Ultimate Guide to the Best Backpacking Pillows
A good pillow is important in order to sleep well and it is no different when camping. There have been several instances where I thought I could get away without a pillow and that did not work out so well; I wound up awake in the middle of the night digging for clothes to create something that could elevate my head and help me sleep.
While it is sometimes feasible to bring a pillow from home when car camping, if it is more than just two people camping, this can start to take up a lot of space. And bringing your regular pillow is not an option for backpacking.
There are fortunately a variety of backpacking pillows available. With so many available, it can be hard to know which option is the best backpacking pillow for you. The following will provide information to help with your decision-making.
Types of Backpacking Pillows
For those who are seeking a backpacking pillow, the first step is to decide which type of pillow would work best for you. There are three options:
First, there are compressible pillows. These are filled either with down, foams, or synthetic fibers (or a mixture of any of these three). Those with synthetic fiber and foam are typically firmer, heavier and less expensive than pillows filled with down. A big plus when it comes to compressible pillows isthat they are most like what we use in our bedroom and are typically the softest option.
A negative in regards to compressible pillows is that they are heavier than inflatable pillows and take up more space. The compressible pillows often offer less support than the inflatable options.
Inflatable pillows are another option to consider. These pillows are filled with air, allowing them to be lighter, more compact and firmer than compressible and hybrid pillows. Air is blown into a valve and can be let out through the valve in order to adjust the pillow’s thickness.
Inflatable pillows typically inflate and deflate quickly. Depending on preferences, some found inflatable pillows to be uncomfortable as well as noisy when one’s head moves.
Hybrid pillows attempt to offer the benefits of both compressible and inflatable pillows. These pillows usually have a top that is able to be compressed for your comfort, along with an inflatable bottom that can increase support while allowing the volume to be minimized.
The hybrid pillows offer the best of both options and are typically slightly heavier than inflatable pillows while offering an option more similar to what one sleeps with at home.
Reviews of Top-Rated Backpacking Pillows
While it may feel overwhelming to choose a backpacking pillow, fortunately there are ways to gain insight into the options that are available to you. Many of the pillows available for consideration offer information online from those who have purchased the pillow, as well as detailed information from the manufacturer.
The following backpacking pillow reviews will provide details about the pillows and share some of the feedback offered by those who have used each one. Keep in mind that the choice of a pillow is different for each person; what is best will be different for everyone.
The Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium easily inflates with a few breaths through the use of a multi-functional valve. Between the pillow case and TPU bladder there is synthetic fill, which helps add additional comfort.
The pillow has curved internal baffles that provide contours that cradle your head. The Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium comes in two different sizes (Regular: 14 x 10 x 5 inches or Large: 16.5 x 11.5 x 5.5 inches) and are very light at around four ounces.
Either size pillow is reasonably priced for a backpacking pillow and packs down to a small size making it very portable.
- Comfort: you can fully inflate the pillow and then let air out to create a pillow most comfortable for you.
- The pillow is lightweight and packs down small so it is easy to carry on a backpacking trip.
- Reviewers note that the inflation and deflation is quick and simple.
- The only complaint from reviewers was that some had problems with leaks.
Offered at a slightly lower price, the Exped Air Pillow is another option to consider. The pillow includes two low-profile FlatValves and is made of a soft tricot polyester.
he Exped Air Pillow takes two breaths to fully inflate. At 5 x 4 x 2 inches, the medium sized pillow is a good deal smaller than the Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium, though its weight is similar at 4 ounces. The pillow is also available in large (6 x 4 x 2 inches) and extra-large (7 x 4 x 3 inches).
The pillow is shaped in such a way that you don’t shift when sleeping and you can choose the higher or lower side of the pillow depending on whether you sleep on you are a side sleeper or prefer to sleep on your back.
- Light and compact, making it easy to pack and carry when backpacking
- Reviewers found it to be very comfortable to sleep on.
- The pillow really is easy to inflate.
- Not at all squishy, if you prefer that in a pillow
- A few reviewers had trouble with leaks.
The cheapest option so far is the ONWEGO Best Inflatable Travel Pillow; which has a safety-lock air valve and self-inflates. Should you want to increase the firmness of the pillow, you can slowly blow air into the pillow’s valve. You can deflate the pillow through opening the valve and rolling the pillow towards its opening.
Made of materials that are resistant to moisture, this pillow promises to be soft and is made with the strength to last. The pillow inflates to 20 x 12 inches and weighs about 10.5 ounces, making it the heaviest of the options so far.
This pillow has a polyester pillow top and plush foam inside and the back is made in a way to stop you from sliding around when sleeping
- This pillow is easy to inflate and deflate.
- Reviewers who have used the pillow report that it is comfortable
- The pillow seems to be durable and well made.
- If you are counting ounces for backpacking, this pillow is heavier than the first two options.
- A few reviewers had trouble with leaks.
- The lid has plastic hinges which break easily. However, they can be replaced by metallic ones
The InstantCamp Air-Light Pillow is made of strong high quality nylon and while it does not self-inflate, it is easy to inflate and deflate.
This pillow is considered ultralight and is the lightest option of the pillows discussed, weighing 2.4 ounces. At such a low weight it is a great option for backpacking and is available for the lowest prices of the options mentioned. The InstantCamp Air-Light Pillow inflates to 18 x 10.75 x 5.5 inches.
There are two center baffles in this pillow which help offer a place where your head is cradled and stable. The pillow is made to be comfortable for those who are stomach sleepers, as well as those who prefer to sleep on their back or side.
- This pillow is easy to inflate even if it does not self-inflate.
- The pillow is very lightweight while at a reasonable price.
- Reviewers confirm this pillow is comfortable.
- Some reviewers found the pillow to be noisy.
- Some felt that the pillow could have better grip so as not to slide around.
The Nemo FILLO is one of the higher priced options reviewed. This pillow offers memory foam as well as a three inch inflatable bladder. The bladder has baffles that have been made to provide the ideal balance of cushioning and height.
The size of the pillow is 6 x 6 x 7inches and it weighs around 6 ounces, which makes it not the lightest or heaviest of the options and the height of the pillow can be increased by as much as 3 inches.Mesh covered memory foam adds to the comfort of this pillow.
- The pillow compresses well.
- The pillow allows for the user to adjust the softness (and do so easily).
- Reviewers found the pillow to be very comfortable.
- The pillow could be lighter AND cheaper.
- The pillow can be noisy when one turns their head.
- A few reviewers did not find the pillow to be comfortable.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Backpacking Pillow
In addition to the type of pillow, you will also want to consider the pillow’s shape, size and fabric when looking to choose the right backpacking pillow. This is an individual choice where you will want to keep your preferences in mind.
When thinking about a pillow, it is assumed to be rectangular in shape. This is not always the case when looking at backpacking pillow options; while many are rectangular, there are modifications to the shape that are specifically done to increase ones’ comfort.
The Exped Air Pillow, for example, appears to be a modified rectangle, allowing for minimal movement of your head when sleeping. The Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium is designed with a “scalloped” bottom edge that helps to center the pillow around your shoulders.
Other available options include u-shaped pillows and pillows that appear to be shaped like dog bones for lumbar support.
When considering the size of your camping pillow, you will want to think about how large the pillow is when both packed and unpacked. For backpackers, the packed size is often the most important.
When backpacking, the smaller the size and the lighter the weight the better. For car campers this tends to be less important as the size of the pillows when packed and unpacked are not significantly different when you are not counting ounces.
The InstantCamp Air-Light Pillow is a great example of a pillow that is small (and light) when packed, yet is inflated to one of the larger sizes of pillows available at 18 x 10.75 x 5.5 inches. You will want to keep in mind, however that bigger is not necessarily better; if you are using a mummy sleeping bag you will want to find a pillow that fits well inside of it.
The fabric of a backpacking pillow varies and some are better for keeping the pillow in one place. Other considerations when it comes to fabric are how it feels against your face as well as if it makes noise when you move your head on the pillow.
Reviewers have expressed that the nylon of the InstantCamp Air-Light Pillow for example, can be noisy when moving your head. External fabric options include polyester, cotton or nylon.
Think about what is important to you in your pillow when considering external fabric options. Depending on whether you spend the majority of your time backpacking or car-camping, bringing a pillow case may or may not be an inconvenience.
When it comes to backpacking pillows, there are plenty of options available. It will be helpful to educate yourself on the types of pillows that are available (compressible, inflatable and hybrid) as well as considerations like shape, size and fabric.
The choice of the best pillow will vary from person to person. Fortunately there are many options available so that you can choose what works best for you and the way that you sleep, as well as how you plan to use your pillow.
Please share your experience choosing a camping pillow. Which pillow has worked well for you?