Best Backpacking Pillow
Getting good sleep is important when you’re camping overnight on one of your outdoor adventures. However, to make sure you get a great night of rest when you know you have a full schedule of activities the next day requires owning a quality backpacking pillow.
You don’t want to experience neck pain or a bad night of rest when you’re busy in the outdoors, but there are so many backpacking pillows available on the market today, how can you select the right one? We’re going to help save you time by listing some of the best backpacking pillows on the market today, and giving you some tips and pointers to help you select the product that’s right for you.
- Nemo Fillo
- Memory foam
- Packs down small
- Therm-A-Rest Compressible
- Good materials
- Exped REM
- Easy to inflate
10 Best Backpacking Pillows
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.
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 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.
The Nemo Fillo Backpacking Pillow also comes with an integrated stuff stack, 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.
- Memory foam
- Adjustable comfort
- Packs down small
- Heavier than some other competitors’ brands.
- Could come in more styles.
The Therm-A-Rest Compressible Pillow is extremely comfortable regardless of its simple design, and 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.
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.
- Very comfortable
- Good materials
- Pillow is a bit heavier compared to some other competitive models.
- Pillow could be more stylish.
Exped’s REM 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.
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.
Exped’s REM Pillow is made from soft tricot surface fabric, which makes the outside of the pillow feel soft to the touch. It also has recycled extracted modules to help provide cushioned comfort, and an air chamber for more support.
Exped’s REM Pillow is designed to provide a combination of an air pillow, foam topper and soft tricot cover, making it versatile and strong. Its rectangular shape is also meant to help provide extra neck support.
- Good combination pillow
- Easy to inflate and deflate
- Lightweight but packs large in backpack.
- Not as comfortable as some other pillows on the market.
Sea to Summit Aeros
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 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. It’s still not as comfortable as some other heavier pillow designs, but it’s pretty decent for a blow-up pillow.
The Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow also comes with a scalloped bottom edge that centers the pillow over your shoulders, no matter how you sleep. The curved internal area of the pillow also contours to give your head extra support.
- Easy to pack
- Controls perspiration
- Not as comfortable as some other pillows.
- Could be easier to use.
Therm-a-Rest Trekker Pillow Case
This pillow case 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 comfort of the case itself is dependent on wha 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.
If you aren't planning to bring a lot of clothes or won't have much to stuff inside, an inflatable pillow is a must.
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 doesn't have a ton of bells and whistles.
- Need available clothes to be stuffed in side
Kelty’s Luxury Pillow comes with a sleeve that lets you use a jacket or a shirt inside of it, meaning you can carry less and still feel comfortable with your pillow without having to add anything additional to your pack. If you do use a more standard pillow fill, then the pillow’s comfort level will resemble something like the level of comfort you get from your pillows at home.
The comfort of this pillow lasts throughout the night, and also helps to regulate body temperature well without overheating. It also is affordable 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.
Since the Kelty Luxury Pillow is so easy to pack, easy to use, and comfortable, it is a good option for those on a budget. It’s not as lightweight as some other pillow options, but it is light enough, and will certainly provide you with the comfort and support you need.
- Easy to carry
- Easy to use
- Not as lightweight as some other models.
- Could come in more styles.
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.
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.
Kelty’s Camp Pillow is made with 75D nylon Ripstop shell material, with a linear material that’s polyester and cotton. It weighs around ten total ounces when you pack it, meaning it’s not lightweight, but it’s also not extremely heavy.
- Lumpy, cheap filling.
- Not a large amount of lift.
- Not light.
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.
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.
Cocoon’s Airflow Pillow can also be packed down to the size of a baseball, making it very small when you put it into your backpack. 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. Plus, the pillow is very durable, and built to last.
- Easy to inflate and deflate
- Easy to pack
- Pillow can be instable.
- Pillow can roll around at night.
Ultralight Inflatable Camping
The Ultralight Inflatable Camping Pillow is made with a lightweight nylon shell that’s occlusive to air. It’s not as durable in quality as some other materials, as the denier nylon on the outside isn’t incredibly strong, but that’s one of the tradeoffs we often see with lightweight camping gear—it’s usually not as durable as heavier products.
You do need to be careful where and how you use this pillow, since it is light, not strong, and doesn’t have a fabric shell. That also means you have to be wary of the moisture that can collect on the pillow after many uses.
However, if you want an affordable, lightweight pillow and don’t mind sacrificing some durability features, you’ll get what you want out of this pillow. You’ll feel its comfort and enjoy how easy it is to inflate, deflate, and pack along with you.
- Easy to use
- Packs easy
- Collects moisture
- Not durable
Klymit Pillow X Inflatable Pillow
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 our of 75-denier, making it highly durable.
Plus this 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.
At 1.95 pounds, the Klymit X is one of the lightest backpacking pillows out and is very inexpensive, espcially for this size and durability.
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 your head isn't cradled enough.
- Easy to use
- Great size
- Could be more comfortable
Criteria Used for Evaluation
When trying to decide what type of backpacking pillow to purchase, there are a few things you need to consider about your purchase. First, you want to examine the different types of backpacking pillows on the market to figure out what you might like best.
One option you’ll have when looking into purchasing the best backpacking pillow is a compressible pillow. These pillows are usually filled on the inside with down, foam, or synthetic materials. Sometimes, compressible pillows are mixed with all three types of materials on the inside—other times, you’ll find there is only one material filling the pillow.
Synthetic fiber and foam-filled compressible pillows will give you a firmer pillow to sleep on. These types of pillows will also be a bit heavier, and also more affordable, then pillows that are filled with down.
Compressible pillows filled with down are usually more comfortable, flexible, and lightweight, but also typically cost more. So, depending on what filler you really feel you need with a compressible pillow, you can save a bit of money if you are okay buying a heavier pillow without down.
Compressible pillows, regardless of filler, are more similar to the pillows you use in your bedroom, and offer many of the softest and most comfortable options. However, they are also usually heavier than inflatable pillows, and take up more backspace. Compressible pillows also tend to be more durable than inflatable ones, and also usually cost more than inflatable pillows.
Another pillow type you can purchase is an inflatable pillow. 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.
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.
What to Consider When Buying a Backpacking Pillow
After you have an idea about what type of pillow you’d like to purchase, you next need to take a look at the pillow’s shape, size, and use of fabric when trying to find the best backpacking pillow for your outdoor adventures. In most cases, much of this is up to personal preference, so you’ll want to keep that in mind for your selection.
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.
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 size 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 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.
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 pillow case 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.
Q: What should I consider when buying my backpacking pillow?
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.
- Consider How You Sleep. 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 compressibility. 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.
Q: Do Pillow Fillings Matter?
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.
If you want to grab a good night’s rest while you’re camping overnight, then you’ll want to purchase a great backpacking pillow to help you feel refreshed the next day. There are several different choices, options, styles, and types when it comes to picking out a backpacking pillow, and many of the options that will benefit you will depend on your personal preferences.
What you decide to purchase really depends on how comfortable you want the pillow to feel, the weight of the pillow when you pack it, how much support and firmness you want, and your budget. After you analyze these factors, you should be able to select the best pillow for all of your outdoor adventures.