There’s not much better than sleeping outdoors with the sounds and smells of nature all around you. Waking up in the morning to a fresh cup of coffee, dew on the tent, and the sun on the horizon.
Now imagine waking up with a super sore neck from sleeping on the ground. A pillow is one of the most important pieces of everyday life if you sit down and think about it. You spend roughly one-third of your life with your head on a pillow, assuming you get 8 hours of sleep every night (which is a stretch these days).
When spending time camping or backpacking having the best backpacking pillow that you actually enjoy makes a world of difference. Sure, you could be an ultralight hardcore backpacker who doesn’t need nothin, but where’s the comfort in that.
Backpacking pillows are extremely lightweight, compact, and easy to carry. No reason that your neck should suffer because you’re hard-headed.
Best backpacking pillow reviews
While roughing it sounds like a romantic notion there are a few places of comfort that should never be sacrificed. A comfortable backpacking pillow is one place that you shouldn’t skimp on, your neck will thank you later. Here are our recommendations of the best backpacking pillows for 2018.
Therm-a-Rest Backpacking Pillow
- Type: Compressible
- Material: Brushed polyester
- Weight: 12 ounces (large)
- Size: 16 x 23 x 4 inches expanded (large)
- Packed size: 16 x 7 x 7 inches compressed (large)
The Therm-a-rest compressible pillow is the quintessential backpacking pillow. The pillow is large enough that if you move around at night your head won’t hit the floor. It has a soft feel to it and is surprisingly thick. A pro tip is to wash the pillow before you use it to fluff up the pillow
In terms of
In order to pack this pillow up, you simply roll it into the lip of the pillowcase and pull the drawstring tight. No bags to lose and the pillow breaks down into the size of large running shoe.
Cleaning this pillow is super easy, you just throw it into the washing machine on a light cycle and then into the drier.
- Outer material is soft and comfortable
- Multiple color choices
- Carrying case is part of the pillow
- Inconsistent foam stuffing
- After a long day of hiking the material sticks to your skin
- Takes a long time to dry out
- Ultralight 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
Teton Sports ComfortLite Pillow
- Type: Inflatable
- Material: Microfiber
- Weight: 12 ounces
- Size: 18 x 10 x 4 inches expanded
- Packed size: 13 x 3.5 x 3.5 inches compressed
Teton Sports ComfortLite pillow has a foam core and is self-inflating. In terms of size, this backpacking pillow is on the larger end of the spectrum, coming in at 18 x 10 x 4 inches when fully inflated.
This pillow has two types of fabric, the top layer is a microfiber cover for sleeping on and the other layer is a non-slip material. The pillow is large enough that you can move around and has a familiar feel to it.
The self inflating part gives you the flexibility to let a little air out and adjust the firmness to however you prefer. Even with the non-slip underside, the pillow manages to remain pretty quiet throughout the night.
- Very comfortable
- Budget pricing with
- Self inflates quickly
- Material makes noise when you move around
- When fully inflated your head slips off
- Retains body heat
- SELF-INFLATING TRAVEL PILLOW: Wake up comfortably even in the car or airplane; No more getting to your destination with a sore neck; Lightweight at only 12 ounces (.3 kg); Portable pillow packs to 13x3.5x3.5 inches (33x9x9 cm) to fit in your bag easily
- DURABLE BUT SOFT: Microfiber top feels soft against your face; Grey non-slip bottom keeps pillow in place; Washable—just wipe it off with a damp cloth
- NO PUMP REQUIRED: Don’t wear yourself out blowing up your inflatable pillow; Open the twist valve and watch the pillow fill itself up to 18x10x4 inches (46x25x10 cm) in minutes; Push and twist to set any level of inflation you prefer
- THE COMFORTLITE SERIES: Companion camping gear to the whole ComfortLite Self Inflating Camp Pad Series-you'll hardly know you're carrying any of it, but will love the comfortable sleep it provides
Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow
- Type: Hybrid
- Material: Brushed 50D polyester
- Weight: 4 ounces
- Size: 16.5 x 11.5 x 5.5 expanded (large)
- Packed size: 4 x 3 x 3 inches compressed (large)
The Sea to Summit Aeros pillow finds a nice balance between comfort and support. It’s a hybrid pillow with a synthetic fill between the air bladder and the pillowcase. The pillowcase has a polyester covering making the pillow comfortable to sleep on in most conditions.
It blows up super easy, it just takes a few breaths to go from flat to full. In terms of packing, it breaks down into a surprisingly small package making it ultra portable.
You’ll notice the curved shape of the pillow, it gives you a comfortable position to lay your head at night. It inflates to 5.5 inches when full of air and you always have the freedom to deflate it to your personal preference.
- Curved internal baffle for your head to rest on
- Packs down to the size of a coffee mug
- 3-4 full breathes to inflate
- Head rolls off if the pillow isn’t fully inflated
- Rare valve leakage issues
Rubberbladder is susceptible to punctures
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Trekology Dreamer Comfort Pillow
- Type: Inflatable
- Material: 80% Polyester, 20% TPU
- Weight: 2.75 ounces
- Size: 16 x 12 x 4 inches
- Packed size: 5 x 2 x 3 inches compressed
The Trekology Inflatable Pillow is both ultralight and compact, weighing in at 2.75 ounces. It blows up to 16 x 12 x 4 inches making it big enough to feel familiar to the pillows at home.
This pillow has an ergonomic design with a slight curve for lumbar and neck support. The material you lay your head is 80% polyester and 20% TPU making it comfortable to sleep on. The underside of the pillow is non slip to keep it from moving all over in the evening.
The best part of this pillow is the small area it packs into, the carrying bag fits into the palm of your hand at 5 x 2 inches. Overall this inflatable pillow is an ultralight and comfortable addition to any backpacker repertoire.
- Packs down into a tiny stuff sack
- Supportive and comfortable to sleep on
- Easy to inflate, only takes a few breaths (3-5)
- Material gets cold easily
- Over time the air begins to leak
- Challenging to completely deflate and repack
- Small in Size - Big on Comfort! This is the most compact & lightweight inflatable camp pillow on the market – folds down to 5x2 inches, smaller than a soda can! Inflates to a comfortable pillow for head or lumbar support. Deflating back down in only seconds. This backpacking pillow can easily be carried in your backpack or pocket for convenient access. Weighing a mere 2.75oz (78g), lighter than a can of soda! This is the only travel pillow you will ever need period!
- Newly Designed with Your Ultimate Comfort in Mind - Improved Ergonomic Design with Enhanced neck support for a restful night’s sleep! The Dreamer Comfort Air Pillow is ideal for back, side and stomach sleepers alike. Inflates to a generous 16 x 12 x 4 inches, in a mere 3-5 breaths (approx.). Ergonomically designed for superior neck and back support while you travel—sleep like at home. The only thing left to decide is where to go. You can Rest easy with our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee!
- Now More Durable Than Ever! Enhanced design with added layers for head support that is constructed from highly durable elastic TPU fabric that boasts water resistance. So, whether sleeping under the stars in the mountains, in your boat on the open seas, tenting at your favorite national park or staying at a hotel on holiday—your Dreamer comfort travel pillow is the perfect travel companion.
- Ease Of Use! With the simple click of a button, Inflate pillow by mouth with approximately 3-5 breaths. Once you are done you can conveniently deflate the pillow with the Quick Deflate feature which rapidly releases air after use in only seconds. With the unique technology in this compact and light pillow, you are able to adjust firmness to your personal sleep preference.
WellaX Ultralight Camping Pillow
- Type: Inflatable
- Material: Nylon and layered with TPU fabric
- Weight: 2.8 ounces
- Size: 16 x 12 x 4 inches
- Packed size: 5 x 2 x 3 inches compressed
The back of this pillow is made of slip-resistant material that’s supposed to prevent the pillow from moving around at night.
Being that it’s inflatable it is prone to punctures, so just be careful and don’t throw it around. The overall weight is 2.8 ounces making it a
- Packs down to the size of a soda can
- Inflates with 2-3 breaths
- Back of the pillow is made of slip-resistant material
- Rare air leaks
- Noisey at night
- You need to wash or air it out, comes with a smell
- Versatile: Whether you're sleeping on a hammock, in a plane, or under a tent, our hammock pillow will give you a great night's sleep wherever you lay your head.
- Comfortable: Made with cushioned memory foam wrapped in a soft, micro-suede cover, our backpacking pillow gives you a truly supportive rest that your head and neck will thank you for!
- Compact: Lightweight and portable, our small travel pillow easily compresses down into its waterproof stuff sack. Throw it in your backpack and go!
- Easy Clean: Designed for hassle-free cleaning, our camp pillow is machine washable and dryer friendly.
What is a backpacking pillow?
If you’ve ever tried bringing a pillow from home on a backpacking trip, you realize before you start, how unreasonable that idea is. Sure, you get the familiarity of having the pillow that you’re used to, however, the weight and size simply don’t work.
Sleeping without a pillow is a good way to end up with a sore neck and sleeping on a pile of clothes gets old quickly.
A backpacking pillow is a lightweight and comfortable alternative to use while sleeping in
Backpacking pillows are designed to be lightweight and compact more so than comfortable and cozy. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t comfortable, just don’t expect the same feel as the pillows that you have at home.
Factors to consider when buying a backpacking pillow
When considering a backpacking pillow for your next adventure you want to ask yourself a few questions beforehand.
Style of backpacking pillow
Backpacking pillows generally come in three different varieties: inflatable, compressible, and hybrid. Each style has its own unique qualities and differs in portability and comfort.
Inflatable backpacking pillows
The one thing that’s tough to get used to, the fact that you’re resting your head on air. There’s no getting around the fact that they don’t feel familiar like the pillows most of us are used to.
Inflatable pillows, as the name suggests, are filled with air. While this gives you a much different feel from your pillows at home, they break down into next to nothing. Most inflatable pillows weigh no more than a few ounces making them super practical to take on any backpacking trip.
They are blown up with a small valve, and once broken down can fit into a pants pocket if necessary.
Compressible backpacking pillows
Compressible pillows are filled with synthetic materials that smoosh down into a bag when you’re not using them. They are the most similar to the pillows that you’re used to sleeping on at home.
The best part about these pillows is how comfortable they are. Compressible pillows pack down into a small area but are still just as cozy as can be.
In terms of size and weight, they are going to be heavier than inflatable models. What you sacrifice in size and weight you gain in comfort and a good night’s sleep.
Hybrid backpacking pillows
The hybrid backpacking pillow is somewhere in between an inflatable and compressible. They come with an inflatable layer on the bottom and a fabric layer on the top.
The top layer gives you that familiar feel of a regular pillow while the bottom gives you support. They don’t break down as much as an inflatable and are a little heavier. This pillow is a tweener, somewhere in between an inflatable and compressible pillow.
Since we’re talking backpacking pillows size, is everything (next to weight). Sleeping on the ground is already challenging enough and having a pillow that doesn’t fit your head is pointless.
The sizes are going to differ in the style of the pillow and are tailored to how you sleep. If you sleep on your side than a higher pillow is necessary while back sleepers will be fine with a shorter pillow.
When dealing with weight the question always arises, “Do I really need this?” The short answer is, yes you do. You can sacrifice a lot on the trail but a good pair of boots and good pillow are not typically areas of regret.
Inflatable pillows are going to be the lightest pillows coming in at around 3-5 ounces. Next is hybrids, and after that is compressible. Compressible pillows are on the heavier end of the spectrum weighing anywhere from 7-12 ounces.
The pillow weight is going to be dependant on how much you are willing to sacrifice in the name of comfort.
As a backpacker, the main goal is to keep the weight and mass of your backpack to a minimum. Portability is always one of the first considerations when adding any piece of gear to the load.
This is what makes a backpacking pillow different from that pillow sitting on your bed. They take up far less space in your backpack and weigh less than 16 ounces.
All of the pillows come with some sort of bag that you can stuff the pillow into when you’re not using it. They all break down into a relatively small area and are easily thrown into the mix with all your other gear.
This may seem like a silly question because a pillow is a pillow right?
Some backpacking pillows are made specifically for side sleepers while others are designed for people that sleep on their backs. The biggest difference is going to be the height and contour of the pillow.
Waking up with a kink in your neck that lasts a couple days is the last thing you want. Ideally, your pillow is going to support your neck evenly creating a comfortable and relaxing position to rest on.
This is solely dependent on how you intend to use the pillow. If your planning on taking it for weekend trips and overnighters then you don’t have much to worry about.
For the long distance backpacker, durability is critical. You’ll be sleeping in less than favorable places and a small puncture in an inflatable will piss you off real fast. Cheaper materials puncture easier, and as the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”
Finding the best backpacking pillow for your next trip will make getting a good night’s rest easy to come by. There’s nothing better than waking up refreshed and rested after sleeping soundly on the trail.
With so many great options available at your fingertips there is no excuse for laying your head on the extra clothing or even worse the ground. Live a little and enjoy a lightweight backpacking pillow that fits your every need. Keep calm and backpack on.