In This Article
Forgetting to pack a camping pillow is one of those mistakes that is seldom made twice. It only takes one night of sleeping with a rock as a pillow to remind backpackers how versatile a camping pillow is, and the comfort they bring to the outdoors.
There are a lot of camping pillows available to backpackers today offering a number of different features, but what features determine whether a camping pillow is worth the weight it adds to your backpack?
Benefits of Camping with a Backpacking Pillow
The weight and size of a piece of camping equipment are the most critical factor to consider when packing a backpack for a camping trip.
Choosing to pack a camping pillow is a no-brainer. They add significant levels of comfort to any camping situation and are especially nice to have after a long hike or a strenuous day making camp.
Camping pillows are versatile and can be utilized in a number of common camping situations.
Resting the head on a camping pillow is the most obvious of its uses, but backpacking pillows can also be used to provide much needed extra support when lying and sitting around the camp.
After a long day of hiking the body needs restorative sleep. The hard ground is unlikely to provide a comfortable sleep surface. Camping pillows are generally smaller than their bedroom counterparts, which makes them ideal for lumbar support as well as the head and neck.
They can also be placed under the hips and knees the provide leg elevation or be utilized as a seat cushion. Many backpacking pillows include a synthetic, often waterproof sack or drawstring bag that has plenty of its own uses around the campsite.
Types of Backpacking Pillows
Backpacking pillows are sold in hundreds of shapes, sizes, and types. The best camping pillow for you is going to be determined by the way in which you intend to camp.
- Backpacking – Weight is a critically important factor when it comes to backpacking. Pillows designed to be stowed in a backpack are generally going to include a smaller, compressed (usually inflatable) design and be manufactured from light, waterproof materials.
- Tent Camping – For many backpackers camping means sleeping in a tent, and whether you intend to sleep on a cot, in a sleeping bag or in the open air a camping pillow is a good idea.
If you don’t intend on stowing the pillow in a backpack size and weight is less of a factor, but a pillows water resistance and durability is still an important consideration.
- Cabin Camping – A cabin in the woods can mean anything from a poorly ventilated hunting shack to a luxurious home stocked with every luxury.
The camping pillow you choose will depend entirely on what type of cabin you intend to sleep inside. A luxurious cabin in the woods probably doesn’t require that you bring a camping pillow.
- Car Camping – Car camping is a fun and inventive way to camp that combines some of the best features of hiking, tent camping, and road tripping.
A pillow designed for car camping may also include various travel features such as lumbar and neck support and can be used while sitting in the driver seat, or laying down in the back.
Regardless of the type of camping, you intend to do or the pillow you intend to purchase, all camping pillows are available in one of three types.
- Inflatable – Inflatable pillows are generally designed with a reservoir of air that can be manually inflated via a pump or the lungs. Inflatable pillows can be deflated and inflated to the ideal firmness level and can be completely deflated for easy storage.
Inflatable pillows are the best choice for backpackers concerned with size and weight.
- Compressible – Compressible camping pillows are generally stuffed with foam material or feather stuffing which can easily be compressed for backpacking. Compressible camping pillows are typically provided higher levels of comfort than inflatable pillows, but they are not as easily packed in a backpack.
- Hybrid – Hybrid pillows combine the best features of inflatable and compressible pillows to provide high levels of comfort and to occupy minimal backpack space.
Camping Pillow vs. Bedroom Pillow
A bedroom pillow and a campsite don’t mix. Bedroom pillows are not durable, they are not waterproof and can hardly fit in a backpack loaded with hiking and camping supplies.
A backpacking pillow is most certainly going to be manufactured from durable, water-resistant materials and be designed to be as light and compressible as possible.
Backpacking Pillow vs. Travel Pillow
Travel pillows are generally designed to provide support to certain areas of the body when traveling. Though travel pillows are a great idea when commuting on a train or airplane, they are rarely durable enough, or compressible enough to be stowed in a hiking backpack.
Travel pillows are also generally smaller than camping pillows and not intended for a full night of sleep, rather many travel pillows are shaped to mold to the neck or otherwise immobilize the neck for sleeping upright in a chair.
Backpacking Pillow Buying Guide
When purchasing any pillow, whether it be for camping or bedroom use, the first thing to consider is the way in which you sleep, otherwise known as your sleep type or posture.
Sleep Type- Sleep type is determined by the position or posture that the body assumes when falling asleep.
Your sleep posture is generally the position that the body feels most comfortable and which it assumes for the majority of the night. Different sleep postures have different sleep requirements.
- Back- The best pillow for back sleepers will be a thin pillow that provides support for the head, neck, and shoulders and aligns the cervical spine. (bones of the neck)
- Stomach- Doctors recommend a thin pillow for stomach sleepers and perhaps the addition of a smaller pillow under the abdomen to provide support of the neutral spine (resting spinal position.)
- Side- Side sleepers generally feel the most comfortable when sleeping on a thick pillow that elevates the head and prevents it from sinking so far.
Once you have determined your sleep posture the next step in the camping pillow buying process is to consider where you are camping and how you intend to pack the pillow.
- Backpack- The type of backpack you use will have a significant effect on the type of camping pillow you purchase. Larger backpacks can accommodate larger camping pillows.
- Duration- How long is your camping trip? The length of your trip will also contribute to the type of pillow that you decide to pack. If your camping trip is only a few days than a smaller, less comfortable pillow may be the best choice.
However, if your camping trip includes more than two or three nights of sleeping outdoors a high-quality camping pillow is typically worth the investment and extra cost.
- Climate & Expected Weather- Where do you intend to camp and what is the weather going to be like. A breathable, water-resistant camping pillow is generally going to provide more comfortable in warm weather than a camping pillow that is designed for sleeping in winter conditions.
- SIze- The size of the camping pillow is essential to provide maximum comfort and packability. When choosing a camping or backpacking pillow, it is important to find a balance between comfortable size and how much space the pillow will occupy in a backpack.
- Shape- A pillows shape is generally determined by how the pillow is intended to be used. Lumbar pillows are generally smaller and curved to mold to the shape of the lower back, while neck and cervical spine pillows are designed to cradle the head and neck.
- Weight- Weight is arguably the most important factor to consider when packing a backpack for a hiking trip.
Pillows are not very heavy on their own, but when added to the weight of a full camping backpack the weight of a pillow can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
- Durability- The durability of your chosen pillow is going to contribute to its lifespan and intended uses. Pillows that are manufactured from synthetic, water-resistant materials are going to be more durable than others.
- Comfort- A camping pillows comfort level is critically important to the quality of the sleep you achieve while camping. The best camping pillow is going to be the one that provides the highest level of comfort yet can be easily packed in a backpack.
- Cover- A pillows cover plays a critical role in protecting the pillow from the damaging elements, which is why the cover for a camping pillow needs to be made from high-quality, water-resistant materials.
- Stuffing- Pillows can be stuffed with any number of different materials; however, camping pillows are generally stuffed with memory foam, micro-beads or a hybrid combination to provide maximum comfort.
- Support- A camping pillow should provide maximum support and be versatile enough to be used on more than one area of the body.
The Best Camping & Backpacking Pillows
The top camping and backpacking pillows include specific features that distinguish it from other pillows, but also other camping and outdoor pillows. They will also include:
- High levels of durability, support, and comfort.
- High-quality, water-resistant materials.
- Durable cover.
- A molded design to accommodate the neck, lumbar and head.
- Size and weight saving features.
- Affordable pricing options.
Best Overall – Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow Premium
The king of camping pillows has long been the Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow Premium. The pillow includes a polyester knit lining the conforms the head and neck, yet manages to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of sweaty, damp polyester that lacks any sort of soft fiber.
The Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow Premium is stuffed with synthetic insulation and an internal air reservoir that can be inflated or deflated to the desired firmness. Where the Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow Premium distinguishes itself from the rest of the competition is in its craftsmanship.
The Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow Premium is exceptionally well built and incredibly durable. It deflates and packs down to a surprisingly compact size and manages to remain lightweight and comfortable.
The Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow Premium is available in two different colors and sizes.
Runner-Up – Trekology Ultralight Inflating Travel/Camping Pillow
The Trekology Ultralight Inflating Travel Pillow is the big comfort option for space conscious backpacker.
The Trekology Ultralight Inflating Travel Pillow is ergonomically designed to provide enhanced neck support and relive the pain caused by a heavy backpack. The pillow includes a contoured design that cradles the head and supports the neck.
The Trekology Ultralight Inflating Travel Pillow is also highly durable. It is manufactured from elastic TPU fabric and polyester, so it is comfortable to the touch and water-resistant.
Weighing in at only 78 grams the Trekology Ultralight Inflating Travel Pillow is exceptionally light. It’s designed to be compact and lightweight when deflated. It occupies only 5 x 2 inches of space and inflates to nearly 17 inches in only 3-5 breaths.
The Trekology Ultralight Inflating Travel Pillow is available in multiple different colors and patterns and is as affordable as it is perfect for long camping and/or backpacking trips.
Honorable Mention – Nemo Equipment Fillo Pillow
One of the highest rated camping pillows available is the Nemo Equipment Fillo Pillow for its exceptional comfort and durability.
The Nemo Equipment Fillo Pillow is a hybrid camping pillow that combines compression, comfort, and adjustability. The Nemo Equipment Fillo Pillow is manufactured with luxury foam and adjustable baffles that can inflate to the perfect firmness in seconds.
The pillow inflates to the desired firmness yet deflates to a lightweight, compact size that is easily stowed in a backpack. The Nemo Equipment Fillo Pillow is available in 5 different colors and costs less than the majority of the competition.
Though it isn’t the lightest camping backpack around (9 oz), it makes up for its added weight with exceptional comfort. The Nemo Equipment Fillo Pillow performs well in a variety of camping situations and as suited for car camping as it is on long outdoor expeditions.
Honorable Mention – Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow for Camping
Therm-a-Rest has been designing and manufacturing quality sleep surfaces for many years and has developed a reputation amongst backpackers for comfort and durability.
The Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow for Camping includes a unique, highly compactable design that radically expands after it has been unpacked, yet rolls up easily to be packed in a backpack or in its included storage bag.
What distinguishes the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow for Camping from the other backpacking pillows, however, are its range of available options. The pillow is available in 8 different colors and four different sizes, so you can customize the perfect camping pillow for you.
Honorable Mention – Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow
The Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow qualifies for our list because it provides a comfortable, versatile solution at one of the most affordable prices we could find.
The Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow consists of three individual components which make it such a powerful contender for the best camping pillow.
The DriDown pillow top is manufactured from polyester ripstop fabric to provide a durable outer layer that is also cooling and comfortable.
The Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow includes a 30D polyester taffeta insert that conforms to the shape of the head and neck to provide valuable support. The insert can also be removed and replaced with clothing to provide a versatile, space-saving comfort solution.
The Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow available in 2 colors and comes with a lifetime warranty.
And the Winner Is…
The Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow Premium is the winner of the title of best camping and backpacking pillow of 2023 for its exceptional craftsmanship, comfort, and durability.
You don’t have to look far for a good review of the Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow Premium. Camping enthusiasts and serious backpackers cannot stop raving about the little pillow.
The brushed 50D polyester knit is soft, durable and designed to wick away moisture to provide a cool, dry sleep surface. What’s more the Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow Premium is perfect for sleepers of all types.
The curved internal baffles and a scalloped bottom edge combined with a synthetic fill and air reservoir provide conforming comfort that can be adjusted to the optimal height and firmness for side, back and stomach sleepers.
Thought it couldn’t be mistaken for a bedroom pillow the level of comfort that the Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow Premium provides to a campsite is hard to beat.
It folds packs well, provides exceptional support and comfort and is durable enough to outlast most of the gear in your backpack, and at the end of the day, those are the factors that are going to determine whether you get the sleep you need to enjoy the outdoors.