Nothing beats a good night’s sleep in your shelter after a day of physical activity and exploration in the wilderness. Whether you are car camping, hiking or backpacking, having a comfortable overnight rest can be the difference between waking up with a sore body and waking up fully fresh for another day of exciting exploration.
Along with your shelter, sleeping pad and bags, having a comfortable pillow to support your head and neck can make your sleep a lot better. So, which are the best camping and backpacking pillows to look at?
In this article, we look at answering exactly the same question and share some of the best pillows to consider for camping, hiking, and backpacking. We will look at the three common types of such pillows – inflatable, compressible as well as the latest hybrid pillows. We will also look at some of the factors to consider while picking the most suitable options for your needs and share some of our favorite picks. These pillows also work well for air and road travel and even for lazing out in your backyard. Read on to find out more!
Best inflatable camping pillow listSome of the best inflatable camping and backpacking pillows available in the market are listed below:
|Sea To Summit Aeros Premium Pillow||Reg.: 14" x 10" x 5"; 2.8 oz.|
Large: 16.5" x 11.5"x 5.5"; 3.7 oz.
|-Luxurious, inflatable pillow that features a soft 50D polyester cover, TPU bladder and a synthetic material filling between the pillow- case and the bladder for additional comfort and perspiration. Made in China under manufacturer quality control.|
- Ergonomically shaped - one side is elevated about an inch higher than the other side. Helps better control on thickness. Contoured design provides a cradle for the head and avoids accidental fall-offs.
- Easy to inflate in a couple of breaths with a multi-functional valve for easy inflation/deflation.
- Extremely lightweight and packable, taking a minimal 0.5l of space. Comes with a drawstring stuff sack.
- Available in two colors and sizes. Backed by a limited lifetime warranty.
|Trekology Ultralight Inflating Pillow||16" x 12"x 4"; 2.8 oz.||- Lightweight and compact inflatable pillow featuring a TPU fabric body and contoured design. The fabric is slip resistant, water-resistant and elastic.|
- Improved (New) contoured design provides better support to the neck and head. Extra layer of cushion has been added in the new design as improvement.
- Extremely compact and folds to the size of a soda can. Comes with a drawstring storage bag.
- Can inflate in 3-5 breaths through a multi-functional valve.
- Comes in 5 vibrant colors and backed by a 1-year manufacturer warranty.
|ONWEGO Soft-Top Inflatable Pillow||16" x 12"x 4"; 2.8 oz.||- Comfortable, fabric-top camping pillow with a super-soft cotton-blended polyester cover with TPU bladder. The cover is removable and suitable for hand wash.|
- Reasonably compact and packable. Rolls down to the size of rolled socks. Comes with a self-contained storage sack.
- Unique non-leaking, one-way valve for quick inflation in 2-3 breaths. Can attain a thickness of 4.5 inches max.
- Comes in 2 standard colors and backed by a 1-year manufacturer warranty.
|TNH Outdoors Inflatable Camping Pillow||19" x 10.6"x 3.5"; 2.8 oz.||- Decent quality inflatable pillow with knitted cotton fabric cover with soft contours for air flow. Non-slip surface to avoid head fall-offs.|
- Comes with leak-proof and waterproof two-piece valve built in one for convenient inflation and deflation.
- Packable to the size of rolled socks. Comes with a drawstring stuff sack.
- Available in two standard colors - blue and black and backed a limited lifetime warranty.
|Exped Air Pillow||M: 15" x 10.6"x 3.9"; 2.5 oz.|
L: 18" x 11.8"x 4.7”; 3.0 oz.
XL: 20.5" x 13.4" x 5.1"; 3.3 oz.
|- Ultralight pillow with a tricot fabric cover and a standard air bladder.|
- Smartly designed with high side suitable for side sleepers and lower side suitable for back sleepers.
- Extremely compact and packable. A tad smaller than other pillows. Comes with a drawstring stuff sack.
- Dual valve system. Separate low-profile flat valves - one each for inflating and deflating. Can inflate in 2-3 full breaths.
- Backed by a two-year manufacturer warranty.
- An even lighter, ultralight version that weighs less than 2 oz. is also available.
Best compressible and hybrid camping pillow listSome of the best compressible and hybrid camping and backpacking pillows available in the market are listed below:
|Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow||S: 16" x 12" x 4"; 7 oz.|
M: 18" x 14"x 4"; 9 oz.
L: 23" x 16" x 4"; 12 oz.
XL: 27" x 16.5"x 4"; 15 oz.
|- High-quality, made in the US compressible pillow with a soft, brushed polyester cover and soft urethane foam filling on the inside. The manufacturing process uses recycled materials. Provides a comfortable, soft surface for the head and neck.|
- Self-contained in its own string stuff sack. Can compress to a volume of 2.6 liters.
- Reasonably compact and lightweight. Machine washable, though multiple washes can make it firmer.
- Comes in four sizes and eight vibrant colors. Small size is perfect for backpacking while larger sizes are more suitable for car camping or travel.
- Backed by a limited lifetime warranty
|TETON Sports Camp Pillow||18” x 12” x 3.9” ; 11 oz.||- A compressible pillow with a 100% brushed flannel cover and Soft SuperLoft filling. The cover is machine washable.|
- Standard size and feel of a normal bedroom pillow. Comes with its own stuff sack.
- Large packed volume and moderate weight, so most suitable for car camping or RVing only.
- Available in four color combinations and backed by a limited lifetime warranty.
|ALPS Mountaineering MicroFiber Camp Pillow||S: 20" x 10" x 4"; 8 oz.|
L: 24" x 16"x 4"; 16 oz.
|- A decent camping pillow featuring a soft microfiber fabric cover and TechLoft+ Insulation.|
- Comes in two sizes and a drawstring stuff sack. Small-sized pillow can compress to 9 x 6.5 inches while the large pillow can compress to a size of 10.5 x 7 inches
- The microfiber fabric is suitable for hand washing only.
- Backed by a limited lifetime warranty.
|Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow||13” x 9” x 3” ; 6 oz.||- A versatile compressible pillow with a 600D Polyester taffeta inner filling and 30D Polyester ripstop outer shell surface. Can be used with or without the inner shell.|
- Packs down to a mid-size soda can. Comes with a stuff sack.
- Flattens out thinner than other pillows, so suitable for stomach sleepers and people who like thinner support. Smaller in size than other compressible pillows.
- The synthetic filling can warm up quickly.
- Backed by one-year manufacturer warranty.
|Nemo Fillo Premium Hybrid Pillow||17” x 10” x 4” ; 9.6 oz.||- Compact and versatile hybrid camping pillow that is as comfortable as compressible pillows and adjustable as an inflatable pillow. Features a fabric cover and a memory foam on the top and a three-inch inflatable bladder on the bottom for adjusting the height. |
- The Polyester Micro-suede outer shell offers a comfortable feeling to the skin. The outer shell is washable.
- Inflates fully in 3-4 breaths only. Works well for all sleeping types - back, stomach and side sleepers
- Features an integrated stuff sack and compresses down to around 1.5L which is only a little more than inflatable pillows.
- Comes in five vibrant colors and backed by a lifetime manufacturer warranty.
- A bigger but more expensive luxury model is also available for car camping.
|Exped REM Hybrid Pillow||11” x 6” x 4” ; 7 oz.||- High-end, Swiss-made, hybrid camping pillow with a REM foam layer, soft tricot top and inflatable air chambers on the bottom side. REM (Recycled Extracted Modules) provide cushioned comfort like compressible pillows.|
- Inflates fully in 3-4 breaths only and has a maximum thickness that exceeds all other pillow types. Works well for all sleepers - back, stomach and side sleepers. Inner air pillow is removable and rest of the body is washable.
- Features an integrated flap sack and compresses down in it to a small size. However not as compact as NEMO Fillo and a bit noisy like inflatable pillows.
- Backed by a 2-year warranty.
Types of camping and backpacking pillows
The ideal pillow is one that feels like the one on your bed. But normal bedroom pillows are not portable because of the large space they would take. So, you need a pillow with a design that balances the comfort with portability. There are three categories of pillows available for outdoor activities. Let us briefly look at these different categories:
- Inflatable Pillows: As the name suggested, inflatable pillows are essentially blow up pillows that are extremely compact and lightweight when deflated (some are small enough to fit in your palm). To use them, you simply blow-up the air through the opening/valve using your mouth or an air pump. You have full control over their elevation and firmness as you can control it by the volume of air you pump in. Some inflatable pillows are self-inflating, meaning they automatically inflate to about 50% of their size when taken out of their sacks. Further inflation can be done through the valve. Though modern inflatable pillows may have a waterproof fabric surface to provide comfort, they are still not as comfortable as compressible or hybrid pillows. They also produce some noise when you move your head around. Still, because of their waterproof construction, compact size and light weight, inflatable pillows are a preferred choice for multi-day backpacking or thru-hiking.
- Compressible Pillows: Compressible pillows are stuffed pillows. To keep their weight to a minimum while providing plush support, they are filled with down feathers or special synthetic materials and foams. Such pillows compress to the size of a bundle of clothes and self-inflate when taken out of their stuff-sacks. Compressible pillows are more comfortable than inflatable pillows, but they also take up more space (arm size for such pillows as opposed to palm size for inflatable pillows) and weigh a little more. And since they do not rely on air-inflation they are more durable as you do not have to worry about leaks. Compressible pillows are a perfect choice for car camping and overnight family camping.
- Hybrid Pillows: The hybrid pillow follows a relatively recent design and are a crossover between an inflatable and compressible pillow. Such pillows feature a pillow cover, a compressible fabric/cushion layer on the top and an inflatable layer on the bottom. The top layer provides a more comfortable surface to rest on and the inflatable bottom provides adjustable height and additional support. Such pillows take up lesser space than compressible pillows but are generally costlier. Depending upon the available space, one can opt for hybrid pillows for multi-day backpacking trips as well.
How to pick the best camping pillows for your needs?
With so many options available in the market for each type of pillow, picking the best pillow for your needs can be a challenging task. After all, it is a question of a comfortable sleep after a day of physical activity. Worry not! Once you have decided the type of pillow (inflatable, compressible or hybrid) based on the type of outdoor activity (car camping or travel – compressible or hybrid; thru-hiking or backpacking – inflatable or hybrid) there are only a few other additional things to look at, as summarized below:
- Sleeping preference
- Construction material of the pillow
- Design of the pillow
- Size and weight of the pillow
- Additional features and considerations
What your normal sleep posture is can play a significant role in the type and thickness of pillow you would be most comfortable with. After all, your predominant sleeping position and pillow work together to provide the right type of support for your head, neck, and spine.
If you are a side sleeper, you would generally prefer a firm, thicker pillow as such a pillow would provide perfect support for your head, neck, and spine. That is why most side sleepers prefer an inflatable or hybrid pillow.
On the other hand, back sleepers prefer softer, thinner pillows. And if you are a stomach sleeper, then you would also love thinner pillows with a special preference for ones which stay cool and do not heat up. Many down compressible pillows have extra soft fillings and are filled with insulations and feathers that keep them relatively cool.
Some inflatable pillows, such as the best-selling Sea To Summit Aeros Premium Pillow, go an extra mile by creating an asymmetrical dual design in which one side is more elevated than the others. So the higher/elevated side can be used by side sleepers while the lower side can be used by back sleepers.
So depending upon your predominant sleeping posture, you can look at the right type and design of the pillow.
Construction material of the pillow
The fabric used to make the pillow cover and inner shell can play an important role in governing the comfort level you would have with your pillow. As discussed above, compressible pillows, with their soft polyester fabric covers and foam fillings are the most comfortable types of portable pillows. Additional types of fillings include down feathers, synthetic fibers or a combination of foam and fibers. Foam-filled compressible pillows tend to be more durable, but they can take more packable space when compared to down material-filled pillows (such as Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow). The TETON Sports Camp Pillow is probably the most bedroom-like travel/camping pillow, with its soft flannel cover and SuperLoft foam filling.
In order to provide more comfort, modern inflatable pillows have started providing a fabric outer shell to ensure softer feel to the skin. And to ensure a waterproof and leak-proof service, the inner shell is now made of TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) or TPU coated fabric. Such a fabric is not as noisy as normal plastic or rubberized shell and is many times durable.
Finally, to provide a better balance between comfort and weight, we have hybrid camping pillows such as the Nemo Fillo Premium Hybrid Pillow. Outside of the technicalities, this pillow is almost as comfortable as any compressible pillow out there and the feeling to the skin is almost perfect for a portable and compact travel pillow.
Check out the construction material of the pillow outer shell, inner surface and filling and valves to determine the most comfortable option for your needs.
Design of the pillow
In addition to the fabric and construction material of the pillow discussed above and the size and weight considerations discussed below, there are a few additional design considerations that can make a pillow more comfortable than others.
For compressible and hybrid pillows, this generally means having a design that provides comfortable support while being packable to a size as small as a roll of sock-pairs. Hybrid and inflatable pillows have more design advancements in form of contoured design for comfortable air flow, dual air valves that support easy inflation and deflation and asymmetrical designs with one side more elevated than the other to support different types of sleepers. Sea To Summit Aeros Premium Pillow is a prime example of such a smartly-designed inflatable pillow. It has a contoured surface, leak-proof air valves and ergonomic asymmetrical sides with one side more elevated than the other.
Check out these design-related features to determine if a specific model of compressible or inflatable pillows is best suited for your needs.
Size and weight of the pillow
As discussed above in the section on different types of camping pillows, the overall and packable size of the pillow and its weight are probably the most important factor to consider while picking the best option for one’s needs. You need a pillow that provides a nice balance between the expanded size, overall weight, and packability. Some manufacturers even offer different expanded size models ranging from small size to a full bedroom-size.
Almost all the inflatable pillows that we listed have a standard size option available that packs to a size of less than a soda can and weighs less than 3 ounces. The Trekology Ultralight Inflating Pillow is especially lightweight with an aggregate weight of 2.8 ounces for a 16-inch pillow size. These factors make such inflatable pillows perfect choice for thru-hiking and multi-day backpacking.
Compressible pillows tend to take a little more space (size of a rolled socks or towel-set) and weigh around 10 ounces. The TETON Sports Camp Pillow is the most fluffy compressible pillow which takes maximum packing space among all options that we listed and hence is most suitable for car camping only. Our top pick – the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow offers a nice balance between size and weight with a 16-inch pillow weighing around 7 ounces and can be used for camping or overnight backpacking trips.
Hybrid pillows such as Nemo Fillo Premium and Exped REM Premium offer a middle path between comfort, size, and weight, but you would have to shell out a little more money for such premium pillows.
Additional features and miscellaneous considerations
In addition to the major criteria discussed above, there are some other miscellaneous considerations that can make a particular purchase more suitable than others.
- Packing bag/stuff sack: All the camping and backpacking pillows that we listed come with their own packing sacks or bags. Most compressible and hybrid pillows have a self-contained or integrated stuff sack which allows them to be packed within themselves. Most inflatable pillows, on the other hand, come with separate drawstring stuff sacks, the exception being the ONWEGO Soft-Top Inflatable Pillow. One major advantage with integrated stuff sack is that you do not have to worry about losing the stuff sack. Another word of advice – follow the packing instructions to ensure that you have smallest packing volume and the pillow is not damaged.
- Color and Looks: The color and looks of the pillow can be a consideration for some as textures can give a comfortable feel to the sleeper. Popular manufacturers such as Therm-a-Rest offer a wide range of color options and you can pick the one that you like.
- Cleaning and care: Your camping pillow would invariably get dirty during your outdoor trip, so having the ability to clean the outer cover is an added advantage. Most inflatable pillows have seamed covers, so to clean them up you can only wipe them with a wet cloth or face-wipes. Some inflatable pillows and almost all compressible and hybrid pillow options that we listed have removable and washable covers. While hand-wash is probably the best option, some covers even support gentle machine wash. You can check out the exact specifications to determine whether your preferable model has a removable cover and if it supports hand or machine wash.
- Warranty: The warranty and after-sale support are probably one of the most important additional considerations to look at. Even though a shorter warranty does not necessarily equate to bad quality, any pillow with a warranty of 2 years or more would ensure that you would have a hassle-free use for years. Manufacturers such as Nemo, Therm-a-rest and Sea to Summit even offer a lifetime warranty on their pillows. Check the warranty support on your pillow choice to determine if it has a long-term warranty support.
Look at all these additional factors to determine if they make a specific pillow a better choice for your needs.
Which are the best camping and backpacking pillows and what our picks are?
Sea To Summit Aeros Premium Pillow review – Editor’s pick for the best inflatable backpacking pillow
The best-selling Sea To Summit Aeros Premium Pillow is a perfect inflatable pillow for traveling, multi-day backpacking and thru-hiking.
This luxurious inflatable pillow features a soft 50D polyester cover that is seamed to the high-quality, Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) bladder. A thin synthetic filling layer between the bladder and the cover helps in providing additional cushion to the head and perspiration-absorbing comfort to the skin. Since the cover is seamed into the bladder as a single unit, you cannot remove it to wash it. So to clean up the pillow, you would have to wipe it up with a wet cloth or face-wipes.
The regular size has a dimension of 14″ x 10″ and a weight of 2.8 oz. while the large size has a dimension of 16.5″ x 11.5″ and a weight of 3.7 oz. The pillow can be inflated through a single multi-functional valve in 3-4 breaths and can attain a thickness of generous 5 inches. The pillow is extremely packable and folds down to as little as 0.5 liters of volume.
Probably the best part of this pillow is its smart design. Like most other inflatable camping pillows, it has a contoured design with curved internal baffles which minimize wobbling and head fall-offs. Its unique shape makes it a perfect fit for mummy-type sleeping bags. And it has an asymmetric ergonomic design – one side is elevated about an inch higher than the other side. The higher side can be most suitable for side sleepers while the lower side can be more suitable for back sleepers. You may, however, experience some wobbling on the lower side of the pillow.
The Aeros Premium Pillow comes in two pleasing color combinations that give an extremely comfortable feel. And to top up all the other qualities, each pillow is backed by a limited lifetime warranty so you can use it for years.
Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow review – Editor’s pick for the best compressible camping and travel pillow
If you thought you would have to sacrifice all the comforts for an overnight camping trip, then think again. The Therm-a-rest Compressible camping pillow is one luxury-on-budget that can help you get a bedroom-like sleep while camping.
The Therm-a-Rest Compressible pillow is made in the US and features a brushed polyester cover that feels nice on the skin and provides a soft micro-suede resting surface for the head and support to the neck. It has a urethane foam filling which is upcycled from the Therm-a-Rest mattresses. This recycling helps in keeping the cost of this compressible pillow reasonable. The pillow is machine washable and it is often advised to run the pillow through a gentle machine wash cycle (some users suggest adding a couple of tennis balls to the washer) to make it more fluffy.
The Therm-a-Rest Pillow is available in four different sizes ranging from small which is 16 inches long to extra large which is a generous 27 inches long. The small pillow weighs a decent 7 ounces, which though more than inflatable pillows, is still pretty decent. All the models have a thickness of 4 inches, which is suitable for most sleepers and very much like a standard bedroom pillow. It is available in eight vibrant colors, with new looks with self-design introduced periodically.
The pillow comes with a self-contained/integrated stuff sack and can compress to a volume of 2.6 liters, making it more suitable for car camping or short couple of days of backpacking trip, provided you store it snuggly with your sleeping bag
Like other high-quality Therm-a-Rest sleeping products, the Therm-a-Rest Compressible pillow is backed by a limited lifetime warranty for manufacturer defects.
Nemo Fillo Premium Hybrid Pillow – Editor’s pick for the best hybrid camping and backpacking pillow
If you are looking for a pillow that provides the comfort of a compressible pillow along with the versatility and portability of an inflatable pillow, hybrid pillows are the ones to check out. And Nemo Fillo is the best hybrid pillow out there that offers excellent comfort and versatility. It is heavier than the Exped REM Hybrid Pillow but is definitely more comfortable.
The Nemo Fillo pillow features a washable micro-suede polyester pillow surface with one inch of memory foam on the top and a three-inch inflatable bladder on the bottom side for adjusting the height of the pillow. The micro-suede cover and memory foam make it reasonably comfortable for all types of sleepers, especially side and back sleepers.
The pillow comes in one standard size with a dimension of 17-inch by 10-inch. It weighs around 9.6 ounces which is still reasonable when compared to similar-sized compressible pillows. And the best part is that the pillow is extremely packable in its integrated stuff sack and takes up only 1.5 liters of volume. Packing may be a bit tricky though and may need some practice and getting used to.
The Nemo Fillo pillow is available in five vibrant colors. It is backed by a lifetime warranty so you can rest assured of its quality and durability for years to come. And if you are looking for a larger pillow that can provide some lumbar support, check out the Nemo Fillo Luxury Pillow.
Do it yourself(DIY) pillow improvisations
Though the camping pillow options we listed are pretty lightweight and do not take a lot of space, you may prefer to not carry one specifically. You can still get enough support for your head and neck for a good night sleep by employing some improvisations. Some of the most popular ones are listed below:
- You can use your sleeping bag stuff sack, a dry bag or a compression sack to make a pillow. To do this, simply fill your stuff sack with rolled-up soft cotton and fleece clothes. If you are using a stuff sack with straps and all, turn it upside down to create an intrusion-free surface. Additionally, rolled-up fleece jackets make excellent support pillows.
- An air-filled empty water bladder can also act as an inflated pillow. Most people use Platypus 3L and 2L bladder to create a makeshift pillow by inflating empty bladders and wrapping a layer of towel or cloth around it.
- Cheap arm-floats used by children for swimming can also be improvised into inflatable pillows. Simply cut those floats off the folded lines and you have two improvised inflatable chambers to act as a pillow.
Some other improvisations include using Ziploc bags and trash liners as stuff sacks. But they do not work as well and are more of a hassle than relief.
Final thoughts on the best camping and backpacking pillows
A camping or backpacking pillow can play a major role in making your overnight sleep during a trip, a lot more comfortable. Irrespective of what type of sleeper you are, there is a compact and lightweight pillow designed for your needs.
In this article, we looked at some of the best portable pillows for camping, hiking and backpacking trips. We looked at the three major types popular for outdoor activities – inflatable, compressible and hybrid pillows. These pillows are portable, lightweight and do not take a lot of space in your travel kit. Such pillows are work well for travel and backyard hammocking. We also listed out some of the factors to consider while picking the best option and also shared our top picks.
We hope that you found this article useful. Do let us know your feedback and if you would want us to consider anything else by commenting below. Until next time, have a great night’s sleep with your favorite pillow!