Goosefeet Gear- Down Pillow
If I am honest, I never sleep that well outdoors. It is not the unfamiliar surroundings, nor extraneous noise, it is simply that as a side and stomach sleeper, I struggle to get into a comfortable position in which I can have considerable hours of uninterrupted sleep. I do believe that the importance of a good nights kip when engaged in physical activity should not be underestimated. Sleep is my recovery time, physically and mentally.
The biggest culprit when it comes to a spoilt nights sleep, is the lack of a comfortable pillow that supports my head well. I have no problem with waking during the night. I like to shift around a bit, changing position many times, stretching in my half sleep and switching from side to stomach and back again. It is what I do at home in my bed. What I don’t want is constant waking to search for an errant pillow, plumping it up to support, folding a pillow in half in the middle of the night or simply lying there wondering what the hell I can do next time to solve the issue.
I have tried a number of solutions over the years, most have been simply too thin to support my head when side sleeping and I end up with a crick in my neck. A lot of solutions are also too uncomfortable. One of the simplest and best I had was my trainers in a dry bag (to keep the muck and smell in), wrapped in a fleece. Even that proved a bit too lumpy for me. A Thermarest microfibre pillow case stuffed with all my spare clothes was also fairly effective. But not when you want to wear said clothes, or dry them overnight having washed them etc.
My partial solution for the past few years has been the Large sized exped air pillow. This weighs an acceptable (for me) 91g/3.2oz. But I still find it a bit uncomfortable, the smooth sided, inflated pillow is too hard and slips out from under my head too easily. One solution is to slip a buff over the pillow, this improves the feel but not the comfort. The pillow is also slightly too small to accommodate my occasional shifts in position. If I have it slightly deflated for comfort, it then droops too low to support my head at the height that I want when side sleeping. All that said, I do like the design of the Exped air pillow. The scalloped out hollow lets the ear rest without being crushed and the higher at one side and lower at the other design permits some useful adjustment when switching sleeping position.
Finally I decided to bite the bullet, search for a good solution and accept the cost, both monetarily and in weight. That is my trade-off for a decent nights kip.
Today my package arrived. I had contacted Ben Smith who runs his cottage industry- Goosefeet Gear, making a small range of down products such as down booties, pants and balaclavas. He also makes a range of down pillows which have gained a small but appreciative audience in the backpacking fraternity. Being an order made overseas, it hurt a bit. Ben’s products are not cheap, but I believed the quality would permit my extravagance. Never mind the pillow, the postage alone was $30. I thought I was also going to get stung for a customs fee but escaped that.
So what did I order? Ben offers a large range of pillows: Small, medium and large and an extra large pillow that is sized to accommodate the L size of the Exped inflatable pillow. Ben suggests the ultra light version of the Exped pillow I already use. This seems to be completely unavailable in the UK, no retailers at all listing it. Looks like another overseas purchase is looming! By purchasing the lighter variant (59.5g/2.1oz), I can offset the increased weight of the down pillow outer while slightly protecting the thinner denier of the UL pillow with the Goosefeet down pillow.
Each of Ben’s pillows can be upgraded to include a stuff sack pocket. It is in this that you can either stuff clothes, a folded mat or an inflatable pillow. I ordered this stuff sack option. Fifteen colour options are available but not all colours in the choice of three fabrics. I looked to the lightest down proof material on offer which was the Pertex Quantum GL, this is a natty shade of green.
Pertex Quantum GL is a strong, lightweight and downproof material, the best strength to weight ratio of all pertex fabrics. Because of my choice of fabric I decided to also push the boat out and have the pillow overstuffed and chose the 2oz option. This partly because I use a Katabatic quilt which does not have a hood. The down topping on the pillow should provide a degree more comfort and warmth to my head, rising slightly around my head and insulating. The material is smooth, soft and with the lovely down fill, very comfortable.
The drawcord closure is thin, very thin, but needs to be no thicker to fulfil its task, the small plastic cord lock is also happily minimal.
The small elastic loop sewn into the ‘closed’ end of the pillow is there so that a length of cord or dyneema can be tied to it and looped under the air mat to be attached to the drawcord at the ‘open’ end. This should stop the pillow wandering off during the night.
Pillows are stuffed with 850+ fill power down. I am more than happy with the colour of the bag, not too light to show every mark and drool that it will undoubtedly pick up over the years, muted enough to suit my personal outlook, yet light enough to show up within a darkened tent. Stitching appears sound, I will wait to see how downproof this is over a few nights kip. While a pretty large pillow when lofted, the combination of good quality down with a decent fabric means that it will compress down considerably. Small enough that I can leave it in my quilt and it still fits into its stuff sack with no noticeable increase in bulk.
Ordering was relatively straight forward, only my bank proved to be doubtful that I was actually placing a ‘peculiar’ order overseas and queried it by phone, quickly resolved. Ben was amazingly swift in replying by email to a couple of emails I sent him querying detail. With my ‘extras’ the down pillow cost $51 (+$30 postage). I placed my order on the 20th September, it was packed and posted the following day. Sent USPS Priority International Flat Rate, the postie attempted to deliver it on the 29th. Too large to post through my door, I picked it up from the Post Office on the 30th. Pretty good service all told.
So, with my choice of size, fabric, extra pocket and overstuffing, what does it weigh? A grand total of 76.8g/2.7oz. To which I add either my existing Exped inflatable pillow, or the UL version if I get it, or nothing if stuffing with clothes etc already carried.
Previous pillow carried: Exped L- 91g/3.2oz
Possible alternative: Exped UL- 59.5g/2.1oz + Goosefeet down pillow- 76.8g/2.7oz = 136.3g/4.8oz
So, either a decrease in weight if stuffing with gear already carried, or more likely, use with an air pillow. What this new purchase enables me to do is a bit of a mixture. Soft and cosy pillow with the height and form provided by the inflatable inner pillow supplemented with an item of clothing or two to bulk it out a little and give me an increase in height if I so desire. Consequently an (expensive) weight gain. Is this acceptable?
To my mind, if it solves my restless nights and gives me an improved sleep, then absolutely. Now all I have to do is get out there and try it…