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Best Backpacking Pillows – Ultralight Comfort Solutions

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Article Categories: Gear | Hiking Tips

On the trail, you want to carry as little weight as possible, which means forgoing items like a full-sized pillow. Still, you need to get a good night’s sleep when you’re backpacking, and for that, you need a good pillow!

In this article, we’re going to share the best backpacking pillows with you. We’ve found great pillows for any budget and every style of sleep.

 

What Is A Backpacking Pillow?

A backpacking pillow is a small, lightweight pillow that is designed to be used while camping or backpacking. It is often made from compressible materials such as foam or is made with an inflatable design out of durable and thin material in order to be easily packed in a backpack.

 

Backpacking Pillow Vs Travel Pillow

Backpacking pillows are not the same thing as travel pillows. Travel pillows are larger and more plush than backpacking pillows, and are not as compressible. Also, a travel pillow is typically intended to provide support for the head and neck while sleeping in a sitting or semi-reclined position, while a backpacking pillow is more commonly used while lying down.

 

Backpacking Pillow Features

Backpacking pillows are designed to be lightweight and compact, making them easy to carry on backpacking trips. They are also typically made with durable materials that can withstand the wear and tear of outdoor use. Some key features that a good backpacking pillow should have include:

  • Lightweight and compact design: A good backpacking pillow should be easy to pack and carry with you on your trip.
  • Durable materials: Look for a pillow that is made with durable materials that can withstand the wear and tear of outdoor use.
  • Adjustable firmness: Some backpacking pillows feature adjustable firmness, which allows you to customize the level of support and comfort that you need.
  • Packable: You want your pillow to crush down to a very small size in order to save room in your pack. A pillow that can inflate is a great option as it can be adjusted to your liking and also can be deflated to save space in your backpack.
  • Water-resistant: Look for a pillow that is water-resistant or can be covered with a waterproof cover, which will help to keep you dry in the event of unexpected rain.
  • Easy to clean: Some backpacking pillows are machine washable, making them easy to clean after a trip.
  • Quiet: Unfortunately, some of the lightest pillows are also the noisiest due to the crinkly materials they’re made from. We’ve selected pillows that are made of soft, quiet materials that won’t keep you and your tentmate up all night with rustling.

 

Overall, a good backpacking pillow should be lightweight, durable, and easy to pack, with features that allow you to customize the level of support and comfort that you need.

Additionally, there are a few things you should consider about yourself and your camping style when choosing a backpacking pillow. These include:

  • Temperature: It’s important to have a pillow that keeps you warm during cold nights and cool on hot nights. Pillows need to be on top of your sleeping pad, and we recommend keeping them in your sleeping bag.
  • Sleep Style: If you’re a side sleeper, you will want a thicker pillow. Back sleepers will likely prefer a lower pillow.
  • Sleeping Accommodations: How are you sleeping? If you’re on a sleeping pad with a sleeping bag, you might want a pillow designed to work with your specific gear. Some pillows have “pillow stop” tabs of Velcro that hook to your sleeping pad to keep the pillow from sliding around. If you’re sleeping in a hammock, you might want a thicker pillow depending on what head angle is most comfortable for you.

 

Quick Pillow Comparison Chart

Name Type Price Weight Notes
Cocoon Ultralight Air Core Pillow Hybrid $36.95-$44.95 6.7 oz
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Pillow Stuff Sack $47.20 1.7 oz Lightest option
Kampair Portable Camping Inflatable Pillow Inflatable $24.99 4.8 oz
Nemo Fillo Camping Pillow Hybrid $40-$44.95 9.2 oz
Nemo Fillo Elite Pillow Inflatable $49.95-$59.95 2.8 oz
Sea to Summit Aeros Down Pillow Inflatable $29.97-$84.95 2.5 oz Some versions are very expensive
Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow Inflatable $44.95 2.1 oz
Tentmaker The Happy Camper Pillow Inflatable $8.95 2.9 oz Most budget-friendly option
Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow Compressible $31.95 – to $46.95 7 oz Lightest compressible pillow
Therm-a-Rest 2-in-1 Stuff Sack and Pillow Stuff Sack $20.95 2.3 oz
Trekology ALUFT 2.0 Ultralight Camping PIllow Inflatable $17.99-$25.99 3.9 oz
Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Pillow Compressible $21.95-$34.95 9 oz

 

The Best Backpacking Pillows

We’ve scoured the market for the best backpacking pillow options out there. Here’s a quick comparison guide to our picks.

 

Cocoon Ultralight Air Core Pillow

Cacoon AIR Core Backpackign PillowThe Cocoon Ultralight Air Core Pillow is a unique pillow that has two sides for different weather conditions. When it’s cold out, use the microfiber side for warmth. In warmer weather, the nylon side will help keep you cool as you sleep.

This is actually one of the pillows we use on every adventure. It is comfortable, super small, easy to inflate, and deflate, and hasn’t failed us at all.

This pillow has an air bladder and a padded case that can be removed and machine-washed for easy cleaning. The pillow’s design has a baffle that cradles your head for better support. The Cocoon Ultralight Air Core Pillow comes in two sizes; we’ve given the specs for the smaller of the two.

  • Pillow Type: Compressible/Inflatable
  • Packed Size: Not given; described as compressing down to “the size of a baseball”
  • Full Size: 14 x 18 x 3.5 inches
  • Weight: 6.7 oz
  • Price: $36.95-$44.95
  • Buy on Amazon | Buy at REI

 

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Pillow

hyperlite mountain gear pillowThis stuff sack does double duty! During the day, you can store your clothes or other gear in it. At night, flip it inside out and the fleece lining turns it into a pillow. It’s fully waterproof, making it great for all kinds of weather. The only downside is the price; it’s fairly expensive for a stuff sack, and there are cheaper similar alternatives.

  • Pillow Type: Stuff Sack
  • Packed Size: Not given, but ideally you aren’t packing this on its own and are making use of it as a stuff sack.
  • Full Size: 12″ x 17″ (height depends on how much you put in it)
  • Weight: 1.7 oz
  • Price: $47.20
  • Buy at Hyperlite Mountain Gear | View On REI | View On Backcountry

 

Kampair Portable Camping Inflatable Pillow

Kampair Portable Camping PillowThis ultra-soft pillow uses baffled hexagon-shaped bladders and no glue in the design, which means that it’s completely machine washable. The velvet top layer is nice and soft against your face, and this pillow inflates to the size of a standard pillow like you would use at home. The only downside is that it does not fold down quite as small as some of the other pillow options, so it takes up more room in your bag– but given that it comes with its own stuff sack, if you wanted to, you could clip it to the outside of your pack if it takes up too much space.

  • Pillow Type: Inflatable
  • Packed Size: 5.5 x 4.5 x 3.5 inches
  • Full Size: 17 x 11.5 x 3.5 inches
  • Weight: 4.8 oz
  • Price: $24.99
  • Buy on Amazon

 

Nemo Fillo Camping Pillow

Nemo Fillo PillowThe Nemo Fillo Camping Pillow is Nemo Equipment’s basic backpacking pillow offering. A hybrid of a compressible pillow and an inflatable pillow, this pillow offers outstanding comfort, especially for side sleepers. However, the dense foam outer section of this pillow does mean it’s on the heavier side for a backpacking pillow. The outer case is machine washable, and the integrated stuff sack makes this pillow easy to toss in your bag and not worry about.

  • Pillow Type: Compressible/Inflatable
  • Packed Size: No exact dimensions are given, but the company advertises that it can compress down to “the size of a mango” or “the size of a russet potato.”
  • Full Size: 17 x 11 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 9.2 oz
  • Price: $40-$44.95
  • View On Amazon | View On Nemo Equipment | View On REI

 

Nemo Fillo Elite Pillow

NEMO Fillo Elite PillowThe Nemo Fillo Elite is one of the more luxurious backpacking pillows out there. This inflatable pillow has an outer layer of Primaloft insulation for padding and warmth, and an internal inflatable I-beam structure for additional support. The integrated stuff sack means that this pillow is easy to find in your bag, and the removable cover is machine washable. However, some hikers have expressed concerns regarding this backpacking pillow’s durability– while it does come with a warranty, it can be annoying to have to replace your backpacking pillow.

  • Pillow Type: Inflatable
  • Packed Size: No exact dimensions are given, but the company advertises that it can compress down to “the size of a lime.”
  • Full Size: 15 x 11 x 3 inches
  • Weight: 2.8 oz
  • Price: $49.95-$59.95
  • View On Amazon | View On Nemo Equipment | View On REI

 

Sea to Summit Aeros Down Pillow

Sea to Summit Aeros Down Inflatable PillowThe Sea to Summit Aeros Down pillow is one of the most comfortable backpacking pillows on the market. Like many other lightweight backpacking pillows, its primary support comes from inflation; however, unlike most other lightweight backpacking pillows, it comes with a padded-down layer on top for an incredibly comfortable night’s sleep. And it does this without adding much weight at all; at a remarkable 2.5 ounces, this pillow is extremely lightweight and does not take up much space in your backpack. This pillow comes in three sizes: Regular, Large, and Deluxe. We’ve given the specs for the regular size.

 

Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow

The Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow comes in three sizes; we are featuring the regular size here. This inflatable pillow features a high-quality TPU bladder for extra durability and a soft knit polyester fabric cover. This pillow is extremely light and inflates with just a few breaths, but what makes this pillow particularly good is its shape. The contoured shape cradles your head and neck as you sleep, making it extremely comfortable and supportive. The only real downside to this pillow is that it is not machine washable; you have to hand wash and air dry this pillow.

  • Pillow Type: Inflatable
  • Packed Size: 2 x 2.8 inches in the included stuff sack
  • Full Size: 14.2 x 10.2 x 4.7 inches
  • Weight: 2.1 oz
  • Price: $44.95
  • See On Amazon | See On Sea to Summit

 

Tentmaker The Happy Camper Blue Smile Pillow

The Happy Camper Blue Smile PillowThe most budget-friendly entry on our list, we couldn’t resist this inexpensive pillow option. Its outer shell is made of ultra-soft, stretchy spandex for comfort, and it inflates in about three breaths. It packs down to a very small size and comes with its own stuff sack for ease of transportation. And at less than $9, it’s a total steal.

  • Pillow Type: Inflatable
  • Packed Size: 3.9 x 2.4 x 2.4 inches
  • Full Size: 12 x 8 x 2.5 inches
  • Weight: 2.9 oz
  • Price: $8.95
  • See On Amazon

 

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Camping and Backpacking PillowThis machine washable, memory foam pillow allows you to have the ultimate in pillow comfort on the trail. It comes in three sizes; we are giving the specs for the small size. This pillow comes with compression straps and a bag to help bring it down to an easily packable size; while not as small as an inflatable pillow or stuff sack pillow, it does compress to something that is easily packable in many backpacking settings. (Ultralight backpackers might not like how much space it takes up, but for a weekend getaway or car camping, it might be one of the best backpacking pillow options.)

  • Pillow Type: Compressible
  • Packed Size: 11 x 15 x 5 inches
  • Full Size: 12 x 16 x 5 inches
  • Weight: 7 oz
  • Price: $31.95 – to $46.95
  • See On Amazon | See On Therm-a-Rest

 

Therm-a-Rest 2-in-1 Stuff Sack and Pillow

Therm-a-Rest 2-in-1 Stuff Sack Camping PillowThis combination stuff sack and pillow from Therm-a-Rest is versatile and ideal for the ultralight backpacker who wants a pillow but doesn’t want to bring any extra weight. This pillow is a reversible stuff sack with a tough polyester exterior and a soft, brushed fleece-like interior. The roomy exterior can hold several articles of clothing and is great for organizing the inside of your backpack. It isn’t completely waterproof, but it will perform well in most backpacking situations. And like all Therm-a-Rest products, it comes with a limited lifetime warranty.

  • Pillow Type: Stuff Sack
  • Packed Size: Can hold 12 liters of gear
  • Full Size: 7.5 x 17 inches; height depends on how much you put in it
  • Weight: 2.3 oz
  • Price: $20.95
  • See On Amazon | See On Therm-a-Rest

 

Trekology ALUFT 2.0 Ultralight Camping PIllow

Trekology describes this pillow as small in size but big in comfort. It has lots of features to keep you sleeping comfortably throughout the night, including a latch strap and grippy bumps on the bottom to keep your pillow in place. Ergonomically designed to support your head and neck and reduce upper back irritation, this pillow is great for front, back, and side sleepers.

  • Pillow Type: Inflatable
  • Packed Size: 5 x 2 inches
  • Full Size: 16 x 12 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 3.9 oz
  • Price: $17.99-$25.99
  • See On Amazon | See On Trekology

 

Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Pillow

Wise Owl Outfitters Camping PillowThis soft, compressible foam pillow comes in two sizes, small and medium; we will be giving the specs for the small. This is a very versatile pillow that uses cozy memory foam and soft microsuede to give you a great sleeping experience. The shredded memory foam takes about a minute to fluff up to its full size after you unpack it

  • Pillow Type: Compressible
  • Packed Size: 9 x 6 x 4 inches
  • Full Size: 12 x 16 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 9 oz
  • Price: $21.95-$34.95
  • See On Amazon

 

FAQs

 

Are backpacking pillows worth it?

You definitely need something to elevate your head slightly while you sleep. The curves in your spine mean that sleeping flat on the ground without any kind of cushioning for your head is likely to be very uncomfortable. However, if you don’t want to use a designated backpacking pillow, there are other things you can do.

 

What are alternatives to backpacking pillows?

If you’re backpacking on an overnight trip, you’re definitely going to have extra clothes that you can fold up and use as a pillow. You could even bring a stuff sack to use as a “pillowcase” for these clothes to help keep them in one place.

Now, the only downside to this is that your jacket or a stuff sack might not be particularly soft… but if you have an extra flannel, midlayer, or hoodie, you can turn that inside-out so that the soft lining is the side of the fabric contacting your face. Sweet dreams!

 

 What size should a backpacking pillow pack to?

This depends on how much space you have and what type of pillow you plan to use. If you’re using a stuff sack-style pillow, it will fold down and pack to nearly nothing. Every type of pillow is different, so think about how much room you’re willing to spare for a pillow and what else you might want to bring.

 

How much should I spend on a backpacking pillow?

You really don’t need to spend much on a backpacking pillow. While some pillows out there might offer supposedly superior comfort at extremely elevated prices, there’s no reason for most hikers to spend more than $50 on a backpacking pillow. You can get a great pillow that is small, lightweight, and comfortable for much smaller prices.

 

While more expensive pillows might come with advantages like a lifetime guarantee, at the end of the day, your pillow really isn’t the most important piece of gear. It’s better to put that money towards the really important stuff, like a good backpack, tent, or boots.

 

Are backpacking pillows comfortable?

That depends on what you mean by comfortable. No inflatable pillow is going to be as comfortable as the cushiony, luxurious memory foam pillows you might find at home– but at the same time, today’s pillow designs do take neck and head support into account.

The best way to find out if a backpacking pillow is comfortable for you is to give it a test run- but if you can’t, think about how you like to sleep. If you sleep on your back, you’ll probably find that most backpacking pillows are comfortable for you.

But if you’re a side sleeper, you may want something with a little more loft or height than a traditional inflatable backpacking pillow. Using a stuff sack-style pillow or just using your gear as a pillow might be able to provide the extra height you need to be comfortable as you sleep.

 

How do backpacking pillows compare to the size of regular pillows?

Sometimes it can be helpful to know your standard pillow sizes when thinking about how the best backpacking pillows compare to what you use at home. Here’s a quick guide to the pillows that we’ve listed and standard American bed pillow sizes. All sizes are given in inches and standard pillow sizes are taken from the Sleep Foundation.

Pillow Type Size Pillow Type Size
King 20” x 36” Nemo Fillo Elite Pillow 15” x 11”
Queen 20″ x 30″ Sea to Summit Aeros Down Pillow 13.4” x 9.4”
Standard 20″ x 26″ Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow 14.2” x 10.2”
Twin 20″ x 26″ Tentmaker The Happy Camper Pillow 12” x 8”
Cocoon Ultralight Air Core Pillow 14” x 18” Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow 12” x 16”
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Pillow 12″ x 17″ Therm-a-Rest 2-in-1 Stuff Sack and Pillow 7.5” x 17”
Kampair Portable Camping Inflatable Pillow 17” x 11.5” Trekology ALUFT 2.0 Ultralight Camping PIllow 12” x 16”
Nemo Fillo Camping Pillow 17” x 11” Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Pillow 12” x 16”

 

You have a lot of choices when choosing the best backpacking pillow for you, and we hope that this guide will help you see how these pillows compare to each other!

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, backcountry skier, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued climbed all of the Colorado 14ers, is always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about