Approximately 34.54 million people in the United States go backpacking or hiking each year. The popularity of this sport is growing each year. Many choose to spend a night in the outdoors reconnecting with nature. If you are one of them, then ensure that you get a great night’s sleep by taking along the best backpacking pillow.
1. TETON Sports Camp Pillow – Best Comfort Pillow
A P5 poly hi-count surface on the outside of the TETON Sports Camp Pillow ensures that you will never stick to the pillow even if conditions stay hot all night.
This pillow which is available in grey, brown, black or green easily coordinates with other backpacking bedding products from TETON. Despite the fact that this pillow compacts inside a drawstring barrel-locking stuff bag, it will not lose its loft when you are ready to lay down for the night. The SuperLoft Elite™ fill easily maintains its loft even after repeated uses.
A Travel Pillow to Choose
The company recommends that the pillow be stored out of the stuff bag between backpacking trips so that it will maintain its maximum loft. A washable flannel envelope-style pillowcase helps to keep the pillow clean. Backpackers can easily carry this pillow on long hikes because it only weighs 10 ounces with case and stuff sack.
This pillow is about the size of a small travel pillow, so many backpackers choose to carry two or use clothing to make a bigger pillow. This Salt Lake City-based company prides itself on its low defect rate and extra-mile customer service policy allowing customers to return defective pillows for life.
- Coordinates with other TETON camping products
- Retains Loft
- Pillowcase and stuff bag included
- Flannel pillowcase
- Only 12 inches long by 18 inches wide
2. NEMO Fillo Backpacking Pillow – Best Inflatable Pillow
The washable polyester microsuede NEMO Fillo Backpacking Pillow weighing just under one pound easily compresses with a Velcro strap to about the size of a softball making it convenient to carry it in the backcountry. An integrated stuff sack that stores in a back pocket on the pillow makes this pillow even more convenient to carry.
This pillow that is about the size of a bed pillow slips into the headspace of many backpacking sleeping bags, but it does not fit all. It is available in a variety of colors including blue, green, gray, green stripe and orange stripe allowing backpackers to choose the one matching their camping gear the best.
Memory Foam Inside
Backpackers can choose the height that they want the pillow because it includes a 1 inch memory foam pad and a 3 inch inflatable pillow. There is a little room inside the pillowcase to stuff with clothes if backpackers want a firmer pillow.
A valve on the side of the pillow allows backpackers to easily fill the pillow with air. This valve can be tricky to operate with some users finding it hard to get the cap back on without losing the air at the end of a long day of hiking. Backpackers have trusted NEMO Equipment Incorporated based in Dover, New Hampshire, to produce quality products since 2002. This pillow continues in this grand tradition being designed by backpackers for those who love the sport.
- Generous size
- Adjustable firmness and loft
- Soft cover does not sweat at night
- Can be noisy when sleeping
- Can be cold to sleep on
- Air valve can be hard to operate
- Small cinch strap can be easily lost
3. Therm-A-Rest Compressible Pillow – Best Large Size Pillow
Since 1971, Therm-A-Rest has been manufacturing quality products designed to meet backpackers demands. Rock climbers planned the Therm-A-Rest Compressible Pillow so that they could get a great night’s sleep at the end of a day of climbing.
This generously sized pillow helps make sure that people who toss and turn all night can still keep their head on the pillow. This large pillow weighs about 13.4 ounces. Those looking for a smaller pillow also find small and medium options available.
Materials to Consider
The pillow consists of a brushed polyester cover over a urethane foam center. The pillow rolls up into the attached pocket on the back of the pillow. Some backpackers may not like this pillow because it only compresses about 20 percent of its full size making it harder to carry.
Backpackers who intended to stay on the trail until sunset need to be aware that the small foam pieces inside this pillow need to be fluffed hours before laying down on it for maximum comfort. This washable pillow is available in a variety of solid colors including amethyst, poppy, cardinal, gray, denim and green. It is also available in two printed designs.
- Attached pillow pocket for easy carrying
- Variety of colors available
- Long lasting durability
- Only compresses to 20 percent of full size
- Must be fluffed hours before using for ideal comfort
4. Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow – Best Neck Cradling Pillow
Backpackers looking for a pillow that will cradle their necks all night long need to consider the Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow because its curved internal baffles designed to keep necks centered. The pillow’s ergonomic shape makes it perfect for mummy sleeping bag hoods.
This pillow’s 500 polyester knit cover helps to wick away moisture even on the hottest summer nights allowing backpackers to sleep more comfortably. Under the knit cover is a small layer of synthetic fill further helping to keep moisture at bay.
Wise Vavle Management
The Sea to Summit pillow contains an inner baffle with a double valve. At the end of a long day of hiking, backpackers remove the first valve cover to easily fill the pillow with air. Then, they remove the second valve allowing them to adjust the firmness of the pillow.
Backpackers can choose between two different sizes of pillows. The large pillow is about the size of a bed pillow while the regular size pillow is about the size of a large travel pillow. One side of the pillow inflates an inch higher than the other side allowing everyone to find the position most comfortable for them. Each pillow comes with a drawstring stuff sack that is large enough to easily accommodate the pillow. The sturdy cord on the top of the cinch sack allows backpackers to tie the pillow to the outside of their backpacks for quick access at night if desired.
Colors to Choose
Backpackers can choose between a green or blue pillow. Both have a black knit surface on the top and bottom with the words Sea to Summit printed in large letters on the side of the pillow. In the past, some Sea to Summit pillows had small leaks. This company began by Tim Macartney-Snape who climbed Mt. Everest alone promptly replaced the pillows without asking customers any questions.
- Small pack volume
- Extremely lightweight
- Inflates with three or four breaths
- Some pillow wobble while sleeping
- Not machine washable
5. Klymit Pillow X – Best Feather Weight Pillow
Backpackers concerned about carrying any extra weight may want to consider the Klymit Pillow X as it weighs only 2 ounces. This pillow which compresses to be about the size of a cigarette lighter becomes about the size of a bed pillow when fully inflated. In fact, it is the perfect size to fit in most mummy sleeping bags.
The X design of this pillow helps backpackers to keep their heads centered on the pillow all night long. A large valve on top of the pillow easily inflates with just a puff or two of air. Users can adjust the firmness of the pillow by adding or subtracting air. Buyers can choose between coyote, teal, red or camo.
The top of this pillow is lightweight 30D polyester aiding the backpacker in staying comfortable. Backpackers do not need to worry about this pillow tearing often because the bottom of this featherweight pillow is made of 75D polyester. This pillow comes with its own durable storage bag helping to keep the pillow compact until it is needed. Be careful when deflating this pillow as the X design likes to trap air. This can make it very difficult to get the pillow secured in its carry bag.
- Weighs less than 2 ounces
- Easily inflates
- Variety of colors available
- May be hot to sleep on during the summer
- Hard to deflate
6. Trekology Ultralight Inflating Pillow – Best Thermoplastic Pillow
Backpackers are never sure of the weather conditions that they may encounter on the trail. Trekology answer to this problem is the Ultralight Inflating Pillow as it is waterproof. It is made of 30 percent thermoplastic and 70 percent polyester. This pillow inflates to be about the size of a normal bed pillow with just three or four breaths.
It is less than the size of a soda can when deflated. Deflating this pillow requires rolling it toward the valve. It can be difficult to get all the air out of it so that it fits in the included storage bag.
This pillow stays in place at night because the back of the pillow is made of slip-resistant fabric. It is curved on one side for better support of the head, shoulders and neck while the other side is straight. Backpackers can choose how firm a pillow they want to sleep on by adjusting the amount of air they put into the pillow. This pillow comes with a double-decked air valve. Opening the first valve, allows the backpacker to put air into the pillow while opening the second one deflates the pillow. This pillow weighing in at just 2.75 ounces will not make a noticeable difference in the weight of backpacks.
Buyers can choose a blue or orange pillow. Trekology promises to introduce more colors very soon. This pillow is not machine washable, but it can be wiped down with a damp cloth after a backpacking trip. Side sleepers find it the right height for them when inflated while many backpackers find it the right size for lumbar support on their drive to the trail.
- Budget pillow
- Valve may be hard to open
- May slip on slick sleeping mats
7. Hikenture Pillow – Best Polyester Travel Pillow
The Hikenture Pillow is a great choice for backpacking, and it can also double as a good travel pillow when traveling on an airplane or car.
This pillow inflates with four to five breaths. When fully inflated, this bed-size pillow is about 4.5 inches high, so it might be a good choice for side sleepers.
Compact and Waterproof
This pillow is super easy to deflate when you are breaking camp as you simply push a small button in the center of the valve to release all the air in the pillow. Once deflated, it easily slides into the cinch sack which easily fits in the palm of most adult’s hands.
This polyester pillow is waterproof and it will float. Therefore, it may also be used as a water pillow when floating the river on a lazy day.
Some customers have had problems with this pillow breaking quickly. The company, however, has been very quick to answer any complaints about their products.
- Compact when deflated
- Easy to inflate and deflate
- Waterproof and will float
- Great price
- Some issues with quality
- May not be high enough for back sleepers
8. InstantCamp Air-Light Pillow – Best Head Cradling Pillow
Two center baffles helps make sure that backpackers using the InstantCamp Air-Light Pillow stay with their heads centered on the pillow all night.
This 40D lightweight nylon pillow inflates slower than some other choices on the market requiring five or more breaths of air. The specially-designed valve does not accommodate bicycle air pumps.
When fully inflated, this pillow measures 5.5 inches high which is about an inch taller than many other choices on the market. Therefore, it may be the perfect choice for people who sleep on their backs.
Deflating this pillow requires letting the air out of the valve while rolling the pillow toward the valve. This pillow comes with a color-coordinated stuff back. When it is fully deflated and in the bag, it is about the size of a deck of cards. InstantCamp offers a one year hassle-free warranty on this pillow. Backpackers need to register their pillow online to activate the warranty.
- Color-coordinated stuff sack
- 5.5 inches high when inflated
- 2 baffles ensures head stays center
- Nylon may be noisy
- Not machine washable
- No cover
9. ONWEGO ‘Soft-Top’ Travel Pillow – Best Polyester Pillow
The ONWEGO ‘Soft-Top’ Travel Pillow is made of a layer of polyester fabric and baffles. This pillow is deeper in the middle than on the outside helping to hold the backpacker’s head in place throughout the night. It is covered with a super-soft cotton fabric that is machine washable. This pillow should, however, not be placed in the dryer.
Backpackers use the one-way air valve to inflate this pillow to the desired firmness. Most users can easily inflate this pillow by blowing into the valve with their mouths in under 10 seconds. In the morning, they press an inner flapper to deflate this pillow.
ONWEGO offers a one year warranty for any defects in the pillow. This is less than many manufacturers offer. This pillow comes with an attached stuff sack, so backpackers never need to fear that they will lose the sack among their other gear. Once packed, it is about the size of a pair of rolled socks. This pillow is only available in black which may get warmer in the summer. Helping to eliminate this problem, however, is the cotton fabric outer layer wicking away sweat during the night.
- Ergonomically designed
- Soft cotton outer cover wicks away sweat
- Only available in black
- Shorter warranty than other choices
10. ONWEGO Camping Pillow – Best Self-Inflating Pillow
The ONWEGO Camping Pillow is a self-inflating foam pillow. Backpackers who already use self-inflating sleeping pads will be very familiar with the process of inflating this pad. Simply open the valve and let it fill with air until the foam core puffs. Then, tighten the cap, and the pillow is ready for use. Backpackers who desire a firmer pillow can add air by blowing into the valve.
This pillow features a textured back, so that it stays in place throughout the night.
It does not, however, come with a pillowcase. Many backpackers find it convenient to use a sweatshirt as a pillowcase.
A Side Sleepers Choice
When inflated, it measures about 4 inches high so it may be a good choice for side sleepers. Placing a sweatshirt or other clothing item under the pillow raises its height for back sleepers. Deflating the pillow is easy as the backpacker simply opens the valve and rolls the pillow toward the valve. When deflated, this pillow in its cinch sack is about the size of a softball.
There is no pillowcase included with this pillow weighing 10.5 ounces. Buyers, however, do get a small cinch sack closed with a drawstring. Some users find it difficult to get all the air out of the pillow to get it to fit in the cinch sack. This ONWEGO pillow made from outdoor-grade moisture resistant material does not absorb humidity, so there is no sticky feeling as found with many nylon pillows. Backpackers can choose from a variety of bold colors including pink, black, red, yellow, orange and camo.
- Budget-priced backpacking pillow
- Self-inflates quickly
- Textured back helps hold pillow in place
- No warranty
- No pillowcase
- May be noisy to sleep on
An Ultimate Buying Guide to Buying the Best Pillow for Backpackers
There are many different factors to keep in mind when buying a backpacking pillow. Understanding these different factors allows the backpacker to choose the pillow meeting their needs the best.
After a day of hiking on trails in remote locations, a great night’s sleep is essential. Look for pillows that are ergonomically constructed so that they support the head and neck. Additionally, make sure to consider the noise level of the pillow. Generally, pillows that are polyester will be quieter to sleep on than those made of nylon. Nylon backpacking pillows with a pillowcase are usually quieter.
Most backpacking inflatable pillows are very light making them easy to carry on the trail because they fit in very tiny spaces. The tradeoff is that these pillows may develop air leaks or holes. Compression pillows provide a firmer surface for those backpackers preferring a solid place to lay their heads. The tradeoff is that these pillows are usually heavier. Many backpacking pillows are designed to be inflated while also having a layer of foam making them more comfortable.
Backpacking pillows are made of many different fabrics. Backpackers need to choose the one that is right for the conditions they are likely to encounter. One of the most popular choices is nylon. Thicker nylon is less likely to tear than thinner nylon. Others prefer a cotton pillow as it helps to wick away moisture on hot summer nights. These pillows generally are more durable than nylon, but they can cost more and be heavier. Polyester pillows tend to be firmer than other available options, but they usually take up more space in backpacks.
Pillow Size and Height
Many backpackers find that larger pillows allow them to get a better night’s sleep. These pillows, however, tend to be a little heavier and bulkier. Back sleepers often need pillows that are taller than people who sleep on their sides or stomachs.
Backpackers who already have a sleeping pad or bag will want to consider the type of pillow that fits best in their current setup. Measuring the opening and its shape allows backpackers to decide on options that fit their situation.
While it may be very tempting to buy the lightest backpacking pillow, these pillows often are not as stable as pillows that are a little heavier. Lightweight pillows sometimes do not offer the support needed by some sleepers.
Many backpacking pillows come with their own cinch sacks. These small sacks can become easily lost if they are not attached. Furthermore, some backpacking pillows go in their cinch sacks easier than others.
If the backpacker chooses an inflatable pillow, then think about the inflation method. Self-inflating pillows are a good option for those who are in a hurry and do not want to blow up their pillows. These pillows, however, are generally heavier. Consider those options with a double-valve as they are easier to keep air in when inflating. Also, be sure to consider how easy it is to deflate the pillow in the morning.
Washing and Drying
Some pillows can easily be thrown in the washer and dryer after a backpacking trip. This often leaves the pillow smelling fresh for the backpacker’s next adventure. Some that are machine washable cannot be dried in the dryer. Others must be wiped down with a wet rag requiring manual labor to remove the toughest stains.
The best backpacking pillows are very lightweight and easy to pack. They offer the backpacker a comfortable place to lay their head at the end of the day. Ergonomic designs help to ensure proper support of the head, neck and shoulders. Since backpacking is so much fun, make sure to choose a pillow that is very durable so that it can be used many times.
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