LAST UPDATED: November 18, 2019
Best Backpacking Pillows: Rest Your Head and Sleep Soundly
Sleep more comfortably on these high-quality and soft backpacking pillows
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON November 18, 2019
Backpacking can be exhausting, and at the end of the day, you will want the most comfortable pillow for your head. That’s why a backpacking pillow is worth the investment. Not only are they soft and padded, but they are ultra-lightweight and can be packed away easily so you can hike without carrying too much weight. For those planning a backpacking trip or those who simply need a camping pillow, consider these pillows for your outdoor adventures.
A luxurious and light nine-ounce travel pillow with padded foam that is adjustable to match your desired height and firmness.
It compresses to a small and compact ball for easy storage. It is super comfortable; it features memory foam on one side and an inflatable chamber on the other, and it’s ideal for back, stomach, and side sleepers.
The material can make a bit of noise if you turn or move it around a lot, and it can also be confusing to pack into its storage bag.
Rest-a-Camp's pillow inflates in just seconds and is easy to store in its tiny storage bag. It's made of TPU fabric with a cotton cover and is 15 by 12 by 4.5 inches.
It's comfortable, practical, ergonomic, and provides good head support. You can adjust the thickness, and it's great if you have little space to carry things.
Some users complain it leaks air after a few uses. It can be hard to deflate and store in its tiny bag.
A water-resistant and extremely lightweight camping pillow. Weighs only 3.4 ounces.
It folds down to five by two inches—the size of a soda can—for a super-compact fit. It’s simple to inflate and deflate, and you can control the firmness with the press of a button. It features a removable strap to connect it to your sleeping bag.
You may need a pillowcase or some sort of cover to prevent sticking to the material and improve the comfort. Fitting it back in the case can be a hassle.
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Benefits of Backpacking Pillows
- Portable. Inflatable pillows come in small packing sizes to fit into the backpack without a challenge. They are ultra-lightweight and comfortable to carry around when backpacking, hiking, or car camping.
- Cheap and easy to use. Most backpacking pillows feature a simple design and therefore, they don't cost much. Some backpacking pillows can be as low as $10 and you don't need to figure out how to use them. Inflating and deflating is simple, and it involves the use of a valve.
- Comfortable. Camping pillows are very comfortable and, therefore, a great addition to any backpacking or camping trip. They mostly have moisture-wicking and breathable materials for comfort. You can use these multi-purpose pillows for picnics, traveling, and car trips.
- Different shapes and colors. There are various shapes and colors on the market to suit your preferences and needs. The pillows can be rectangular, contoured, or even U-shaped to accommodate different user experiences.
Types of Backpacking Pillows
Inflatable pillows are ultralight, packable, compact, and easy to clean. You can adjust their thickness through the valve to a comfortable level. Inflatable pillows are a favorite of outdoors people because they are easy to carry and use. Most people do not even notice their weight inside the backpack and they don't take up much space. Unfortunately, they can be a bit noisy and uncomfortable compared with the other types.
This type of pillow is filled with fibers, down, foam, or synthetic mixtures. Compressible pillows are the softest and the most comfortable; almost like the pillows you use at home. However, the pads can be a bit expensive, especially if they are filled with down. The foam pillow is also a bit bulkier and not as easy to carry as the inflatable pillows. Compressible pillows are not easy to clean and may only be ideal for car camping, and not backpacking or hiking.
Hybrid pillows are a blend of compressible and inflatable materials. These types of pillows make an exciting choice for backpackers but you must be careful when choosing. Avoid bulky models. Given the feature-rich designs, the hybrid pillows are a bit premium-priced. In terms of portability, they are more comfortable to carry than compressible pillows.
This company was started in 1971 in Seattle, Washington, by three unemployed engineers. As climbers, they realized that better sleeping pads were necessary to make the outdoors fun. The company is at the forefront of quality and comfort innovation. Apart from sleeping pads, Therm-a-Rest is a leading brand in pillows, hammocks, and sleeping bags. It also has cots, kilts, and blankets. The Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow for Camping, Backpacking is an ultralight pillow.
Based in Dover, New Hampshire, NEMO designs and manufactures outdoor equipment such as tents, shelters, and backpacking pillows. The company was started in 2002 by Cam Brensinger while still a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. The Nemo Fillo Inflatable Travel Pillow is one of its popular products.
Klymit’s backpacks and sleeping bags use inert gases or air to make them the most portable and comfortable in the industry. Based in Kaysville, Utah, and started in 2007, the company designs and tests its products in the mountains and deserts of Utah. The idea is to make sure the gear is comfortable, value-driven, durable, and high-quality. The people at Klymit believe that life outdoors is better with loved ones and they try to make that happen with such gear as the Klymit Pillow X Inflatable Camping & Travel Pillow.
Backpacking Pillow Pricing
- $6-$15: The backpacking pillows in this price range have a simple design and are mostly inflatable for portability.
- $16-$30: While most of the pillows in this price range are also portable, they have additional features such as fleece material. They are compressible, ergonomic, compact, and comfortable.
- $31 and up: The premium-priced pillows are mostly hybrids, and they have a variety of features for comfort and portability. They are versatile and you can take them camping or on flights without any problems.
Sufficient comfort to sleep when out camping is not impossible to achieve. The best backpacking pillow should have particular features such as filling, type, shape, and structure to provide the most value in terms of comfort. For example, ergonomically-shaped pillows tend to conform to the shape of your neck and back for extra support. The appropriate filling and structure provide stability and even distribution of pressure, regardless of the surface, the pillow is on.
The size of the pillow determines not only the level of comfort but also portability. The packing size will affect the utilization of the available space in your backpack. Anything that packs down small is ideal for backpacking. However, be vigilant not to end up with a backpacking pillow that leverages on comfort for portability. The right balance between portability and comfort is desirable.
The ideal level of support varies between users. For example, a backpacker suffering from shoulder and neck pain will prefer a backpacking pillow with better support and therapeutic features. Pads with minimal backing can cause more problems with neck and back pain to make your adventure a nightmare. Check the outer fabric and the thickness of the material to determine the level of support. The width depends on your sleeping position to ensure spine alignment and neck support. For example, side sleepers need thick pillows to provide the best support.
Fabric or Material Used
Other materials inside the pillow are as important as what is outside. Something noiseless and soft with the flexibility to bring close to your head is perfect for the outdoors. Materials that conform to the shape of your neck and back, such as memory foam, are the most comfortable. You can consider cooling bamboo if the temperature is of the utmost importance. Brushed polyester is more durable than most other materials.
Experts recommend that the weight of your backpack should not be more than 20 percent of your body weight. This is especially critical when engaging in hiking trips or backpacking for long distances. Ideally, go for the lightest pillow that takes up the least space in your backpack. For example, an inflatable pillow is the size of a small notebook when folded, and that makes it easier to carry.
- Ease of Use. Backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor activities exert a lot of energy. As a result, setting a place to sleep in the evening should be as effortless as possible. The best camping pillow should be easy to set up and put away into a backpack in the morning. Anything that compresses well without exerting a lot of effort is ideal.
- Temperature. Cooler temperatures provide the best quality of sleep. Make sure that the backpacking pillow has temperature characteristics such as breathable materials, moisture-wicking capabilities, and heat regulators. If you experience sweaty sleep, then get one made out of breathable material for a comfortable evening. Moisture-wicking materials absorb any excess moisture to keep the temperatures constant and comfortable.
- Shape and Color. You will often find oval, rectangular, U-shaped, and contoured pillows on the market to serve different needs. An oval-shaped or U-shaped pillow provides better comfort and portability than most. The color of the pad mostly depends on the color of your beddings and, of course, your preferences. If camouflage is essential, then you should consider darker materials to keep yourself out of sight.
- Durability. If you are a regular hiker or camper, replacing the pillow regularly can prove expensive and time-consuming. It is, therefore, imperative that you get a hiking pillow that takes the abuse associated with camping or hiking without a problem. Look for thick, high-quality materials that promise long-term use.
Best Backpacking Pillow Reviews & Recommendations 2020
With adjustability, padded foam, and lightweight design, this travel pillow has almost everything that you need for your next backpacking trip. For optimal portability, it compresses to a small ball for easier storage in the backpack. You don't have to sacrifice any packing space for other important stuff. It is only 9 ounces, and you will never feel any additional weight on your shoulders.
The pillow has memory foam on one side to conform to the shape of your neck and back for comfort and stability. The inflatable chamber, on the other side, allows you to adjust according to your comfort level. A foam pillow is perfect for side, stomach and back sleepers. The ultra-soft pillowcase is not only comfortable, but also easy to maintain, and clean. Most people appreciate the multipurpose design that offers lumbar support on car trips or flights for a good night’s sleep.
On the flip side, the Nemo Fillo Inflatable Travel Pillow is a bit noisy when making any movements, and that can interrupt your sleep. The backpacking pillow is also not very easy to pack in its bag.
This pillow takes just three to five breaths and a few seconds to fully inflate. It weighs four ounces and inflates to 15 by 12 by 4.5 inches. When you're done using the pillow, it folds up and easily packs into a tiny pouch that's smaller than a soda can. It's made of durable TPU fabric and a soft, 100 percent cotton cover.
This pillow is very comfortable and practical. It is ergonomic, provides head support, and helps your neck relax. It also features a secure valve, so it doesn't leak air. You can easily adjust the thickness with the amount of air you put into it, and it's perfect for instances in which you can only carry minimal items.
However, the pillow may start to leak air after a short period of use. It can also be challenging to remove air from the pillow and pack it back up into the tiny bag. In addition, it may also slip out from under your head when you're sleeping.
This extremely lightweight and water-resistant camping pillow is the ultimate travel companion. The high-performance backpacking pillow folds down to the size of a soda can, and it will not take up too much of your backpack space. And at only 3.4 ounces, the travel pillow is also lighter than a can of soda. The TPU fabric is elastic and durable, and more importantly, water-resistant. You can watch the stars and listen to the sounds of the waterfall or the sea close by without worrying about it getting wet.
The proprietary latch design keeps it in place, and there is no slipping when you try to change positions. It has rubber anti-slipping dots that increase friction with the sleeping mat for stability and comfort when sleeping. You will find the removable strap that connects with the sleeping bag to be quite functional. It further prevents the pillow from moving around.
You will need a pillowcase to avoid sticking to the material, which can be quite uncomfortable, especially when you need to shift positions. Also, putting the travel pillow back into its case is not always as easy as it may seem.
This backpacking, camping, and travel pillow comes in four colors (black, brown, green, and grey) that match a variety of TETON Sports sleeping bags. The pillow and pillowcase are washable, and it doesn't require any inflation. The pillow also packs down nice and tight for portability.
The pillow is very comfortable, a good size, and is well-made. It also fluffs up really well and comes with a sack to store it. It's a great pillow to use if you want to travel light, and it doesn't take up much space in your pack. The fiberfill is supportive, and the cover is soft. Plus, since it's not inflatable you don't have to worry about air leaking out.
The biggest complaint about this pillow is that it may be a little smaller than you expect. It is also not as lofty as some people would like, and the filling has a tendency to move to the side of your head when you lay down on it.
The Wise Owl 5-inch-thick pillow is made of compressible memory foam and has a micro-suede cover. It comes in three sizes: 9 ounces, 11 ounces, and 13 ounces. It compresses down into a stuff sack, so it is easy to store in a backpack or tote bag. The pillow is machine-washable, is available in five colors, and comes with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.
One of the best things about this pillow is that it takes very little effort to roll it up and put in the included stuff sack. When you remove it from the sack, it is several inches thick for comfort. Yet, it's firm enough to support your head. It washes really well, and if you use dryer balls, it fluffs up nicely.
However, it may not be as large as the measurements claim to be. The small option is particularly small. It may also make some noise when you move around, which can be a problem if you're a light sleeper.
This inflatable camping pillow features a unique X design, so your head stays perfectly positioned. It weighs just 1.95 ounces and is 4.5 by 2.5 by 1 inch when packed and 15 by 11 by 4 inches when inflated. It takes just a couple of breaths to inflate, and it fits nicely inside the hood of a mummy sleeping bag.
You can adjust the firmness and height of the pillow by adding or releasing air. It comes with a stuff sack as well as a limited lifetime warranty. The cover is rather soft and quiet when you move around on it. It does a good job of aligning your neck with your spine, and the center of the pillow is thinner than the sides, so the edges act like little neck pillows for added comfort.
One problem with this pillow is it's hard to keep in place because it slides around a bit. It may not work as well for side sleepers compared to back sleepers. Also, it may be a little heavier than advertised, which can be an issue for an ultra-light backpacker.
The Sea to Summit inflatable pillow only takes a couple of breaths to inflate using its multi-functional valve. The cover is made of brushed 50D polyester, while the fill is made of synthetic fibers. The TPU bladder is designed for comfort and to wick away moisture, such as sweat. It comes in two sizes: large and regular.
The pillow cradles your head with the use of curved internal baffles. The edge has a scalloped bottom to accommodate your shoulders if you sleep on your back. The pillow is comfortable, packs up small, and deflates very quickly. The regular size works really well in mummy-style sleeping bags, and it's sturdy, well-built, and durable.
One downside with this pillow is that it's a little pricey. Also, it makes a slight sound when you move around, which some people find irritating. It may not be as comfortable for people with larger heads.
This ultralight inflatable pillow is designed for backpacking, airplane travel, and other uses. It weighs 2.75 ounces and inflates to 16 inches by 12 inches by 4 inches. It takes up little space in your pack because it rolls up smaller than the size of an average adult hand.
The pillow is compact and lightweight. It's made of waterproof knitted cotton and is durable, non-slip, and puncture-resistant. You can adjust the firmness of the pillow by the amount of air that you use. It's really easy to inflate and deflate, and the height is spot-on for a side sleeper. The pillow also comes with a bonus credit card-sized multitool with a knife, saw blade, wrench, screwdriver, bottle opener, and more.
However, some users have complained that it emits a strong odor, and it may deflate a bit when you sleep on it because it loses pressure a little too easily. Also, there's no foam insulation, so it doesn't provide any warmth in colder temperatures.
- Take your time if you have to inflate a backpacking pillow with your mouth. You don’t want to get exhausted or air it up too quickly and get winded.
- Clear the ground of all rocks, sticks, and debris before setting up a tent. A sharp object could cause the pillow to deflate.
- Using an air pump is a much more convenient and easier way to blow up a backpacking pillow. However, it might be too large or robust to pack in a backpacking backpack.
- To conserve space and weight, get a backpacking backpack to carry all of your gear. It is designed to hold specific equipment and provide a much more comfortable way to hike.
Q: Will inflatable backpacking pillows self-inflate?
A: Check with the manufacturer before you purchase to see if it self inflates. Generally, most must be inflated by mouth or with an air pump.
Q: Are backpacking pillows machine washable?
A: This depends on the brand. While many can be tossed into the washing machine, you should consult the guide or manufacturer before washing it. Inflatable pillows may not be able to be machine washed.
Q: What can I do to make sure my backpacking pillow doesn’t slide around?
A: Many come with a strap you can use to attach it to either the sleeping pad or sleeping bag. Others feature tiny rubber bumps that cling to the surface to prevent it from moving. You could also wrap a piece of clothing around the pillow to help keep it in place if it slides around too easily.
For a comfortable and versatile backpacking pillow, consider the Nemo Fillo Inflatable Travel Pillow.
Or you can save some cash with the comfortable and practical Rest-A-Camp Inflatable Camping Travel Pillow Ultralight