SkyMall Monday: SkyRest Travel Pillow ACTUAL REVIEW

Over a year ago, I reviewed the SkyRest Travel Pillow for SkyMall Monday. It was the fourth product ever to get the SkyMall Monday treatment. In retrospect, it should have been first, as it is perhaps the most iconic SkyMall product ever. You proved that in our SkyMall Monday reader poll by voting it the Gadling reader favorite. In response to your overwhelming support of the SkyRest Travel Pillow, I vowed to give it a proper hands-on review. And I am proud to say that I have done just that. Earlier this month, I flew from LaGuardia to Ft. Lauderdale with the SkyRest to see just how comfortable it is. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a very special SkyMall Monday. Here is my actual review of the SkyRest Travel Pillow.

I should start by noting that I am a champion sleeper on all moving vehicles. No drugs. No pillows. Just my iPod, my “Sleep” playlist and, well, that’s it. I often fall asleep before takeoff. I’ve slept on Cessnas. I’ve slept in window seats next to the engine. I’ve slept in 4WD trucks on unsealed roads. So, using a pillow as a sleep aid is something of a foreign concept to me. That said, I approached the SkyRest with an open mind and vowed to put it to a proper test.

The SkyRest is inflatable, and when deflated it packs down to a relatively small size. I say relatively, because when it’s inflated, it’s big. But I’ll get to that momentarily. While it won’t take up a significant amount of room in your luggage, it won’t slip into a pocket either. If you are a casual or business traveler who isn’t overly concerned about minimizing the size of your gear, then the SkyRest’s deflated size shouldn’t be an issue. If you’re a backpacker, however, it will probably take up too much real estate no matter how much you compact it.

Inflation of the SkyRest is remarkably quick and easy. The valve prevents air from escaping while you are inflating the pillow, which helps you avoid the two steps forward, one step back drama that comes with inflating many pillows or sleep pads. Despite it’s immense size (again, we’re getting to that), the pillow fully inflates in under a minute. That is not an exaggeration. In one minute, the SkyRest goes from an awkwardly folded amorphous blob to a fully inflated travel pillow. And I was neither lightheaded nor winded upon completion.

Now, about the size. It is big. I mean, really big. It’s 14″ wide, 12″ deep, 11″ high in the front and 17″ high in the rear. Even Jenna Jameson thinks it’s big. The instructions make a point of recommending that you sit in a window seat to avoid blocking your seatmates from getting to the aisle. I defied this logic and booked my normal aisle seat on the flight to Ft. Lauderdale. I’m a jerk, but we’re not reviewing my behavior. We’re testing the SkyRest.

When I inflated it on my flight south, I felt compelled to warn my neighbors in advance. “Hi, I’m, um, about to inflate a very large travel pillow. It’s really big. If you need to get by me, you may want to do that now.” The man next to me nodded and then asked if he could squeeze past me. He never returned. He actually changed seats before even seeing the fully inflated pillow.

The pillow quickly inflated and I rested it on my knees. Depending on your height and preferred sleeping position, you can balance the pillow on your knees or the tray table. The SkyRest is quite comfortable and, since it’s inflatable, you can adjust the firmness to your liking. The angled top resembles a human buttocks, but don’t let that deter you from resting your head on it. The microfiber texture is soft and smooth, so there is no risk of chafing. There is, however, a real risk of being mocked. And stared at. People were looking (and giggling) at the SkyRest and me as if I had six heads.

I attempted to sleep with the pillow on both of my flights and found that the act of leaning forward to sleep just wasn’t for me. I tend to sleep on planes (and trains, automobiles and hovercrafts) in an upright position. Healthy or not, it’s what is comfortable for me. I found leaning forward with the SkyRest for any length of time placed undue strain on my neck and upper back. Thus, the SkyRest did not provide me with much comfort. Eventually, I had to deflate the pillow and stow it away to allow myself to actually get some sleep in my normal seated position.

That said, several people on both of my flights expressed that they preferred to sleep on planes while leaning forward. Once they got over the immense size of the SkyRest, they were open to the idea of a travel pillow that wasn’t simply a neck support. They seemed willing to perceive the SkyRest not as a novelty, but as a real alternative to traditional travel pillows. And, I completely agree with them.

Everyone’s sleep habits are different. The SkyRest Travel Pillow isn’t for me. But it’s for someone. For lots of people, actually. Assuming, of course, that those people also have plenty of room in their luggage, an affinity for being stared at and own garish Hawaiian shirts.*

* I do not own a Hawaiian shirt, so I made sure to wear my loudest shirt in an attempt to replicate the proper SkyRest experience. I hope I met your expectations.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.