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!
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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