The Pillow Cage

Hello again from Northern California, where I spent the last three days paddling on Tomales Bay along the Point Reyes National Seashore. My brother and I spent the night on a couple of the beaches along the way, where he pioneered his innovative pillow cage.

Finding a good pillow for the backcountry can be challenging. Although you can buy an actual "backpacking pillow," they all suck. They're all designed to save weight and bulk, which means they're all too small and do not provide enough neck support for my tall self.

My preferred method is to stuff extra clothes into my sleeping bag stuff sack and use it as a pillow. To avoid the discomfort of lying my head directly onto the nylon stuff sack (which can form an unpleasant seal around my ear), I then wrap it in my soft fleece jacket or pants.

Alternatively, you can buy a pillow stuff sack that is already fleece-lined. Simply turn it inside out, fill with clothes, and voila. Both Cascade Designs and REI make nice versions of these in multiple sizes.

The other big challenge is that nylon stuff sacks tend to be slippery and can often slip out from underneath your head during the night, especially if it's lying directly on the tent floor or the slick surface of your inflatable sleeping pad.

Hence my brother's pillow cage. First, you need to travel/hike with a soft foldable chair, like those produced by Crazy Creek. Second, when you go to bed, place your large, supportive, soft pillow in the chair. Position the chair so that the seat is underneath your sleeping pad and is held in place by your weight. Now you have a fixed three-sided barricade (seat back and connecting straps) to prevent your pillow from escaping at night.

“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.

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