Let’s face it – for most of us the very prospect of being relegated to the rear of an aircraft during a long-haul flight is not considered to be a comfortable experience. As a species, humans continually apply their intelligence to inventing ways in which we can best adapt to any environment, maybe that’s why we have survived on the planet for so long.
Unnatural environments can challenge even the most stoic of us, testing our resolve and resilience to survive environments which can be confining, even claustrophobic, to say the least. Hence the evolution of the travel pillow. I love to travel, heading off to distant lands to explore and interact with the locals, airports too are no different.
Many nationalities from around the globe congregate inside terminal buildings with only two things in mind; going somewhere, or getting back. When we do arrive at the airport we are already tired, early morning or late-night departures interfere with our body clocks, sending the traveler into a kind of travel coma, making the importance of frequent napping critical to maintaining our sanity for the duration of the trip. On board an aircraft is the perfect opportunity to kill a few hours and recharge for the next leg of the journey.
As an avid people watcher, I take great delight in observing people and the accessories they choose to travel with. Why? People have to carefully consider what they are going to take on board with them, as it can be extremely difficult to decide what’s important to take on board and what items to leave at home, factoring in the hefty restrictions imposed by airlines on weight restrictions these days.
Travel pillows are one such item which never ceases to fascinate me as I sit at the gate lounge waiting to board my next flight. Many designs, colors, shapes and styles can be found, from the practical to the sublime and the downright ridiculous. After recently returning from a trip to Thailand, I decided to take the time to check out some of the more bizarre travel pillows on the market today.
Sit back, make yourself a cuppa and come along for the ride as I investigate the wacky world of travel pillows.
Nap Anywhere Pillow
The NapAnywhere travel pillow looks more like a neck brace than a pillow. Developed by a physician to make traveling a more comfortable and enjoyable experience, Dr. Shamaienger who has a PhD in medicine together with a Master of Science degree in anatomy and also a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, has applied his knowledge of anatomy, coupled with his own personal travel experience to come up with this product, which in 2014 won the Product Innovation Award at the International Travel Goods Show.
Made specifically for travelers subjected to hours of being seated on board a plane, the neck travel pillow provides portable head support, which can be used on trains, buses and when a passenger is in a vehicle traveling long distances. Many travel pillows can be bulky and cumbersome, making them difficult to travel with and an inconvenient addition to carry around. Most U-shaped pillows fail to provide adequate support and comfort during travel.
The NapAnywhere travel pillow is ultra-supportive, light and compact. Small enough in fact to fit inside a laptop bag, or handbag. The unusual design is eye catching, inspiring the traveler to think differently about what they consider to be a product providing true comfort. Traditional U-shaped pillows force the head and neck into a downward position, whereas the NapAnywhere frames the head upright and on a slight tiled angle to one side, allowing the head and neck to be supported by a firm yet comfortable frame.
The position allows the traveler to keep both the head and neck relaxed during the trip. It takes only a few steps to prepare the NapAnywhere to accommodate you. Firstly, shape it; by creating a near 90-degree angle between the shoulder portion (smaller) and the neck portion (center strut). The strap is then placed along the underside of the NapAnywhere. Create an angle between the head portion (larger) and the neck portion. Secondly, place it; by placing the shoulder piece, positioning the neck portion close to the side of your neck. Tuck the head portion under your chin, along the side of your head and behind the back of your head.
Finally, brace it; by adjusting the strap below the armpit. The tension should be enough to keep it in place without being too tight. By adjusting the position of the NapAnywhere travel pillow by moving it around to provide more or less chin support, wearers can swivel it back or forward to suit. For more support around the back of the head, swivel the pillow backwards.
Available in a range of colors to suit just about everyone, the NapAnywhere travel pillow can make traveling a relaxing, refreshing experience. NapAnywhere travel pillows are manufactured using a strong yet flexible endoskeleton covered with a foam padding, which is wrapped in high quality fabric for breathable comfort.
Embrace Sleep Collar
Labeled a travel pillow for the 21st century, the Embrace Sleep Collar is ultra-lightweight, yet provides full neck support using a sleek modern design. The inside layer is made from memory foam providing extra comfort, the outside layer is bonded using a high resiliency foam for extra support.
Machine washable and available in five colors, the Embrace Sleep Collar may be just what you are looking for when seeking comfort on a long-haul flight. Having endured may flying hours using many different travel pillows which provided little comfort or relief, the creator collaborated with a group of friends to come up with the perfect travel pillow.
Looking much like a soft neck brace, the collar was designed for comfort, so aside from the look, little else compares with a neck brace. Providing passive support, the collar allows the wearer to keep their head and neck in perfect alignment with firm and gentle support. Using the same type of fabric as expensive running shirts, the collar will not leave you feeling hot, while the adjustable strap provides plenty of flexibility ensuring a firm snug fit, without feeling suffocated.
One of the key features of the collar is the small gap which prevents from pushing the wearers head forward, a problem with traditional styled travel pillows. Weighing under 3 ounces, its lightweight supportive design makes the Embrace Sleep Collar a great travel companion on your next trip.
Evolution Neck Pillow
Offering long lasting comfort, Cabeau, an industry leader in travel accessories have achieved their mission to make travel better for their customers. Available in four styles, Evolution Cool, Evolution Pillow, Air Evolution and Evo Microbead, I will focus only on the Evolution Pillow and Cool series for this article. Using a patented ergonomic design, the flat back portion of the pillow conforms to your neck, which won’t push your head forward. Raised side supports keep your head in place to prevent it from falling forward, which is common problem associated with a regular type of travel pillow.
Plush memory foam provides soft, yet supportive comfort, while the removable, washable cover is super soft on the skin. Additionally, the memory foam surface can be cleaned by hand, by wiping with a damp cloth and allowing to air dry before replacing the cover. A handy travel case means the pillow can be squeezed down to one quarter of its size making it easily carried between flights. Inside the bag, there are even a pair of memory foam earplugs to drown out ambient noise while on board.
Another handy feature of the Evolution Neck Pillow is the side pocket built into the pillow, which easily accommodates your phone, so you don’t have to fumble around looking for it when it’s time to change up the tunes. Weighing it at only 330 grams, its lightweight and easily carried, the Evolution Neck Pillow is also backed by a two-year satisfaction warranty.
The Evolution Cool neck pillow provides all the benefits as the original, with the added benefit of providing wrap around air circulation vents built into the design, keeping both you and the pillow cool at any altitude. Both pillows come with a magnetic clasp which is simple to engage and disengage, keeping the customized fit cosily neat around the neck without feeling like you are being placed in a choke hold.
Relax Alley Travel Restband
Developed by Finnish brand Active Ally Oy, this ergonomic sleep mask attaches to the back of your seat to stop your head falling forward or too far sideways during the flight, which can prevent micro trauma caused by pain experienced in the neck and shoulders. It’s often said the best ideas are the simplest, its basic design provides the user with a fully adjustable halo style covering which wraps around the head to secure the headband in place. The inbuilt sleeping mask folds down allowing the user to get some rest mid-flight. There’s also a pocket with earplugs to silence the ambient noise.
The Relax Ally travel rest band has been sold in over twenty countries and has been a popular choice among the traveling public, however in 2014 a gofundme page was launched in order to fund operational expansion globally. The Relax ALLY Travel Restband has been designed to be used with comfort in airplanes, trains, buses and cars or wherever there is a proper headrest to attach to.
The ergonomic, adjustable dynamic of the restband allows the user to create a comfortable position where they can relax, potentially doubling sleep time which has direct preventive health care benefits in using the product. The small and lightweight carry size with included carry bag makes it perfect for jet setters and backpackers alike.
Space Vibrating Neck Pillow
Perhaps a travel pillow with a massaging feature may appeal if you are susceptible to ‘stiff neck’ syndrome when traveling. The space vibrating neck pillow claims to provide maximum comfort, allowing you to wake feeling fully rested. The cushion cover print displays the cosmos. Manufactured using a combination of 85% polyester and 15% spandex blend, the pillow is filled with microbeads allowing for gentle body contouring. When the button located on the outside of the pillow is pressed, the vibrating mechanism is activated from inside the pillow.
The massaging feature though is only isolated to one area of the pillow which may be disappointing for some who may be expecting the massage feature to encompass the whole of the pillow. Whilst this feature is one of the main unique selling points of the pillow, to many the vibration noise has been likened to hearing a swarm of bees buzzing around inside their head.
The Upright Sleeper
Looking like something straight out of a nineties infomercial, the Upright Sleeper is the type of product you are going to either love or loathe. Visually it looks like a neck brace used to aid in the recovery of victims of a road accident. The Upright Sleeper is designed to keep the head still when sleeping while seated, standing up or laying down.
The wearer of this contraption can opt to purchase the tote bag which doubles as a cover when wearing the device, in order to avoid embarrassing glances from fellow travelers, or worse still becoming a YouTube sensation after someone has uploaded the embarrassing vision to the web.
Alternatively, use the cover to shield your face from the laughter that is bound to ensue for the wearer. Much like the Ostrich Pillow, I’m guessing this contraption is destined to end up in many a weekend garage or yard sale, in the $2 bin.
Launched on kickstarter and raising an amount in excess of $195,000, the Ostrich Pillow was pitched to the public as a revolutionary new product to enable easy power naps anytime, everywhere. The pillow’s unique design offers a micro environment in which to take a cosy yet comfortable power nap with ease. The Ostrich pillow was designed to allow the wearer to create a little private space within a public one, to relax and unwind. The soothing soft interior shelters and isolates the head and hands (mind and body) for a short break, without needing to leave your desk, chair, bench or wherever the wearer may be. The benefits of a power nap for periods of up to 20 minutes, can increase productivity by more than 30 percent.
The company designers, Kawamura-Ganjavian, are a young architecture and design studio that focuses on observing and understanding contemporary human needs, and are located in the UK. They believe sleep to be one of the most basic human essentials, which due to our busy life styles, traditional methods of sleep have had to change.
Their dream was to improve the world through the environment and products, even if it is while snoring! The Ostrich pillow was one of the products they created and shared on the web, where they received an overwhelmingly positive reaction. It was during this time they discovered thousands of people around the world shared the same need to nap.
Truffle Snooze Pillow
The Truffle snooze pillow is designed for people who are seeking a moment of escape from work or travel. The dome-shaped form lends itself to a simple and satisfying act of pushing that shapes the pillow to fit your body and give the head a comfortable place to rest, allowing the wearer to bring their dreams wherever they go. Its hollow inside, making it very flexible as it to conforms to persons unique and varying sleep positions. Resembling more like a gumdrop, than a truffle, it can travel anywhere to be used as a traditional pillow or alternatively it can be wrapped around the neck during a long flight.
This pillow is different in texture to many other pillows in that it’s squishy, which is down to the internal polyurethane fresh scent memory foam. Available in a variety of hues, which fade from bottom to top. The Truffle Snooze Pillow can be used both on the go, when traveling, or at home. It’s appeal when traveling with the pillow is that it can be crushed down to fit into any small space. The designer, Yiqian Peng who when reflecting on the concept stated, the pillow is designed for people who are seeking a moment of escape from work or travel.
JetComfy Travel Pillow
The idea for JetComfy evolved when two travelers came up with what they considered to be the perfect idea for a travel pillow. Constructed using 2” memory foam to cradle the face and neck, the pillow is covered in a micro-fiber pillow cover to provide further comfort and warmth. The cover is removable for washing and comes in a range of colors. The unit comes complete with an armrest strap which doubles as a strap and can be attached to luggage when on the move, keeping it safe and secure.
JetComfy is fully adjustable with height, swivel and tilt options allowing the user to position the pillow in the most comfortable way possible, fully customizing its use depending on your mood and seating position. Beneath the pillow the design allows for a cavity to accommodate two 000mAh built in power packs, when you purchase the upgrade kit, which also includes a compartment to hold their four in one pen/stylus/light/pointer for use when filling out forms when on board.
The JetComfy travel pillow conforms to all 2016 TSA guidelines, and as it takes up only around 5% of the arm rest, it won’t invade your neighbors personal space. The stand creates a stable platform in which to rest your weary head, which is fitted with a non-skid rubber to keep it held firmly in place, without damaging the armrest. More suited for the business traveler, than say the Truffle Snooze Pillow the unit is compact making it worth serious consideration for frequent business travelers.
As the name suggests, it’s a pillow, however, it’s also a brace and a frame covered in fabric to give the illusion of a scarf, or wrap. The internal support system is constructed of a single molded skeleton, with four prongs. The spine of the frame nestles at the base of the neck, with two prongs leaning on the neck and two on the shoulder and collar bone area.
The flexibility of the frame ensures pressure is absorbed into the frame and not on the points of contact with the body. The soft cover uses a hypoallergenic polyester fleece which is both comfortable and breathable, which is available in a range of colors. Weighing in at only 8 ounces, the Trtl pillow is lightweight and compact and has been scientifically proven to hold the head in a better ergonomic position than traditional memory pillows. It may take a little fumbling around to get the Trtl into the right position at first, however after a couple of uses it’s easily mastered.
Many users of the product swear by its quality, durability and flexibility when used on board aircraft during a long trip. I expected the Trtl to be available in a number of sizes, however the product is one size fits all, which is down to the clever design and testing which has been undertaken to ensure everyone who uses the Trtl will received the same level of comfort and support, although the Trtl is recommended for use for those over fourteen years of age.
So, no matter the type of travel pillow you choose be sure to select one that provides you with comfort and warmth without sacrificing on size and weight which are equally important considerations prior to purchase.