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Top Travel Pillows

People have been trying to make the perfect travel pillow for a long time now so there is a bewildering amount of choice now. You can go for the traditional foam pillow, or microbeads, or inflatable neck pillows, or inflatable body pillows, or even sleep scarfs with stiff inserts for support. There’s a lot of choice.

To help you through this bewildering list of options, we’ve summarised the key things to know about the best travel pillows below.

*All prices listed below are in USD and were as at the latest date the post was last reviewed 

  1. Travelrest inflatable pillow

The Travelrest inflatable pillow has a unique shape with the pillow eschewing the usual wrapped around the neck travel pillow design. This design makes it much more flexible if you’re not a fan of having your neck wrapped up and allows you to use several different options. There is string attached that allows you to fix it in position attached to your seat. We found it perfect for sleeping on planes.

Price – $23.95

Buy the Travelrest inflatable pillow here on Amazon

 2. Cabeau Travel evolution neck pillow

This is the classic style of neck pillow but it is the most comfortable version we’ve used. It’s made with memory foam that is super comfortable and although it isn’t as portable as an inflatable pillow, it comes with a bag and drawstring that can be used to compress the bag to a small enough size it won’t bother you.

Price – $39.99

Buy the Cabeau travel pillow here on Amazon

3. Microbeads Pillow

The microbeads pillow option is good for moulding the pillow to whatever shape you need. It can be used like a neck pillow but equally, you can use it as a normal pillow and arrange it however you prefer. Personally, I find it marginally less comfortable that the Cabeau style neck pillow. Though the general tube style is more flexible and more useful around the house though when not traveling, there are also neck pillow style microbeads options like this one too:

Price – $23.92

Buy the Microbeads Pillow here on Amazon

 

4. TRTL Sleepscarf

This is one of the more innovative options around. As the name suggests, the sleepscarf looks like a scarf but can be manipulated into a soft but rigid support for your neck. Structured foam and polyester fleece are used to hold your neck a more ergonomic shape than more basic neck pillow options

At only 148 grams, this is one of the best options if you’re short on space and just need some extra neck support when sleeping on a plane.

Price – $29.99

Buy the TRTL Sleepscarf here on Amazon

5. J-Pillow Travel Pillow

British invention of the year in 2013, this is another creative solution to help you get some quality sleep when on the road. The key difference is the J shape fits around your neck snugly to let you lean to your side and sleep without waking up to a stiff neck.

Slightly bulkier to carry around given it isn’t an inflatable option, it does still come with a snap-loop that lets you attach it to your bag when it’s not being used. Another useful feature is that the whole pillow can be thrown in the wash to be cleaned when needed.

Price – $29.95

Buy the J-Pillow on Amazon here 

6. Purefly Travel Pillow Luxuriously Soft Inflatable Neck Pillow

This is another inflatable option but has a few quirks that make it stand out. It has a unique method of inflation (the easy press of a button), a soft, velvet-y cover (machine washable), and a shape that provides further neck support than the straight U shaped varieties.

Price – $19.95

Buy the Purefly travel pillow on Amazon here

So what’s our favourite option?

Currently a toss up between the Travelrest pillow and the J-Pillow but it really does depend on how you are most comfortable sleeping. Wherever possible, try and borrow someone else’s and check if it works for you first before buying. 

Osprey Sojourn Bag Review

The Osprey Sojourn is one of the best convertible wheeled / backpack bags available. If you can afford the price, you will very likely be happy with the bag. After a solid 10 months of travelling around the world with them, we can confirm the Osprey Sojourn wheeled backpacks are a great choice for the long term traveller. Read on for our comprehensive review of these durable and flexible bags below.

We researched bags for a LONG time before deciding on the Osprey Sojourn 60L and 80L options respectively (the 60L has since been replaced by a 45L model). Our ideal bags had a long list of requirements. They needed to be convertible to able to be used as a backpack or a wheeled bag. They needed to have really quality features and be durable enough to last us a long time and not break after a few flights. They needed to be easy to use on a daily basis and they needed to not cost us the world.

Wheeled bag or Backpack?

Why not both?

We’ve found when travelling that, for the majority of the time, having a bag with wheels is ideal. Walking through train stations, airports, city streets and hotel hallways with a bag on wheels is usually easy.

However, there is the odd time when having a wheeled only bag is terrible. And those few times really suck when you are carrying a heavy and awkward bag. Think huge staircases with no elevators, long muddy roads, hopping on to and off boats. Sometimes it’s best to at least have the option of throwing the bag on your back.

We looked at just having a light backpack option that would fit on planes as carry on but travelling with nearly all our worldly possessions including a bunch of camera and tech meant we just couldn’t fit our gear in a small enough bag.  We don’t think we’re hoarders but we’re not minimalist travellers yet. If you can travel very light then looking at a great carry-on sized backpack is a good option but if the bag is going to be too heavy for long periods on your back or you have slightly too much stuff then you’ll mostly be like us and the ideal bag for longer trips will be convertible and have the option of both wheels and backpack straps.

Once you’ve decided on a convertible option then the Osprey Sojourn series is one of the best on the market. The main reason for this is something that applies to all of the Osprey gear we have used. Quality and durability.

Quality and durability

All Osprey bags come with a lifetime guarantee for a good reason. They are very well made, use quality materials and are made to withstand the thrashing that regular flights encountering rough baggage handlers will throw at them.

All our photos here are of the bags after 10 months of non-stop travel around the world. You can see some scratches that you’d expect after that period of use but there is no major damage at all.

The wheels, zips and padded support around the middle of the bags are all great, well made features. The wheels are hardy and we have taken these on every road surface possible for long periods and they’re still going. Even cobbled streets haven’t stopped them.

The zips have never caught and include the standard holes to allow you to lock the main compartment. We’ve also found the design of the bag useful for hiding the zips under the compression belt so that any opportunist thieves wouldn’t even be able to see the zips at first glance.

We have needed to put some slightly fragile gear in the bag for some of our flights and the huge, rugged padding on the sides with secure compression straps has made sure nothing has been damaged.

Ease of use

Packing, Unpacking and Access

There is just one huge compartment with 4 smaller pockets (3 inside the main compartment, one on top of the bag when it’s standing on it’s wheels and one A4 paper sized compartment at the back of the bag).

The large compartment has access from one zip but this opens the whole way to the bottom of the bag so you can still access the bottom of the bag when you need.

We think packing cubes are awesome and are great way to save time and organise your bag when traveling but one issue we found was that the original Sojourn bags we have taper at the top and bottom of the bag.

This means that the middle of the bag is much wider and will be where most of your gear will fit in. The packing cubes need to be mashed in at the top and bottom though. The taper at the top of the bag also meant that doing up the zips would be a little bit of a struggle in a really packed bag. This wasn’t a huge issue for us as we didn’t fully use the 60L and 80L capacities respectively.

This bag shape issue has actually been mostly rectified in the newer Osprey Sojourn bags. You can see the change when you compare a photo of the newer model next to the original.

As wheeled luggage

As a wheeled bag, the Sojourn is great. The wheels are big, rugged and don’t have problems on any surface that we’ve found. Due to the slightly fat bag shape, you do need to be slightly careful when in a hurry with the bag around corners (it is fine when going slow though).

The hefty, secure handles on the bag make it easy to lift securely when needed.

As a backpack

Converting to a backpack is as easy as opening the compartment on the back with the straps, using the usual process for adjusting the straps to loosen or tighten the fit as needed, put on the waist support and you’re good to go. It isn’t as comfortable as a specially made hiking backpack but it works well for a short period (i.e. less than 30 minutes). Anything over 30 minutes and it might start to grow a bit uncomfortable but it is surprisingly comfortable for a convertible bag.

I wouldn’t ever buy a convertible bag like this for the backpack option. The shape and size is not ideal for a backpack that should be made to hug your body in an ergonomic fashion but for use occasionally when the wheels aren’t an option and it’s too far to just lug it by the handles, you won’t have any issues with the Osprey Sojourn.

Features and specs

PACK SUSPENSION

  • Padded air mesh in the hipbelt and a tensioned mesh lumbar area distribute heavy loads and make for a relatively comfortable experience wearing the bag on your back.
  • Ventilated tensioned mesh backpanel keeps you dry in hot climates. You’ll appreciate this when walking around with the bag on your back on a sweaty, humid day in Thailand.
  • The backpack straps are quick deploying with a torso adjustment and they’re also removable when you need extra space for gear and don’t need the backpack straps.

HIGHROAD™ CHASSIS

  • Extra wide 16in/41cm chassis stabilizes large loads (although we still recommend taking it a bit slow on corners
  • Extra-large 4.25in/11cm wheels keep you rolling on the roughest of surfaces.
  • Retractable ErgoGrip™ handle provides a comfortable grip when toting loads
  • Lightweight 6061 aluminum frame

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

  • Deployable Backpack Suspension – Long haul capable deployable harness, hipbelt and backpanel for ultimate carry comfort
  • Removable Suspension – Backpanel suspension components are removable for increased packing capacity
  • Panel Access – Large panel zip opening with lockable sliders provides easy access to main compartment
  • Extended Handle – Dual tube extended handle for control of large loads on rough surfaces
  • Internal Compression Straps – Internal compression straps with fabric wings hold clothes securely
  • Internal Zippered Pockets – Four zippered pockets in main compartment keep gear organized

Options

You have 2 size options at the moment (45L vs 80L) and now also the option of looking at the newer models versus the old with the major difference being the bag shape being tweaked.

Given the extra cost of the newer model, I’d still recommend the older option if cost is a significant factor however the newer model may be worth the extra cost for you if you plan on utilising every bit of the capacity.

Our recommendation: if you’re strong and don’t have any issues carrying the weight and won’t need extended periods of use as a backpack, get the 80L as the size difference isn’t massive and it is worth the extra room.

If you’re smaller or will want to use the backpack set up for longer periods, get the 45L as the extra weight may be too much to wear as a backpack comfortably.

Cost

We looked at buying this off Osprey directly but found the best place to buy the bags was on Amazon (it was cheaper at the time than the stores we checked in person).

As of writing (October 2018), the prices were as follows.

Original Osprey Sojourn 45L – $225 USD

Original Osprey Sojourn 80L – $287 USD

Summary of the Pros and Cons

Pros

The quality of each part of the bag (zips, stitching, pockets, handles, wheels etc) is top class and hard to fault. We have beaten these bags up on many international flights where they have been abused as normal by airline staff to no great impact plus there is the lifetime guarantee from Osprey. The zips don’t feel like they’re going to break on you any time soon and they don’t catch awkwardly like some.

Cons

The original Sojourn bag was structured in an odd way that took some getting used to. It is small-ish at the base then gets nice and wide in the middle before narrowing and gets smaller and smaller to the top. This makes packing harder than with other, more consistently sized bags (especially with packing cubes). It also means that when the bag is packed very full then it is very hard to get closed.

This tapering likely is useful for distributing the weight lower when using the bag as a backpack but overall it is a bit annoying. I found it fine because I wasn’t using all 80L of the capacity so packing was never too complicated.

The new version of the Sojourn has solved this issue with a more conventional, less severe taper at the top of the bag. If you look at the tops of the bags below you can see the contrast and change in design.

What do the 1-star/2-star reviewers say about about the Osprey Sojourn?

There aren’t many but a few issues mentioned are below:
Ripped material – the material is really tough so I suspect this was due to the baggage handlings catching and tearing the bag. Any bag with material has this risk but the Sojourn doesn’t have any higher risk in our opinion.

Broken zip – one review mentioned a zip breaking when plastic got caught in it. Zips aren’t made to have plastic jammed into them so it’s not surprising this would break it.

For both of these issues the lifetime guarantee would apply and Osprey would likely cover the cost of fixing the bag so I don’t see them as a big issue.

The Verdict

The Osprey Sojourn is a great bag and an ideal choice for a long term traveller needing the flexibility of wheeled luggage and an occasional backpack option that can afford it for a long lasting, quality bag.

Buy the newer Osprey Sojourn 45L on Amazon Here

Buy the original Osprey Sojourn 80L on Amazon Here