A reader wrote in to comment on last week’s Travel Blanket review and shopper’s guide. We also discussed travel pillows, and I went to find the link to my review of my current favorite travel pillow to send to him. But – after some searching, I discovered that, even though I have had one of these units since early 2008, inexplicably, it seems I’ve never written a review about it. Ooops.
So, let’s consider this a nine-year usability test – probably the longest a person has ever taken to test and review a travel pillow! Can I submit this article to the Guinness Book of Records?
The problem with so many regular travel pillows is they either totally don’t work, or else are either very complicated and/or wildly impractical – way too bulky, or will make you look so strange as to cause even the most thick-skinned of us to cringe self-consciously and prefer the torture of trying to sleep unsupported in a coach class seat.
We see a steady stream of sometimes very creative new approaches to this problem, but we seldom see ones that actually work well and are a sensible product for normal travelers to consider. But, once in a while, something truly different and also truly good comes along. The Caldera Releaf Travel Pillow is one of these rare products.
As you can see from the illustration above, it is basically a modified neck-brace. And as is illustrated here, it is a soft flexible brace that you simply wrap around your neck and then use the velcro tab to hold in place.
The net result is actually more beneficial than you might think. Yes, the device – they call it a Neck Brace – does then stop your head from falling – no matter whether it would fall forwards or to the side, your head is now well supported. That’s enough already to justify the unit’s modest $19.99 price on Amazon (and elsewhere).
But it does something else as well – it does indeed support your head, and if you set it to a firm tightness, it is now actually supporting your head (typical weight up to 12 lbs) and your neck/shoulder muscles can relax. This helps your body as a whole to relax, and makes it easier for you to mentally relax and perhaps then sleep, and has you less stressed at the end of your journey.
This stress relief is particularly relevant when you’re sitting immobile and unmoving for extended periods. During our normal day, our head is shifting and moving all the time, so the support muscles are being worked and tightened and released, but when we’re sitting unmoving in a plane, the muscles set in a particular position with no relief or rest. Hence this extra benefit of the Releaf Neck Brace.
If you ever speak to someone who has had to wear a neck brace for medical reasons, they’ll tell you that while the unit looked awful and was awkward and restricting, it was also surprisingly comfortable. One guy told me that he didn’t want to take it off again. This is because the neck brace takes over much of the job of holding your head upright.
The Releaf product gives you almost the same benefits as a ‘real’ neck brace, while being not quite so restrictive or confining. You can set your own degree of tension/support simply by deciding how tight to fasten the velcro. Sometimes I go for moderately loose, so I can move my head around and sort of sink my chin into the unit – this is good for when I’m semi-active, other times when settling in for hopefully a nice long sleep, I’ll make it tighter for more support and with my chin above and resting on the top of the brace.
It only takes a couple of seconds to put on, and even less time to take off again.
The unit is lightweight and easy to roll up or fold over to stuff into your travel bag. It weighs a hair over two ounces – in other words, only slightly heavier than a feather! And size-wise, I fold mine into a shape that is about 7″ long, 4″ wide, and 1 1/2″ – 2″ thick. And because it is so flexible, you can stuff it into a bag any way at all to use whatever remaining space there is.
It comes in several different color combinations, and in two sizes. The larger size is longer than the smaller size; both have the same width and height, it is only the length that differs. Most adults will want the large size, which is suited for 15 1/4″ and larger sized necks.
I’ve been known to use mine when stealing a short nap at my desk, and it can work well in a train or bus/coach or anywhere at all where you want to sleep while sitting rather than lying.
So – lightweight, small size, easy to use, works brilliantly, and only $19.99. Based on my, ahem, nine-year evaluation, I’m happy to now finally and highly recommend the Caldera Releaf Neck Rest/Travel Pillow!