Camping gives us an opportunity to escape the day-to-day pressures of our lives and enjoy the majesty of nature. I remember my first camping trip like it was yesterday. It was kind of amazing, but not entirely. I used to toss and turn for hours before sleep finally came, followed soon by my alarm clock or my camping buddy waking me up.
And the next day I’d feel exhausted and grumpy –not to mention the puffiness and dark circles under my eyes. It was frustrating, to say the least.
Luckily, you can sneak in more sleep by bringing with you the best backpacking pillow. Any camper or backpacker will tell you for a fact that you cannot write off the importance of a comfortable, supportive pillow in the outdoors world. They might just make all the difference in your quality of sleep.
A very common question I get from people is how to choose the right pillow when there are so many options to choose from. We live in a world of abundance, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the seemingly unlimited options.
I will make the process easier for you by offering some tips on how to find the right option for your needs. I have also put together a list of some of the best options out there to help you make a decision you can be happy with.
Before I get into the details, let me briefly explain the different types of camping and backpacking pillows.
This pillow is filled with air, hence, it’s the lightest and most compact. It might not be as comfortable as the other two options but still provides reasonable support. It can either be self-inflating or inflated manually.
It’s the most comfortable, but also the heaviest of the three pillows. Actually, it feels like a normal pillow from home but a little bit smaller. If you are willing to sacrifice weight and space for comfort, this pillow might be worth your while.
It’s a pillow that offers the best of both worlds – and by that, l mean it combines the benefits of the inflatable and compressible pillows. Hence, it gives you the luxury of sleep and comfort while providing great support in a portable way. Keep in mind there are heavier options out there as well.
What are the important things to look for shopping for a camping pillow? Let’s explore together.
Ultimate Guide To Choosing The Best Backpacking and Camping Pillow
Have you ever bought something and then regretted buying it? I know we’ve all been there. That’s why getting clued up beforehand is always a good idea. That said, here are a few things you should be looking for when selecting a backpacking or camping pillow.
1. Outdoor Activity
Are you heading out on a camping trip? Or going on a backpacking adventure? What you are planning to do, where you are planning to go and for how long is the first step towards finding the product for your needs.
Well, there are many forms of camping, but let’s talk about the most popular one – the classic tent camping or if you prefer, car camping. The biggest advantage of car camping is the ability to bring a lot with you hence, some factors are of little or no significance. What you should be looking for in a camp pillow is;
• Comfort: Since space, weight and even size are of little consequence in this particular situation, comfort is what you should be after. After a long day afield, there’s nothing like laying your head on a comfy pillow or crawling in a comfortable roomy tent.
• Support: Go for a pillow that adequately supports your head and aligns your neck with the rest of your spine for a comfortable night’s sleep.
When it comes to backpacking, a different set of factors come into play. Let’s dive right into it.
• Weight: If you’ve been backpacking long enough then you know the importance of packing light. To be honest, nothing ruins a good backpacking trip faster than carrying around too much unnecessary weight. The lighter the pillow, the better.
• Packing size: Backpack space is a limited resource so you need a pillow that doesn’t take up too much space.
2. Favorite Sleeping Position
We all have our favorite sleeping position, whether it’s on our side, back or tummy. For most of us, it’s the position we assume when we are ready to fall asleep. Your preferred sleep position will help you determine the best camping or backpacking pillow that suits you.
If you sleep on your side, a firm pillow with a higher loft will do. It needs to be thick enough to keep your spine in neutral alignment. But if you can get your hands on a pillow with an adjustable height the better.
Back sleepers will be more comfortable with a thinner, medium-firm pillow. It helps the neck stay aligned with the spine.
Stomach sleepers only need light support. In fact, you may not even need a pillow for your head. But if you cannot sleep without one, look for a low profile, thin pillow. You can as well tuck a second thin pillow beneath your stomach to avoid lower back pain. Again, an adjustable pillow can be a great solution for you.
Now that you have an idea on things to keep in mind when looking for a backpacking or camping pillow, let’s take a look at the best options in the market today.
I’ll start with my best backpacking pillow list, then proceed to camp pillows. Each category consists of 6 options.
Overall Favorite Backpacking Pillow: Sea To Summit Aeros Premium Pillow
The Sea To Summit is one of the most comfortable inflatable pillows we’ve tried. It’s for this reason and more why it tops our list of the best backpacking pillow.
I’ve never been a fan of artificial fabrics. I find polyester and other synthetics less desirable than cotton or silk in terms of comfort as they can leave you a moist, clammy feeling.
But surprisingly, the Aeros Premium has an incredible wicking ability to keep the face dry, thanks to the synthetic insulation layer between the pillowcase and bladder.
The brushed-face finishing also gives it a much smoother appearance and a softer touch. Maybe synthetic fabrics are not so bad after all!
The Aeros Premium is super lightweight (it weighs merely 4 ounces) and compact hence you can stuff it almost anywhere. This makes it a great option for those who prefer lightweight backpacking.
Moreover, the multi-functional valve not only makes it super easy to inflate and deflate but also allows you to adjust the firmness to your liking. The internal baffles are curved and countered to your head to help you sleep more soundly and wake up with less stiffness and pain. It’s a great choice for side and back sleepers.
- Available in two sizes –regular and large
- Has a smooth feel
- Small pack size and ultralight design
- The firmness is easily adjustable
- Provides great support for the neck and head
- Not machine washable
For those not familiar, Chillax rebranded its name and logo to Wellax. For what is worth, I find it simplified and modernized. The logo looks equally vibrant and interesting I must add.
If you’re on the hunt for a cheap, compact, lightweight backpacking pillow – I believe the WellaX Ultralight is among the best out there. It adds almost no weight to your backpack. It can actually fold up and fit into your pocket!
I thought I’d prefer a larger pillow, but there’s something reassuring and inviting about this smaller model. For one, the pillow is contoured to fully support your head and neck so you can have a comfortable night’s sleep.
Besides its compactness, the fabric is actually incredibly soft to touch and comfortable to sleep on. It’s also extremely durable and I can’t say the same for some inflatable pillows out there.
So if you’re planning for a long backpacking trip and want to enjoy it comfortably, the WellaX pillow is worth checking out.
I was also impressed by how easy it was to inflate and deflate. The two-way valve prevents air from leaking so you can get a good night of uninterrupted sleep. The best part is this pillow is machine washable –and won’t lose its softness or form over time. It also comes with a nice looking sleeping mask as a bonus.
- Super lightweight
- Small, yet comfortable
- Very affordable
- Multiple colors to choose from
- Lifetime warranty for manufacturers defects
- Might be too small for some users
The Trekology Ultralight is a strong contender in the lightweight category, and it’s a very good alternative to the WellaX Ultralight. It’s one of the most popular backpacking pillows on the market and it’s easy to see why: it packs extremely small, it’s reasonably priced, it weighs just 2.8 ounces and it’s pretty comfortable.
Even though I did not find it quite as comfortable as the WellaX, it provides sufficient support for the head and neck. The back material also does a pretty good job of preventing the pillow from sliding off in the middle of the night.
The Trekology new design features a double-decked air valve that not only makes it extremely easy to inflate and deflate but also prevents air leakage while you sleep. This enhancement came after some online users complained about the pillow not holding air.
With over a thousand positive user reviews I’ve read, you might greatly benefit from this pillow.
There’s a newer Trekology version that’s giving other inflatables a run for their money. It’s stylish, feels softer on skin and a bit thicker. It also comes with nice additions like the detachable wrap to prevent the pillow from moving around. But there’s a catch – a few extra ounces to deal with.
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Folds up to a size of a soda can
- Provides great support for the neck
- Push button valve
- Not washable
This inflatable pillow by SuitedNomad is a combination of comfort, support and value. It has a great design that helps support your head and neck as you sleep. I also like how soft and comfortable it feels when you place your head on it. What’s more, the non-slip base keeps it in place while you rest.
Another likeable feature is the easiness of inflation and deflation, courtesy of the two-way air valve. It takes about 4-5 breaths to fully inflate and the valve ensures air doesn’t leak out in the process. And, it deflates with a simple push of a button.
Minimalists would also appreciate the lightness and compactness of this pillow. Not the lightest pillow on my list, but 2.8 ounces is still very light. It also folds up really small.
The screw locking carabiner included in the package is a really nice addition. You don’t see a lot of inflatable backpacking pillows with such an inclusion.
If you’re planning to use it in hot weather, a pillow case would really come in handy.
- Great support for neck and head
- Lightweight and packs really small
- Very affordable
- Lifetime warranty
- Not very breathable
The Klymit X is a bit different from other inflatables on the list in terms of design. It features a unique self-centering X design which not only provides great neck support and cradling, but also creates space for your ear if you’re a side sleeper.
While the design is clever for all type of sleepers, the thickness, however, might not be enough for a side sleeper. Hence, you may need to stack something under the pillow to avoid waking up with a sore neck. On the contrary, it’s a pretty comfortable option for back and stomach sleepers.
This pillow’s best attributes are probably its tiny, packable and lightweight size. It’s one of the lightest inflatable pillows around and compresses to the size of a cigarette pack. And due to its compact size, inflation only takes 2-3 breaths. Deflation is just as easy.
But the not-so-impressive thing about the Klymit X is the slippery base. So you have to put it in a pillow case or wrap it with something similar to keep it from sliding around. But if you have a mummy bag this might not be a problem as the pillow fits perfectly inside the hood.
If you don’t mind carrying a few extra ounces, there’s a larger Klymit X version. It’s thicker, wider, softer and weighs about 3.2 ounces.
- Extremely light
- Packs down tiny
- Great design for head support
- Adjustable for customized comfort
- Not the best choice for side sleepers
- No grip at the bottom
If you are looking for a nice little backpacking pillow that does the job, this can be a good choice. It has a simple design, making it very easy to use.
The one-way valve is a pretty cool feature allowing you to inflate the pillow without air coming back out. So it only takes 4 breaths to blow the whole pillow up and seconds to deflate. It’s also very supportive, conforms nicely to the contour of your head and neck.
The Hikenture has a bit of height to it for those who prefer to sleep on the side. Besides, you can easily adjust the firmness to your liking.
The fabric is smooth and soft which is awesome, but this can also cause the pillow to slide out underneath your head at night. If it moves around, put a t-shirt over it and you’ll be good to go.
As an added convenience, Hikenture offers a one-year warranty against air leaking and a free replacement for a defective product.
- Light and packable
- Easy to use and clean
- Delivers great head and neck support
- One-year warranty
- Might slip out without a cover or something over it
Now let’s take a look at the best camping pillows that would change your experience for the better.
Overall Favorite Camping Pillow: Coop Home Goods Pillow
If you are looking for a pillow to elevate your sleeping experience in the wild, the Coop Home Goods might just be what you are looking for. It offers a great combination of comfort, support and breathability. In fact, it’s almost as comfortable as your pillow at home but, in a smaller package.
This shredded memory foam pillow is not only cozy, but molds quickly to your preferred sleeping position. In addition, it lets you take a personalized approach by adding or removing the filling to match your specific sleeping needs.
The quilted outer cover gives the pillow a unique look and feel. I also like that it’s made of bamboo and polyester. This provides an extra level of comfort and softness to the pillow while drawing heat away from your head for a cooler, comfortable sleep.
The pillow is heavy and doesn’t pack down small, but that isn’t much of a concern if you’re car camping. The one thing that may concern you especially if you’re super sensitive, is the smell when you open the package. It may last for a few days, but will eventually go away after being aired out. But if the smell still lingers (which is highly unlikely), instructions are provided to help you control it.
The pillow is also hypoallergenic, machine washable, comes with a 5-year warranty and a stuff sack. In my opinion, it’s the best camping pillow on the market.
- Superior support and comfort
- Adjustable and breathable
- Five-year warranty
- Not-so-pleasant smell for the first few days of use
- The stuff sack is pretty small, making it difficult to fit the pillow inside it.
Another great compressible pillow to bring on a camping trip. This pillow is filled with polyurethane foam which is easily shapeable –allowing you to fluff and fold to fit in the storage bag provided. It’s 4 inches thick providing adequate level of comfort and support.
Not customizable as the Coop Home pillow but comfortable enough for a good night’s sleep.
The foam is shredded which may feel and appear lumpy at first. But that should not worry you as the foam will compress when you lay your head on the pillow. Or, you can just fluff it up like a regular pillow or put it in a dryer for a few minutes on low heat.
Besides, the shredded foam is a bit more breathable than a solid foam pillow. So if you tend to get hot at night, this pillow might be worth your while. To top it off, it’s housed in a breathable microsuede cover that is machine and dryer friendly.
The pillow is available in small, medium and large sizes and comes in four different colors. Keep in mind all sizes are 4 inch in thickness.
- Adequate support and comfort
- Easy to fold into the bag
- Machine and dryer friendly
- Comes in different sizes and colors
- Feels slightly lumpy at first
The Teton Sports is not like many camping pillows out there. It’s quite unique in the way it’s designed. It’s self-inflating, meaning you just open the valve and the pillow begins to fill itself up.
However, it does not inflate fully so you have to blow a few breathes into it if you prefer a firm pillow. Similarly, you can release air for a softer pillow. Personally, I like my pillows soft because they create a supportive cradle for my head and neck. But this of course depends on the type of sleeper you are.
It’s also worth noting the valve is of decent quality and very easy to use.
The pillow is filled with open-cell foam providing a comfortable, supportive cushion. The microfiber outer casing is exceptionally smooth and feels amazing on the skin. However, this fabric isn’t always the best option for those with highly sensitive skin.
Another not-so-great thing is the fabric breathability. Although it’s fairly breathable, it can still trap heat in hot environments. But if you are counting your pennies, it’s certainly not a bad deal. Besides, this ComfortLite series offers an organic cotton top option which you can opt for instead.
Another great feature is the non-skid bottom. It keeps the pillow from slipping out under you at night. It’s also not noisy when you move around unlike other models.
- Excellent comfort and support
- Self inflates
- Adjustable thickness
- Non-slip bottom
- Easy to clean. A quick wipe down and it’s good to go
- Not suitable for highly sensitive individuals
- Can get warm in hot weather
If you are not an inflatable kind of person, the Therm-a-Rest might be the best option for you. It’s arguably one of the best compressible camping pillows out there, combining comfort and value.
The pillow insert is stuffed with soft foam filling that conforms to your head while keeping your neck supported. Although it feels a bit chunky, it’s surprisingly comfortable and supportive to the head and neck. But if you find it uncomfortable, wash and dry it as recommended to fluff it up.
Another plus is the pillow’s thickness. It’s just about right for side sleepers. Along with the soft, cool cover, you can rest easy and sleep better at night.
Ultimately, it’s a great option but slightly bulkier. If you are heading out for a long-term adventure or have limited space, you should probably consider compact options on the list.
- Available in various sizes and colors
- Machine washable
- Firm, supportive and comfortable
- Reasonably priced
- A little lumpy
- Does not compress down that small
If you are willing to splash out on a good night’s sleep in the backcountry, you should definitely consider this product. Not the lightest camping pillow out there, but the Nemo Fillo Luxury takes comfort and support to a whole new level.
The 1-inch luxury foam, topped by a soft microsuede cover makes it more comfortable than you’d ever imagine in a camping pillow. It’s nearly as comfortable as your home pillow.
The most impressive feature of the Nemo Fillo is the way you can adjust the height to fit your personal sleep support preference.
Furthermore, the inflatable cells with multiple baffles offer extra comfort and support to those who prefer to sleep on their side. What makes this model even better for side sleepers is the shock cord that allows you to add extra layers of clothing.
Although it may seem like an over-indulgence for some, this luxury version by Nemo is well worth the investment.
- Removable cover and machine washable
- Packs small in the stuff sack
- Supremely comfortable
- Provides excellent support for the neck
- Fabric feels lovely against the skin
- Price is on the higher side
The Klymit Luxe is another great hybrid pillow for camping. It performs almost as well as the Nemo Fillo, but a few dollars cheaper. It really does provide a perfect balance between comfort and performance.
I must admit the manufacturers did a commendable job with the design. The diamond quilt pattern at the top of the pillow helps cradle and stabilize the head for a comfy, stress-free sleep session. Besides, the fabric is incredibly soft.
However, the polyester filling makes the most difference in terms of comfort. It makes the pillow soft, comfortable and breathable while conforming to your shape and providing that much-needed support for your head and neck.
Also, it’s super easy to inflate and deflate.
The Luxe is quite large, almost the size of a standard bed pillow. Despite its relatively big size, the Klymit packs pretty small into the stuff sack that only weighs 6.4 ounces.
While the weight can be a deal breaker for long-term travel, it’s a perfect choice for car camping.
- Adjustable height for customized comfort
- Super comfy
- Machine washable cover
- Large and soft sleeping surface
- A bit expensive
There you have it, my favorite backpacking and camping pillows! I hope you find it helpful.
Backpackers may consider pillows a luxury, but I think a good night’s sleep is worth those few ounces. In fact, the right pillow goes a long way towards making your backcountry experience more comfortable.
Keep calm. Pack on. Have fun.
If there’s anything I’ve missed or anything you’d like to add, please chime in.