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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Accessories > NEMO Fillo Backpacking Pillow > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

NEMO Fillo Backpacking Pillow
By Raymond Estrella

February 07, 2013


NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 52
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 225 lb (102.00 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.

The Product

Brand new Fillo
Manufacturer: NEMO Equipment, Inc
Web site:
Product: Fillo Pillow
MSRP: US 44.95
Year manufactured/received: 2012
Weight listed: 10.8 oz (310 g)
Actual weight: 10.7 oz (302 g)
Size listed (un-inflated): 17 x 10.5 in (43 x 27 cm)
Actual size inflated full: 3.75 x 9 x 15.5 in (9.5 x 23 x 39 cm)
Packed size listed: 4 x 6 in (10 x 15 cm)
Actual packed size: 4 x 7 in (10 x 18 cm)
Color: olive green

Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty

The NEMO Equipment Fillo is a very well thought-out backpacking pillow. Probably the most comfortable backpacking pillow I have ever used, it borders on the heavy side for lightweight 3-season hiking. It absolutely shines for winter backpacking, doing away with Frozen Nylon Syndrome. I wish the stuff sack was not attached though. Please read on for the details.

Get that fly on, the rain's coming.

Product Description

The New England Mountain Equipment (NEMO) Fillo backpacking pillow (hereafter referred to as the Fillo or pillow) is the company's first take on a backpacking pillow. (They also make a Luxury version.) For what I think of as a simple item this pillow really has a lot going on. That must be why they call it an "Engineered Inflatable Pillow" on the sleeve it came with.

Fillo collage

Starting from the outside inward the Fillo has a pillowcase mostly made from very soft micro-suede. The olive green micro-suede covers the entire face and wraps around the sides and a little onto the back. The NEMO shield logo is heat-pressed (branded?;-) into the center of the face. Most of the back is made of somewhat heavy nylon. Great valveCrisscrossing the nylon area is an elastic cord running through loops. This cord is meant to keep any extra clothing like a fleece or down sweater in place if used to add volume to the pillow during use.

Sticking out of one corner is an inflation valve. While the black plastic valve has arrows insinuating that it turns, this is not the case. Instead as the writing on it says, the valve is pulled to open it for inflation, and pushed down to lock it closed, keeping the air inside.

Yes, that means that the valve is connected to a (maximum) 3 in (7.6 cm) thick inflatable cell with engineered baffles that sits inside a mesh bag tucked into the pillowcase. The baffles help make the pillow more secure and less sloppy when lying on it. Looking at four other inflatable pillows here (two of mine and two of the children's) I can say it actually works.

Also inside the mesh bag, sitting between the inflatable cell and the pillowcase, is a 1 in (2.5 cm) thick piece of memory foam, the stuff those $1,000.00 beds are made of.

Clothed and naked

The pieces may all be removed to allow the pillowcase to be washed or to use the cell and/or memory foam by themselves. To remove them there is a 5 in (12.7 cm) opening at one end of the nylon back secured by a hook-and-loop flap.

Lastly, a built-in stuff sack sits inside, attached to that hook-and-loop flap. Much like many of my built-in clothing stuff sacks the Fillo is worked inside as the stuff sack flips inside-out. A draw-cord with cord-lock holds it closed.

Field Data

As soon as I got the Fillo I took it on a long California trip that saw a 2-day backpacking trip in the southern Sierra Nevada, a 5-day backpacking trip in the northern Sierra Nevada, and a day-hike and 2-day trip in the Angeles National Forest. There was a total of 136.5 miles (220 km) with 23,575 ft (7186 m) of gain, in temps that ran from 31 F to a ridiculously warm for that time of year 90 F (-1 to 32 C). Almost all of it was on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). This up-and-down trail saw constant elevation flux with the high points most days being at 9000+/- ft (2750 m). Here is a picture off the PCT near Cow Creek (Sequoia National Forest).

The PCT is the trail for me

Once back home, I went to the canoeist primitive campsite on the Red River outside Hendrum, Minnesota as it had been raining for the previous 2-1/2 days and I wanted to put a tent through some weather torture. Well besides being a muddy mess it did not rain at all until the morning when I had to pack up. Thank you Mother Nature. The low that night was 40 F (4 C) and needless to say it was humid so there was some condensation.

For my last trip of the fall with the Fillo I went out to my friend's property north of Halstad, Minnesota. While I normally like to stay in the woods it was just too mucky (my shoes weighed a ton!) so I ended up by the Red River on some flattened prairie grass. I went chasing weather again because the forecast was rain, turning to snow and low temps. It did hit a low of 26 F (-3 C). It was raining as I headed out but stopped before I made camp. There was intermittent rain all night, but it did not turn to snow as it stopped before the temps dropped.

Once the ground froze and winter set in I fired the hiking back up again taking seven backpacking trips. Five were on the Red River either on the Halstad property or north of town, one was on the North Country Trail by the Anoway River in Chippewa National Forest and the last on the North Country Trail in Paul Bunyan State Forest. These trips were cold with lows averaging around 0 F (-18 C). The trip on the Anoway River saw -22 F (-30 C). I used the Fillo on two "camping" trips in the yard as my son wanted to snow camp in a storm and I wanted to safely try a bag/overbag combo before committing to it on the trail. Why? Because it was storming and -24 F (-31 C). Here is a picture of the Fillo being used with that combo.

Winter on Red


I am a pillow person. I need one to sleep comfortably and have always needed something to support my head even when hiking. (I am a side sleeper by the way.) Back in my teens and early 20's I would use anything as a pillow, even resorting to putting my boots in my sleeping bag stuff sack. It was not the most comfortable solution, believe me. By the mid 80's I started using true pillows and have tried quite a lot over the years. At the time that I got the Fillo I had refined it to two pillows. A super light inflatable that I tested here (see report) for warm weather use and another one-off custom down-filled inflatable for winter.

I got the Fillo at the end of summer and took it on my big PCT trip. Normally I would have taken the tiny inflatable but the forecast for the trip had been cold and wet. I figured the micro-suede would feel nice. Well a major warming trend hit the day we started and it was flat hot the first trip. I found that the micro-suede was great in warm temps as it did not make my face sweat like the plain nylon of my other pillow.

One thing I did right away was to remove the elastic cord. I find that the Fillo is thick enough as it is, I don't need to bolster it with extra clothing. In fact I rarely inflate it full. For sleeping I have found it best to take it to full and then let about one breath's worth back out. This is perfect or me when sleeping, giving a bit of softness to it.

There are times I do fill it hard. Mainly when using it for reading in my tent. Winter nights are long up here and I usually bring a book along to kill time stuck in the tent. I have used to Fillo under my chest or turned on edge to give extra height.

Reading and fake sleeping

Where the Fillo really shines in my opinion is in cold temperatures. I have a winter pillow that has an r-value of 11. But the nylon shell of it gets very cold. It is a shock when my face comes into contact with the nylon at low temps. After my first trip with the much warmer micro-suede of the Fillo I decided that it would be my winter pillow from then on.

As may be seen in my reports and reviews I am mainly a backpacking quilt user as long as temps stay above 0 F (-18 C). With a quilt, like in the picture below, I will be lying directly on the pad with my head on the Fillo.

In Propel tent

But when I am using a sleeping bag the Fillo will go under the bag. I found that it wanted to slide off my pad as I would do my all-night tossing and turning. What I found works great to keep it in place is to flip it upside-down so that the micro-suede is against the pad and the nylon against the hood of my bag. Here's a good shot of it in this fashion near the Anoway River. No the parka is not keeping my tent warm, it is lofting up, getting ready for the cold afternoon ahead.

In Nook tent

The only thing that I don't care for about the Fillo is the stuff sack. I don't like it being integrated with with the pillow. I wish that it were a separate sack that I could choose to take or not. For one thing if it were separate I could fold the Fillo and then roll it tight, sliding it into the stuff sack instead of cramming it as it has to be done with now. I may look into the feasibility of detaching it.

It is nice to be able to just throw the shell/pillowcase into the washer. I washed it after the California trip as that was one dirty dusty trip in parts. The Fillo came out just fine. I also love the valve NEMO uses. The push-pull valve is so much easier than the twist valves on everything else I own. I have never owned a NEMO pad so I don't know if they use the same valve on their pads too, but if so that is a great feature.

That's about all I can think of to say about the Fillo. It is without doubt my new favorite fall and winter pillow and I expect to be using it on many frigid trips to come. I leave with a picture of it on the North Country Trail.

In Jack Rabbit tent

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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