Best Backpacking Pillows

When you take an extended backpacking trip, camping out at night is unavoidable. To ensure that you stay rested and ready to go the next day, you need to have proper camping equipment. This consideration goes doubly so for anything you sleep on at night.

While paying attention to your pillow may not seem like the top priority, you still can’t ignore how important it is to have something comfortable under your head when you rest. And since you’ll be toting your sleep equipment along with you, you want it to be as lightweight and compact as possible.

So how do you find the best product to fit your needs? By reading through my best backpacking pillows guide. We’ve brought together a buyer’s guide and reviews of my ten favorite pillows for backpacking all in one place.

Benefits of Having a Pillow While Backpacking

Bringing a pillow along while backpacking will let you rest comfortably, even when you’re away from your bed. In general, pillows help keep your body aligned and help alleviate back and neck pain instead of sleeping without one. And when you’re backpacking, the less pressure and stress in your body, the better.

Pillows designed for backpacking are also beneficial for ease of travel. When decompressed, a backpacking pillow will fit your bag easily without taking up too much space or adding too much weight. Though inflatable, a well-made backpacking pillow can be as comfortable as one meant for use at home. You can even use your pillow when not backpacking if you like.

Features to Consider When Looking to Purchase a Pillow for Backpacking

While there are excellent options out there, not all backpacking pillows are equal in terms of quality. Additionally, not everyone sleeps the same way—meaning they have different pillow needs. While we’ve brought together my best backpacking pillow choices below, you can use these features to help you make the best choice for your needs!

Size

The size of a pillow comes into play in two different ways. The first is its size when deflated or compressed. When backpacking, you only have so much space to work with, so your pillow should pack up to a small size for convenient transport.

However, you shouldn’t simply pick out the smallest available pillow. If you get one that’s too small, you run the risk of not being able to rest your head on it comfortably, which can impact your sleep quality.

Weight

Similarly, you should check the weight of your backpacking pillow before purchase—every fraction of a pound matters when you’re carrying all your equipment over potentially challenging terrains. The lighter a pillow is, the less support it’s likely to give when you sleep at night.

Thickness

Thickness when the pillow is at its full size is also helpful to consider. While everyone has their preferences, the way you sleep will generally influence the best level of pillow thickness for you:

  • Stomach sleepers pair best with thinner pillows
  • Side sleepers match best with thicker pillows
  • Back sleepers match best with somewhere in-between

Types

Since backpacking pillows need to be easy to fit into your bag when not in use, they need to quickly change from a compressed state to a decompressed one and back. Manufacturers have figured out a few different models to make this happen:

  • Inflatable pillows are lightweight, compact, and easy to clean, but they can lose out when it comes to comfort.
  • Compressible pillows use softer materials, which contribute to their higher levels of comfort, but they can cost more than inflatable types, and they also tend to run heavier.
  • Hybrid pillows mix both options, making them a good pick for comfort without having as massive a pillow compared to a compressible model.

Materials

The materials can vary widely when it comes to backpacking pillows. Whether you pay a lot of attention to this factor or not can vary, but it’s always worth knowing what you’ll be laying down on. If you’re sensitive to pillow materials, consider also purchasing a pillowcase to help with comfort levels. A pillowcase may also be helpful for easier cleaning.

Some materials are more durable than others, so keep that in mind if you want your pillow to last.

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  • Editor's Choice

  • Premium Pick

  • Bang for Your Buck

  • Travel

  • Stomach Sleepers

  • Side Sleepers

  • Lightweight

Editor's Choice

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow

Ratings

  • Lightweight: 4/10
  • Easy to Inflate: 7/10
  • For Traveling: 6/10
  • Support: 6/10
  • Comfort: 9/10

Bottom line

The Therm-a-Rest compressible pillow is a strong contender when it comes to comfort. It’s easily one of the best backpacking options for giving you a similar experience to your pillow at home, and the material is overall soft and warm. It’s also affordable so that you can add it to your camping gear without much hassle.
The material means this pillow would be a good pick for sleeping even in colder temperatures. It’s also overall durable, so it should last through repeated and regular use without much issue. For those who like to have some extra fun in their gear, Therm-a-Rest makes this pillow in sixteen different fun design patterns.
The weight of this pillow is a bit heavier than you may want for a backpacking trip. It’s best suited to casual backpacking outings, rather than longer treks.

Specs

  • Weight: 7 oz.
  • Price: $24.95

Pros Cons
  • Comfortable
  • Soft and warm
  • Variety of pillowcase patterns
  • Durable
  • Somewhat heavy for backpacking
  • Bulky when packed
  • Could have more neck support

Premium Pick

Sea to Summit Aeros Down Pillow

Ratings

  • Lightweight: 9/10
  • Easy to Inflate: 7/10
  • For Traveling: 9/10
  • Support: 6/10
  • Comfort: 9/10

Bottom line

With a lightweight design combined with the down layer, there’s a lot to love about the Sea to Summit Aeros Down Pillow. Overall, it’s very similar to its counterpart on our list, but the down layer adds an extra-plush feel that not many other inflatable pillows have.

Even with the extra padding, it’s still light and compact, making it capable of comfortably fitting in your backpack, even without the travel bag. The air valve system is also secure, and you can easily adjust the inflation level to your desired comfort.

While it’s pricey for an inflatable pillow, the overall quality and comfort make the Aeros Down Pillow worth it if you want a bit of that plush feel without needing to add extra weight. We will note that it can be a bit wobbly depending on how you inflate it, however.

Specs

  • Weight: 2.5 oz.
  • Price: $59.95

Pros Cons
  • Superlight
  • Reliable air valve
  • Compact storage
  • Down provides extra comfort
  • Pricey
  • Can be a bit wobbly

Bang for Your Buck

Therm-a-Rest Trekker Pillow Case

Ratings

  • Lightweight: 9/10
  • Easy to Inflate: 9/10
  • For Traveling: 8/10
  • Support: 6/10
  • Comfort: 7/10

Bottom line

When you’re low on packing space, trying to fit even an inflatable pillow inside your bag can feel like a bit too much. Enter the Therm-a-Rest Trekker Pillow Case. Rather than being a full pillow, this provides a case that you can quickly stuff with anything comfortable—extra clothes or even a jacket—making it highly customizable and straightforward to set up in your tent.

Thanks to that design, this pillowcase can also double as a stuff sack for items while hitting the trails. The exterior material is very comfortable and has enough traction that it won’t slip while on a sleeping mat or camping mattress. You also won’t need to worry about air leaks, and the 100% fabric design means that there’s no extra noise when you adjust at night.

While lightweight, it’s relatively heavy for a pillowcase. You’ll also need to depend on “packing materials” to set it up, so comfort levels may not be consistent.

Specs

  • Weight: 2.4 oz
  • Price: $12.95

Pros Cons
  • Takes up a minimal amount of space
  • Can serve on its own or as extra support
  • No need to worry about air leaks
  • Pillow is quiet and doesn’t slip
  • Depends on clothes to set up your pillow
  • Could weigh a bit less

Travel

Cocoon Ultralight AirCore Travel Pillow

Ratings

  • Lightweight: 8/10
  • Easy to Inflate: 8/10
  • For Traveling: 7/10
  • Support: 8/10
  • Comfort: 6/10

Bottom line

Cocoon’s Ultralight AirCore Travel Pillow provides an excellent option for those who need something lightweight and compressible in its inflatable version. Additionally, for anyone more concerned with camping than backpacking, there’s also a hybrid option that adds a bit more weight and support.

The AirCore pillow has two different surface materials: a microfiber side that gives extra warmth when it’s cold, and a nylon side that stays cool when it’s warm. You can also pick the pillow in your choice of size if you need more headspace. You can safely put this pillow in the washer, and it provides a secure place to rest your head.

On the downside, the nylon side can be somewhat slippery when it’s face down, making the pillow slippery. The pillow is also potentially wobbly if you don’t inflate it all the way.

Specs

  • Weight: 3.7 oz
  • Price: $32.95

Pros Cons
  • Comes in both inflatable and hybrid versions
  • Has two sides for different conditions
  • Better for those who like firm pillows
  • Washer safe
  • The hybrid option is on the bulkier side
  • Can be slippery
  • Potentially wobbly

Stomach Sleepers

Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow

Ratings

  • Lightweight: 6/10
  • Easy to Inflate: 9/10
  • For Traveling: 8/10
  • Support: 6/10
  • Comfort: 8/10

Bottom line

While inflatable pillows have their benefits, sometimes they can feel much more like a pool toy than a comfortable place to rest. The Sierra Designs DriDown pillow helps with this issue by giving a down filling to add that extra pillow feel. It also has a polyester stuffed insert that you can take out to be more efficient with your packing space and weight. You can then use clothes to add some volume at night.

This product does come with a stuff sack, which helps compress its overall size down to the relative volume of a large soup can. The design is sturdy enough to last, and this pillow makes a useful add-on for people who want some extra neck support. The thinner size is also a good match for stomach sleepers.

That said, the size may be too small for some people to sleep comfortably. It is also on the slippery side, which can lead to losing track of the pillow in the middle of the night.

Specs

  • Weight: 5.8 oz
  • Price: $29.95

Pros Cons
  • Gives a comfortable down filling
  • Can reduce further by taking out the inner pillow
  • Best pick for stomach sleepers
  • Comes with a stuff sac
  • Somewhat slippery
  • May be too thin for side and back sleepers

Side Sleepers

RikkiTikki Inflatable Camping Pillow

Ratings

  • Lightweight: 8/10
  • Easy to Inflate: 7/10
  • For Traveling: 8/10
  • Support: 7/10
  • Comfort: 9/10

Bottom line

The RikkiTikki Inflatable Camping pillow has a design that works well for side sleepers, which is always good news. Like other inflatable pillows, you can easily adjust the inflation level to your preference. RikkiTikki also notes that this pillow is good for providing back support while sitting in a chair.

This pillow comes in three different colors. Thanks to the soft top over, you’ll find that this pillow stays soft and warm, making it a good fit for colder climates. The pillow also doesn’t require an air pump, so you can quickly inflate it when necessary and use the latch to deflate it come morning.

While this pillow comes with a lifetime guarantee, some products do come with leaks, so you should check it shortly after purchasing. When fully inflated, this pillow may also be a bit too stiff for some campers.

Specs

  • Weight: 4 oz
  • Price: $16.50

Pros Cons
  • Lifetime money-back guarantee
  • Soft top fabric for comfort
  • Valve allows for easy inflation and deflation
  • Works well for side sleepers
  • Air can leak out a bit during extended use
  • Can be tricky to blow up
  • Can be a bit stiff for some users

Lightweight

Exped Air Pillow

Ratings

  • Lightweight: 10/10
  • Easy to Inflate: 9/10
  • For Traveling: 7/10
  • Support: 8/10
  • Comfort: 6/10

Bottom line

Another notable lightweight option is Exped’s Air Pillow. It inflates quickly, and the valve has a deflation pin that makes it simple to deflate when you’re ready to pack up. The compressed size is also notable, which makes it simple to stick in your bag.

The adjustable height capability makes this pillow a good match for side sleepers, as you can find the right level of comfort. Though we’ve listed the stats for the Medium option, there are multiple sizes you can choose from.

What’s unfortunate is that this pillow can and will make crinkling noises when moved on, disturbing your rest. Heavy sleepers shouldn’t have much issue with this trait, though.

Specs

  • Weight: 1.6 oz
  • Price: $54.43

Pros Cons
  • Ultra lightweight
  • Comes in multiple sizes
  • Adjustable height
  • Convenient deflation pin
  • A good match for side sleepers
  • Pillow can crinkle when moved on

NEMO Fillo Pillow

Ratings

  • Lightweight: 2/10
  • Easy to Inflate: 9/10
  • For Traveling: 5/10
  • Support: 9/10
  • Comfort: 9/10

Bottom line

The NEMO Fillo pillow has just about everything you’d want out of a camping pillow. The design is comfortable, with a microsuede pillow case that adds even more comfort when you rest. There’s also plenty of support, and you can adjust the pillow to best suit your sleeping needs by working with the twist air nozzle. Setting up the pillow hardly takes any effort, either, quickly inflating.

This pillow comes with an included sack to help with storage. What’s even handier is that the bag has a connection to the pillow itself, so you never need to worry about losing the sack and finding yourself in a stressful packing situation. This pillow also comes in multiple designs, letting you pick your favorite and have easily distinguishable ones if purchasing for various people.

While we love the microsuede pillowcase, some of the designs use a jersey material instead, which isn’t anywhere near as comfortable. The compressed size and weight of this pillow is probably not the best option for backpackers, either.

Specs

  • Weight: 9 oz.
  • Price: $39.95

Pros Cons
  • Adjustable support adds to the comfort
  • Microsuede pillow cover available
  • Stuff sack stays attached to the pillow
  • Comes in multiple colors
  • Weight is on the higher side
  • The packed size will be fine for campers, but less so for backpackers
  • Some designs use a jersey pillow cover, which is less comfortable

Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow

Ratings

  • Lightweight: 9/10
  • Easy to Inflate: 8/10
  • For Traveling: 8/10
  • Support: 7/10
  • Comfort: 7/10

Bottom line

Sea to Summit’s Aeros Premium Pillow is another strong pick for those who need a pillow suitable for backpacking but aren’t entirely willing to sacrifice comfort. This pillow comes in two size offerings, with the smaller of the two being very light and suitable for traveling around. You can also pick from three different colors.

Inflating this pillow is incredibly easy in part thanks to the auto-close air valve, which you can also use to adjust the level of air inside to get your preferred comfort level. There’s also an included stuff sack for secure storage; however, given how nicely this pillow rolls up when deflated, you may not even need to use it when packing.

Given the thickness of this pillow, side sleepers may not find it very comfortable. You’ll also want to keep an eye on it, as it can potentially puncture if you’re not careful. Cleaning is also somewhat of a hassle, though you can fix this by picking out a pillowcase.

Specs

  • Weight: 2.8 oz
  • Price: $42.95

Pros Cons
  • Comes in two sizes
  • The smaller size is incredibly lightweight
  • Highly customizable air pressure level
  • Comes with a stuff sack
  • Not suitable for side sleepers
  • Can potentially puncture easily
  • Not the easiest pillow to keep clean

Trekology Ultralight Inflating Travel Pillow

Ratings

  • Lightweight: 9/10
  • Easy to Inflate: 7/10
  • For Traveling: 7/10
  • Support: 9/10
  • Comfort: 4/10

Bottom line

Trekology’s Ultralight inflating pillow has an affordable price with plenty of space to sleep on comfortably. That said, it’s still rather lightweight, making it suitable for longer backpacking trips where you want to minimize your load. Even better, the size contributes well to the support it provides, also helping with back support.

The airway system has a button that controls the latch on it, which helps inflate and deflate the pillow. It also packs up small, making a good fit for fitting inside your bag. The material is also highly durable, so you can use it regularly without much fear of it springing a leak.

Where this pillow falls short is in the comfort range. It does well enough, but you do pay what you get for in the end.

Specs

  • Weight: 2.8 oz.
  • Price: $15.97

Pros Cons
  • Affordable price
  • Offers plenty of back support
  • Material is highly durable
  • A button helps deal and open the airway
  • Relatively lacking in comfort

What Kind of Pillow Should I Use for Backpacking?

As you’ve noticed from this guide, there are a few different options for backpacking pillows. If you need the lightest possible option, go for an inflatable pillow, as they hardly add any weight to your bag and make transport simple.

If you need a bit more comfort and adding a bit of extra weight to your bag, consider a hybrid inflatable-compressible backpacking pillow. These give you the benefits of more sleeping support without completely giving you too much weight to carry. You can also use a completely compressible pillow; just know it will be a bit heavier.

How Do You Pack a Pillow for Camping?

With a pillow meant for backpacking and camping, packing it up becomes simple. You simply need to either deflate them (inflatable) or compress them (compressible), making sure to get it to the smallest size possible. You can then tuck it into the travel bag if it has one, then tuck that inside of wherever it can go in your backpack. Much easier than trying to get a regular pillow stuffed inside your bag.

How Do I Keep My Pillow from Sliding on My Sleeping Pad?

Sleeping pads make for comfortable pieces of equipment, but they do tend to let your pillow slip and slide at night—which isn’t comfortable or restful. Campers and backpackers have come up with a variety of solutions to this issue:

  • Use a sealer solution to create sticking points to reduce sliding
  • Connect straps to slots if available in your pillow
  • Attach Velcro strap connections
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