This summer was my first living across Cook Strait on Te Ika-a-Māui, having recently shifted from my hometown of Dunedin. Unsurprisingly, I got less and less comfortable as the overnight temperatures rose. Could the Chillmax pillow ($29) be my sub-zero saviour?
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The Chillmax is a glorified gel pad, not dissimilar to the packs you might use in the chilly bin or for first aid. It doesn’t require chilling, though, as it rests at a lower temperature than your body so it remains cool.
The Chillmax slides easily into your pillowcase, along with your regular pillow. I prefer a lighter pillow, so I found its weight (more than a kilogram) irritating. While pillow comfort is subjective, the rigidity and density of the Chillmax didn’t suit my taste at all. It certainly wasn’t comfortable enough to be my sole headrest, and it also stymied the softness of my actual pillow.
Regardless, the Chillmax achieved its primary goal – it kept me cool until I drifted off. I found it slightly more effective than a desk fan, and much less disruptive. Unfortunately, the pillow reached its limit in the early morning. Since it continued absorbing my heat overnight, after several hours it was just as warm as I was. Worse, its nylon-like material sometimes became clammy. I usually ditched the Chillmax before daybreak as it was no longer achieving anything.
Despite refrigeration not being necessary, you can chuck the Chillmax in the fridge if you’re after some extra help on particularly sweltering evenings. Initially, I found this made my pillow distractingly cold, but I did grow to appreciate, maybe even prefer, the ice-pack feel. Sadly, it still failed to keep its cool until morning.
The Chillmax’s advertising touts a long list of alternative uses. I didn’t have much use for an exercise mat or “foot-cooling pad”, but I did use the pillow to chill my laptop while it ran some demanding programs. It worked, but it took some adjustment to get the computer sitting level on the uneven surface. The pillow also provided relief for sunburnt shoulders – so it’s no one-trick pony – but a regular gel pad could also do that, and for less than half the price.
I wouldn’t buy a Chillmax, mostly because I found it too awkward. That said, if the heat has you restless and you don’t mind the weight, it’s well worth a try.
Availability note: Until recently The Warehouse sold this pillow and there may still be some available in stores. It’s also available on Amazon and a smaller size on Fishpond.
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By Nick Gelling
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