Mankind’s quest for the ‘Holy Grail’ of travel products – a way to be comfortable and possibly even to sleep, while scrunched up in a coach class seat – continues apace, with the latest variation on the theme of travel pillows being released by a British company, and now available for US fliers through Amazon.
The Roamwild Surround Pillow starts off as a fairly typical seeming collar type travel pillow. But don’t let its appearance on a store shelf fool you – there’s a lot more to it.
The pillow itself is made of memory foam rather than being inflatable or made out of any of the other types of insubstantial filling. This makes for a fairly firm support, and a suitably comfortable support. Some of the generic travel pillows end up providing very little support, making them almost useless, the Roamwild is much more assertive in its support.
Perhaps a key reason for the Roamwild’s more substantial support is a simple but very effective feature on its front – a fastener that you can use to clip and hold the two sides of the pillow together. That way you can allow the pillow to be as firmly supporting as you wish, and the pillow arms don’t just weakly splay apart and end up as little better than useless.
The fastener is also useful for another thing. When clipped together, you have a closed loop which means you can safely wrap the pillow around a handle of your carry-on or something else and not worry about it falling off or getting lost while walking to/from the gate and airplane.
The other distinctive feature of this product are two inflatable side pillows. Normally stored uninflated and simply wrapped around the main arms of the pillow, you can deploy either or both of these and blow them up to whatever degree of firmness you want for additional side support. It is best to inflate these once the plane has got most of the way up to cruising altitude due to the pressure changes that occur in the cabin which make anything you inflate on the ground become very much firmer after the cabin pressure reduces.
I’m not too sure how universally useful the side pillows are. They are definitely helpful if you want to lean against the side of the plane – if I try and do that with an airline pillow, it invariably falls down sooner or later and gets lost, in the dark, on the floor. The manufacturer suggests the side pillows might also be useful as ‘privacy shields’ if you want to appear less approachable to an overly talkative person seated next to you. But when just sitting upright, they didn’t seem to make a great deal of difference, compared to the support already present in the main pillow collar arms, if the collar arms are tightly joined together with the connector.
You can also only slightly inflate them if you want extra support from the main pillow collar, making the pillow collar sort of simply rise a bit higher. I have a reasonably long neck and felt the standard collar was more than sufficiently supportive, however.
If you do choose to use them, you’ll be pleased to learn that the side pillows don’t interfere with headphone use. I was able to wear my usual set of noise cancelling headphones with no problems and also having a side pillow fully inflated. If I am using the side pillows without headphones, I notice that they sort of wedge up against my ears a bit as well.
The collar can be rotated 180º if you want even more robust support to stop your head falling forward. This is also sometimes helpful if the back of the seat gets in the way of the back of the collar.
Due to the memory foam, the pillow weighs almost one pound, quite a lot more than the least expensive generic blow-up pillow you can find in an airport shop, but still far from being bothersomely heavy.
The pillow has removable washable covers making it easy to keep clean.
So – is this a valuable and welcome addition to the main different shapes and sizes of travel pillow already out there? It is very similar to the Cabeau memory foam pillow, which also has a tie clip type front fastener (but no side panels). I find the Cabeau’s front fastener a bit more fiddly and difficult to use than the simple clip of the Roamwild.
The Roamwild sells on Amazon for $34.95 whereas the Cabeau seems to mainly be priced at $39.95. So – no worse, maybe a bit better, and $5 less expensive. That sort of seems like a slam dunk to me!
Note that regular generic travel pillows sell for as little as $10 or so. I’ve never liked any of the generic pillows, but presumably some people get some value from them. Overall, an extra $25 is a very tiny premium to pay if it means you’ll get some comfortable rest and possibly even sleep in return.