Seeking a little more luxury and comfort in the backcountry?
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $24
Seeking a little more luxury and comfort in the backcountry? At around USD $25, the Sierra Designs DriDown pillow is a comfortable, reasonably priced, well-designed, and responsibly sourced down pillow for backcountry use. The flexible design of this pillow system allows one to shed weight or add luxury as desired.
- Flexible design
- Responsibly sourced down
- Extra pack weight and bulk
- A little too down for some side sleepers
The Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow is actually a pillow "system" consisting of a DriDown-filled, quilted pillow top, a synthetic pillow, and a lightweight stuff sack. I use the term system because one can carry only those components one wishes to carry.
It is perfectly possible to use only the synthetic pillow, or, if one only needs a little cushioning under one’s head (as, for instance, when one is in an already supportive hammock), the pillow top alone may suffice. In lieu of carrying the synthetic pillow, one may instead opt to plumpen the pillow top with an already packed down vest or a spare pair of socks, too (see image, below). The system is thus simple and flexible.
The DriDown pillow measures 13 x 9 x 2.75 in/ 33 x 22.8 x 7 cm. The entire system weighs in at 5.5 oz/ 157g. The pillow top alone weighs in at 2.65 oz/ 75g, and the synthetic pillow weighs 2.5 oz/ 72g. The stuff sack—convenient for keeping all components clean—weighs only .3 oz/ 9g.
Materials and Design
The quilted pillow top is made of soft 30D polyester ripstop fabric that is comfortable to the skin but also reasonably durable. The diamond quilting keeps the 600 fill DriDown in place, providing even support for one’s head.
Let me indulge in a brief down digression: I learned from the trackmydown.com tag that the down used in my pillow, from lot # 1904L15F776, is Grey Duck down, originating (100%) in China, and produced by Allied, a company that responsibly sources material from birds that have never been force fed or live-plucked. The down Allied distributes comes from microfarms and small villages that raise animals for food, allowing the animals to reach older ages and produce larger clusters of desirable down with “virtually non-existent animal welfare issues” when compared to larger industrial farms.
Allied further notes that the company assisted in the development of the Responsible Down Standard and that it continues to work with animal welfare organizations. Rated at a fill power of 600, it has nevertheless been verified at 850. I also learned that the down has been washed to achieve a hypoallergenic status.
DriDown itself claims to stay dryer 10 times longer than untreated down, stays warmer when exposed to moisture by preserving its loft 2.7 times better, and dries more quickly—33% faster—than untreated down. That’s comforting, although I did not soak my pillow to test these claims.
The pillow top itself is much like pillow tops on beds everywhere in that it has an overlapping flap on the back that secures the pillow in place without need for any zipper or other hardware. This ensures things stay in place without compromising comfort.
The insert pillow (seen below, atop the pillow top) is covered in pearl-colored ripstop with a seam running the perimeter that allows air to escape the pillow as pressure is applied to it. This prevents one from reclining one’s head on a shifting pocket of air, as one might with an inflatable pillow. Nevertheless, the synthetic filling holds it shape and provides a cushion of comfort.
Finally, the stuff sack offers lightweight protection for the system as a whole. When stuffed with the components, the sack measures about 8.5 in/ 21.6 cm long with a compressible 4 in/ 10 cm diameter. The sack appears to have received a water resistant treatment as it tends to sheds moisture, a nice touch given the down. The sack secures with a bit of stout cord a a small cord lock.
I have gone through a number of backpacking pillows. For a number of years I’ve used an Exped Air Pillow, which has served me well, especially when ground sleeping and when I can keep it away from my elder son, who appropriates it if I am not attentive. However, I have not found it useful for hammock camping: its height, an asset for ground sleeping, becomes a detriment to comfort in a hammock, and partially inflating it has not proved satisfactory for me.
The DriDown pillow fits the hammock niche nicely, providing multiple configurations and options that all work well in the hammock. The pillow top offers just a touch of support and comfort, while other iterations—stuffed with the provided synthetic pillow, a down vest, or other soft pieces of kit—provide more support and insulation. On a recent sub-freezing trip, I welcomed the full pillow top and insert pillow combo for both their comfort and their insulation above the reach of my underquilt.
Although the DriDown pillow is a little too low for my tastes as a ground sleeping pillow (I’m a side sleeper at times), it can be used with a folded fleece or some kindred garment to create a satisfactory arrangement, retaining its flexibility for ground sleeping, too. It may slide around a bit more under these circumstances, though.
The DriDown pillow does add both bulk and weight to a pack. For some, this may be a drawback. Yet, while the full DriDown pillow system weighs more than my other frequent-use inflatable pillow, this added weight seems to me a justifiable luxury. Waking under a clear backcountry sky, refreshed from a good night’s sleep, and free of a stiff neck certainly makes carrying this compact and squishable accessory worth contemplating.
Hammockers especially may find its flexible design and various configurations useful, while anyone who enjoys the luxury of sleeping on something that feels like a real pillow should consider this (if you're a side sleeper just weigh the pros and cons of the pillow's height). At around USD $25, the Sierra Designs DriDown pillow is a comfortable, reasonably priced, well-designed, and responsibly sourced down pillow for backcountry use.