Are you on the lookout for the perfect and best pillow for backpacking? Read our guide on the 5 best backpacking pillows that you should consider!
A backpacking adventure is a great opportunity to get outdoors, soak up the fresh air, and experience some beautiful natural scenery.
However, due to the amount of equipment needed, backpacking isn’t considered the most accessible activity.
Sleeping whilst backpacking, in particular, requires a lot of gear. In addition to equipment that ensures comfort and safety, such as a good tent and sleeping bag, if you’re going to be hiking in the days, it is also necessary that you have everything you need to get a comfortable night’s sleep.
A backpacking pillow might be the last thing you think of when it comes to preparing for a trip, but we think it is one of the most important pieces of kit. A good pillow can ensure that you remain full of energy, free of pain, and excited to face the challenge ahead.
Below, we’ve listed our five favorite, and best backpacking pillows that are available to purchase now. Each one has been hand-selected according to its comfortability, portability, and price.
We’ve also included a handy buyers’ guide that consists of everything you need to know to make an informed purchase when choosing the perfect pillow for your backpacking expedition.
- 5 Best Backpacking Pillows To Consider
- Buyers’ Guide
- Frequently Asked Questions
5 Best Backpacking Pillows To Consider
- Lightweight inflatable pillow with a soft brushed knit exterior is ideal for camping or travel
- Multi-function mini valve provides easy inflation, fast deflation and the ability to fine-tune the pressure
- Technical fabrics reduce weight, will withstand exposure to moisture and pack down small
- Compatible with Sea to Summit camping sleeping mats with PillowLock patches to secure pillow in place
- Regular size (curved) 13.4 x 9.4 x 4.3-inches, packs to 3.3 x 2.8-inches and weighs 2.8oz
If you’re looking for a keen backpacker, you’ll need a pillow that is comfortable and durable. The Sea to Summit Aeros Premium pillow is a great choice for its softness and durability.
It has been tested by many hikers over the years, and they all agree that it’s an excellent product.
This is a very popular pillow among backpackers because it provides a great level of comfort. It features a soft brushed knit exterior and the level of inflation can be personalized thanks to the unique multi-function valve.
This pillow is ideal for long trips where you want to sleep comfortably without waking up full of aches and pains in the morning.
It also comes in three sizes (regular, deluxe, and large) and four colors (grey, lime, magenta, and navy blue), so there should be something to suit everyone!
The regular size measures 13 inches x 9.4 inches (perfect for a regular-sized sleeping bag) and weighs 4oz, making this pillow particularly lightweight and easy to transport.
Another reason why the Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow is one of the best pillows for backpackers is thanks to the polyester material that is very comfortable in damp and sweaty conditions. This pillow is great as it will dry in no time, even in damp or wet conditions!
- Air-filled – means it is compact when not in use.
- Multi-function valve – can be personalized to your sleeping preferences.
- Soft brushed knot exterior – makes for a very comfortable pillow.
- Polyester – this pillow dries quickly.
- 3 sizes – there is something for all types of sleepers.
- Price – this is more expensive than others on this list.
- Ultralight (7 ounce) compressible travel pillow with soft foam filling that packs down small for road trips, plane travel, camping, and backpacking
- Foam filling expands into a 4-inch thick pillow for head, neck, and back support in tents, cars, planes, and other tough-to-get-comfortable places
- Compact design packs into a backpack, duffle, suitcase, or tote; drawstring and cord lock keeps pillow securely compressed when not in use
- Brushed polyester cover is soft against skin for comfort; lofty urethane fill is an upcycled byproduct of Thermarest mattresses
- Pillow measures 12 x 16 x 4 inches (13 x 4 x 4 inches compressed) and weighs 7 ounces; before use, shake and fluff to restore loft; machine washable; made in the USA
If you’re looking for a versatile travel pillow that you can use on a flight one day and in a tent, the next, look no further than the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow.
This pillow will keep you comfortable and well-rested regardless of where you chose to lay your head. It is ideal for any keen traveler.
This pillow is very lightweight. It weighs just 7oz and is compressible. It fits comfortably in any backpack, duffle bag, suitcase, or even tote bag.
The string, drawstring, and cord lock ensure that the pillow remains securely compressed when you’re out and about. As such, this pillow is ideal for anyone traveling with limited baggage space.
The filling is made from foam, which expands into a 4-inch thick pillow. In turn, when in use, this pillow does an excellent job of supporting the head, neck, and back, regardless of your sleeping position or where you’re sleeping.
Whether you’re in a car, tent, or another tough-to-get-comfortable situation, this pillow has you covered.
The brushed polyester cover is extra soft on the skin, making any night’s sleep feel a little bit more luxurious.
From long car journeys to sleeping in the wilderness, this pillow really works well to provide a comfortable snooze regardless of your sleeping spot.
- Ultralight – this means this pillow is easy to transport.
- Foam filling – provides good support for the head, neck, and back.
- Compact design – fits in most bags.
- Brushed polyester cover – makes for a very comfortable pillow.
- Weight – not as light as others on this list.
If you loved the functionality and the comfortability of the Sea to Summit pillow above, but don’t really want to fork out for the premium price tag, you should check out the Cocoon Hyperlight Air-Core Pillow, another of the best pillows for backpacking.
This pillow has all of the great features you’d expect from a more expensive pillow, for a fraction of the price.
This pillow has an inflatable air core and a valve with a practical screw cap. This means that you can decide just how inflated you would like the pillow.
As such, regardless of what kind of sleeper you are, this pillow should satisfy your personal preferences. It has multiple chambers which form a comfortable contour that supports the head and neck perfectly.
The Cocoon Hyperlight Air-Core Pillow is also particularly lightweight and compact, making it an ideal choice for keen travelers who have limited space in their baggage.
It deflates quickly and folds down into a very small size. In fact, it should fit very comfortably in most sleeping bag bags.
Whilst the Cocoon Hyperlight Air-Core Pillow is incredibly comfortable and the polyester material works to keep you cool all night long, the out outer material is likely to be an acquired taste. It can be quite slippery, and thus, it will move around when placed on some surfaces.
Regardless, it is still of decent quality, especially considering the price.
- 100% polyester – keeps you cool and dries quickly.
- Air-filled – means it is very compact when not in use.
- Valve mechanism – means this pillow can be personalized to your sleeping preferences.
- Price – more budget-friendly than others, given the quality.
- Material – not everyone will find it comfortable.
- UPGRADED - Our best-selling Fillo backpacking pillow is updated to elevate your sleep at elevation with fresh new fabrics and an ergonomic valve that lets you inflate the Fillo in mere seconds. The soft cover provides a cooling, luxury feel and is machine washable for convenience.
- NATURAL SUPPORT - A 3" I-beam baffled air cell eliminates the 'balloon' feeling of traditional camp pillows and creates a more natural shape that cradles your head. A layer of thick luxury foam provides a soft, yielding feel that mimics your pillow at home.
- INTEGRATED STORAGE - The Fillo packs down to about the size of a potato - small and light enough to carry into the backcountry. The integrated stuff sack won't get lost in your pack or the depths of your sleeping bag.
- VERSATILE - While the Fillo is amazing in the backcountry, it's just as great for other adventures! You can bring it on an airplane, a long roadtrip, or use it as lumbar support. The Fillo is your new best friend.
We couldn’t write a list of the best backpacking pillows without including the newly upgraded Nemo Filo Pillow.
If you’re looking for a backpacking pillow that will provide a level of support akin to what you would receive from sleeping in a regular bed, you need to check this one out. It makes sleeping in a tent feel all the more luxurious!
This pillow has been updated to ensure that you sleep at a comfortable and supportive elevation. In fact, the design of this pillow ensures that you don’t experience the ‘balloon’ feeling that you’ve likely experienced when using other backpacking pillows.
Instead, this pillow creates a shape that cradles your head and supports your neck naturally.
It isn’t just the shape of this pillow that has had an upgrade. The material of the Nemo Filo Pillow has also had an upgrade. Now, it boasts a soft cover that not only provides great comfortability but is also very cooling and makes for a very comfy night’s sleep.
As a bonus, it is also machine washable, so it is particularly easy to maintain!
It is worth noting that it does let off a strong smell when you initially take it out of the packaging, but this will subside quickly if you let it air.
- Provides natural elevation – means this pillow is great for head and neck support.
- Softcover – makes for a very luxurious feel.
- Cooling – means this pillow will help you stay at a comfortable temperature all night.
- Machine washable – this means this pillow is easy to maintain.
- Price – this is more expensive than others on this list.
- Smell – when initially removed from the packaging the pillow does smell a little.
- A versatile and packable stuff sack that doubles as a pillow when filled with clothing
- Reversible design offers a tough polyester exterior, with a soft, brushed polyester lining on the inside for when the stuff sack is used as a pillow
- Offers backcountry versatility, and allows campers to forgo bringing a stand alone pillow
- Holds 12 liters, the perfect size for stowing a sleeping bag, gear, or clothing in a backpack
- Stuff sack measures 7.5 x 17 inches and weighs 2.3 ounces
We couldn’t finish this list without including a classic stuff sack backpacking pillow.
If you’re a traditional backpacker who loves a nifty piece of equipment and doesn’t see the need for an all-singing, all-dancing pillow when traveling, you should check out the Therm-a-Rest 2-in-1 Stuff Sack and Pillow.
This product is first-and-foremost a versatile and packable stuff sack. This means that it can be used to transport general backpacking gear, such as a sleeping bag or clothing.
The polyester exterior and string draw-string closure mean that anything you chose to place in the bag is safe from moisture.
However, this stuff pack also doubles as a pillow. It has a reversible design, with a soft brushed polyester lining on the inside.
To turn it into a pillow, you simply turn it inside out and stuff the bag with clothing or other comfortable materials. This means that you can make it as firm or as soft as you like it!
The addition of the soft lining on the inside is really genius and makes this stuff sack stand out from the rest. As a bonus, it is the perfect size for most sleeping bags!
- Stuff sack – means it is versatile and will save a lot of space.
- Fill with clothing – means you can control how firm the pillow is.
- Size – will fit a regular-sized sleeping bag.
- Soft interior – makes for a comfortable night’s sleep.
- Stuff-sack – doesn’t have the same level of comfortability as the others on this list.
Buyers’ Guide – Best Backpacking Pillows
Whether you’re an avid backpacker, hiker, camper, or you’re new to the activity, purchasing the right gear is of the utmost importance.
In particular, a pillow will determine not just how well you sleep, but how able you are to lug around your equipment, and how well-rested you will feel throughout your travels.
However, we know that purchasing backpacking gear can sometimes be a little intimidating. There are hundreds of brands each selling hundreds of pillows that boast their own unique benefits.
There can also often be a lot of jargon surrounding outdoor purchases, which makes it tricky to figure out what product will suit your exact needs.
That’s why we’ve created a handy buyers’ guide. It consists of everything you need to know and consider before purchasing a backpacking pillow.
We cover everything, from materials to fillings, and everything in between. Check it out below to find your perfect backpacking pillow today.
Types of Backpacking Pillows
First, it is important to understand the different types of backpacking pillows. Below, we’ve listed the most common varieties along with their pros and cons.
These pillows use an inflatable air sack as support. They tend to be personalizable, as you can inflate the pillow according to your own sleeping preferences. They are usually very lightweight and compact, making them ideal for travel. However, they aren’t the most supportive and stable option. Some backpackers compare using an inflatable pillow to sleeping on a balloon. They can also be punctured.
Compressible pillows use a compressible material, such as foam, as support. If you’re looking for a pillow that is similar to the one you use at home, a compressible pillow is your best bet. They are generally a very comfortable option.
However, this type of pillow does tend to be quite bulky and heavier than others. As such, if you need to save space or pack incredibly light, a compressible is likely to not be appropriate.
Saying that, if comfort is more important to you than your pack weight, you’ll have no issues with a compressible pillow.
If you’re torn between an inflatable and a compressible backpacking pillow, a hybrid pillow might be perfect. These pillows are the best of both worlds. They use an inflatable air sack as the main support, but they also have a thin layer of compressible material.
This makes hybrid pillows incredibly comfortable and more lightweight than compressible pillows.
However, they are still heavier and take up more room than inflatable pillows. As such, if you need to save space, a hybrid pillow might not be for you.
Finally, the last variety of backpacking pillows is the stuff sack. Technically, stuff sacks aren’t really pillows. They are, first and foremost, a bag to carry gear in, such as a sleeping bag. However, they also double as a pillow.
When you’re ready to sleep, you simply stuff the bag with clothing, such as a down jacket. This means that you can choose how firm or soft your pillow is.
However, if you’re hiking in the winter, you might be wearing all of your clothes, which means there will be nothing to fill the pillow with!
The material of the outer shell of a backpacking pillow is very important. If you think about it, it is essentially the equivalent of a pillowcase.
As such, it is necessary that you find this material comfortable. Generally speaking, backpacking pillows usually use polyester or nylon. The fabric choice is understandably an important factor to consider when choosing between these 5 best backpacking pillows.
We think that polyester is the most comfortable face fabric because it is soft against the skin and absorbs some amount of moisture.
Polyester works to keep you cool and dry throughout the night, which can be very important when backpacking. It also dries very quickly.
Ripstop nylon is a synthetic material that is usually made by combining two different kinds of fibers together.
It is very strong and durable but it is slippery and uncomfortable. Silk and rayon are other materials that people avoid because they are slippery and uncomfortable.
Before purchasing a pillow, it is necessary to consider your own sleeping style, and whether your preferred pillow will provide a comfortable night’s sleep, given this.
For instance, side sleepers tend to prefer pillows that have a decent height, as this will support the neck and shoulder.
On the other hand, back sleepers are likely to prefer pillows that are softer and have a lower profile.
This will ensure that the neck isn’t strained when sleeping. If you aren’t sure what pillow you would prefer, we recommend buying one that you can adjust and personalize.
There is no perfect recipe for light backpacking. Each backpacker needs to decide for themselves what sacrifice they are willing to make.
A stuff sack is a great choice if you want to carry a lighter load. You can also use the stuff sack for storage during the day and the marginal weight of carrying the pillow is effectively zero.
But there are tradeoffs in terms of comfort and stability. Stuff sacks aren’t known to be the most comfortable or supportive pillows.
If you’re looking for a more supportive pillow that still manages to be very lightweight, Inflatable pillows are a good alternative to stuff sack pillows.
Some backpacking pillows are very annoying because they have noisy sleeping pads. But not all are noisy.
If you’re a light sleeper and are concerned about noise, a compressible pillow will make sure that you sleep soundly. The use of foam and fabric makes it as quiet as your bed at home.
Stuff sack pillow options are likely to be some of the noisiest. Those made from waterproof materials like DCF are prone to making some noise. If you’re a light sleeper, it is necessary that you avoid these types of backpacking pillows.
If you need a backpacking pillow that is easy to wash, we recommend opting for a stuff sack pillow, an inflatable pillow, or a hybrid pillow.
These tend to either be machine washable, or easy to wash by hand using soap or detergent. They also air-dry fairly quickly.
If you want a pillow that contains down or foam, you have to be a little more careful when it comes to washing. In particular, the choice of soap or detergent has to be appropriate for the specific material.
Also, you will need to set aside more drying time.
Durability is an important factor to consider with any piece of backpacking equipment, and pillows are no different. Generally, backpacking pillows are made to be particularly durable.
However, it is worth noting that most inflatable pillows do suffer from leaks or punctures.
Even though many companies make replacements or repairs available, the thought of getting a puncture whilst traveling can be quite off-putting. If you’re worried about leaking or puncturing, then go with a stuff sack pillow or a compressible.
Frequently Asked Questions When Choosing The Best Backpackers Pillow
Are Camping Pillows Worth It?
Yes! A camping pillow adds comfort and helps you sleep better. The minimal investment of time, money, and weight is nothing when compared to the comfort it provides. You’ll never want to go back to sleeping on the ground again.
How Do you Keep a Pillow on a Sleeping Pad?
If you’re a keen camper, you’ve likely experienced the pain of waking up in the middle of the night only to find that your pillow (and thus, your head) has slid off your sleeping pad.
We know that there is nothing pleasant about waking up on the ground and having to fumble in the dark to get comfortable again.
If you’ve felt this pain before, you should opt for a pillow with wings or contours. These work best because they mold to your head and neck, and as such, should remain in place all night. A pillow with wings also keeps your neck straight when you’re sleeping.
You should also keep an eye out for pillows that have a texture on one side. This texture adds extra friction that makes them less likely to move around as you sleep.
These pillows also usually have some sort of strap to keep them in place while sleeping.
How Do you Pack a Pillow for Camping?
Packing a pillow is very simple. You simply need to deflate or compress the pillow (depending on the type you have) to the smallest size possible. If it has a travel bag, you can put it in this.
Otherwise, you can just squeeze it into your backpack. They usually tend to take up very little room.
How Do I Wash my Camping Pillow?
Camping pillows can absorb some pretty gross odors. As such, it is important to know how to wash your pillow properly.
It is important to be careful when washing these pillows, as some detergents, soap, or washing methods might ruin the quality of the material. You should always check the manufacturer’s washing instructions for your specific pillow.
However, generally, backpacking pillows should be washed in cold or warm water depending on what type of pillow you use.
Some pillows need to be hand washed and hung to dry, while others can go in the wash and dryer.
It is also important to be careful when washing inflatables. Before washing, it is necessary that you make sure the valve is closed. If it is left open, this could cause unnecessary water damage.
Don’t tumble-dry inflated pillows, because it can cause them to burst.