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ADVICE FROM THE ROAD – travel pillow

July 8, 2013


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There is no greater feeling than burning down a long adventuresome stretch of blacktop or gravel and knowing you have total control of your nightly accommodations.  That “total control” comes from having the right gear to sleep comfortably in any weather, anywhere. 

PHOTO: Condo in a box


In the photo above, there is a tent, air mattress, sleeping bag, pillow, sleep sack and a pair of flip flops – hence, a condo in a box (er, ahh, Condo in a Pannier).  This setup kept me comfortable all types of weather.  From driving rain in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Dakotas, to desert storms in the Mohave, to cold New England nights.  I’ve probably got 200+ nights this gear and not one thing has failed.  That’s a pretty good value for five years of very hard use

Motorcycle camping is a fantastic way to keep travel costs low, meet great people and get out into nature.  There’s nothing like rolling into a campground, parking next to a $100k motorhome, tossing the sidestand down and quietly setting up your camp.

PHOTO: Not a “condo in a box”

The motorhome folks won’t be able to figure you out.  Not one bit.  It always gave me a chuckle to be sitting by the fire, under moonlit skies, drinking a frosty cold beverage and observing RVrs watching satellite TV.  They just don’t get it. 

PHOTO: 2008 – Beach side, Grand Isle, Louisiana


When you consider your camping gear don’t forget about the small things that will exponentially increase your nightly comfort.  After years of rolling up a sweatshirt, or jacket to make a pillow (and waking up with a stick neck and aching back), I decided to get a camping pillow

A pillow is something I would have never thought about bringing.  I regularly read the adventures of a long rider named “BamaRider” or Guy Boutin.  You can read his website here.  Anyway, one thing he considers to be essential is a good pillow.  This was some of the best advice I ever got.   I don’t always see eye to eye with Guy about everything (bike shorts for motorcycling being one!  Damn, bubba, I tried those things and damn near castrated myself with my Leatherman in a McDonald’s bathroom trying to cut out the ass pads).

Anyway, trust me, trust the BamaRider, and go get yourself a camping pillow if you plan any long riding. 

I’ve used two types of pillow.  The Thermarest and the Nemo Fillo.

THE THERMAREST pillow is readily available via mail order or your local EMS or REI.  It costs from $20.00 to just under $30.00.  It has a soft microfiber cover that doubles as a stuff sack when the pillow is compressed.  It’s filled with left over scraps from Thermarest pads (they call it green product use, I call it scraps). 

It’s a fantastic pillow but has one small issue. If the pillow has been compressed for a while it can feel like a bag of scraps – it takes a while for the inner pieces to expand and start to feel like a proper pillow.  If you make camp for a few nights it fully deploys and feels like a proper Thermarest style pillow. 

Other than that, it’s a great bit of gear and one I continue to use.  As a matter of fact, a few weeks ago, I got fed up with our bedroom pillows and went out to the garage, retrieved the Thermarest and have been sleeping on it every night!

THE NEMO FILLO pillow is a bit of a hybrid.  It uses both air and memory foam.  It’s a bit more high tech and has a bigger price tag – around $45.00.  Again, lots of outdoor suppliers offer them as do most camping stores.  

The Nemo also offers an elastic cord webbing on the backside if you want to augment the pillow with a sweatshirt or clothing.  Also, the pillow firmness is adjustable via the air bladder knob. 


Considering the Nemo uses air bladders, most people would think it would roll up considerably smaller than the Thermarest – it does not.  Also, I find messing with the air firmness to be tiring as I can never find the right setting.  It’s either too firm or too soft.  Also, I hate the webbing on the backside as it effectively makes it a one sided pillow.  There are nights when it’s hot and just turning over the Thermarest gives me a cool side to sleep on.  The barrel spring tensioner on the webbing fell apart within a week and without it, the pillow won’t roll up properly.

Do I hate it?  No.  I used it consistently for a month but never got to the point where I REALLY liked using it. 

The Thermarest proves that simpler is better – at least in my opinion. No matter what you chose, take a pillow.  You won’t miss your sweatshirt or jacket pillow one bit!


UP NEXT: 500 mile Bilt Explorer Boot Evaluation


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8 Comments leave one →
  1. James Springate permalink
    July 8, 2013 1:00 pm

    What kind of tent do you use? Mine is a car camping tent that is way too big.

  2. July 8, 2013 1:10 pm

    I don’t love the T2 changes to the Quarter Dome. Mine is a free standing tent with just two poles to set it up. Freestanding is very important for camping. The freedom to move the tent around cannot be stressed enough.

  3. James O. Springate permalink
    August 7, 2013 2:35 pm

    Is this your tent?

    • August 7, 2013 3:40 pm

      Yes. I’d buy it again in a second. And may buy a backup.


      • James O. Springate permalink
        August 7, 2013 4:00 pm

        I just ordered it. Looks like the old one got much better reviews than the new one. I really value your advice.

        These are the last ones that will be available, so if you want a backup….

        Will I need a ground cloth over small gravel?


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