Gear Review: Kammok Pongo Pad Air Mattress and Puffin Pillow
It may be because I’m getting older, but a decent night’s sleep while backpacking is getting more and more important. Gone are the days of using eighth-inch foam or the three-quarter inch self-inflating pad. I want a pad that doesn’t let me feel every pebble, provides real comfort, but isn’t so heavy that I detest the weight. I’ve tried multiple different air mattresses and was intrigued by the opportunity to test the Kammok Pongo Pad and also the company’s Puffin Pillow.
Kammok Pongo Pad At-a-Glance
Size: 74 inches by 26 inches, tapering to 20 inches by 3+ inches
Weight: 18 ounces
Material: 20D polyester with anti-slip strips
Circumstances of Review
Over a three-month period, the Pongo Pad and Puffin Pillow received significant use. Trips included the Smokies, Ohio backpacking, and Ohio bikepacking. While not typically a hammock camper, I made sure to give the pad significant tests with an ENO Doublenest.
Kammok Pongo Pad Overview
The Pongo Pad arrived in an ample stuff sack along with a repair kit and a hammock “accessory kit” designed to keep the pad in place when used with a Kammok hammock. The whole works weighed in at just under the advertised 18 ounces. The mattress itself weighed very close to one pound.
Once out of the stuff sack, the first thing I noticed is how big this mattress is. Kammok only offers the Pongo Pad in one size, significantly larger than the 72-inch by 20-inch pads I’m used to, without a huge weight penalty. It could be called palatial. Between the thickness and width, it truly is close to sleeping in a regular bed.
If you blow it up yourself after a long day on the trail, you’ll also notice the extra air capacity. It can take a while to fill it. I counted 30 breaths as opposed to half that with my existing pad. However, Kammok recommends the use of their inflation sack. It’s quicker, easier, and keeps the moisture from your breath out of the pad. Thankfully, my Exped inflation sack fit the inflation valve as well. Interestingly, there’s both an inflation and deflation valve.
Other obvious attributes of the Pongo Pad are anti-slip strips to help hold the pad in place and the hammock accessory kit that further helps keep the mattress in place while in a Kammok hammock. The material is a 20D polyester and reasonably comfortable against your skin as well as quiet when you move around on it.
Certainly the most critical feature of any air mattress is that it holds air. The test pad did its most important job flawlessly. Each morning, the pad felt the same as it did when I filled it. While this was a summer test with no major temperature changes, I’m confident that this well-made pad will continue to keep me and my shoulders, hips, and so on off the ground.
Like other mattresses I’ve had, the inflation valve has an inner flap that keeps air from escaping between breaths or squeezes of an inflation bag. The deflation valve does not have the flap, allowing air to escape unhindered. On other pads, I’ve never noticed an issue with moving the inner flap to deflate, without resorting to a separate valve. This almost seems like a solution in search of a problem; but it certainly works.
The 20D polyester material has enough texture to feel comfortable, not sticky, on the skin. With an insulation R-value of 1.4, this is strictly a warm-weather pad. Once the temperature gets much below 50, without other insulation you will feel the cold ground (or air in a hammock).
The horizontal design of the baffles means there are significantly more individual “pillows” than a vertical design. To me this enabled the pad to better support and conform to my body. Due to its overall large size, there was little to no struggle to stay centered on the mattress. I never woke up on the ground next to my pad, which has happened on smaller models.
The pad has two sets of anti-slip strips. When faced up, they can help keep a sleeping bag from slipping off the pad. Faced down, there’s less likelihood of the pad slipping on the tent floor. Faced down in a hammock, there is noticeably less pad movement than with other models.
If you are still having movement issues with the Pongo Pad in a hammock, the included accessory kit will save the day, provided you are using a compatible Kammok hammock. Adjustable straps tie the pad and hammock together, locking the mattress in place.
The larger width also came in handy in the hammock. A major reason I’m not a fan of hammocks is the claustrophobic feeling I get when they close on top of me, despite my attempt to lie diagonal. The wide construction, along with horizontal baffles, kept the hammock material away from my face.
- Quality was high, with no noticeable defects or leaks over time.
- The baffles and thickness resulted in extreme comfort.
- The large size and anti-slip strips kept me centered on that comfort.
- The size and anti-slip strips also work well in hammock-specific conditions.
- The weight penalty for the size and comfort was minimal.
- Be aware that the low R-value means this pad is designed for warm weather camping only. Do not expect it to keep you adequately warm when the temperature drops.
- In a small, one-person tent, the Pongo Pad will tend to take up most of the floor space. Something to keep in mind if you tend to bring a lot of items into the tent with you.
Temperature limitations aside, this is the most comfortable backpacking mattress I’ve ever slept on. At $139, the price is certainly in line, if not cheaper, than similar models. At an even one-pound trail weight, the Pongo Pad is not the lightest option, but not dramatically heavier. Unless you are ruthlessly cutting every possible ounce from your pack, the small weight penalty will be more than made up by the added comfort in camp.
Hammock campers will find the design has a lot to like for their specific needs. It’s obvious that the designers have spent their fair share of time in the woods. The Kammok Pongo Pad is a tool that has managed to excel in comfort and quality without major penalties in either weight or price. The quality is high and Kammok believes in their products enough to provide a lifetime warranty.
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Kammok Puffin Pillow At-a-Glance
Size: 17 inches by 10 by 3 three
Weight: Under three ounces
Material: 50D stretch polyester
Through the years I’ve slept with no pillow, used a wadded-up rain jacket, used a fleece sack with clothes stuffed in it, a small pillow, and finally the Puffin. I’m now sold on inflatable pillows. The two- to three-ounce cost is well worth it for comfort. The Kammok Puffin Pillow comes in its own stuff sack, along with another hammock accessory kit to keep it in place on a compatible Kammok Hammock. The pillow itself sits right about two ounces. The material is soft on the skin and, when inflated, fits well into the hood of a sleeping bag while ground sleeping. In addition, the baffles keep the surface comfortably flat and the slight indent on the side is good for side sleepers. While pillow comfort is determined by each individual, the Puffin fills the bill for me.
Like the Pongo Pad, the pillow appears to be well made and stayed defect free during multiple uses. Looking at the REI website, there are 34 inflatable pillow options listed. In this dizzying array, I found other pillows with a similar shape and baffles. I found pillows at close to the same weight. I also found pillows that were cheaper. What was a little more difficult was finding all three in the same pillow. If you’re considering an inflatable pillow (and you should) the Puffin is a great option.
These items were donated for purpose of review.
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