The 9 Best Pillows for Backpacking of 2021
Looking For The Best Backpacking Pillows?
You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:
- Why you need a backpacking pillow
- What features backpackers should consider when buying.
- Reviews of the best pillows for camping on the market
- Our unbiased recommendation on the #1 backpacking pillow
Experienced campers know the importance of a good night’s sleep. If you don’t feel well-rested in the morning, you won’t have the energy you need to thrive in the wilderness. When talking about sleep systems most people think about their sleeping bag and their sleeping pad. One overlooked tool that can improve your quality of sleep is a high-quality backpacking pillow.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to look for when shopping for the best camp pillows. We’ll also go through our top nine pillow picks to help you narrow down your search.
Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow
Out of all the products listed below, we’ve decided to choose the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow as the top backpacking pillow.
Whether it’s comfort, or packed size/weight, then this backpacking pillow scores well across the board.
Another thing we love about this company is its commitment to conservation. Every Therm-a-Rest pillow only uses recycled foam from Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads in its interior design. So, while you’re enjoying the wonderful soft texture of your Therm-a-Rest pillow, you can rest assured knowing you’re doing your part to help the environment.
Besides environmental reasons, the Therm-a-Rest pillow is available in three sizes. The Therm-a-Rest is also very affordable considering the quality of the pillow’s design.
Bottomline: If you’re looking for a good mix of quality and value, definitely give the Compressible Pillow from Therm-a-rest a try.
Benefits And Feature To Consider When Buying A Backpacking or Camping Pillow
Save Your Neck With The Best Camping Pillows
The obvious benefit of bringing a camping pillow with you on your outdoor adventures is that it offers greater support for your neck. A good-quality camping pillow will certainly provide you more stability than a makeshift pillow out of backpacks or clothes. Indeed, many of the products you’ll see below have been ergonomically designed to give your neck and head cradled support.
RELATED: Best Sleeping Bags for Backpacking
It should go without saying that anyone with back, spine, neck, or shoulder issues must invest in a travel pillow. You can significantly reduce your odds of waking up with neck stiffness if you use a pillow that’s expertly contoured.
What Should You Look For In A Camp Pillow
There are three major types of backpacking pillows: inflatable pillows, compressible pillows and stuff sacks that double as pillows. All of these have their pros and cons.
Inflatable pillows are generally cheaper, weigh less, and are easier to pack than compressible pillows. A few cons of a blow-up pillow are that they can leak air (especially if you move around a lot in the night) and some campers can’t stand their “airy” texture.
For those who don’t have the lung capacity or energy to blow them up at the end of the day, there are also self-inflating pillows available, although these tend to be more expensive.
Compressible pillows tend to feel more like a regular pillow but do have the downside of being bulkier and heavier. If you’re a gram counter who likes to keep their weight down on a backpacking trip then this probably isn’t the option for you. Car camping where weight isn’t an issue is probably the are where most folks will stump for a compressible pillow.
Finally a stuff-sack pillow, as the name suggests is simply a compression sack that doubles as a pillow. These dual-function pillows are great for an ultralight backpacking trip. Unlike a regular dry sack, stuff sack pillows have a softer outer material to make sleeping a little less abrasive. Examples of these include the Therm-a-rest trekker pillow case.
At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference when picking an inflatable, compressible or stuff sack pillows. Hikers who want their travel pillow to feel like their pillows at home will probably have better luck with a compressible pillow. People looking for greater convenience and less weight in their backpack, however, should start their search with inflatable or a stuff sack pillow.
Stability Of Backpacking Pillows
If you’re looking for the most stable hiking pillow on the market, then you’ll need to consider the following factors carefully.
First off, look at how large the model is in comparison to others. Larger pillows tend to provide more stability than smaller ones.
Next, look at the pillow’s thickness and what kind of materials are in its design. You’ll have an easier time keeping your backpacking pillow firmly on the ground if it’s made with a thick material.
Be sure to take a look and see if the model you’re interested in has a non-slip bottom. It’s also a great idea to opt for one that has some kind of design feature like ridges to create a more stable surface.
In Defense Of Smaller Pillows
While larger products are generally preferred for their stability, there are a few campers who prefer using smaller backpacking pillows. Most of these hikers tend to be stomach sleepers and/or don’t have a habit of tossing and turning in their sleep.
Smaller pillows also have the advantage of being more lightweight than larger pillows, making them easier to pack.
People who sleep either on their side or on their back, however, will probably be better off with a thicker and larger model. As you could imagine, tossing and turning can release a ton of air from an inflatable pillow.
Always Look For Contouring
Be sure your pillow has some degree of contouring if you want a great night’s sleep. Contoured models have two main benefits: they more naturally cradle your head, and they tend not to wobble as much on the ground.
Any campers reading this who toss and turn during the night must invest in a well-contoured pillow. These models will provide the best stability and comfort.
Back sleepers will most likely prefer a product with a well-defined, firm curve for a nice cradled sleep. Side sleepers, on the other hand, should look for backpacking pillows that have a standard rectangular shape with plenty of padding.
A Sad Fact Of Life: Air Pillow Leakage
Even the best inflatable pillows on the market suffer from air leakage over time. There are many reasons for this common dilemma, but the main ones include using extremely thin fabrics, weak in-seams, and the shock of a harsh environment on a lightweight pillow.
If you’re going to go with an inflatable model, it’s a good idea to learn basic patching skills to ensure you keep your pillow for the long haul.
As you’ll see from our list below, the most common outer fabrics on inflatable camping pillows are nylon and polyester. Most hikers prefer the softer texture of polyester to the tacky feel of nylon. Nylon does have the benefit of drying off quickly if you’re in a rainy environment, but it can easily leach odors.
RELATED: Check out our guide to the top backpacking pillows
Some hikers who prefer the convenience or affordability of nylon products have found ways to overcome the material’s “sticky” texture. These campers simply place a towel or thin piece of clothing over their backpacking pillow before going to bed. If you have a warm hat, you could even wear that to comfort you against a nylon pillow.
The Results Of Our Backpacking Pillow Reviews
Klymit Pillow X
The defining feature of this product is that it has a self-centering design, which is ideal for back sleepers. After you inflate, you’ll notice that there are two grooves that cross in the center. You’re supposed to put your head in the middle of the “X” to keep your neck stable throughout the night.
As for the pillow’s material, it’s made out of a fast-drying plastic. If you don’t like the feel of plastic against your face, you’ll need to place a thin jacket over it for extra padding.
The two major pros for the X are that it’s extremely affordable and one of the lightest backpacking pillows on our list. In its stuff sack, the Klymit X only measures 4.5 x 2.5 x 1 inches and weighs a remarkable 1.95 ounces. The full dimensions of the inflated pillow are 15 x 11 x 4 inches.
The Klymit X comes in a wide variety of color designs including the standard red, camouflage, and grey.
In case you’re interested, there is a larger Klymit Pillow X size available for purchase at a slightly higher price.
- One of the lightest inflatable pillows in the industry.
- Unique X-shaped design helps cradle head and neck.
- Only takes two breaths to become fully inflated.
- Two sizes available to meet your preferences.
- Designed with back sleepers in mind.
- Fast-drying plastic coating has a slightly sticky feel.
Bottom-Line: The Klymit Pillow X is a great bargain for back sleepers who don’t mind an outer plastic coating.
Best for Side Sleeper
Whereas the Klymit X is great for back sleepers, the Nemo Fillo is a good option for side sleepers. The major features that make this inflatable model great include its 1-inch inner layer of memory foam and its rectangular design. The Fillo’s soft microsuede outer coating is also a feature in the pillows favor.
While this backpacking pillow certainly isn’t heavy at 9 ounces, it is heavier than other inflatable options on this list. When inflated, the pillow expands to 16 x 4 x 6 inches. The Nemo Fillo measures 4 x 6 inches when deflated.
One selling point for the Nemo Fillo is that the stuff sack is attached to the actual pillow. If you’re someone who always misplaces things, this is a huge plus.
You can choose from many striped or single color Nemo Fillo designs. Just be prepared to pay a tad extra for this higher-end inflatable pillow.
- Memory foam interior provides great comfort.
- Stuff sack conveniently attached.
- Soft, machine-washable microsuede outer casing.
- Not as light as other backpacking pillows on this list.
- One of the more expensive inflatable options.
Bottom-Line: The soft and convenient Nemo Fillo is a great option for side sleepers who are willing to take on a few extra ounces and pay a few extra bucks.
Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium
Best for Stomach Sleepers
The Sea to Summit Aeros Premium is another excellent option for back and stomach sleepers. This model has what’s called a “scalloped” design, which basically means it looks like a cradle. After inflating, simply place your head and neck inside the center of the curve for support.
A unique feature is a layer of synthetic fill underneath the outer fabric that helps protects the inner inflatable bladder. In addition to making this model softer, this inner synthetic fill helps ward off odors, rain, and perspiration. In case you were wondering, the outer casing of the Sea to Summit Aeros Premium is knit polyester.
The ingenious one-way valve helps prevent air leakage. It’s also a breeze to let air out when you pack up camp. There’s actually a valve button you can press that releases all the air within a few seconds.
There are two sizes of Sea to Summit Aeros you can choose from, the regular and the large. The regular measures 13.4 x 9.4 x 4.3 inches inflated and 2.8 x 3.3 inches in the stuff sack. The regular size’s weight is only 2.8 ounces.
- Curved design helps cradle neck and shoulders for back sleepers.
- Synthetic fill makes this product very plush and resistant to rain.
- Expertly designed valve helps keep air in and push air out.
- Under four inches in travel size and below four ounces in weight.
- Mid-range price tag.
Bottom-Line: The Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium is a high-quality mid-range product designed with stomach sleepers in mind.
Teton Sports ComfortLite
The Teton Sports ComfortLite measures 18 x 10 x 4 inches when inflated and weighs 12 ounces. You’ll need to make a bit extra room in your backpack for this pillow’s slightly larger stuff pack, which measures 12.5 x 3 x 3 inches.
After you inflate the pillow with four good breaths, you’ll notice a grey non-slip bottom to help keep it grounded. The top is made of a soft microfiber that comes in either orange or blue. If you move your head a great deal when you sleep, you might have issues with air coming out of this product’s seams.
In contrast to the Sea to Summit Aeros, it’s a bit difficult to get air out of this Teton product. You may need to push the pillow against a tree or a rock to ensure all the air comes out. On a positive note, the ComfortLite is one of the more affordable buys on this list.
- Extremely affordable.
- Non-stick bottom helps keep it centered.
- Soft microfiber and plush interior are great for any sleeping style.
- Can be a bit difficult to get all the air out.
- Larger and heavier stuff sack than most other backpacking pillows.
Bottom-Line: While it might not be as convenient or lightweight as other travel pillows, the Comfortlite is a comfortable product at an extremely economical price.
Next on our list is Therm-a-Rest’s Compressible Foam Pillow. This Therm-a-Rest product easily unfolds from its tiny packaging into a decent sized product great for back, side, and stomach sleepers.
There are actually three different sizes of Term-a-Rest pillows to choose from: small, medium, and large. The small measures 12 x 16 x 4 inches when inflated and 13 x 4 x 4 inches when compressed. The weight is around 7 ounces.
The eco-friendly designers used recycled Therm-a-Rest mattress foam from their sleeping pads in this product to give it an extremely soft feeling against your head. The outer layer is made of brushed polyester and is machine-washer-friendly.
One minor drawback for this product is that there’s only one solid color (blue) to choose from. All the other designs are very vibrant and funky. You’ll definitely draw some attention if you pull out one of these bad boys on an airplane! If you’re the kind of person who wants a low-key design, you might not like the styles offered.
- Recycled mattress foam filling adds softness.
- Environmentally friendly.
- Three sizes available for all consumer preferences.
- Mid-range price.
- Not many low key design patterns to choose from.
Bottom-Line: Therm-a-Rest is an incredibly soft and eco-friendly mid-range compressible pillow with plenty of size and design options to choose from.
For those out there who want some luxury, look no further than Klymit Luxe. The most impressive feature of this product is its size. Once it’s fully inflated, which should only take five breaths, the Klymit Luxe measures 22 x 12.5 x 5.5 inches. When you let the air out and put the Klymit Luxe in your travel bag, however, it will only measure 3 x 7 inches and weigh 6.2 ounces.
While you could easily fit this model in your travel gear, it’s designed to be placed at the head of your mummy bag. The polyester fill on the inside of the Klymit Luxe is what gives it its soft texture. Every Klymit Luxe is made with a cradled design, but side sleepers shouldn’t have any issues using it.
As you’ve probably already guessed, you’ll have to pay a bit extra to experience the “luxe” of this product. Besides the price, another minor drawback of the Klymit Luxe is that you can only order it in grey.
- Cradled design and polyester padding provide great comfort.
- The largest and most stable inflatable on our list.
- Conveniently designed to fit in a mummy bag.
- One of the more expensive travel pillows.
- Only available in grey.
Bottom-Line: Anyone who’s willing to spend extra money on one of the largest and softest inflatable pillows on the market should look into the Klymit Luxe.
Trekology Ultralight Pillow
The highlight of the Trekology is the price. This inflatable option is the cheapest on our list. However, just because this product is affordable doesn’t mean it was shabbily made.
The Ultralight inflates to a respectable 16 x 12 x 4 inches from a packing size of 5 x 2 inches. It is also very light at only 2.75 ounces. These backpacking pillows have a slight curve to help cradle your neck, but they weren’t tailor-made for back sleepers.
Another nice feature is the “Quick Deflate” function that allows you to release air from this backpacking pillow in a matter of seconds. You’ll find this button right on the valve.
All Trekology pillows are 80 percent polyester and 20 percent plastic. The fabric used on the underside is slip-resistant to help it stay in place as you catch some zzz’s. There are numerous single color designs of the Ultralight to choose from ranging from lime green to mocha brown.
- Extremely inexpensive.
- Superb packing size and weight.
- “Quick Deflate” function makes packing super simple.
- Wide variety of colors to choose from.
- Not as large as some other products listed
Bottom-Line: You’ll get far more than you paid for with the Trekology Ultralight. Although it’s the cheapest on our list, this pillow is also one of the most convenient.
Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow
Best Camping Pillow
The Sierra Designs DriDown is a good option for people looking for a down option.
When you roll it out, the Sierra Designs DriDown measures 9 x 13 x 2 inches. You’ll only be adding 5.8 ounces to your travel gear with the Sierra Designs DriDown in your pack. This 5.8 ounces includes a complementary synthetic insert.
If you need less weight in your backpack, you could take the insert out to bring the weight down to 2.8 ounces. You’ll just need to fill your Sierra Designs with comfy clothes if you choose this option.
A major feature of this product is the Polyester Taffeta Fill, which is where the it gets its softness.
All of the top layers of these backpacking pillows are dark grey, but you could choose from four bottom color designs including green, purple, blue, and red.
One major issue with this product is the price. While it’s not unreasonable, the price for the Sierra Designs DriDown is a bit steep for the casual camper. Still, anyone in the market for a good down model won’t be disappointed with the DriDown.
- Polyester Taffeta Fill makes it extra soft.
- You have the option of filling with your own clothes to save weight.
- Under 6 ounces
- A tad expensive
- Will take up more travel space than most inflatable pillows.
Bottom-Line: Although the Sierra Designs DriDown isn’t cheap, it’s a well-designed foam model that’s light, soft, and easy to handle.
Exped Air Pillow UL
Best Ultralight Backpacking Pillow
We’ll close our list with the Exped Air Pillow UL. It only takes about two or three breaths to expand the Exped air pillow from its collapsed state to fully inflated. When inflated, the Exped pillow measures 15 x 10.6 x 3.9 inches.
One of the unique features of this product is the super soft outer casing. Manufacturers decided to use tricot fabric on the outer layer that gives the Exped air pillow a luxurious feel. There’s also foam padding inside to add a greater degree of comfort and softness.
All Exped air pillows are made up of two distinct layers: the air chamber and tricot casing. This design is ideal for back and side sleepers.
Once you’re done simply put the air release pin in the valve and squeeze the air out. You can then roll out the Exped and tie it with an integrated cord.
These air pillows will add 1.6 ounces to your travel weight. Due to its higher quality, the Exped REM is also one of the pricier products on this list.
- Soft inner foam and tricot outer padding are great for side sleepers.
- Easy to inflate and deflate.
- Attached cord helps with roll up
- Not ergonomically designed for back sleepers.
- High price tag.
Bottom-Line: The Exped Air Pillow UL is one of the softest inflatable backpacking pillows, but it’s also one of the most expensive.
Last update on 2021-10-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API