10 Best Camping and Backpacking Pillows

Best Camping And Backpacking Pillows TRAILMOOCH.COM

Introduction – Best Camping and Backpacking Pillows

If you’re about to embark on a camping or backpacking trip, you’ll want to be sure you have a quality outdoor pillow to ensure a restful night’s sleep. This year’s outdoor pillow designs range from ultralight and compressible inflatable models for backpacking to plush memory foam designs for car camping.

Our picks offer a good balance of comfort and weight to make them versatile enough for both types of trips. We’ve broken down our favorite camping and backpacking pillows to make it easy to decide which one is right for you.

Check out our comparison table and buying advice below the picks to help you get a better understanding of all the features each pillow has to offer.

Best Overall Camping Pillow

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Thermarest Compressible Pillow

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow

The Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow is a great option for a comfortable night’s sleep. It is filled with upcycled foam taken from their sleeping pads, and the exterior is made with a soft and supple polyester cover. The cinch cord at the side allows you to adjust the firmness of the pillow, and an additional layer of light insulation at the top helps to minimize lumps.

Plus, it’s machine-washable so it’s easy to keep clean. However, if you’re looking for a pillow for backpacking missions, the Compressible Pillow may not be the best option as it is heavier and bulkier than some inflatable designs. Sea to Summit’s Aeros Ultralight, for example, is much lighter and more compressible, but it may not be as comfortable or as durable.

The Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow is an excellent camping pillow that offers great comfort and support for its weight. To make the most of it, we recommend undoing the cinch cord as soon as you get to camp and fluffing it up to help the foam expand. When packing it away, make sure to roll it twice in order to compress it properly. Despite needing a bit of planning, this pillow is definitely worth the effort and we highly recommend it for camping and travel.

Type: Self-inflating foam
Weight: 10 oz. (Regular)
Dimensions: 18 x 13 x 6 in.

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Nemo Fillow Pillow

Nemo Fillo Pillow

The NEMO Fillo Pillow offers a unique blend of comfort, weight and compressibility that sets it apart from the rest. Unlike the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow, the Fillo is filled with a combination of foam and air, allowing it to be both lighter and more compressible without significantly compromising comfort. Simply open the air valve, blow into it and watch as the pillow begins to inflate, creating a plush and luxurious feel. At 6 x 4 inches when compressed, the Fillo is considerably smaller than the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow, making it the ideal companion for backpacking trips.

While the NEMO Fillo is an overall excellent travel pillow, it does come with a few drawbacks. It is slightly smaller than the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow, with dimensions of 17 x 11 inches compared to 18 x 13 inches. Additionally, the Fillo is thinner at 4 inches compared to the 6-inch-thick build of the Therm-a-Rest.

For those who need more support, NEMO does offer a larger “King” version that is 17 x 14 inches and 6 inches thick, however, this is considerably more expensive than the standard version. Lastly, the Fillo can be a bit tricky to get back into its stuff sack, so it is best to fold it in half lengthwise before rolling it up. Despite these drawbacks, the Fillo is still a popular choice as it provides great comfort and support for its weight and size.

Type: Inflatable w/ foam
Weight: 9.2 oz.
Dimensions: 17 x 11 x 4 in.

Best Lightweight Pillow for Backpacking

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Sea To Summit Aeros Ultralight

Sea To Summit Aeros Ultralight

When you want to travel light and venture deep into the wilderness, ultralight inflatable pillows like Sea to Summit’s Aeros collection are a perfect choice. Their Aeros Ultralight Pillow weighs just 2.1 ounces and packs down to the size of a baseball – so you can easily fit it into your gear without taking up too much space.

It also includes a low-profile valve for quick inflation, a soft stretch-knit fabric for extra comfort, and curved baffles that keep your head in the center of the pillow. With the Aeros Ultralight Pillow, you can enjoy restful sleep and great support even on the most minimalist backpacking trips.

Sea to Summit’s Aeros Ultralight is a great option for backpackers who prioritize lightweight gear without sacrificing comfort. We’ve been using it for multiple seasons and it has become essential in our packs. However, on car camping trips, we usually leave the Aeros behind and instead opt for a thicker, foam pillow like the Compressible Pillow or NEMO Fillo. These offer more comfort due to their softer materials and larger dimensions, although they are heavier.

Additionally, the Aeros has a tendency to slide around when fully inflated unless secured inside the hood of a mummy bag, or with the adhesive hook-and-loop patches that come with Sea to Summit’s sleeping pads. Lastly, we’ve noticed the 20-denier shell is quite delicate, though so far we’ve had no issues. All in all, the Aeros Ultralight is a great choice for backpackers looking for a lightweight yet comfortable pillow.

Type: Inflatable
Weight: 2.1 oz. (Regular)
Dimensions: 14.2 x 10.2 x 4.7 in.

Best Budget Camping Pillow

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Teton Sports Camping Pillow

Teton Sports Camping Pillow

Camping pillows are usually an affordable option, but Teton Sports’ Camping Pillow is an especially great deal. For just $15 on Amazon, you’ll get a comfortable and stylish pillow that’s perfect for your camping trips. The pillow has a brushed flannel exterior for maximum comfort, and it features a checkerboard-like pattern that will give off cozy cabin vibes.

Plus, the pillow comes with a handy drawstring-equipped storage bag for easy travel, and it’s machine washable so you can clean it after your trip. This pillow is an excellent choice for anyone looking for an affordable and comfortable camping accessory.

The Teton Sports Camping Pillow is a great value for a budget-friendly option, however, it does come with a few sacrifices. As the materials are on the cheaper end, the pillow is bulkier and heavier than more premium competitors. The synthetic fill also doesn’t loft evenly when uncompressed, meaning you may experience air pockets and lumpiness.

Additionally, the pillow has a softer feel and lacks the firmness and support of other picks, so there’s no way to add extra structure. But if you’re looking for a soft pillow and want to save some money, the Teton Sports Camping Pillow is a great option.

Type: Synthetic
Weight: 9.6 oz.
Dimensions: 12 x 18 in.

Best Premium Camping Pillow for Comfort Seekers

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HEST Camp Pillow

HEST Camp Pillow

HEST has revolutionized the car camping experience with its YETI cooler-inspired focus on quality. The Camp Pillow is a perfect example of this dedication to excellence, featuring a blend of memory foam and polyester for an 8-inch-thick design that provides superior support and structure, especially for side sleepers.

The stretch-woven nylon exterior is also very soft against the skin, while the curved shape helps cradle your head and neck. The small details have been carefully considered too, such as the zippered access for adjusting the height and firmness, a PU coating to protect against moisture and stains, and a removable, washable cover for easy maintenance.

When it’s time to pack up camp, just turn the pillow inside out and zip the cover shut – there’s even a built-in carry loop for clipping onto a duffel or pack. The Camp Pillow is sure to make you feel like you’re sleeping in luxury, even in the woods, and it can even be used as a guest pillow at home.

The HEST Camp Pillow is a great option for those looking for luxurious comfort while camping, but it does come with some drawbacks. Most notably, it’s the heaviest and bulkiest option, weighing in at 2 pounds 3.2 ounces, so it’s best for car campers who are not limited on space.

With a price tag of $79, it’s also the most expensive, though it has a dirt- and water-resistant cover and an integrated stuff sack that makes it ideal for long-term outdoor use. For those who prioritize comfort, the HEST Camp Pillow is hard to beat, but it will be overkill for some.

Type: Memory foam
Weight: 2 lbs. 3.2 oz.
Dimensions: 22 x 15 x 8 in.

Best Stuff Sack Pillow for Ultralight Adventures

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Zpacks Medium Plus Pillow

Zpacks Medium Plus Pillow

For those who prefer to travel light, a stuff sack pillow is a perfect compromise. These specialized pillowcases are designed to be uninsulated and provide a space for you to stuff extra clothing for use as a makeshift pillow. Zpacks’ Medium-Plus Pillow is a great option. It is made from water-resistant Dyneema fabrics and features fully taped seams and a waterproof main zipper, so you can use it as a dry bag to protect your gear on the trail. Finding waterproof camping and backpacking pillows can be great with all nature has to bring.

When it’s time to sleep, simply turn the Medium-Plus inside out to reveal the soft microfleece surface and stuff your spare clothes inside to create a comfortable pillow. At just 1.7 ounces, the Medium-Plus adds virtually no weight to your pack, and its dual-purpose build makes it an easy addition to any minimalist traveler’s arsenal.

The Zpacks Medium-Plus stuff sack pillow isn’t as intuitive or user-friendly as a traditional design. It requires time and effort to achieve an even, consistent packing job – rather than simply inflating the pillow, you have to stuff it with clothing until you reach the desired firmness. Additionally, the bottom of the pillow (without the microfleece) tends to slip around during the night, so it’s a good idea to purchase Zpacks’ Pillow Attachment Cord ($6) to keep it in place.

Lastly, it’s quite expensive for what you get – at $55 – so most recreational backpackers may be better off choosing a more affordable option like the Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight (which is only 0.4 oz. heavier). However, for those who prioritize weight and space, the two-in-one design of the Zpacks pillow is very appealing.

Type: Stuff sack pillow
Weight: 1.7 oz.
Dimensions: 11.25 x 20 in.

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Sea of Summit Aeros Premium

Sea of Summit Aeros Premium

The Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow is a great choice for those looking for a step up in comfort and durability. Weighing just 0.7 ounces more than the Aeros Ultralight, the Aeros Premium features a light layer of synthetic insulation between the top surface and TPU air bladder, giving it a plusher and cozier feel. The Premium is also made with a much more durable 50-denier shell, which will provide more protection and security when used with sharp gear.

The Aeros Premium includes an intuitive multi-function valve for easy inflation and deflation, curved internal baffles to keep your head in place, and a scalloped bottom edge to help the pillow stay centered around your shoulders. Even with these additional features, the Aeros Premium is still lightweight and perfect for use in the backcountry.

The Sea to Summit Aeros Premium is ranked below the Aeros Ultralight despite its superior comfort and durability. The Premium is slightly smaller at 13.4 inches wide and 9.4 inches long, and thinner at 4.3 inches compared to the Ultralight’s 4.7-inch-thick build. This could be a downside for those who tend to sleep on their side or move around a lot in their sleep. When fully inflated, it can also slide around in the bag, so it works best when stuffed inside the hood of a mummy bag or with Sea to Summit’s PillowLock-equipped sleeping mats.

However, considering the light weight of the Aeros Premium, it offers an excellent combination of comfort and durability, making it a great option for backpackers who are hard on their gear.

Type: Inflatable w/ synthetic
Weight: 2.8 oz. (Regular)
Dimensions: 13.4 x 9.4 x 4.3 in.

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Exped MegaPillow

Exped MegaPillow

If you’re looking for an exceptional camping experience, look no further than Exped’s MegaMat and MegaPillow. The MegaMat offers to cushion and support that rivals even the most comfortable of home mattresses, and the MegaPillow is equally impressive. It features near-vertical sidewalls to maximize surface area for your head, a tricot nylon exterior for a velvety feel against your skin, and a layer of synthetic insulation for extra coziness.

Exped’s attention to detail is evident with the addition of fabric eyelets for mat attachments, a removable air cushion for easy cleaning, and a low-profile valve for easy firmness adjustment. As an added bonus, the MegaPillow is also one of the largest options available, measuring 20.9″ wide and 12.6″ long, while still coming in at a light 6 ounces.

The Exped MegaPillow is a great choice for comfort seekers due to its generous dimensions, but its rectangular shape means it doesn’t fit easily into the hood of a mummy bag, which is preferred by most backpackers and some campers. If you’re looking for a pillow that works for both camping and backpacking, then the Exped DeepSleep Pillow (6.3 oz.) and DownPillow (5.3 oz.) are slightly smaller but have curved shapes that make them more suitable for sleeping bags.

The cost of the MegaPillow is also slightly higher than competing products like the Therm-a-Rest Air Head and Sea-to Summit Aeros Premium, and it’s heavier too. However, when it comes to comfort, the Exped MegaPillow is still a great choice and comes in the middle of our list.

Type: Inflatable w/ synthetic
Weight: 6 oz.
Dimensions: 20.9 × 12.6 × 4.7 in.

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Cocoon Air Core Hood

Cocoon Air-Core Hood/Camp Pillow

If you’re looking for a versatile, adjustable pillow that offers both comfort and convenience, Cocoon’s Air-Core Hood/Camp Pillow should be at the top of your list. It has an inflatable air bladder surrounded by synthetic fill, so you can adjust the amount of air inside with a simple push of the valve. Plus, it’s double-sided with cozy polyester microfiber on one side to keep you warm during cooler weather and soft, smooth nylon on the other side to keep you cool during warmer weather.

Its curved shape fits well inside a mummy bag and the hidden zipper allows you to quickly remove the cover for cleaning. While it may not have the same name recognition as other brands, we’ve had positive experiences with Cocoon’s pillow collection, and this one is no exception.

When comparing the Cocoon Air-Core to other leading designs, we found the polyester microfiber side to be softer and plusher than other UL designs we tested, including the Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite. Despite its competitive 3.8-ounce weight, the Cocoon’s 4.7 x 3.1-inch packed size is on the larger end in the UL category, and it can be a bit tricky to compress the pillow into its stuff sack.

Measuring 14.6 inches wide and 11 inches long, the Cocoon is smaller than the Air Head Lite (15.5 x 11 in.) and the NEMO Fillo Elite Luxury (21 x 11 in.). However, the Cocoon is the most versatile of the bunch with its double-sided design and the most affordable at just $30.

Type: Inflatable w/ synthetic
Weight: 3.8 oz.
Dimensions: 14.6 x 11 x 4 in.

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Nemo Fillo Elite Luxury

NEMO Fillo Elite Luxury

The NEMO Fillo is a great choice for car camping trips, but if you’re looking for something to take on longer backpacking missions, the Fillo Elite Luxury is a smart pick. This version of the pillow is made with PrimaLoft synthetic fill, making it 5 ounces lighter and 5 x 3 inches in size when compressed.

You’ll still get the same soft, cozy cover, easy inflation and deflation via the ergonomic valve, and NEMO’s air cell technology for even air distribution. The Fillo Elite Luxury is the perfect solution for backpackers looking for a lightweight pillow that’ll still keep them comfortable all night long.

The NEMO Fillo Elite Luxury offers a roomy rectangular shape, 4 inches wider than the Fillo, that is sure to feel like the pillow you’re used to at home. The downside of this wider shape is that it may be a bit too large to fit in the hood of most mummy bags. If this is a deal breaker for you, NEMO also offers the standard Fillo Elite, 6 inches narrower, 1.2 ounces lighter, and $10 cheaper.

Both Fillo models, however, have a thinner profile at 3 inches thick, so side sleepers may prefer the extra padding provided by Sea to Summit’s Aeros Premium, which is 4.3 inches thick.

Type: Inflatable w/ synthetic
Weight: 4 oz.
Dimensions: 21 x 11 x 3 in.

Backpacking Pillow For Side Sleepers

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Pillow X by Sea to Summit

This inflatable pillow is ultra-lightweight and compact, perfect for backpacking. It features an innovative design that offers excellent neck support for side sleepers.


  1. Ultra-lightweight and compact design, making it ideal for backpacking and travel.
  2. Innovative design specifically tailored to provide excellent neck support for side sleepers.
  3. Easy to inflate and deflate, with quick inflation/deflation valves for convenience.
  4. Made from durable materials for long-lasting use.
  5. Offers adjustable firmness by adding or releasing air to suit individual preferences.


  1. Some users may find it less comfortable compared to thicker pillows.
  2. The inflatable design may be prone to air leaks, requiring occasional maintenance.
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ThermaRest Compressible Pillow

This compressible pillow provides the comfort of a traditional pillow with the convenience of compact packing. It comes in various sizes and offers great support for side sleepers.


  1. Ultra-lightweight and compact design, making it ideal for backpacking and travel.
  2. Innovative design specifically tailored to provide excellent neck support for side sleepers.
  3. Easy to inflate and deflate, with quick inflation/deflation valves for convenience.
  4. Made from durable materials for long-lasting use.
  5. Offers adjustable firmness by adding or releasing air to suit individual preferences.


  1. Some users may find it less comfortable compared to thicker pillows.
  2. The inflatable design may be prone to air leaks, requiring occasional maintenance.
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Nemo Fillo Elite Pillow

The Nemo Fillo Elite is a hybrid pillow combining an inflatable bladder with a layer of memory foam. It provides exceptional comfort and adjustable support for side sleepers.


  1. The hybrid design combines an inflatable bladder with a layer of memory foam, offering the benefits of both types of pillows.
  2. Provides exceptional comfort and support for side sleepers.
  3. Adjustable firmness by inflating or deflating the bladder and customizing the memory foam layer.
  4. Lightweight and compact, suitable for backpacking and travel.
  5. Durable construction ensures long-lasting performance.


  1. The hybrid design may be more expensive compared to other pillow options.
  2. Some users may find the memory foam layer less responsive compared to traditional pillows.

Camping and Backpacking Pillow Buying Advice

Best Uses: Camping and/or Backpacking

When it comes to choosing the right pillow for you, the first question to answer is where and how you plan to use it. If you’re camping in your car, comfort should be your top priority, so look for a pillow that is soft-to-the-touch, with thick and supportive padding and generous dimensions so it can provide ample surface area for your head.

For backpacking trips, where you want to keep the weight and bulk to a minimum, it’s best to compromise a bit on comfort and instead look for a lightweight, compressible inflatable pillow.

Make sure to also consider factors like shell thickness, construction type, and overall size and dimensions. Fortunately, there are options available to cover both disciplines, such as the NEMO Fillo Pillow and Therm-a-Rest Air Head.

Pillow Types: Construction and Insulation

Camping pillows come in a variety of materials and construction styles, ranging from ultra-lightweight and packable inflatable designs to more luxurious memory foam options that offer optimal comfort. Inflatable pillows typically weigh the least and can be compressed for easy storage due to being filled only with air.

If you’re looking for extra warmth and comfort, some inflatable pillows, like the Sea to Summit Aeros Premium and Aeros Down, have an additional layer of synthetic or down insulation beneath the cover. This adds a bit more weight, but it’s worth it for the extra comfort.

If you’re looking for a comfortable pillow for car camping, you may want to consider a non-inflatable model like the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow, HEST Camp Pillow, and Wise Owl Outfitters Camp & Travel Memory Foam Pillow. These designs feature foam or memory foam construction and can provide more cushioning and comfort than an inflatable design.

They are also more resistant to punctures, so you don’t have to worry about a deflated pillow in the middle of the night. However, if you’re looking for something lightweight and compact for backcountry camping, an inflatable pillow is a better option.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to your individual sleeping preferences and intended use.

Pillow Comfort and Thickness

For many people, comfort is subjective when sleeping on the ground, and those who can’t handle a night under the stars often choose not to camp or backpack. However, there is a significant difference between the comfort that ultralight, backpacking-ready designs, and car camping pillows offer. For instance, the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow is 6 inches thick and provides excellent support due to its all-foam construction.

On the other hand, the NEMO Fillo Elite Luxury is much lighter at 6 ounces but is half the thickness at 3 inches. Most pillows are situated somewhere in the middle with regard to thickness and weight, making them a good balance between comfort and portability.

When shopping for a pillow, height is the most important factor to consider since it ensures proper alignment of your head and neck with your spine. Generally, side sleepers may want to upgrade to a thicker and firmer pillow like the HEST Camp Pillow (8-inch-thick) or the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow (6-inch-thick). However, this ultimately depends on personal preference. Back sleepers may be able to get away with less padding, but this is also down to individual preference.

Additionally, the shape of the pillow can also be a factor. Models like the Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight are molded to fit around the head and neck in a way that is best suited to back sleepers, although this may vary from person to person.

Pillow Dimensions – Length and Width

Pillow thickness is an important factor to consider when looking for comfort, but length and width also play a role. Rectangular camping-focused designs like the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow (18 x 13 in.), HEST Camp Pillow (22 x 15 in.), and Exped MegaPillow (20.9 x 12.6 in.) provide more surface area so that you can move around without your head falling off the pillow.

On the other hand, dedicated backpacking-ready models like the Sea to Summit Aeros Premium (13.4 x 9.4 in.) and Cocoon Air-Head Hood/Camp Pillow (14.6 x 11 in.) are designed with lightweight materials to reduce weight and bulk. These backpacking pillows may also have curved shapes that fit into the hood of a sleeping bag, making them ideal for sleeping in the backcountry.

Weight and Packability

Pillows come in a range of sizes, from lightweight models designed for backpacking to bulkier models for car camping. For the absolute lightest option, you can’t beat the Zpacks Medium-Plus stuff sack pillow, weighing in at a mere 1.7 ounces. For those who don’t mind a bit of extra weight, inflatable options like the Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight (2.1 oz.) and Aeros Down (2.5 oz.) are great choices.

On the heavier side, memory foam models such as HEST’s Camp Pillow (2 lbs. 3.2 oz.) and Wise Owl Outfitters’ Camp & Travel Pillow (11 oz.) are great for car camping. Most options fall somewhere in the 3- to 10-ounce range, so backpackers should look for the lighter models while car campers can go for something a bit more substantial.

The packed size of a pillow is generally a reflection of its weight, as well as being contingent on the type of pillow, the amount of insulation it contains, and the thickness of its fabric. Inflatable pillows that are uninsulated or only lightly insulated tend to be the most compact, with the Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight measuring only 2 x 2.8 inches when compressed. Memory foam pillows like the HEST Camp Pillow, on the other hand, are much heavier and bulkier – the HEST measures 14 x 9 inches when compressed.

When it comes to choosing a pillow for camping, backpackers who have to cover long distances usually prioritize lightweight, packable options, while car campers are generally more willing to accept a bit more weight and bulk in exchange for additional comfort and support.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that many pillows come with a separate stuff sack, while integrated designs such as the NEMO Fillo and HEST Camp Pillow are less common but are much more convenient for forgetful campers.

Pillow Shape and Sleeping Bag Compatibility

Pillow shape may not vary too much, but it’s important to keep in mind how and where you plan to use your pillow most. Rectangular pillows, such as the Therm-a-Rest Compressible, Exped MegaPillow, HEST Camp Pillow, and NEMO Fillo Elite Luxury, offer a familiar feel to the comfort of your own pillow at home.

The downside is that they often don’t fit comfortably into the hood of a sleeping bag, which can lead to a restless night of shifting and sliding around.

If you plan to use a sleeping bag in combination with a pillow, we recommend opting for one with a curved shape (such as the Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight and Premium, Therm-a-Rest Air Head, Cocoon Air-Core Hood/Camp Pillow, and others listed above).

Curved pillows are ideal for backpacking due to their smaller size and the lack of material along the bottom, which helps keep the weight and bulk to a minimum. However, if you plan to use a rectangular sleeping bag that does not have a hood, then a larger rectangular model would be the better choice.


It’s important to note that ultralight inflatable pillows will need to be treated with the most care, as a puncture can quickly render the pillow useless (we recommend bringing along the patch kit that comes with most inflatable pillows for repairs in the field). Alternatively, all-foam pillows are the safest bet, and those that use a mix of foam and air will still offer some padding if your pillow deflates in the middle of the night.

When it comes to the durability of outdoor gear, the most common measure is denier (D). Lower-denier fabrics are thinner and have a much shorter lifespan, making them ideal for lightweight backpackers who know how to take care of their gear. For instance, Sea to Summit’s Aeros Down has a 10D shell which is very thin and delicate, while the Aeros Premium has a 50D shell that is much thicker and sturdier. Generally, 20D is the standard in the pillow industry.

Inflatable pillows are the most delicate and must be handled with care, as a puncture can render them useless. So, it’s a good idea to carry the patch kit that usually comes with them for on-the-go repairs. All-foam pillows are the safest option, and those that are a combination of foam and air will still provide cushioning even if they deflate during the night.

Weather Resistance

Camping and backpacking can be a great way to escape and take in nature, but a little extra moisture protection can come in handy. Many of the pillows listed here have a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating to keep light moisture away from the outer shell. HEST’s Camp Pillow takes it a step further with a nylon cover and polyurethane (PU) coating that repels water and dirt.

For the most weather-resistant option, Zpacks’ Medium-Plus Stuff Sack Pillow is the way to go. It has a highly water-resistant Dyneema build, taped seams, and a waterproof zipper to double as a dry bag for clothing and gear. While most people won’t need it, weather-resistant designs do offer a lot of benefits.

Inflation and Deflation Valves

All of the inflatable pillows above feature valves for easy inflation and deflation, allowing you to customize the firmness to suit your sleeping preferences. However, not all valves are equal, and the difference in ease of use can be quite significant. The most basic is the twist valve, which typically appears on products like Therm-a-Rest’s Air Head and NEMO’s Fillo and Fillo Elite Luxury.

This type of valve is opened and closed by pushing or pulling a round plastic valve connected to the side of the pillow. Although these valves are generally effective, they have some drawbacks – they tend to be inefficient while inflating due to the open valve, they take up more space when rolled up, and they are slow to deflate.

To ensure a comfortable and convenient sleeping experience, several manufacturers have designed valves with a flat profile. These are perfect for camping and backpacking trips, as they are slim and lightweight. The openings for inflating and deflating are dedicated, and a flap ensures that air does not escape while blowing into the valve.

Some of the highest-quality flat valves include the Exped MegaPillow, Cocoon Air-Head Hood/Camp Pillow, and the Sea to Summit Aeros collection, such as the Aeros Ultralight, Premium, and Down models. We found these designs to be reliable, quick to inflate with just a few breaths, and almost instantaneous deflations, while also not adding any extra weight.

All in all, these valves provide excellent characteristics.

Extra Nice Features

Camping and backpacking pillows can be quite basic, but there are some great features worth mentioning.

We love it when pillows come with quick and easy cleaning solutions. With the tendency to slide around during the night, it’s also great when there are attachment points to secure the pillow to your sleeping pad.

For example, Exped’s MegaPillow has thin fabric eyelets along the sides, and Zpacks sells a Pillow Attachment Cord (a $6 add-on) to secure their Medium-Plus stuff sack pillow to your pad. Sea to Summit’s Aeros pillows also has PillowLock tech, which attaches to any of their sleeping mats via hook-and-loop adhesive patches.

Lastly, the Cocoon Air-Core Hood/Camp Pillow’s two-sided design is great. It features plush polyester microfiber on one side for cold nights and smooth nylon on the other for added breathability in warm weather. All of these features make camping and backpacking more enjoyable and comfortable!

Washing and Care

Pillows are great for camping, backpacking, and other outdoor activities, but they can get dirty quickly. Luckily, several different brands make pillows that are designed to handle the outdoors, and many of them have removable covers that can be washed in the washing machine with other clothing.

Examples of these pillows include the HEST Camp Pillow, Therm-a-Rest Air Head, and Exped MegaPillow. Cocoon’s Air-Core Hood/Camp Pillow also has a removable pillowcase, but Cocoon recommends hand-washing in lukewarm water and tumble drying to maximize its lifespan.

There are also non-inflatable designs like Therm-a-Rest’s Compressible Pillow and Teton Sports’ Camping Pillow that can be put in the washing machine. For inflatable pillows without removable covers, it’s best to remove all the air from the pillow and keep it rolled in its stuff sack to protect it from punctures.

Do You Need a Camping and/or Backpacking Pillow?

If you’re looking to save a few bucks while camping or backpacking, you can certainly make do with a jacket or two for head support at night. Additionally, if you’re car camping, you can stuff clothing into a pillowcase as a makeshift pillow, similar to the Zpacks Medium-Plus Pillow or a Rumpl Stuffable Pillowcase. That said, special outdoor pillows are available for a reasonable price of around $20-$40, and they come with features that are designed for long-term outdoor use.

They also take up minimal space when stored. We’ve found that the extra comfort of having a dedicated outdoor pillow is worth the cost, especially if you sleep outside frequently. Ultimately, only you can decide if the cost is justifiable, but we think it’s definitely worth considering.

Are backpacking pillows worth it?

Yes, backpacking pillows are worth it. They offer several benefits for backpackers, such as providing comfort and support during sleep, helping to prevent neck and back pain, and being lightweight and compact for easy transportation. While some backpackers may choose to forego a pillow and use alternative methods, a dedicated backpacking pillow can significantly enhance the quality of sleep during outdoor adventures, making it a worthwhile investment.

What do you use for a pillow when backpacking?

Common alternatives to dedicated backpacking pillows include using a stuff sack, an inflatable pillow, or a compressible pillow. The choice depends on personal preference and the need for comfort, weight, and space considerations.

What kind of pillow should I use for camping?

The ideal pillow for camping would depend on your personal preferences and needs. However, inflatable pillows and compressible pillows are popular choices among campers due to their lightweight and compact designs. They offer comfort and support while being easy to pack and transport. Ultimately, it’s best to choose a pillow that suits your comfort preferences and fits within the weight and space constraints of your camping gear.

Do backpackers bring pillows?

Yes, many backpackers choose to bring pillows with them on their trips for added comfort and support during sleep.

What Makes A Good Backpacking Pillow?

A good backpacking pillow should be lightweight, compact, and easily packable to minimize the impact on your backpack’s weight and space. It should also provide sufficient comfort and support for a good night’s sleep. Adjustable firmness, durability, and ease of inflation/deflation are additional factors to consider when selecting a quality backpacking pillow.

How to deflate a backpacking pillow?

To deflate a backpacking pillow, simply open the valve or cap that controls the air flow and gently press down on the pillow to release the air. You may need to squeeze or roll the pillow to ensure all the air is expelled. Once deflated, close the valve or cap to prevent any air from re-entering the pillow.


In conclusion, when it comes to the best camping and backpacking pillows, there are several standout options that prioritize comfort, portability, and durability. These pillows are designed to provide a restful night’s sleep in the great outdoors without adding unnecessary weight or taking up precious space in your backpack.

From inflatable pillows with adjustable firmness to compressible pillows that can be stuffed into a small carrying pouch, the market offers a variety of choices to suit different preferences and needs. The top contenders in this category boast innovative designs and advanced materials, ensuring that campers and backpackers can enjoy a good night’s sleep no matter where their adventures take them.

Furthermore, the best camping and backpacking pillows take into consideration the unique challenges of outdoor environments. They are built to withstand rough terrains, moisture, and temperature fluctuations, ensuring their longevity and reliability in the wild. These pillows are often made from durable and waterproof materials, with features such as anti-slip bottoms and machine-washable covers, making them easy to clean and maintain.

In addition to their practicality, the best camping and best backpacking pillows prioritize comfort and support. They are designed with ergonomic shapes and provide adequate neck and head support, reducing the risk of waking up with aches and pains. Some even incorporate adjustable height and firmness settings, allowing users to customize their sleeping experience to their liking.

Ultimately, investing in a high-quality camping and backpacking pillow can greatly enhance the overall camping experience. With their lightweight and compact designs, these pillows are a valuable addition to any outdoor enthusiast’s gear collection. Whether you’re embarking on a multi-day backpacking trip or simply enjoying a weekend camping getaway, a good night’s sleep is essential for recharging and taking full advantage of your adventures.

So, before you embark on your next outdoor excursion, be sure to choose one of the best camping and backpacking pillows available on the market. Your body will thank you for the comfort and support, and you’ll wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the day’s adventures.

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