pillow. An inflatable backpacking pillow was the last thing on my wish list back then, but I splurged recently and purchased the Fillo Pillow by Nemo Equipment. It’s now my favorite camping accessory.
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The idea of buying an inflatable camping pillow came after a few nights where I couldn’t get my fleece bundle quite comfortable enough - sometimes it was a protruding zipper or not enough support. I also realized that bringing an extra fleece jacket to use as a pillow was likely taking up more space in my pack than just bringing a dedicated pillow. I read some reviews and decided upon the Nemo Fillo as the best compromise between weight and comfort.
Before I get into more detail, here's a quick video that Nemo produced. Yes, it's a little cheesy, but it helps show the basic design of the Fillo.
I guide and live alongside the Rogue River in Oregon, so I’m sleeping outside everyday of the summer. All said and done I’ll spend 100+ nights under the stars this summer, so my sleeping gear has to be comfortable but also portable enough to bring on the river or use for self-support kayaking trips. So far I’ve put roughly 40 days on the pillow, and it has fulfilled all my expectations. The loft and insulation of the foam would likely make this pillow a solid pick for winter camping as well.
Nemo Fillo Design
The Fillo combines the packability of an inflatable pillow with the comfort of memory foam, which strikes a great balance for outdoor uses. I stayed away from purely inflatable pillows (ex. Exped Air UL) since the material can often be crinkly, and they don’t always distribute weight as evenly as their foam counterparts. On the other hand, a pure foam pillow takes up a large amount of space and weight (ex. Thermarest Compressible Pillow). The Fillo has an inflation chamber with multiple baffles inside, followed by an inch of memory foam, and topped by a soft microsuede cover to combine the benefits of each into one product. The baffles allow the pillow to maintain a consistent, supportive shape. The backside of the microsuede cover is nylon, which gives the bottom some added durability.
The Fillo comes with an internal stuff sack that stows flush on the inside of the cover. The cover can also be fully removed from the memory foam and air bladder insert, which allows for easy washing. Finally, the pillow is inflated through a smartly designed valve. Twist and pull up to inflate, push down and twist to lock the air in. It takes just two or three breaths to fully inflate the pillow.
The pillow shape and design work well for both back and side sleepers since the pillow height can be adjusted by varying the level of inflation. That being said, I prefer the pillow a little less than fully inflated since this more evenly distributes the pressure while sleeping. The microsuede covering is also comfortable against bare skin or with a sleeping bag in between.
One feature that could be tweaked is the nylon backing, since this allows the pillow to slide relatively easily on my sleeping pad. This occasionally results in my head and pillow moving off the sleeping pad, but is easily fixed with a little push.
The Fillo can also be used as a clean, foam topper to pillows that might be questionable in hostels or motels while traveling. In all honesty, the Nemo Fillo is more comfortable and adjustable than the pillows I’ve used on real bedsets.
The Nemo Fillo compresses down with the attached stuff sack to roughly the size of a Nalgene. I tend to pack it just folded over in half. This keeps the sleep surface clean, and also fits in well as the bottom layer in a pack or bag. Either way, the memory foam compresses easily and conforms well to packing applications.
It’s a backpacking pillow. It’s adjustable, comfortable, washable, and durable. What else needs to be said? The bottom line is that the Nemo Fillo became my favorite camping accessory, and I’m not ashamed to say it! While $40 is a little pricy for a camping pillow, it’s well worth the investment for all but the most minimalist backcountry adventures.
Any questions or opinions? I'd love to hear from you, just leave a comment below.
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