Whether you are sleeping on the ground, in a hammock, in a car, or on a plane, having the proper support for your head is critical to a good night’s rest. In this post, we review the 8 best backpacking pillows available today, including both inflatable and compressible pillows, and we’ve also put together a thorough buying guide to help you find the pillow that’s right for you.
Backpacking & Travel Pillows Reviewed in this Post
- Trekology Ultralight Inflatable Camping Travel Pillow
- Hikenture Ultralight Inflatable Pillow
- Rugged Camp Ultralight Inflatable Pillow
- Wellax Ultalight Inflatable Pillow
- Klymit Luxe Lightweight Inflatable Pillow
- Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow
- Wise Owl Outfitters Compressible Camping Pillow
- Teton Sports Camping Pillow
Why buy a backpacking pillow?
Getting a good night’s rest is critical for your body’s recovery after a physically demanding day in the wild. But, backpacking pillows can be used in many situations and are not limited to camping. You might find that their small size, light weight, and portability make them handy as a travel pillow, a lower back support pad, a seat cushion, or even a book prop.
Not only can you choose from multiple different colors, but you can get a great night’s sleep because it’s designed to give ultimate comfort. It also has built-in dots on the bottom that can reduce the chances of sliding during the night and everything can be wiped clean in just a few minutes. It has a strap on the bottom so that you can fasten it to your bed, secure it to your sleeping bag or cot, or for attaching the pillow to your backpack.
Since it only weighs 3.9 ounces and folds down to 5 inches by 2 inches, it’s great for those that don’t have a lot of extra space or weight to spare. The pillow can be fully inflated with around 3-5 breaths and pushing the release button will have the pillow deflated rather quickly. The pillow is designed to give as much support as possible and does well for most sleep positions. Since it’s made with durable materials, you don’t have to worry about the smallest movement causing any irreparable damage.
- Offers great neck support
- Quite comfortable
- Easy to make compact
- Possible inflation issues
- Not great for side-sleepers
- Possible failure of inflation valve
With multiple color options and an easy to clean cover, you’re sure to have a backpacking pillow that you absolutely love. The outside of the cover is cotton and the inside part is polyester, which gives you comfort and increased warmth. It has an elastic band that’s detachable and can be used to carry the pillow or fasten it to your bed to reduce the chances of sliding or movement. Once completely deflated and rolled up, the pillow is about the size of a soda can.
The pillow can be inflated with 3-5 breaths and you can push the release nozzle to deflate the pillow or adjust the firmness. While it isn’t a great product for those that need something with extra durability, it should do well in most situations. It works well with most sleeping positions and you should find that it helps you get a good night’s sleep. Take a closer look at the product if you’re looking for a backpacking pillow that can be adjusted and secured in place.
- Larger size for better support
- Quilted cover is soft and comfortable
- The fabric can be removed and washed
- Possible air loss
- Not the most durable
- Possible valve failure
The Rugged Camp pillow comes in many color options and can be folded down to the size of a soda can. Not only is the knitted cotton nearly puncture-proof, but it also holds up well in most weather conditions. With that said, it’s important to remember that it isn’t as durable or thick as other pillows on this list, so you might find that it doesn’t provide enough support for side-sleepers. And yet, due its light weight, it is one of the best pillows for backpacking.
However, for those who prefer to keep their head more level with the bed (or ground), this is an excellent option, and it would also work well as a cushion between your knees (if you’re a side-sleeper). What’s more, after folding the pillow down, you’ll be able to store it in the included bag and clip it right onto your backpack.
It has a built-in two-way air valve that lets you inflate and deflate the pillow from the same area. In fact, the pillow should be completely inflated with 3-5 breaths, and pushing the valve will make the air come back out. The pillow was created to give increased support to your neck and head, which can help you get better sleep. Finally, the fact that it’s non-slip means you won’t have to worry about being woken up at night if the pillow slips from beneath your head.
- It only weighs about 2.8 ounces when rolled up
- Made with high-quality materials
- Relatively compact when not in use
- Thinner than most backpacking pillows
- Possible leakage issues
The Wellax inflatable pillow is one of the best ultralight backpacking pillows. Not only can you choose from four different color options, but this pillow comes with an included eye mask to help you sleep. When completely folded down and put back into the storage case, it’s about the same size as a soda can. It can be fully inflated with 3-5 breaths and you can press the release button to have the pillow completely deflated in just a few seconds. Since it only weighs around 2.8 ounces, you won’t have to sacrifice space and weight.
The back of the pillow is made of non-slip materials, which can help you get better sleep because your head won’t be moving all around during the night. In addition, the included sleep mask is made of soft silk that can help you stay relaxed and in deep sleep while in use. Everything is very easy to clean, and it can be ready to use in moments.
- Inflates within seconds
- Lightweight and compact
- Easy to deflate
- Issues with deflation over time
- Doesn’t have the most support
- Valve makes the pillow lopsided
In addition to the extra-large size and plush cover, you have a better chance of getting some great rest. In addition, the cover can be taken off and thrown right into the washer. Once you have the pillow completely inflated, you can press the button to let out air a little at a time until it reaches the firmness you want. When packed, it measures 7 inches by 3 inches and only weighs around 7 ounces, which means it can fit in most small places.
It’s designed to cradle your head and give you the extra support you need, while also being comfortable. It can be completely filled in 3-5 breaths and can be deflated in a matter of seconds. It’s also great for those that need bigger pillows because it’s around the same size as a standard pillow when completely inflated. You can be confident in the product because the company offers a limited lifetime warranty, which can save money and time in the long run.
- Adjustable firmness
- Extra cushion for more comfort and support
- Lightweight and compact
- Not great for some sleeping positions
- Can be difficult to put the cover back on
Tips for Sleeping Outdoors from BackpackingTV
Besides giving you a chance to choose a cover that shows your personal tastes, the cover is made with thicker material to give you more comfort and support. The cover can be easily removed and hand-washed in a stream (if you are planning an extended backpacking trip) or thrown in the washer. You can also choose from four different sizes, so you can pick the pillow that fits you best and provides the most support. Generally, the Term-a-Rest pillow is about 4 inches thick and does well with most sleeping positions, and it may be one of the best backpacking pillows for side sleepers.
When completely compressed, it weighs around 9 ounces. While this is heavier than other pillows, it’s not so heavy to be a hindrance. It also has a built-in cord lock that can keep the pillow compressed when not in use. The materials used also give off more warmth, which is great for those that will be backpacking in colder climates.
- Multiple cover designs
- Very compact
- Cover is comfortable and soft
- Some areas don’t have the best stitching
- More lumpy than other options
With the micro-suede cover and memory foam materials on the inside, this backpacking pillow really is made for ultimate comfort. The cover can be easily cleaned, but shouldn’t be put in the washing machine as it causes unwanted lumps. The thickness is around 5 inches and does quite well with most sleeping positions. With your purchase, you’ll also get a durable storage bag that can fit in most small places. With that said, though, you might have some issues getting the pillow back into the storage bag.
You can choose from three different sizes and three different colors. All of the materials are high-quality and are made to give you the most comfort. Keep in mind, you might notice a packaging smell when you first open the pillow, but it should disappear in a short amount of time. This is a great pillow for those that need to save space and weight, while also looking for comfort.
- Easy to make compact
- Comfortable foam pieces inside
- Comes with durable storage bag
- Can be hard to put back into the bag
- May have a strong odor when opened
- Can be a bit lumpy
This compressible pillow measures 12 inches by 18 inches and weighs around 9.2 ounces. With that said, though, it can be folded down to an easy-to-store and carry size. It’s designed to be extra-soft, which means it might not be a good choice for those that need something firmer. You don’t have to worry about inflating the pillow, but you do want to make sure you fluff it before use. Even though the cover is removable, you can wash the pillow and case together. Keep in mind, though, this could cause your pillow to have lumps over time.
It comes with a durable storage bag that has both a drawstring and barrel lock to ensure it doesn’t come out or get lost. In addition, the fabric is made of flannel and is a lot softer than other options. If you have other Teton Sports products, you can be happy knowing that the pillow patterns will match those other products, such as the sleeping bag liner, for example.
- Uses both air and foam
- Made of high-quality materials
- Keeps you warm at night
- Quite small compared to other options
- Doesn’t have the most support
- Some might find it isn’t very comfortable
While all of these products are great options, the best backpacking pillow on the list is the Klymit Luxe Pillow. This is a fantastic pillow for those seeking high quality material, adjustability, without adding much weight or bulk. While it might take a little time to get the cover back on, it’s very easy to clean and can be quickly hand-washed by the campsite or thrown in the laundry when you get home. The firmness can be adjusted, which is great for those who prefer different firmness levels at different times. If you’re looking for a great backpacking pillow that’s lightweight, compact, and comfortable, then you should check this one out.
Out of all of the backpacking pillows on the list, the runner-up for the best product is the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow. Not only does it have multiple cover designs to choose from, but it’s very lightweight and compact. In addition, the cover is very soft and comfortable, which means you can get a better night’s sleep. You can easily clean the cover, but you should avoid putting it into the washing machine because some areas have stitching that isn’t the most durable. If you are searching for a compressible pillow that’s comfortable and warm, then this one is worth a look!
Backpacking Pillow Buyer’s Guide
Now that you’ve read about some of the best backpacking pillows available, you can continue reading to check out the buying guide we put together. Not only did we include what you should look for and how to choose the best product for your needs, but we also included an FAQ section to help answer any questions you might have.
What to look for in a backpacking pillow
For starters, you want to find a backpacking pillow that is practical and easy to use. Not only should it offer plenty of support and comfort, but you also want to make sure it’s durable enough to withstand various types of weather and use.
Also keep in mind the fabric. Inflatable pillows can be colder than regular pillows because of the air inside the pillow, but the right fabric can help mitigate the temperature difference and provide warmth. Of course, you will probably want a soft and comfortable fabric that is easy to clean, regardless of the type of pillow you choose.
You’ll also want to try and find a pillow that works with your sleeping style. For instance, those that move around a lot might need a bigger pillow to prevent sliding off, while those that sleep on their sides might need a thicker pillow to ensure their heads and neck remain at a comfortable angle.
There are a few different types of backpacking pillows and each one is great for different situations. We’ve listed all of this information below.
- Compressible-These can be easily compressed and are great for those that want ultimate comfort.
- Inflatable-These are blown up using air and work well for those that need to save as much space and weight as possible.
- Hybrid-These are a combination of compressible and inflatable pillows and are great for anyone that isn’t worried about space or weight.
- Stuff Sack-These are filled with your soft belongings, like clothes, and are great for those that need something quick and affordable.
Size & Weight
The size and weight of the pillow can be the determining factor of which pillow you go with. For instance, backpackers are extremely limited by the amount of gear they can carry, and stuff sacks and inflatable pillows will typically save the most space and weight.
For day-campers and regular travelers, space and weight might not be such an important consideration, so a compressible pillow will not pose any issues.
How to choose the right backpacking pillow
Now that you know what to look for, it’s important to understand what you should think about when choosing the best backpacking pillow for your situation. Since everyone is different, make sure you’re buying for your needs and wants.
When choosing the size of the pillow, consider this:
- How will you carry it? In a backpack, stuffed in a suitcase, or somewhere in your car? Make sure the pillow you want can be packed small enough.
- What size pillow do you use at home? Are you a larger or smaller person? Make sure the dimensions will provide enough pillow for you.
- Are you a side sleeper, or do you sleep on your back? Make sure the pillow is the right thickness.
Answering these questions will help you decide how much support you need and the space you have available, and that will help you choose the appropriate size.
Every ounce counts for long-distance backpackers, so if you are planning a backpacking trip, you might have to sacrifice some comfort to find a pillow that’s right.
In general, compressible pillows will be heavier due to the extra filling, but inflatable pillows may feel colder and stiffer once inflated. Hybrid pillows, on the other hand, can sometimes offer a nice balance between comfort and weight.
At the end of the day, the nature of your trip and the limitations you have on space and gear will determine the weight of the pillow you choose.
Since everyone sleeps differently, getting a pillow that can support you regardless of how you sleep is essential.
Here are some examples:
- Side sleepers will typically choose a thicker pillow.
- Back sleepers will sometimes prefer a thinner pillow, but not always.
- If you shift and turn a lot in your sleep, make sure your pillow has a way to secure it during the night. Some pillows come with straps so they can be attached to the bed or sleeping bag. Others come with non-slip material on the underside, such as rubber dots, and these help prevent slipping.
- If you are planning to use the pillow as a seat cushion or back support, the shape of the pillow may be most important.
Ultimately, you should try to find a product that works well with your sleep style and gives you the comfort you need.
You’ll also want to consider where you’ll be backpacking and find a pillow that does well in that environment. For example, you’ll want a waterproof pillow if you’ll be going somewhere with a lot of precipitation or something that offers warmth if you’ll be going to a colder climate.
Most people will have a certain amount they can spend, so staying within that budget is important. Once you know how much you have to work with, you’ll be able to focus on products that are within that category.
Finally, you’ll want to consider what type of fabric you need.
- How often will it need to be cleaned?
- How easy is it to clean?
- How durable is the material?
- Will the fabric be soft on my skin?
- Do I like the color and style?
Did you know?
Sleeping outside can have incredible benefits for your health. In her post, The Emotional Benefits of Sleeping Outside, Amanda Ellis writes that spending even a few nights sleeping in nature can help reset your circadian rhythm, decrease cortisol levels (making you feel less stressed), improve your cognitive function, and enhance your overall mood and well-being.
Finally, we’ve answered a few of the most frequently asked questions about backpacking pillows to help make the process easier for you.
Q: How do I figure out which type I need?
A: Consider exactly what your needs are, then take a deeper look at the different types of backpacking pillows available. From there, you should be able to decide which type will work best for you.
Q: How do I clean a backpacking pillow?
A: Most of the time, a backpacking pillow can be cleaned one of two ways: either toss it in the wash or hand wash with mild detergent. The exact washing instructions should be included on the box or in the product description.
Q: Are all backpacking pillows expensive?
A: While there are some more expensive options, you can definitely find many affordable backpacking pillows in several different price categories and you should be able to find the perfect product quite easily.
Q: How can I find a backpacking pillow that offers extra support?
A: First, you’ll want to think about your exact needs and why you need the extra support. Once you know that information, you can look for backpacking pillows that offer this type of support. This information should be right on the box or in the product description.
Q: How can I stop my pillow from sliding around?
A: If you bought a pillow that doesn’t have an anti-slip cover, then you could always put a normal pillow cover over the pillow. If possible, avoid any pillow covers that are known for sliding, like silk, velvet, or satin.
Q: Where can I buy the best backpacking pillow for my needs?
A: The great news is that you can buy one of these pillows at several different locations. In addition to buying at a mass merchandiser, you can also buy from online stores and sports/outdoor retailers.
Once you have spent a few days hiking many miles through the woods and over mountains, you will quickly learn how important it is to get proper rest each night. This is why you should take extra care in choosing a pillow that provides the right comfort and support for your body, while also being easy on the wallet and light in the pack.
I hope you have found this post helpful for your upcoming purchase, and if you think I’ve forgotten something, let me know in the comments below!