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Hummingbird Hammocks Starling Inflatable Pillow

photo: Hummingbird Hammocks Starling Inflatable Pillow pillow

Specs

Price MSRP: $16.95
Weight 3.8 oz / 108 g
Dimensions 13.5 x 9.5 in / 34 x 24 cm
Loft 4-inch inflated loft
Packed 4.5 x 3 x 2 in / 11 x 8 x 5 cm

Reviews

1 review
5-star:   0
4-star:   0
3-star:   1
2-star:   0
1-star:   0

A good pillow, while not critical, can make for a good night’s sleep, which in turn is crucial for restoration when camping or backpacking. The Starling is an inflatable camping/backpacking pillow made by Hummingbird, a brand more famous for their ultralight parachute fabric hammocks. The Starling is soft, silent, lightweight, and compact, all qualities I look for when searching for a decent camping pillow. If they can improve it in some areas, it’ll come even closer to a top choice.

Pros

  • Very comfortable
  • Silent
  • Lightweight
  • Good for cold or hot weather
  • Well made
  • Not expensive

Cons

  • Position and size of valve (too big)
  • Shape (it’s not bad I just prefer rectangle, but it’s personal)
  • Can be too warm

For decades I stuffed a sack or even a cotton T-shirt with other pieces of clothing, or wrap these into my camping towel, to improvise a sleeping pillow while camping or backpacking. As most who have done this know, these are OK solutions but hardly make for the best sleeping experience, especially when we advance in hiking and everything starts smelling a mix of smoke and sweat.

Then, came the compressible pillows, but these would take some serious backpack real estate and still be a little small and underwhelming, sometimes too soft or unsupportive. Finally, inflatable pillows started making their way into the market, from various brands and models. Over the years they improved markedly, but early iterations of these were really rubbish, plasticky and too noisy. Other than being small when deflated, didn’t provide much in terms of sleeping comfort. Some didn’t even last long, oftentimes failing during use and we’d wake up in the middle of the night without any head support. 

Even when materials and construction improved, I only found a middle ground if using a soft fabric cover in conjunction with an inflatable pillow, as a liner. During summer, I’d use a colder fabric, and vice-versa for winter. This improved thermal insulation, noise, and also touch, which was great, but still it wasn‘t a streamlined solution. 

More recently I came across the Forclaz Inflatable Hiking Pillow, which I reviewed here and that has been my travel companion since then. I wanted to test another option with similar concept but different execution, and ordered the Starling from Hummingbird, which is a brand more famous for their ultralight hammocks. 

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Hummingbird Starling Pillow

Starling is a warm pillow.

It is a bean-shaped pillow lined with a soft fabric and a padded top face. Weight is 3.5oz./99g. (advertised), and provides four inches of loft when inflated. The valve is located at the top back and is flat-type, but a bit oversized in my opinion. It’s easy and quick to inflate and deflate as most of its kind, though.

Comparing it directly to the Forclaz Trek, it’s lighter and packs smaller, which are bonuses no question. But unlike the Forclaz, the Starling‘s padding is minimal, and I found the fabric a bit hot even during mild winter nights. It’s not super hot, but definitely on the warm side compared to, say, the Sea To Summit, Naturehike, and some others. So, it’s good if you’re looking for a comfortable pillow for winter camping and backpacking, but I’m not sure it’ll be comfortable on really hot nights. I haven’t tested it during our summer, but it’s been a dry and hot winter and it already feels warm. I’ll update about this later in the year as the season changes. 

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Starling and Forclaz pillows side by side

The thing is, the removable Lyocell liner of the Forclaz is very effective at managing heat. I still don’t know much about this fabric, but specs aside, in use it’s still unequaled for me. It’s much softer and pleasant to the touch, and seem to adapt much better to different temps. In short, I sleep better with it than with any other pillows I’ve had previously, including the Starling. 

I also prefer rectangle-shaped pillows, not that the shape of the Starling is bad it’s just a matter of personal preference. Being fully covered in fabric, it stays in place and is very silent, even more so than the Forclaz, which has been the quietest pillow so far in my experience. 

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Big logo and big valve, too.

I thought the valve would be a nuisance because it’s big and rubberized. However, in all honesty I barely noticed it in use. I still prefer the small valve of the Forclaz which is located on the side, also because it allows me to flip the pillow in the middle of the night if I feel like (the Forclaz has a thicker padding on one side and a single layer fabric on the other).

Conclusion

I know this review is about the Starling, and apologize for talking so much about a competitor. But I can’t help comparing it to the my current favorite pillow which is the Forclaz (I even gave the Forclaz another half star on my review after testing the Starling).

Hummingbird did an awesome job with the Starling, and it’s indeed the second most comfortable pillow I’ve ever used. Even though a bit too warm, it’s comfortable and supportive, and stays put. It’s still in my pack, I keep exchanging between the two now. I’ve found it better for hammock sleeping, for that it’s even better than the Forclaz actually.

With a few minor changes, like a smaller valve for instance, it’d be close to perfect too, because it’s lightweight, silent, easy to use and clean, and very small when packed. If you’re looking for a comfortable and soft pillow for winter trips, the Starling might just be a great option. 

Experience

I’ve been using the Starling during the winter season here but we’re having an unusually warm and dry winter. Still, during the night and before sunrise, it gets cold out there. That’s when the Starling shines, because I’d classify it as a “warm” pillow. On hotter nights I wish I had a cooler pillow. It’s also very silent, easy to wash, and lightweight. All in all, I’d classify the Starling as a very good warm pillow great for cold-weather camping and backpacking.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: USD 21,50 + shipping and importing fees

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