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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Portland, OR

    Lightbulb Lev's $1 Ultimate Knee Pillow Hack

    This is my new favorite hammock thingy. Combine one 16-gallon trash bag and a dollar store laundry bag for the ultimate hammock knee pillow. "Breakfast from the hammock" will never be the same ;-)

    What makes it "ultimate"?

    • Eliminates calf ridge annoyance and knee hyperextension.
    • Eliminates numb heels.
    • Reduces lower back pressure.
    • So big, it puts you into full Lay-Z-Boy style recline.
    • So big, you can comfortably lay banana-style.
    • Doubles as a back pillow for Sofa Mode.
    • Triples as a waterproof pack liner.
    • Ultralight: ~2.5oz for the combo.
    • Packable: takes up negligble pack space.
    • Well placed insulation when using partial underquilts.
    • Uses materials you were probably going to bring anyway.
    • Costs almost nothing.

    How To Make It

    You will need:
    • (1) 16+ gallon trash can liner, commonly used for small trash cans around the office. The kind I have been using are transparent and non-stretchy.
    • (1) Dollar store "laundry bag". This is a non-woven (i.e. "plasticy"), round-bottomed sack with a drawstring. If you can't find this item at your local dollar store, there are many easy alternatives (discussed further down).

    1. Put the trash bag inside the laundry bag.
    2. Inflate trash bag about 1/2 - 3/4 full.
    3. Tie it closed with a ribbon or thick string.
    4. Tie laundry bag closed.
    5. Yer done, son.


    I love my Warbonnet Blackbird, but alas, it has terrible calf ridge issues. A knee pillow is the best solution for this. I know i can put my jacket into a stuffsack and use that as a knee pillow. I've done that for years, but that isn't good enough anymore. Now i want luxury. I want HUGE. Oh, and i also want light, packable, and cheap. Can i get all of that? You bet! Based on some research in this thread, I came up with this solution. It's also loosely based on how the Toucan's beak is made.

    Design Discussion

    The basic concept here is to take a fragile, airtight bag and combine it with a more robust outer shell. Neither item works well by itself, but they combine for great results.

    This thing is really, luxuriously huge. It feels like floating on a giant marshmallow. It easily takes care of the calf ridge issue. It also manages to lift your legs up high enough that pressure on your heels is also reduced. That means you don't get numb heels. It will prevent your knees from hyperextending. It puts enough bend in your reclined posture that it reduces lower back pressure, much like being in your favorite recliner at home.

    It works AMAZING as a back pillow in the hammock. If you want to sit upright in "Sofa Mode", most hammocks don't perform well at this. Usually a hammock lays you unfomfortably far back when sitting cross-wise, putting you into a "compressed slouch". I used to wad my sleeping bag up behind my back to help prop me up while i drink my tea in the hammock. With this pillow behind my back, it puts me fully upright AND it's extremely comfortable!

    It's so big, you can comfortably lay banana-style. This puts your upper body upright while still keeping your knees bent. This is an excellent lounge position for coffee and looking over maps.

    Because the "laundry bag" is a plastic material, it is inherently waterproof. And it's big. And it has a drawstring. That means it makes a great interior backpack liner, something i would have brought anyway. That means i get all the benefits of the pillow without adding virtually any weight. I pack a trash bag and my down items inside the laundry bag, and when i get into camp, dump the contents and convert it into a pillow.

    The laundry bag weighs 2.1 oz (60 grams) and the trash bag is just a few grams (various by type), so i take several of them. (Trash bags come in handy for other things in camp).

    When tying the trash bag closed, it is important to use either thick cordage or a ribbon. Small cordage can damage the fragile bag. I also found it helpful to tie a knot that doesn't damage the bag. I use a regular shoelace knot, but instead of starting with an overhand knot, i use a lark's head. This makes it much easier to untie later and won't rip holes in the bag. As a last resort, you can skip the string and just tie an overhand knot in the bag itself.

    If you have a partial underquilt, your lower legs are exposed to the cold. This pillow fills up that whole area and seems to stay warm at night. If you are a partial underquilt user, you are going to love this pillow.

    In either diagonal, banana, or Sofa Mode, this pillow makes "breakfast from the hammock" so much better. I don't want to get out!

    Trip Report

    I took this pillow concept on a 5-day / 4-night trip around the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. Overnight temperatures were around 50F. The pillow was my favorite hammock thing on the trip. It adds a shameful amount of luxury to your otherwise spartan backpacking experience. It's the Holy Grail of backpacking: Light, Cheap, and Effective.

    The trash bags i used are not the best. They tended to deflate very slowly overnight. They would still be inflated by morning, but needed a few more puffs to get it ready for breakfast lounging. They tend to fail after a few nights, so i took several. When they were done being airbags, i could also used them many other in-camp things.

    When i tried it as a back pillow, i thought "WOW! It's perfect!" I can just sit upright, gently swing, and watch squirrels chase each other around while i drink my tea.

    One drawback i noticed is that the laundry bag's plastic material acts as a vapor barrier, so it feels clammy against bare skin if you are in it for a while.

    Also note that because the bag has no internal structure, it can feel sort of wobbly. It takes a bit of practice to get your legs across it and stay stable. You will want to experiment with how full to inflate the bag. I noticed that inflating it too full puts a lot of pressure on it and makes it much more likely to rupture due to internal pressure.

    I did not notice any significant problem with the pillow creating a draft gap with the top quilt. I also did not notice the interior air of the bag getting chilly overnight. Between the full length underquilt and the top quilt, the pillow itself stayed warm. Of course, this is a warm weather trip to begin with, so YMMV and all that.


    Instead of a dollar store laundry bag, you can also just use your jacket. Simply zip it up and pull the arms inside. Pull the inflated garbage bag inside. If your jacket comes with a drawstring bottom, cinch it down to keep it all together.

    Another option is a nylon stuff sack such as this Coghlan's Water Repellant Utility Stuff Bag (Large) It isn't waterproof and doesn't do as well as a pack liner, but it's a more robust solution than the dollar store option and only costs $8. It's a good option for home use.

    I have only tried one kind of garbage bag so far. If you experiment and find one that works better, is stronger, or is less likely to deflate, please let us know what worked.

    If you try this out or come up with better ideas, please post something. I would like to hear how it works out for you.

    Happy hammocking!

    knee_pillow_diagram.jpg knee_pillow_back_pillow.jpg knee_pillow_banana.jpg knee_pillow_in_hammock.jpg
    Last edited by leiavoia; 05-27-2018 at 18:40.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Cabmanhang's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    DIY 12ft HyperD 1.6SL
    The Stingray DIY
    Another ultra creative solution, Lev.
    "If we lose the forests, we lose our only instructors. People must see these forests and wilderness as the greatest educational system that we have on the planet. If we lose all the universities in the world, then we would lose nothing. But If we lose the forests, we lose everything." -- Bill Mollison

  3. #3
    Otter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    DIY Hexon 1.0, Hexon 1.6
    WB Mountainfly
    HG UQ's, EE TQ
    Dutch Mantis
    I, too, use a knee pillow and I'm gonna try it. Thanks!

  4. #4
    Senior Member old4hats's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Ball Ground, Ga.
    Sure looks promising enough for me to try. This should great for every night hangers at home as well.
    If you prepare for failure you will probably succeed.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Saskatoon, SK
    Amok Draumr 3.0
    Synmat 9 LW
    cinch buckles
    hrm, neat idea. I definitely feel the knee hyperextension in my sunrooom hammock after about 3ish hours. I wonder if just using a regular dry bag (or the schnozzel bag) would work well enough

  6. #6
    Senior Member Flash Grundelore's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Columbus, NC
    AMOK Draumr 3.0
    $$Tree here I comz...
    [just need the laundry bag, I already carry the others car camping for use in my 5gal can "kludgy", so I needn't trek to the rest station in the wee hours]
    >> Onward thru the fog...>>
    Find me on my blog Moosenut Falls

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Norfolk, VA
    Great idea, Been using pillows at home, not an ideal hang in the house, would like it a bit larger. Will have to try this.

    Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk

  8. #8
    Senior Member bobamos's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Wildomar, Ca.
    Hennessy Expedition-Equip Mosquito-
    Hennessy and Yukon
    Snugpak Underblank
    Daisey chain
    WHat a great and inexpensive idea!!! Thanks for sharing.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Dublinlin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    SW Missouri
    SLD Trail Lair
    SuperFly, MiniFly
    Wooki UQ; LL/HG TQ
    Dutch Spiders
    Neat idea! I’ll have to give it a try on my next trip!

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Woodland, CA
    WB Blackbird
    RSBTR Winter Hex12
    DIY Wookie style
    Tensa4, Trekking
    I use a FlexAir disposable medical pillow (large) for the same thing. I got mine on eBay for about $2.50 each. Can't find them individually right now, but a pack of 50 is under $40 shipped. These inflate and deflate with a straw, and I have yet to wear one out. Can't sleep without it (or something else that does the job). IIRC they are about an ounce each.
    Come check out the Tensa4 tensahedron stand and other hammock stands at and [email protected]

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