7 Best Backpacking Pillows (2021)

Best Backpacking Pillows
 

When backpacking, you don’t know where the paths, roads, and trails will lead you at the end of the day. Whether at the beach, top of the mountains, or campsite, the right backpacking pillow will ensure you have a good night’s sleep.

There is a wide range of backpacking pillows on the market to choose from. However, they are all not built the same. The best backpacking pillows are lightweight and pack small for easy portability yet offer you great comfort and support when sleeping.

Below is a look at the 7 best backpacking pillow options for your next camping trip.


7 Best Backpacking Pillows – Winners

Check out our quick recommendations here, or keep scrolling for detailed reviews:


Best Overall Backpacking Pillow

1. Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow

Dimensions: 16 X 23 X 4 Inches

Weight: 12oz

Pillow Type: Compressible pillow

Fill Type: Upcycled urethane

Pros:

  • Made in the USA
  • Lightweight
  • Compact design
  • Compressible
  • Soft and comfortable to lie on
  • Machine washable
  • Variety of colors and sizes to choose from

Cons:

  • Some people find it too big for backpacking

The Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow is designed to offer you optimal comfort when sleeping and portability. This camping pillow is supportive and lightweight.

Aside from a backpacking trip, it can be used in various settings, including car camping, plane travel, and trekking. It is available in various sizes (small, medium, large, and X-large) and colors.

The exterior is made of 100% polyester, while the interior is filled with soft foam. The polyester fabric offers a soft, plush feel against your skin. Before using the pillow, fluff it to restore its loftiness for a more comfortable pillow. The urethane filling is upcycled from Therm-a-Rest mattresses.

These materials enable this camping pillow to be ultralight and pack down small, making it ideal when packing up all your backpacking gear. The 16 X 23 X 4-inch pillow compresses down to 16 x 7 x 7-inches.

The compact design of this foam pillow enables you to pack it neatly into a duffle suitcase, backpack, or tote bag. It comes with a drawstring bag with a cord lock that keeps the pillow compressed down when not in use.

View on Amazon >>


Runner-Up Backpacking Pillow

2. Nemo Fillo Pillow

Dimensions: 17 X 11 X 4 Inches

Weight: 9oz

Pillow Type: Hybrid pillow

Fill Type: Air and foam

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Ultra-lightweight and compact
  • Offer adequate head and neck support
  • Packs down tight
  • Integrated storage
  • Machine washable

Cons

  • Has a strong chemical smell
  • Some people find it too small

The Nemo Fillo pillow is an ultralight backpacking pillow and packs down remarkably small. It is designed with an ergonomic valve that enables you to inflate it in a few seconds. The interior is a 3” I-beam baffled air cell that fills with air.

The baffled air cell is covered with a layer of thick luxury form that provides a soft and yielding feel on your head, just like a traditional pillow. On the exterior is a machine washable microsuede cover.

This hybrid pillow is portable. It packs down to the size of a potato for easy and light carry on your backpacking trip. The pillow has an integrated stuff sack that ensures it does not get lost in the depths of your backpack. The Nemo Fillo pillow is versatile. It can be used for airplane travel, long road trips, and car camping.

View on Backcountry >>

Also Available on Amazon


Best Inflatable Pillow

3. Therm-a-Rest Air Head Inflatable Travel Pillow

Dimensions: 11 x 15.5 X 4 inches

Weight: 5.6oz

Pillow Type: Inflatable pillow

Fill Type: Air and polyester fill

Pros

  • Light and comfortable
  • Thick and stable
  • Soft cover
  • Made in the USA
  • Machine washable

Cons

  • None so far

The Therm-a-Rest’s top-rated Air Head Pillow is one of the best inflatable pillows on the market. It is suitable for both camping and backpacking. You can choose between regular (11 x 15.5) and large (12.5 X 18) sizes. The pillows are available in two color options, including blue woven and yellow mountains.

It packs quite easily into a small and compact size that fits into the hood of your sleeping bag. It is super lightweight and inflates to provide comfortable support. The 4” thick baffled air chamber offers excellent stability and loft. The top is filled with synthetic material, while the exterior is a non-slip machine washable cover.

View on Amazon >>


Best Budget Backpacking Pillow

4. Klymit Luxe Pillow

Dimensions: 12.5 x 22 x 5.5 inches

Weight: 6.2 ounces

Pillow Type: Hybrid pillow

Fill Type: Air and polyester fill

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Packs down small
  • Comfortable quilted cover
  • Easy to clean removable cover
  • Comes with a stuff sack

Cons

  • Slips around if you toss and turn while sleeping

The Klymit Luxe Pillow is another great option for an inflatable hybrid pillow for your camping or backpacking trip. It is almost as big as your home pillow but weighs only 6 ounces and packs 3 X 7 inches small.

The interior is designed to maximize comfort. It has a hybrid construction that constitutes air and polyester fill. You can adjust the inflation to your desired comfort level. It inflates easily with just a few breaths into your air valve.

The exterior is a quilted cover that feels soft and comfortable on your skin when sleeping. The pillow contours and adjusts to keep your head centered.

View on Backcountry >>

Also Available on Amazon


Best Luxury Backpacking Pillow

5. Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow

Dimensions: 23.5 x 16 X 5.5 inches

Weight: 7 ounce

Pillow Type: Hybrid pillow

Fill Type: Air and synthetic lining

Pros

  • Packs small
  • Light
  • Comfortable
  • Washable exterior
  • Comes with a stuff sack
  • Compatible with the Sea to Summit sleeping mat

Cons

  • Not machine washable
  • May not be thick enough for side sleepers

The Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow is a lightweight inflatable pillow suitable for backpacking, camping, and travel. It is available in 4 color options, including navy blue, lime, grey, and magenta. You can also find it in three sizes: Deluxe 23.5 x 16, large 16.5 x 11.8, and regular 13.4 x 9.4.

It is easy to inflate and deflate through the multifunctional mini-valve. You can also fine-tune the air pressure to your desired level. The pillow is compatible with the Sea to Summit camping sleeping mats that come with a pillow lock patch the secures the inflatable pillow in place.

On the interior is a synthetic lining that provides plushness and improves airflow. The exterior is made of an inflatable TPU bladder covered with brushed polyester knit. Both provide excellent support and firmness. The pillow comes with a stuff sack for easy packing and portability.

View on Bass Pro Shops >>

Also Available on Backcountry

Also Available on Amazon


Best for Neck & Back Support

6. Exped Air Pillow

Dimensions: 18.1 x 11.8 x 4.7 inches

Weight: 2.3 ounces

Pillow Type: Inflatable

Fill Type: Air

Pros

  • Feather lightweight
  • Packs down small
  • Easy to inflate
  • Stays in place
  • Manufacturer offers a 5-year warranty

Cons

  • Some customers reported receiving the wrong size

The Exped air pillow offers backpackers comfort when sleeping without hogging up pack space and weight. It is designed to offer adequate neck and head support no matter your sleeping style. It is available in two sizes: medium and large. It is the lightest inflatable pillow on this list as the medium weighs 1.7oz while the large one weighs 2.3 oz.

The pillow features a sturdy flat valve with a deflation pin and a one-way flap. The design of the pillow was updated in 2020 to include a 20D stretch tricot exterior fabric. The fabric offers a smooth surface to lie on. It has an anti-slip coating on both sides that keeps the pillow in place throughout the night.  The fabric also has eyelets that enable you to attach the pillow to your sleeping pad.

Outstandingly, the manufacturer offers a 5-year warranty on this pillow and all other Exped products. The warranty covers material and workmanship defects. They also repair products due to normal wear and tear or negligence at a nominal cost to minimize disposal to the landfills.

View on Backcountry >>

Also Available on Amazon


Best Backpacking Pillow for Kids

7. TETON Sports Camp Pillow

Dimensions: 12 X 18 X

Weight: 10 ounces

Pillow Type: Compressible

Fill Type: Hollow fiber

Pros

  • Soft flannel upper
  • Comfortable
  • Packs down small
  • Comes with a drawstring bag
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Not suitable for adults
  • Center of the pillow flattens out over time

The Teton sports camp pillow is suitable for backpacking, camping, and traveling.  It is available in 4 color options, including brown, grey, green, and black. It packs down tight and comes with a taffeta stuff sack with a drawstring closure for easy packing and portability. It is best suited for kids rather than adults.

The soft pillow has an innovative interior that incorporates superloft elite 4-channel hollow fiber. The exterior is made of 100% brushed flannel with an envelope-style opening. These materials ensure that the pillow is soft and comfortable to lie on. It has a removable pillowcase that is machine washable.

View on Amazon >>


Buying Advice for Backpacking Pillows

Below are the main factors to consider when buying a backpacking pillow to determine which one is the right fit for you.

Type of Backpacking Pillows

There are four main types of backpacking pillows. Each has its pros and cons and is most suitable in specific circumstances. Here is a look at the different types.

Inflatable Pillows

Inflatable backpacking pillows are space savers. They are an excellent option if you are looking to save on your packing space. They are also quite light. They fold flat when deflated and not in use, taking up minimal room in your backpack.          

There are two types of inflatable backpacking pillows – those that are inflated manually and those that have an auto-inflate valve. Both types are practical and inflate easily.

On the downside, inflatable pillows are more prone to puncturing or deflating accidentally. They may also feel stiff and offer inadequate support. They may move around and produce a squeaky sound.

Compressible Pillows

Compressible backpacking pillows are designed to offer you as much comfort as the pillow on your bed. The interior is filled with plush and soft materials such as synthetic fibers, foam, or both. However, unlike a traditional pillow, it can compress down significantly to minimize packing space. They are the best option if comfort is your priority.

On the downside, compressible pillows are the heaviest type of backpacking pillows. Although they fold down, they take up more space than inflatables.

Hybrid Pillows

Hybrid pillows are a go-between with inflatable and compressible backpacking pillows. They offer the best of both worlds. These are inflatable pillows wrapped with a layer of plush, compressible material. Like inflatable pillows, they deflate into a small size but not as small as inflatables. They also have a manual or automatic inflating mechanism.

They are much smaller than compressible pillows, but they do not save you as much packing space and weight as an inflatable. If you are looking for a lighter option for the compressible pillow but one that can offer better comfort and support than the inflatable pillows, hybrid pillows are the best option.

Stuff Sack Pillow

Technically, these are not actual pillows. They are makeshift stuff sacks that you stuff with soft items such as clothing and then use as a pillow. They are excellent space savers and can be used to pack clothes. However, they may be lumpy and uncomfortable to sleep on.

Face Fabrics

The right backpacking pillow face fabric should be comfortable and soft. It should also help the pillow stay in place. The most common face fabrics are polyester and nylon. Both are quite sturdy and offer you solid support.

Most pillows on the market are made with either a brushed polyester or fleece cover. These materials are soft on the skin, breathable, and have moisture-wicking properties. Therefore, polyester is the best option if you tend to sweat.

On the other hand, nylon is not breathable and inhibits proper airflow, which can cause the pillow to be smelly, particularly if you sweat a lot. It also tends to be slippery and produce a squeaky sound if you move around.

Size, Weight & Support

When it comes to the size and weight of your pillow, it is a balancing act. Think about what is a priority for you, portability or comfort. Bigger pillows are typically sturdier and more supportive but are also heavier and take up a lot of packing space.

Backpacking pillows that are 13-15 inches wide are adequate for most adults. However, if you toss and turn a lot, go for a wide pillow.

In terms of weight, stuff sacks are the lightest and weigh between 1.2 and 1.8 ounces on average. The weight is so minimal that it hardly affects your total luggage weight. But, they compromise comfort. Inflatable pillows might be a better option as they are lightweight, pack small, and offer adequate support.

On the other hand, hybrid and compressible pillows are sturdier and comfortable but heavier and take up significant packing space.

Durability

Inflatable backpacking pillows have the shortest lifespan compared to their counterparts as they are prone to puncturing. However, they are generally cheaper to replace. Compressible pillows last longer but may need frequent fluffing to keep them plush. They also tend to flatten in the middle.

If the pillow’s durability is high on your list, go for one that comes with a warranty. Some manufacturers offer a warranty on their pillows against manufacturing and workmanship defects. Others offer repairs at a minimal cost. The longer the warranty, the better.

Sleeping Style

When buying a backpacking pillow, consider your sleeping style. If you toss and turn a lot at night, consider a backpacking pillow that has a non-slip grip or one that has an attachment mechanism you can use to easily attach it to your sleeping pad. Also, a wider pillow offers you adequate space to move around.

If you are a side-sleeper, you require a thicker pillow to fill up the space between the ground and your head. If you are a flat sleeper, a thinner pillow will do.

Washing Care

Your backpacking pillow will inevitably collect dust or dirt, and if you sweat, it may get smelly. Therefore, it must be washable. Some manufacturers indicate that their pillows are machine washable. Carefully adhere to the machine washing and drying instructions provided.

For most pillows, it is recommended to hand wash. Use a mild soap or detergent, clean and rinse, then lay the pillow on a clothes rack to air dry. When washing an inflatable or hybrid camping pillow, make sure to close the valve before washing it. Once dry, open the valve before storing it away.

Hybrid pillows may take longer to dry depending on the compressible material used. A polyester filling will dry within a few hours, but foam may take longer. Compressible pillows will take significantly longer to dry than all other types of backpacking pillows.


Conclusion

The right backpacking pillow will take up minimal space and weight in your backpack, but it may significantly improve your sleep quality. Read through the buying guide above to help you determine the key feature in the right backpacking pillow for you. Then choose one from our pick for the 7 best backpacking pillow options for a good night’s sleep.

Need a mat to go with your new backpacking pillow? Check out our review of the Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads.

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    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.