Throughout my life, I’ve tried a bunch of U-shaped travel pillows – the ones that wrap around your neck – and frankly, they all sucked. But recently, I slept seven hours (seven!) in the middle seat of a long-haul flight with Travelrest’s Nest. Normally I’d feel like a defeated Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robot if I blinked too slowly, but I woke up feeling refreshed. It wasn’t the first time either.
More than anything, it was the shape that I noticed first. Most travel pillows look like puffy donuts with a bite in the front. The sides are often too low and the foam too spongy to keep the neck firmly straight in any direction. The bulging pillow pulls the back of your neck away from the seat, so the pillow eventually forces you to slouch, and the lack of cushion under your chin lets your head hang forward when you fall asleep. All your vacation photos have you bent over like Quasimodo because of your sore neck.
The Travelrest solves the first problem by making the back of the pillow flat so that it allows you to rest upright against the seat back without slouching forward. Rubber strips on the flat surface prevent the pillow from slipping. It also covers the entire 360 degrees of the wearer’s neck. Simply slip your head through the gap in the front, then use the hook-and-loop closure to close the gap. No more forward neck sag.
The Travelrest is much more sculpted to keep the neck straight than a typical neck pillow. The high sides reach and cut the chin all around. Without feeling claustrophobic, the Nest holds your head without leaving much wiggle room, so even when you fall asleep your head is kept fairly upright. Being able to fully relax my neck muscles is a huge plus.
Those high sides can get in the way if you’re wearing over-ear headphones at the same time to drown out the motors. It’s not a dealbreaker, just annoying, and something to keep in mind. If you need silence to sleep then I recommend using earplugs instead of noise canceling headphones.
The shape alone would not be enough to keep the neck well supported. The microfiber cover is plush and comfortable against the skin, and the memory foam is firm with just enough flexibility for comfort. For such a dense foam, it compresses into an incredibly small package. The Nest comes with a stuff sack, and it shrinks to about a quarter of its size once you stuff it into the bag and tighten the drawstring. Then you fold it in half and use another hook-and-loop fastener to further compress the pillow.
The only thing I’d like to see on the stuff sack is an attachment point to secure it to the outside of a backpack or luggage – a hook, loop, even just a fabric loop where I could hook a carabiner. I got around the limitation by threading a strap from my backpack under the hook-and-loop closure and closing it, but it’s not ideal, as it collapses on my back. Travelrest includes a free pair of functional but mundane earplugs, but I’d rather have a hook.
Catch some Z’s
The Travelrest Nest is $40, which isn’t outrageously expensive. It’s available in blue and gray, and you can remove the cover and wash it after a trip – another nice touch that many pillows don’t offer.
The only real argument against Travelrest’s Nest is that it goes in and out of stock with regularity. It’s been a problem for some time. If you’re willing to shell out all four Alexander Hamiltons, do it as soon as you know you’re going on a trip, because if you don’t and the Nest runs out, you’ll toss and turn one. of those foam donuts, and who wants that?