Best Backpacking Pillow
Doing anything groggy, sleep deprived, and grumpy is miserable. Don’t let travel or hiking get in the way of a good night’s rest. With the right pillow, mat, and blanket, you can sleep almost as well as when you fall asleep mid-series on the couch. In order to have enough energy and do outdoor activities or hikes, you need to be strong, alert, and well rested enough to do so. The key to making sure you get a great night’s rest is a quality backpacking pillow. A backpacking pillow that is compact and light is simple to bring with you anywhere. These specific pillows are also designed with weight in mind. You definitely don’t want to be carrying around any excess weight in an already heavy bag on the trails. Make sure you look into which type of size, shape, and material you will want in a backpacking pillow. All of this will depend on the terrain or weather that you will be using the pillow in.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 16 hrs of research
Packs down small
- Nemo Fillo
- Therm-A-Rest Compressible
- Trekology UltraLight
- Sea to Summit Aeros
- Exped Air UL
- Cocoon Ultralight
- Klymit X Inflatable
- Coop Home Goods
- Kelty Camp
- Therm-a-Rest Trekker Pillow Case
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Nemo Fillo
Packs down small
Heavier than some other competitors’ brands
Could come in more styles
Comfort is key when purchasing a high-quality backpacking pillow, and the Nemo Fillo pillow is one of the most comfortable and versatile backpacking pillows available on the market. Nemo’s Fillo pillow is made with a combined design that allows it to compress while also adjusting like an inflatable.Read more
The Nemo Fillo Backpacking Pillow is a bit heavier when compared to some of its competition, but it is lightweight enough to carry along and also is built out of memory foam to support tired muscles. The Nemo Fillo Backpacking Pillow comes with an integrated stuff sack, so you can pack the pillow down so small it will fit inside your hand. The memory foam on the pillow is also mesh covered, meaning this material helps the foam pack down smaller.
This pillow, including the case and all, weighs in at 10.4 ounces.
The pillow includes a three-inch inflatable bladder as well, which helps you adjust the cushioning and height of the pillow so it feels perfect for you when you rest. Another great feature of the Nemo Fillo Backpacking Pillow is that it packs down to a smaller size than most other competitor’s products. So, this pillow is easy to fit into a backpack, making it easier to carry.
2. Therm-A-Rest Compressible
Pillow is a bit heavier compared to some other competitive models
Pillow could be more stylish
For a more affordable choice, campers on a budget might want to take a look at the Therm-A-Rest Compressible Pillow, which provides many great features for outdoor enthusiasts trying to save some money. At first glance, the pillow might not seem too impressive, but when you use it, you’ll find it offers many of the benefits you’ll enjoy.Read more
The outside of the Therm-A-Rest Compressible Pillow is made from brushed polyester, making it very comfortable to lay on, with soft urethane foam filling up the inside of the pillow. The pillow also comes in several sizes, so you can order the size that is right for you.
This pillow weighs 15-ounces.
The Therm-A-Rest Compressible Pillow is extremely comfortable regardless of its simple design, and it brings a lot of support to tired muscles. It’s very easy to sleep on this pillow, although it is a bit heavier than some of its competition when it’s packed down.
For the price, this is one of the most affordable and yet still very comfortable pillows available on the market. It’s made from foam that expands to be large but packs down small so that the pillow fits more easily into a backpack.
3. Trekology UltraLight
Lots of color options
Compresses very small
Can be slippery
Difficult to find your perfect fullness
This is an enhanced version of an already loved product. With this new version of the Trekology Ultralight, they have added in more internal layers to make the pillow more comfortable and also made the pillow more durable and water-resistant with elastic TPU fabric.Read more
Trekology's highly durable elastic TPU fabric provides cushion and makes the outside of the pillow feel soft to the touch. The inflation and deflation of this pillow are simple. You can inflate it with the touch of a button and 3-5 breaths. To deflate, you simply press the quick deflate button and it is flat in no time.
This pillow only weighs 2.75-ounces and compresses down to smaller than a banana. While this pillow is lightweight and does provide comfort, it’s not quite as comfortable as some of the other pillows on this list, so there is a bit of a trade-off between weight and comfort with this pillow.
This Trekology travel pillow is durable and thick, making it one strong, long-lasting product. It is also lighter than a few other pillows similar to it, making it a good choice for those that want to pack light.
4. Sea to Summit Aeros
Easy to pack
Not as comfortable as some other pillows
Could be easier to use
If you’re interested in getting a pillow that is small and lightweight, then the Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium just might be the pillow for you. It’s excellent for backpacking since it’s small and light, so it’s easy to pack and carry and gives you the support you need to get a great night’s rest.Read more
The Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow is made from a brushed 50D polyester knit, which makes the pillow both soft and strong. Between the pillowcase and the TPU bladder, the Aeros pillow has a synthetic fill that helps with comfort and also controls perspiration levels when you sleep.
The regular sized pillow weighs 3.21-ounces. The large sized pillow weighs 4.23-ounces.
This pillow comes with a scalloped bottom edge that centers the pillow over your shoulders, no matter how you sleep. The Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium also gives you adjustable support, which is nice since this is an inflatable pillow that has a soft cover as well as a baffled air chamber, making this pillow more comfortable than most other inflatable pillows. The curved internal area of the pillow also contours to give your head extra support. While it may not be as comfortable as some other heavier pillow designs, but it’s pretty decent for a blow-up pillow.
5. Exped Air UL
Easy to use
No pillowcase included
Too firm for some users
Since 1997, Exped has been producing high-performance outdoor gear. Utilizing classic Swiss design, each product is well thought out and beautiful. The Air UL pillow is no exception.Read more
When using a backpacking pillow in combination with a sleeping bag, the pillow can sometimes slip away from you. The Exped Air UL has an Anti-slip honeycomb gripskin that will keep the pillow in place. There is a flat, inconspicuous valve for inflation and a small, built-in, pin for deflation.
This pillow only weighs 2.1-ounces. When packed away this pillow is about the size of a can of soup, 4.7-inches by 2-inches. Fully inflated it is 18.1-inches by 11.8-inches, with a 4.7-inch height.
The adjustable height and inflation of this pillow are ideal for sleeping in different positions. It is recommended to not fully inflate the pillow if you would like it to feel a bit more cushioned.
It is slightly more expensive than our other options, but for what it offers, and with its compression and lightweight design, you’ll get a lot of support and rest when you use this pillow.
6. Cocoon Ultralight
Easy to inflate and deflate
Easy to pack
Pillow can be unstable
Pillow can roll around at night
If you’re a camper that wants a pillow that’s very lightweight and easy to carry, then you’ll like the options and features provided by Cocoon’s Ultralight Airflow Pillow. This pillow only weighs 5.8 ounces, meaning you can easily pack it down and carry it with you.Read more
The Cocoon Airflow Pillow is inflatable and made with a bubble style that includes a thin sheet of synthetic feel on the outer area of the pillow. This synthetic outer shell offers a lot of comfort and support as you sleep.
As mentioned, this pillow weighs 5.8-ounces.
Aside from durability, this pillow can also be packed down to the size of a baseball, making it very small when you put it into your backpack. Another nice feature that comes with this pillow is its lift, making it very comfortable and it also feels great when you touch it. Cocoon’s pillow is fully inflatable and also adjustable, allowing you to control where you want your pillow’s fill to be. Plus, the cozy microfiber shell that the pillow is designed with adds extra features of comfort when you sleep. Another bonus about this pillow is its easy-to-use twist valve, which makes it simple to inflate and deflate.
7. Klymit X Inflatable
Easy to use
Could be more comfortable
Another good, affordable option for a lightweight pillow is Klymit Pillow X Inflatable Pillow, which is designed to be both lightweight and durable.Read more
Klymit's Inflatable Pillow is made for great its size and durability. The top fabric is made from 30-denier polyester while the bottom is made out of 75-denier, making it highly durable.
At 1.95 pounds, the Klymit X is one of the lightest backpacking pillows out and is very inexpensive, especially for its size and durability.
This pillow is a great option for those looking for a pillow that fits directly into the hood of your sleeping bag and can be inflatable to your preference. While it could do with a little more comfort, if you're a back sleeper, you shouldn't mind at all. For those tummy or side sleepers, you might feel that your head isn't cradled enough.
8. Coop Home Goods
Not as lightweight as others
Difficult to compress
This is one of the more unique pillows on our list. This is a smaller version of Coop Home Good's luxury full-size pillows and features memory foam. It's a small pillow that still manages to pack in all the comforts of home.Read more
The durable cover of this travel pillow is made from a blend of Polyester and Bamboo-derived Viscose Rayon. These materials are thermo-regulating and this blend is ideal for hot sleepers and/or hot environments. Uncompressed, this pillow is a pretty decent size, 19-inches by 14-inches. When compressed and stuffed into the carrying case, it is 10-inches by 6-inches. One thing to remember is that the carrying case is not waterproof, however, Coop Home Goods does sell a waterproof pillowcase separately.
This is the heaviest pillow on our list, weighing in at 36-ounces. Arguably, this may also be the most comfortable pillow. If you do not have to walk or hike far to your campsite, this may be your best option.
You can easily adjust the fullness of this pillow at home. Simply, remove however much foam you wish to take out and you will end up with a flatter pillow. If you'll be sharing this pillow, we suggest storing the foam in a safe place in case your family members want something fluffier. Another one of the best things about this pillow is the fact that it is machine washable. While some reviewers are not happy with the weight of the pillow, everyone agrees that this is an incredibly comfortable pillow.
9. Kelty Camp
Lumpy, cheap filling
Not a large amount of lift
Not as lightweight as other models
For those outdoor enthusiasts shopping on a budget for a good camping pillow, Kelty’s Camp Pillow might be a good choice for you. Kelty’s Camp Pillow is a great option for those trying to shop for a good pillow without dropping a lot of money, and it provides a lot of features many campers enjoy.Read more
The exterior of Kelty’s Camp Pillow is made with 75D nylon Ripstop shell material, with a linear material that’s polyester and cotton. Where you’ll notice the pillow’s affordability is with its synthetic fill, which is cheaply made and can clump together if you use the pillow often. However, if you can deal with the lumps, you’ll get a lot of use out of the pillow and still sleep solidly and comfortably.
It weighs around 10-ounces when you pack it, meaning it’s not lightweight, but it’s also not extremely heavy.
Kelty’s Camp Pillow isn’t a small pillow, and it packs at a size of about 5 x 9 inches, but if you can handle that then you’ll be happy with this pillow for its price. It’s got a moderate level of comfort, which is pretty good for the price range it’s in.
10. Therm-a-Rest Trekker Pillow Case
Need available clothes to be stuffed inside
The Therm-a-rest Trekker Pillow Case is a little different from the other options on our list. while most pillows you might be looking for are actually pillows, this is just a case. This is great for anyone not looking to add too much bulk to their pack, but also looking for a little extra comfort.Read more
This pillowcase is as it sounds, a case in which you can stuff something to create an actual pillow. If you're used to stuffing your clothes into a dry bag and using that as a pillow, you might like this option as it is more comfortable than a dry bag. The bag itself is made from urethane.
If you can get over that it's not an actual pillow, it's great. It isn't inflatable so it will never pop. It doesn't add a ton of bulk to your pack and you will always have it available, so long as you have something to stuff it with. It's also the cheapest option on the list because it is very simple and doesn't have a ton of bells and whistles.
This pillowcase weighs 2.24-ounces.
The comfort of the case itself is dependent on what you put into the bag. That means you'll have to bring soft, puffy clothes with you in order for this to work as a soft pillow, while a firm pillow would require a lot of clothing to be stuffed inside. And definitely mind the buttons, zippers, or metal parts that could get uncomfortable against your face.
However, if you aren't planning to bring a lot of clothes or won't have much to stuff inside this case, an inflatable pillow is a must.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Backpacking pillows come in a wide variety of fabrics, and some work better for holding the pillow in one spot. When you’re looking at the pillow’s fabric, you want to consider how good the fabric feels against your skin, and how much noise it makes as you move around on it.
Inflatable pillows that use nylon material on the outside can be a bit louder than other pillows, squeaking and creating noise as you move your head. For some campers, this is too annoying to handle, and they prefer fabric options like cotton, nylon, or polyester. However, other campers don’t find this to be a feature that bothers them, so it’s a matter of preference. When thinking about external fabric options on your pillow, think about what is really important for you so that you can get a good night’s sleep. If you can easily bring a pillowcase along with you to reduce noise on some of these lightweight, inflatable pillow options, then you shouldn’t have a big problem dealing with them in the great outdoors.
If weight is really something that matters and you want a lightweight, easy-to-pack pillow, then an inflatable pillow might be the choice for you.
Typically, inflatable pillows are filled with air, and this allows them to be more lightweight, compact, and firmer than what you’ll get out of a compressible or hybrid pillow. With an inflatable pillow, you blow air into a valve to fill up your pillow and also use the valve to adjust the pillow’s thickness and deflate it.
Most inflatable pillows are designed to blow up and deflate efficiently and easily. They can create noise when you move your head, however, unlike either compressible or hybrid pillows. Many inflatable pillows on the market today are designed to be compact and light, but they aren’t as durable as hybrid or compressible pillows. You often need to be more careful with how you sleep on them, and you also may let go of some comfort features with an inflatable pillow. Inflatable pillows do tend to cost less than either hybrid or compressible pillows, so that’s another nice benefit for campers looking to buy a pillow on a budget.
While the shape of a pillow may not seem like an important feature, it is. The shape can provide a more comfortable rest and give you more positioning options.
Many of these pillows are shaped like rectangles, but not all of them are. You’ll find that when shopping around for backpacking pillows, they come in a variety of shapes and options. Some will be rectangular, but others will not be, and many will have various modification options that you’ll either want in a pillow or be able to live without if you are shopping on a budget.
On our list above, the Exped Air Pillow is a modified rectangle design and gives you minimal head movement when you sleep. In contrast, the Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium has a scalloped bottom edge to keep the pillow around your shoulders. At first glance, both of these pillows appear to be rectangular, but each offers its own features and modifications for comfort and support.
You’ll also discover that some backpacking pillows are u-shaped, while others are shaped in other ways. Whatever shape you feel is most comfortable, along with the modifications you feel help you sleep, is what you’ll want to consider when looking at pillow shape. What best suits you might not suit another person, so look around, try things out, and see what feels comfortable.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Sleeping bags can be large and plush and wrap you in warmth. However, pillows are less versatile. A great way to keep the pillow warm on an extremely cold night is with hand warmers. You can activate them and put them underneath the pillow, allowing the heat to rise and keep your head warm.
If you will be camping out in the car, the size and weight of the pillow is not as important. In this case, you may even be able to take a pillow from home. However, if you will be hiking for an extended period of time, the size and weight become very important. Compressible pillows are a great option. They typically weigh next to nothing and can be folded down to the size of a soda can.
Other Factors to Consider
Another thing you need to think about is the best size for your pillow. When considering size, an important feature to look at is the size of the pillow when it is packed and unpacked, especially if you are backpacking with the pillow. How much room can you let your pillow take up in your pack and still feel comfortable with? Again, that’s a matter of personal preference for many.
For most backpackers, the smaller and lighter the pillow when packed, the better the pillow is to carry. However, small, lightweight pillows don’t offer all the same comfort features as some of the heavier pillows, so that’s going to be something you’ll have to think about. While campers that tend to stay put may not worry as much about size and weight, hikers and backpackers that move will, and how much you feel comfortable carrying while sacrificing sleeping comfort is something you’ll have to think about.
If the weight and size of the pillow in your pack is really a concern, then you’ll probably want to consider some of the inflatable pillows we’ve listed above, like the UltraLight Inflatable Pillow. But if comfort and support are more of a concern, then you’ll want a hybrid or compressible pillow.
Frequently Asked Questions
Depending on what your backpacking style and sleep arrangement preferences are, there are a few things you’ll need to consider to match various pillow features with your desires. Pillows offer a wide variety of features and benefits, which we’ll cover below. All of these features and benefits are things you’ll want to consider when figuring out exactly what you need in your backpacking pillow.
Inflation Method: If you’re considering buying one of the lightweight inflatable pillows we’ve provided on our list, you need to decide if you are okay puffing into your pillow every night on the trail, or if you want a self-inflating pillow. Most self-inflating pillows are very convenient to sleep in and to pack up again, but they also tend to be a bit heavier and bulkier in your pack than pillows you’ll inflate yourself. But because you won’t be blowing into a self-inflating pillow to fill it up, you won’t have to worry about the interior of the pillow getting mold or bacteria in it because you won’t be using your hot, moist breath to blow it up. Self-inflating pillows, therefore, tend to last longer and be healthier for campers to use. Still, you can save a bit of money and pack weight with a pillow you manually inflate. Also, manually inflating a pillow does require your breath in the pillow, but typically it only takes one or two puffs to fill them—meaning they aren’t hard to puff into. Plus, they are far more lightweight and pack down better than almost any other pillow option you’ll find on the market.
Pillow Weight and Ease of Packing: Depending on the type of pillow you decide on, as well as the inflation method if you pick an inflatable pillow, these options tend to go together in some of the more expensive pillows. Most backpackers want to keep bulk and weight of any product to a minimum as much as possible. Still, where a pillow is concerned, comfort is going to be very important for a lot of people, and that means they might settle on a pillow that’s got a heavier weight and takes more space packing because they’d rather have the comfort at the end of the day. Manually inflatable pillows are the lightest and easiest to pack, followed by self-inflating pillows, then hybrid pillows, and last, compressible pillows. So, it’s up to you to figure out if you want to sacrifice some comfort at night for an easier-to-carry pillow, or if you’d rather carry something heavier and feel more comfortable at night. Really, it’s a matter of personal preference.
We all have a preferred way of sleeping—some of us feel better on our backs, while others prefer sides—it all varies from person to person. Before you purchase your pillow, take a close look at what positions you prefer to use when you sleep before you select a pillow to use when camping overnight. Some pillows are made for particular sleeping preferences, and you’ll find some backpacking pillows are better for side sleepers, while others are better for back sleepers, and still others offer more all-around versatility for sleeping preferences. The best backpacking pillows typically contour well to hold your head even, creating comfort and relaxing your neck and back. Plus, many backpacking pillows are made to be small and compact, sometimes making it hard for people to keep their heads securely on small pillows. Backpacking pillows that are contoured will hold your head in place and be easier to sleep on.
How well a pillow compresses to fit your backpack will be an important item to consider if you plan to carry a lot when you hike. If you need something that will fit well into your gear on all of your camping, hiking, or backpacking trips, then you want a pillow that offers a lot of compressibilities. The higher the compressibility, the smaller the pillow will become when you fold it down to fit your back. So, if you know you’ll be carrying a lot and need to save space, compressibility will help you out. However, if you’re using a car or RV to camp and explore, then you might not need to worry about the pillow’s compressibility. So, again, this is another factor you’ll have to analyze within your own personal preferences and needs.
If you prefer more of a combination between the inflatable and compressible pillow, then you might like a hybrid pillow. With a hybrid pillow, the idea is to give campers the best of both worlds, providing you with a top that can be compressed for comfort, and an inflatable bottom for support.
Hybrid pillows offer great benefits for people who want the best of both pillow types and do typically cost more than an inflatable pillow. They are heavier than an inflatable pillow but lighter than a compressed pillow. Many campers also feel hybrid pillows are more comfortable than inflatable pillows, but not as comfortable as compressible pillows. With hybrid pillows, there is typically a bit of a give and take where weight and comfort are concerned. The more comfortable hybrid pillows usually weigh more, and lightweight hybrid pillows aren’t as comfortable. So, in that case, it’s really a matter of personal preference.
Each pillow type comes with a different style of pillow filling that can affect how comfortable the pillow actually feels, its weight, its support, and its adjustability. Here are the options:
Inflatable Pillows: Inflatable pillows are the lightest, most compact, and easiest to carry backpacking pillows available. Most of these pillows also allow you to adjust firmness after they are inflated. These pillows are filled with air and don’t typically offer as much durability, comfort, and support as some of the other pillow options. You’ll get an easy-to-carry and use pillow, but it might not be as comfortable as some other pillow options.
Down Feather Compressible Pillows: These pillows don’t tend to be as lightweight an easy-to-carry as inflatable pillows, but many campers prefer them because they resemble the pillows you’re used to in your own bed. They are very comfortable and provide a great sleeping experience. Usually, you’ll get a soft exterior and a comfortable interior. These pillows are also more compact and lighter compared to pillows that use synthetic fillers, which helps make them lighter, but not as lightweight as an inflatable pillow. These pillows also tend to cost more than your other pillow options.
Synthetic Compressible Pillows: If firmness in your pillow is a primary concern, then a pillow with a synthetic filling might be a great option for you. You’ll get plenty of firmness and neck support as you sleep. However, these pillows do tend to be heavier to carry and not as durable as down feather pillows. They do cost less than down feather compressible pillows, and usually are more expensive than inflatable pillows.
Hybrid Compressible Pillows: If you want a pillow that combines the benefits of compression and inflation, then a hybrid pillow might be the right choice for you. These pillows come with down and synthetic materials, and also have inflatable options for adjustments and easier packing. Many of them are very comfortable to sleep on, and they tend to be popular with campers. These pillows won’t be as lightweight as a fully inflatable pillow, but they’re more lightweight than your other pillow options on the market.
Most campers do feel that pillow fillings matter, but everybody has his or her own personal preference. So while the filling will tend to dictate the comfort, support, and weight of the pillow, exactly where you stand on this scale of things and what you need will be up to you. What you feel is the best pillow on the market can vary widely from what other people feel, so you may need to experiment around to discover exactly what type of pillow will be best for you. If you aren’t certain, consider going to a local camping supply store and trying the different options out just to see how comfortable they feel, how heavy they are, and what you feel you need to use in a pillow.