Five years ago, at the age of 60 something and admitting I was getting older, I started using an air mattress on almost all of my backpacking trips. Prior to this I usually used a simple foam pad. I had, over the years, tried a few thin air mattresses but they were too bulky and heavy and always got relegated to the car camping gear inventory. With a foam pad or these older air mattresses a pillow wasn’t necessary. Spare clothing always sufficed. But in 2010, I purchased a Therm-A-Rest NeoAir mattress, which is 2.5” thick when inflated. Being a side sleeper this mattress, unlike the thin mats of the past, required a pillow placed on top of the air mat. So I bought an inexpensive inflatable pillow. Keeping it on the mat during the night wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t irritating enough to investigate a solution, until this trip…
I opted not to sleep in a shelter. After a night of consistent 40 mph winds and even stronger gusts, I awoke around 6:00 am, sans pillow. Fortunately, my friend Chad found the pillow had been captured by a greasewood bush. Not that the pillow would have been a great lose, but littering the desert with a lost pillow wasn’t appealing. I needed a solution.
Instead of fooling around with the existing pillow, it was time to start from scratch: find a new pillow that would be easy to attach to the Neo Air. After a bit of Internet window shopping, there were no “off the shelf” solutions, and ended up purchasing an Exped brand pillow that looked to be very comfortable, light, and had a tab on each side that would make it simple to attach to my air mattress.
I ran a piece of 3mm cord through the tabs with a toggle at each end of the cord. The toggles would make it easy to adjust the tension, even during the night.
I have used this system for the past 5 years on my original NeoAir and also on my cold weather NeoAir Therm. The pillow stays secure on the mat and the 3mm cord hasn’t damaged the mat. Simple. Effective.