CAMPING & HIKING

Best Backpacking Pillow: Choosing A Comfortable Camping Pillow

Women sleeping with camping pillow
Jerry Mueller
Written by Jerry Mueller

A hiking pillow is one of the most neglected items during a camping trip. This is probably because some backpacking enthusiasts see it as a waste of space. In the past, all campers had to do was roll up some clothes and place it on the ground in place of pillows.

Today, technology has made it possible to have a lightweight, soft and comfortable pillow for your outdoor adventures. This article will cover a review of the best backpacking pillow to consider on your next trip.

Different types of camping pillows

Types of Backpacking Pillows

Backpacking pillows come in different varieties, and knowing what they are will help to make the selection process easier. The most popular of the pillows are briefly discussed below.

Inflatable Pillows

Inflatable pillows do not take up much space in backpacks. This feature is their biggest advantage. Also, they are a lot cheaper than their counterparts, such as down travel pillows.

Inflatable Pillows

Compressible Pillows

This pillow is filled with light and compressible fabric, so they can be folded down to a smaller size when necessary. However, some of them are more compressible than others. Still, the most compressible pillows take up more space than the average inflatable pillows.

Compressible Pillows

Nonetheless, they offer better comfort, and you may want to give them a try if comfort is the most important factor for you. Also, if your backpack has extra space as well as back strength to hold some more ounces, you can consider this option.

Down Travel Pillows

This is one travel pillow that people love and hate despite the fact that they are a lot more comfortable than other types. Some of these travel pillows compress correctly, but they fail to return to their original size when they are taken out. After use, they might also become too tiny and uncomfortable.

Down travel pillow

So if you plan to buy this kinds, test it by compressing it thoroughly and check if it’ll spring back to the original shape. For online buyers who may not have this privilege, they can check user reviews as well as the presence of warranty from the manufacturer against loss of shape.

Air-core Pillows

This travel pillow is regarded as a great combination of comfort and portability. They have a thin layer of padding on the center, and this part is filled with air. The pillows are also small and light, yet comfortable.

Air-core Pillows

Apart from knowing the types of backpacking pillows, other factors must be considered before buying a backpacking pillow. They will be highlighted below.

Considerations Before Buying a Backpacking Pillow

Buying a backpacking pillow may seem like a simple task, but some camping enthusiasts disagree. There are so many features you should consider before picking one that suits your need.

Firmness

A backpacking pillow has to be firm to provide enough support to your neck and head while you sleep. However, it mustn’t be too firm so it doesn’t feel like you’re sleeping on a rock. If possible, you can check the pillow’s firmness by firmly pressing it with your hand. If it presses down completely, it’s too soft and wouldn’t support your neck and head as it should.

firmness of backpacking pillow

In the same vein, if the pillow does not press down at all when force is applied to it, it’s too firm and would not be pleasant to sleep on. Pillows that partly press down are an ideal choice because they provide the best comfort to firmness ratio.

Budget

Like every other camping gear, when richer materials are used in the gear to provide extra comfort, the price tag becomes a lot higher. Same applies to backpacking pillows. As some say, you get what you bargained for.

In reality, it isn’t wrong to be practical when buying a camping pillow. There are lots of available options on the market to choose from. However, you don’t have to spend too much to buy a travel pillow unless you’re suffering from a serious or life-threatening illness that requires such a special pillow for adequate head and neck support.

Pillow Covers

Pillow covers also seem trivial, but make up an integral part of a hiking pillow. Some of these covers help keep a camper warm and are smooth to touch, helping you to fall and remain asleep easily.

pillow covers

Other pillow covers retain too much heat, which can make you uncomfortable while you sleep. They’re not a good option and can be worse if the weather isn’t cold.

Portability

On a backpacking trip, you want your bag to be as light as it can be, and so opting for a pillow that takes up very little space is ideal. Even though inflatable pillows shrink to a very small size, they’re not the only products that are extremely portable. Lots of pillows are made with a detachable inner covering, which makes the pillow smaller and easier to carry when it is removed.

portability of backpacking pillow

Size

Make sure the pillow size is just perfect for your body. Some side sleepers may need a thicker and lengthier pillow than people who sleep on their back while a small flat travel pillow will be best suited for stomach sleepers.

Material

There are different types of travel pillows in the market today, and they are made from various materials, each with its own pros. Most of the popular pillows are made with synthetic fabric as they are durable, available, and can work well under different weather conditions.

material used for backpacking pillow

In spite of the rarity of the natural fabric backpacking pillow, lots of seasoned campers prefer it for their trips to the wild. They believe that it provides more comfort and wouldn’t mind spending the time to find the perfect one to give them that comfort.

Pillow Fillings

Pillow fillings should also be considered before making a final decision. Hikers have a choice of compressible, inflatable or a mixture of both to choose from. Each variety has its own unique advantage, so you need to consider this factor.

  • Inflatable Pillows: Since it is filled with air, you can modify its firmness to fit your taste.
  • Down Feather Compressible Pillow: Lots of hikers prefer this natural option as it mimics the regular pillows used at home. The fillings are lighter and more compact when compared to the synthetic fillings. This gives it a point for portability.
  • ​Synthetic Compressible Pillow: These fillings are firmer than the others and are ideal for people who prefer a firmer pillow. Aside from its firmness, this filling provides some support for the neck while snoozing. It is also a cheaper option compared to the down feather filling.
  • Hybrid Compressible Pillow Filling: As the name implies, this filling is a blend of the down feather and synthetic pillow. Users of this filling can enjoy a taste of both worlds. Lots of hybrid fillings are available on the market, and hiking enthusiasts recommend them. It may be more expensive, but it offers a better sleep experience.

​Comfort Level

Nobody would ever buy a camping pillow that does consider the comfort level factor. For a good night’s sleep in the open, comfort is the main consideration that hikers should look for.

comfortable backpacking pillow

All hikers especially like a well-designed camping pillow that they can use in their cars and tent as well. It should have a great blend of support and softness to cradle the neck during the night out in the woods. You should opt for something that would ease your falling and staying asleep.

After considering these factors, you can pick the best camping pillow for maximum comfort. Here are some popular options to consider.

Top Picks For Best Backpacking Pillow

Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow PremiumSea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium

Weight: Large 3.7 ounces, Regular 2.8 ounces

Dimensions: Large 16.5 x 11.5 x 5.5, Regular 14 x 10 x 5

Specific features: Two-in-one deflation/ inflation valve, synthetic fill between the TPU bladder and pillow case, 50 denier brushed polyester shell, scalloped bottom edge, and curved internal baffles.

The Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium is an ergonomic design that helps save space by its inflation/deflation valve. The pillow inflates with ease and also deflates easily. It’s ideal for backpackers who want to save space and reduce weight during their trips. It can also be modified to fit the preference of the user since it is inflatable.

It has a high-strength thermoplastic polyurethane bladder with a brushed, 50-denier stretch-knit made with polyester for the outer surface. This gives it a soft feel and makes it durable.

It also has a pillow case that is made with synthetic fill and a TPU bladder that increases comfort and removes perspiration. Its curved internal baffles help create contours to cradle the head at night. Also, the scalloped bottom edge helps center the pillow around the shoulders if the user sleeps on his/her back or on an upright chair. It has a stuff sack and multifunctional valve to inflate the pillow in some breaths.

Check the price on Amazon

Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow

Weight: 3 oz.Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow

Dimensions: 2 x 9 x 13 inches

Specific features: An inner shell made with polyester, outer shell stuffed with ripstop material and 600 fill duck down.

The DriDown Pillow by Sierra Designs is ideal for campers who prefer a thin, soft pillow. It is used with an inner pillow and can be used for backpacking or car camping ventures that last for just a few days. If you remove its inner pillow to fill up the outer shell with your clothes, you can take it along on longer expeditions. When you consider this, the Sierra DriDown Pillow is quite versatile.

It is moderately priced as well. It’s light weight, versatility, and small size makes it great for outdoor adventures. However, it might just satisfy some specific sleepers when it comes to comfort.

Check the price on Amazon

Nemo FilloNemo Fillo

Weight: 9.2 oz

Dimensions: 6 x 7 x 7 inches

Specific features: Memory foam, baffled inflating sack, mesh net, outer shell made of microsuede and polyester.

The NEMO Fillo is well-suited for so many activities and is known as an all-around pillow. It’s ideal for weekend and car camping, with backpacking trips that may last a week or a couple of days. Also, this pillow is suitable for lumbar support and hammock napping when sitting down for long periods at a time.

The pillow has an inflatable element, and it inflates in only three breaths. The air valve is built to make modifying the air level easier, without any risk of deflating the entire pillow.

Check the price on Amazon

TETON Sports Camp Pillow PerfectTETON Sports Camp Pillow Perfect

Weight: 10.0 oz

Dimensions:  0 x 18 x 12 inches

Specific features: Synthetic fiber, polyester inner shell, brushed flannel pillowcase.

The TETON Sports pillow is great for car camping, and it is during this activity that its comfort, substantial size, and sufficient support are more appreciated. This pillow has great features as well, but it has a disadvantage; it is heavier when compared to its counterparts. It may serve its purpose for single day trips but won’t be convenient for multi-day trips.

The pillow is moderately priced for a compressible pillow. It has synthetic fiber stuffed in its polyester inner shell with a pillowcase that is made of brushed flannel. Even though it is the largest and the heaviest among all other pillows in this review, it is great for car camping alone and daytime naps. In these situations, the pillow is superb to use.

Check the price on Amazon

EXPED Ultralight Air PillowEXPED Ultralight Air Pillow

Weight: 1.8 oz

Dimensions: 15 x 10.6 x 4.3 inches

Specific features: Single Flat Valve for deflation and inflation, bright color.

Hypothetically speaking, the Exped Ultralight Air pillow is best used on all backpacking trips that can run for several months or weeks. Some trips can include a hike on the Appalachian Trail, and other trips where reducing weight and volume will have a great impact on the trip’s success. However, some hikers believe that it is lacking in the comfort department and would rather use other types. This thought is subjective as other people prefer it for its light weight and small size.

The Exped UL is made of polyester, and this contributes greatly to its small size and weight. This pillow is one of the lightest and it is also very small for easy packing. It provides great support during the night as well.

Check the price on Amazon

Therm-a-Rest Compressible PillowTherm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow

Weight: 7/9/12/15 ounces

Dimensions: L 16.5 × 11.5 × 5.5

Regular: 14×10×5

Specific features: Earth smart filling, foam filling, and a variety of colors.

The Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow is ideal for car camping, and can also be taken along on a 5-day canoeing excursion. Because of its heavier size and weight, it isn’t a suitable pillow to carry on a multi-day backpacking or hiking trip. The Compressible Pillow is currently available for sale in different colors, including Amethyst, Denim, Blue Floral, Cardinal, Clover, Mosaic, Furry Camo, and Grey.

The compressible pillow is a moderately priced item as well. Even though it isn’t suitable for multi-day trips to the wild because of its bulky weight and larger size, it still serves the purpose for shorter trips like car camping during the weekends and other mid-day campground hammock naps.

Check the price on Amazon

ONWEGO ‘Soft-Top’ Inflatable Backpacking Travel Pillow

Weight: 4 oz.Onwego Soft Top Inflatable Travel Pillow

Dimensions: 15 x 12 x 4.5

Specific features: One-way air valve, an inner flap, removable cover, and polyester fabric.

The Onwego Soft Top Inflatable Travel Pillow is ideal for car camping and weekend trips.  It is lightweight and packable as well for backpacking through the woods. It offers comfort with its soft texture and features a soft top fabric cover, and polyester batting fabric to prevent perspiration from getting in the way of a well-deserved rest after a long day on the trail.

The pillow inflates fast and has a one-way valve system that allows the user to inflate it in 3 breaths at most. An inner flap is used to adjust or deflate the pillow entirely for storage. It also has a removable cover for easy cleaning with a mild soap. This inflatable pillow is moderately priced with features that provide support for hikers.

Check the price on Amazon

Ultralight 2.4 oz. Inflatable Air PillowUltralight 2.4 oz. Inflatable Air Pillow

Weight: 2.4 ounces

Dimensions: 18 x 10.8 x 5.5 inches

Specific features: Stuff Sack, small sized, drawstring, stuff sack, air inflatable.

The InstantCamp Air-Light Pillow was built specifically for individuals who want a comfortable, durable, and premium-quality pillow that is also large enough to lay on, and, is compact and ultralight. It is ideal for longer trips that could take days or weeks on the open road because of its signature lightweight and small size. It can be packed with ease into a pocket, backpack, purse or carry-on.

This inflatable pillow doesn’t have any foam inside it, and it doesn’t self-inflate. 2 or 3 breaths should be enough to inflate the air pillow. It can be readjusted according to the taste of the user and can be deflated with ease. It is also reasonably priced.

Check the price on Amazon

Conclusion

Picking a great backpacking pillow involves knowing the types as well as the features of each type. Other things that should be considered are health, the length of the trip, size, compressibility and weight. You wouldn’t want to hike with an item that makes your bag even heavier to carry. You also do not want a pillow that would drench your head in sweat at night.

Man with different camping pillows

Some pillows may be ideal for some people and may not be for others, it all depends on your preference of comfort. However, many of them are generally useful to all hikers.

Which of these pillows would you recommend for others? We would love to read your comments below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Mueller
Jerry Mueller

Jerry ‘Boy Scout’ Mueller spends 99% of his time camping or teaching others how to live in the wild. He became an Eagle Scout which is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting division when he was 17 and after that he still lives the scout life. Jerry always plans neatly every trip, takes leadership very seriously and if you listen to his tips and stories, you can learn tons of useful things.

  • Josh Barnes

    DriDown Pillow by Sierra Designs for me is the best one for camping. It is lightweight because of the removable synthetic insert. It is super compact, soft and comfortable to sleep in. You can also tell that it is durable and will last for a long time. I always bring it to my trips.

  • Jamie Howard

    NEMO Fillo is really great for campers because it can be compressed down to a very small size. It is very comfortable to use. You can even adjust the firmness of your pillow depending on preference. I consider it my go-to pillow for all my trips actually. I highly recommend it.

  • Jerry Mueller

    We have used this and agree it is great and comfy!

  • Jerry Mueller

    We have heard great things about this pillow. Thanks for confirming!

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