BIG SKY DREAMSLEEPER DELUXE PILLOW
TEST SERIES BY MIKE MOSACK
July 17, 2011
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT
San Diego, California, USA
6' 1" (1.85 m)
240 lb (109.00 kg)
I've been backpacking for over 30 years, doing solo and group trips, with and without kids. I do day trips, weekenders and week-long or longer trips throughout the year. I backpack in all climates and seasons, from summer desert trips to Spring/Winter camping in Michigan, Canada California and Grand Canyon, Arizona to Afghanistan and rely on my backpacking equipment constantly. I prefer to go lighter whenever possible and am always trying new items. Quality and reliability of items I carry are paramount to me over price and weight.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Big Sky International
|Image from manufacturer|
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: http://bigskyproducts.com
MSRP: US$ 34.95
Listed Weight: 117g (4.1oz)
Measured Weight: 117g (4.1oz)
Ultralight version - Bladder alone Listed Weight: 53g (1.9 oz)
UltraLight - Bladder alone Measured Weight: 53g (1.9 oz)
Made with Recycled materials.
|Actual product tested|
The Big Sky DreamSleeper Deluxe Inflatable Pillow, hereafter called the pillow, is described by the manufacturer as the, "World's Most Comfortable Lightweight Inflatable Pillow". The manufacturer goes on to describe that the packed size will fit in the palm of my hand and can be taken anywhere. It has an ergonomic design that cradle's a person's head for a good night's sleep. The pillow cover is removable for quick and easy cleaning, has an attached storage pouch that will not get lost like a storage sack might and made from a cotton soft synthetic fabric that wicks moisture on hot nights. The pillow bladder can be removed and used separate from the pillow case for an ultralight version weighing less than 2 oz (57g).
|Valve, storage case end of pillow|
The pillow case has two zippers; one at each end. One is to gain access to or to stow the attached storage pouch. Located at this end is also a sewn opening in one corner that provides access for the inflation valve. This black colored valve just barely sticks through the pillow case opening and is mostly covered. I am curious to test whether the valve becomes an uncomfortable nuisance or if I even notice it while sleeping. The other zipper, located at the opposite end of the pillow, provides access to the bladder. This is where the bladder is inserted or removed from the pillow case.
The removable pillow case, when turned inside out, has a visible layer of PrimaLoft TM fabric material sewn in for insulation. See photo. The pillow case is stitched and appears to be well constructed.
|Bladder access opening|
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The pillow arrived with a sheet of instructions and product descriptions included. Out of all of my similar camping pillows, none were accompanied with as much information on their products. Kudos to Big Sky!
The manufacturer's instructions include how to convert the pillow from deluxe to ultralight versions; how to remove the pillow case; how to inflate and deflate the pillow and how to adjust the pillow for personal comfort.
Washing instructions for the pillow case are also included and state the following;
DreamSleeper TM pillows with PrimaLoft TM ECO insulation:
-Remove air bladder,
- Machine wash and rinse in cold water, gentle cycle.
- Tumble dry warm, remove promptly.
- Do not dry clean, bleach, iron or steam
- Reinstall air bladder
For questions, the manufacturer provides additional links to its websites and their email address.
TRYING IT OUT
The pillow easily fits into the attached storage pouch. The zippers work well and did not catch or get stuck.
There is no fill for this pillow. There is however, a layer of Primaloft TM sewn into the inside of the pillow case. This provides a layer of insulation and softness between the pillow case and bladder, but is almost imperceptible when feeling the exterior of the inflated pillow. The pillow's "loft" is determined by the amount of air pressure I want in it; whatever feels good to me. It's rather easy to adjust to my comfort level by slowly letting some air out until it feels just right.
The pillow case feels slippery in my hands and the inflated pillow has slipped out of my grip while holding it more than once already. I am curious as to how this will test during sleep, against a sleeping bag. Will the pillow be sliding around or out from under my head during the night? I anticipate many nights worth of testing to find out.
Inflating the pillow bladder is simple enough and does not take a lot of breath. The pillow is similar in size to my other three camping pillows. Opening the inflation valve and blowing into that, inflates the bladder. Keeping air pressure going into the valve while closing it reduces air loss and works just like my standard inflatable sleeping pads.
|Valve close up|
|Close up of valve and seal|
I am a little concerned by the moisture that is inside the bladder from my breath when inflating it. I think I may have to store the bladder, valve open and upright, to allow for the condensation to evaporate. I am wondering of the possibility of mold or mildew and will have to watch this to see if this is a problem later.
|Layout of components|
I've found that removing and reinserting the bladder is rather easy. I just need to align the inflation valve to the opening in the corner of the pillow case as I am installing the bladder. Once it is in, I partially inflate the bladder to assist in ensuring the bladder is aligned properly before I fully inflate it. Then I deflate the pillow prior to stowing it in its attached case.
|Pillow inside attached storage case|
I am initially impressed with the manufacturer for including what seems to be a lot of information for this pillow. I have 3 other similar camping pillows and none came with the same amount of information about their product.
I also am initially impressed by the quality of this product. I look forward to testing this out.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During this testing phase, I used my pillow in Afghanistan and Big Sur, California U.S.A. I was in the area of Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan for 34 days and nights. The temperatures ranged from 23 F (-5 C) to 55 F (13 C) and the altitudes were from approximately 850 ft (260 m) to 1100 ft (335 m). The terrain consisted of open desert, gravel roads and rocky conditions.
I then made a trip to Big Sur for five nights and six days. During this period, I used my pillow while sleeping, as a lumbar support while driving, and as a seat pad when partially inflated. Additionally, I have completed five domestic flights across the country and three international flights where I used my pillow as a neck support, head rest, lumbar or seat pad. The outside temperatures were approximately 48 F (9 C) to 59 F (15 C) and the elevations ranged from sea level to about 400 ft (122 m). The terrain consisted of worn foot trails, rocky outcroppings, sandy beaches and paved roadways.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Setting up my pillow has been pretty straightforward. It is easy to inflate and the pillow case / cover is easy to put on and take off. I have noticed that my pillow tends to lose air pressure in just a few hours. I have yet to see my pillow go completely flat and I have not identified if there is an actual leak or if there is a porosity issue with the bladder. I fill my pillow before I go to sleep and in the morning, I have noticed that the pillow has lost about 25% of its air pressure. I should note that this has only been my estimate, but it seems close.
I have intentionally partially filled the pillow's bladder to check my particular comfort level and to accommodate alternate uses, such as a lumbar support or seat pad as well as changing the loft and pressure to find my preferred sleeping position. When I have done this, I noticed (and my wife has as well) that the pillow makes a crinkling sound with every movement I make, no matter how minor. This is quite irritating to my wife who has threatened to make me sleep outside if I didn't fill the pillow completely or leave it at home. When I fill my pillow completely, there is no issue with noise and I get to continue to sleep next to my wife.
The ergonomic shape of the pillow suits me as I have had no issues with my head sliding or rolling off my pillow. When I have used it to prop my head while on board a plane, it again, has performed well and my head seats against the pillow comfortably.
I have continually found moisture inside the bladder when I have inflated it. I do not have any idea how to prevent this from happening. I also have not found any evidence of mold or mildew smell and will continue to monitor this and report on my findings.
I like that...
1. The pillow has an ergonomic design shape that helps keep my head in place.
2. that the pillow has an attached storage pouch
3. that it is easily inflatable and packs very well.
My dislikes are...
1. that when the pillow is underinflated, it makes a loud crinkling sound with each movement I make.
2. that the pillow seems to lose air pressure in the course of just a few hours.
3. that there continually is moisture from my breath inside the bladder when I inflate it and I can not seem to keep this from happening.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I was in the area of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan for 30+ days and nights. The temperatures ranged from 50 F (10 C) to 125 F (52 C) and the altitudes were from approximately 2000 ft (610 m) to over 7500 ft (2500 m). The terrain consisted of open desert, gravel roads, dust, sand, and rocky conditions.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
During this testing period, the pillow performed better for me overall and I was able to get a lot of nights of use out of it. There was no crinkling noise like I found during the field report phase and I think this was because of the cooler temperatures we had then compared to the warmer temperatures I've had since.
I had an issue with this pillow when during this testing phase, the internal plastic partitions separated from the interior wall of the bladder. While the bladder itself maintains air and did not leak, the bladder no longer held that contour shape to cradle my head. Instead, the pillow bladder filled up like a fat balloon, if I were to inflate it fully.
The scenario that occurred was that I had partially deflated my pillow for my comfort level at the beginning of the night. During the night, I chose to roll the pillow onto its side so that I could have added height without taking the time to re-inflate the bladder. When I woke up the next morning, I found that the pillow had an odd shape and when I inspected it further, found that the internal partitions had separated from the internal wall of the bladder.
CONTACT CUSTOMER SERVICE
My contact with customer service was a very positive experience in that a single email with a description of the problem resulted in their quick response and instructions to return the bladder to them. They asked me to keep my pillow case and they even attached a prepaid USPS shipping label to the email for me to print out. It was almost a "no questions asked" experience and I was quite impressed. I should note that I never identified myself as a BGT tester and as far as they knew, I was just another customer.
The date for my Long Term Report has arrived prior to my receiving the replacement bladder in the mail here in Afghanistan so I am finishing my report without my pillow, but expect no problems at this point either. My experience with this pillow has been a positive one overall and my experience with customer service has also been a very positive one.
I expect that I will keep this pillow and use it again. I think if I am with my wife during cooler nights, I'll leave this in my pack, but warm nights or when I am by myself, I'll pull it out regularly.
I found that during cool nights the plastic bladder of this pillow makes a crinkle sound when it is not inflated completely and I move my head around. This noise caused some disconcerting issues for my wife who at one point even threatened me to leave the pillow behind. Having said this, I also found that when inflated completely that noise went away and during warm nights the noise also went away even when partially deflated for comfort.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.
Throughout my testing period with this pillow, I was monitoring moisture that could be seen inside the plastic bladder from blowing into it for inflation. I was initially concerned that this moisture might cause some mold issues later. I can report that in the months I've used this pillow, this was not a problem for me.
I would probably be careful about rolling the pillow onto its side and applying any significant amount of weight because of the problem I experienced with the internal partitions separating, but except for that, I would recommend this pillow and give Big Sky customer service a thumbs up!
I would like to thank Big Sky and BackpackGearTest.org for choosing me and allowing me to participate in the testing of this product.
Read more reviews of Big Sky International gear
Read more gear reviews by Michael Mosack