Plush but bulky, the Simple Pillow has a built-in pump that lets you inflate an internal air chamber for a customized fit. (Method Simple )

A pillow: The concept is straightforward enough. Or is it?

Citing the traveler’s scourge of neck pain, a company called MethodSimple has — somewhat ironically, given its name — created a fancier version of this most uncomplicated accessory for those occasions when lying down isn’t an option.

The Simple Pillow (, $39.99) is 11 1/2 inches long, with a shape reminiscent of a football collar. The bottom half of the front is covered in a meshlike moisture-wicking fabric. The pillow boasts a neoprene backing for traction, and the top has what the company calls an “ultimate cuddle plush front.” True to its word, the soft fabric feels like the kind used in an infant’s plush toy.

Perhaps the most gimmicky part of the Simple Pillow is its built-in pump, which lets you inflate an internal air chamber for a customized fit. It might remind you of the early ’90s pump-up-shoe fad.

The thing is, it works. The pillow perfectly cradled my neck and head, keeping them firmly upright without making me feel as if I was wearing a neck brace. MethodSimple suggests that you can also turn your head to the side, but I found that position uncomfortable.

With the pillow in my hands, I couldn’t feel much difference between its inflated and deflated states. But once I put it behind my head and started manipulating the pump, I could. My preference: Inflate it as far as it can go (25 pumps past the deflated state, for those of you with trigger finger).

I was less impressed with the Simple Pillow Lite ($29.99), the version without the pump. It didn’t give my neck as much support. In this case, the extra $10 is worth it for the souped-up model.

Unfortunately, the Simple Pillow’s structural advantages over a traditional pillow are also a drawback. This pillow was built for support, not for cramming into your carry-on bag. If you have the space, though, it sure beats your seatmate’s shoulder.