The endless quest for a magic way to transform a coach class seat into a comfortable travel experience continues unabated. The obvious difficulty in achieving such an objective, and the continued hurdles being placed in our path by evil airlines and their ever-more-inadequate seating is being matched by ever-more-creative devices and ways of possibly improving our travel comfort and maybe even helping us snatch some sleep on a long flight.
One of the most interesting new ideas we’ve come across is that offered by the Cori travel pillow. Its unique feature is the ability to adjust its separate pieces to exactly suit your wishes and sitting/sleeping posture.
The device comes standard with two pillows – one shorter (about 6″ long), the other longer (about 9″ long), and a strap to mount them on. Each of the two pillows is about 3″ wide, and about 2″ thick before being squished.
The strap is about 32″ long, but you’d use at least four inches for overlapping the two ends so they can join and be held together by Velcro. The strap is 2½” wide and about 1/3″ thick. There is a wider part that is 4¼” wide and 9½” long in the middle – this appears to be intended as going on the back for rear neck support but of course you can position it any way you wish. A set comprising one strap and two pillows weighs just under 9 ounces, and it can be rolled up into a fairly compact form when not in use.
The idea is you place the two pillows on the strap as you wish, and then wrap the strap and pillows around your neck. The pillows have velcro patches on them that adhere to a velcro liner in the strap, allowing for easy placement and adjustment as you may wish. The strap also uses velcro to adhere to itself.
The pillow pieces are filled with memory foam. They come in a range of cheerful but not too over-the-top colors. The velcro has a much finer/softer hook side that isn’t nearly as stiff or scratchy as regular velcro, but still provides a great adhesion capability.
A video complete with an annoying inane soundtrack (calling it music would be an undeserved compliment) that plays too fast for our liking on their website demonstrates some aspects of the concept.
The idea seems great, giving us the freedom we wish to come up with the ideal placement of pillows and a securing strap to match exactly what we want, and the rapturous expressions on the attractive models in the video seem to support the idea that this is the best idea since floating soap. The company claims they have developed “The World’s Happiest Travel Pillow” – we’d never really considered evaluating pillows as innately happy or unhappy, but we’ll go with their flow if indeed the pillow is as good as it might potentially be.
For sure, the pillow doesn’t have any immediately obvious unhappy type drawbacks – it is neither heavy nor bulky, and both the ’embarrassment’ factor and the ‘obtrusive/impactful on fellow passengers’ factor when using one on a flight is much less than some of the other devices out there. It seems to have everything going for it.
So how did it work for us?
Using the Cori Travel Pillow
Alas, my immediate reaction upon opening up the package was one of puzzlement. Being a bit deterministic, I felt there was probably a better and best (and therefore also a worse and worst) way of setting out the pillows for optimum support and comfort, and I was not used to the concept of deciding for myself how to use the three part device. Other travel pillows have occasionally offered a very minor amount of customization such as how tight one secures them or how much you inflate them, but this was an entirely different degree of freedom.
I stared at the three pieces, I dutifully watched the video several times (with the volume muted), and I read the various instruction manuals and promotional fliers. I paged through their website. But nowhere did I see a clearly recommended layout. Instead, I saw five different layouts on the tag attached to the unit – plus a sixth showing a question mark and inviting me to customize the layout as I wish. But are five choices better than one? Is the freedom to customize better than having something pre-designed and good to go?
So I started to try different combinations myself, and each time felt disappointed because I did not end up looking as glamorously fulfilled as the girls on the video.
Freeing myself of a desire to emulate the video girls, I focused more directly on simply coming up with a layout that worked well for me. I got close on a couple of occasions – tantalizingly close where I was able to tell myself “If I place my head in this position, the pillows really do work” but then I would go and spoil it all by moving and discovering that if I then moved my head in a different direction, there was no support at all.
I even tried adding optional extra pillow pieces to the strap so as to have more support in more places, until I caught myself and realized that what I was attempting to do was to build a modular copy of the lovely Releaf pillow that remains my favorite of all travel pillows. It gives immediate and easy support, all around my neck, without any fiddly pieces or adjustments, just a single strap.
The wider portion of the strap was also pretty much useless. It had no built-in firmness or body to it, and so provided no support, just more soft floppy bulk.
Did I enjoy the freedom to in effect design my own perfect travel pillow? I expected I would, but no, I didn’t. I hasten to concede this may reflect poorly on me, rather than on the product, but in my case I found it frustrating rather than flexible, and no combination of pillow placements and strap ended up feeling comfortable.
The product is currently going through a successful Kickstarter campaign, with $34,428 raised compared to an initial goal of $7,340, so clearly my views aren’t shared by everyone else (although the funders haven’t got to actually try one, and I too was initially captivated by the promise of the concept). The product seems likely to retail for $49.95 or thereabouts (SGD70), and if you invest in the Kickstarter campaign you stand to get one for as little as $36 (SGD49), with shipping in November and delivery probably in time for Christmas. But a Releaf pillow, my current ranking favorite of all travel pillow products, is a mere $19.99 on Amazon and available now.