If you’re an avid outdoorsman, then you know how important it can be to stay comfortable while out on the trail. Even though you might have to settle for rough ground and cold temperatures, that doesn’t mean that you can’t sleep comfortably at night.
While a good sleeping bag can do wonders for your rest, nothing compares to having a high-quality camping pillow in your pack. Compact and light, these pillows can make even a hard surface feel a bit more like home.
So, if you’re interested in getting a new backpacking pillow or want to upgrade the one you currently have, see what these pillows have to offer. We’ve searched high and low to find the best options for you, and we’ll even give you some insight into how to pick the right one for your needs.
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At first, you may think that buying a pillow is as simple as finding the most comfortable one and being done with it. However, because these models are designed for traveling (sometimes in harsh conditions), you have to take more care about what features and benefits you get with your purchase.
So, with that in mind, here are the most important factors that you should consider when picking out the best backpacking and camping pillow.
When talking about camping pillows, there are usually two types from which you can choose. The first is air-filled, and the second is foam-filled. In some cases, you can get a hybrid that allows you to get the best of both worlds. Let’s see the benefits and downsides of each.
Air: this pillow is super compact and will take up almost no space in your bag. Depending on the material, it can be rather soft, but you will have to worry about deflation and noise when you move.
Foam: although having a foam pillow does mean that you will have more comfort, it does take up more space and can be hard to push down for storage. Also, foam can lose some of its loft over time, so keep that in mind.
Hybrid: this kind of pillow is usually the best because you get the softness of the foam, but you can adjust the firmness and size by blowing air into it. However, you also get both downsides as hybrid pillows can be bulky sometimes and are prone to develop leaks.
When looking at the size of a camping pillow, you have to think about how big it will be when it’s fully inflated as well as how small it is when compacted. For most people, having a large, thick pillow is the best option for sleeping, but it can take up valuable real estate in your pack.
As a rule, if you want to save space you will have to go with an inflatable model. However, those are usually not as big when fully inflated. If you want to get more comfort, then you’ll have to go with a hybrid or foam model, but it will be much larger, even when compacted. Usually, foam pillows are big enough for most campers when fully inflated.
While the inside of the pillow is important, the outside can be just as if not more crucial to your comfort level. Most air-filled models are made with plastic, nylon, or polyester. Low-end models will not have any kind of covering, meaning that you could slip as you sleep if the material is slick. Higher-end pillows, however, will have a softer covering so that you can lay on it directly without any discomfort.
When trying to decide which material is the best, it will depend on your personal preference. Some will have cloth or flannel covers, whereas others will be smooth. Another thing that you can keep in mind is if you will be touching the pillow directly or if you will have something between you. That can make the decision much easier.
While most camping pillows are the same with regards to shape and contour, some models will have a more ergonomic design. These pillows are made to hug the shape of your neck and head so that you get more comfort out of it. Also, some models will have ridged (called baffles) in the center to provide extra support as well as better airflow while you sleep.
If you’re a light sleeper, it could be beneficial to buy a pillow that conforms to your body so that you get the best results for sleeping.
What we really like about this pillow is that it is comfortable even without adding more air. However, if you want to get some more loft, then you always have the option. Best of all, the top side is smooth and soft, making it more comfortable than other inflatables.
Even though it’s a hybrid, the Aeros Pillow folds and compacts to a remarkably small size, meaning that you should be able to fit it into a pocket without any trouble. Overall, this is an excellent addition to any expedition.
Next, we have another hybrid pillow from Nemo. The Nemo FILLO Backpacking and Camping Pillow is unique for a few reasons, but mostly because it can fold as compactly as an inflatable, even with foam insulation on the inside.
Another thing that we like about the FILLO is that it comes in four unique colors, meaning that you can add a bit of style to your bag if you were so inclined.
As far as comfort goes, this pillow is one of the best. Inflating it is super easy and can be done in a few breaths. Combined with the synthetic foam filling, you can sleep easy all night without ever waking up.
Cleaning the FILLO is also a breeze as the whole thing is machine washable and won’t get soggy. For spot cleaning, you can wipe down the outside, and it won’t absorb too much moisture. Storing this pillow is also remarkably easy as it can fold down to about the size of a potato. Overall, the FILLO has everything you need to get well rested while out on the trail.
So far, we’ve seen hybrid pillows that allow for inflation. In this case, the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow is made with foam on the inside, meaning that you can’t adjust the fill level by taking a few breaths.
With that in mind, having a pure foam pillow does have its benefits, most notably the fact that you get far more comfort than an inflatable.
Depending on your needs, the size of this model can be a good thing or a bad thing. For those who aren’t worried about storage space, the Therm-a-Rest is ideal because it’s almost the same as the pillow you have at home. If you are concerned about the amount of real estate in your bag, however, then you might have to clip this on the outside to take it with you.
Another thing that we really like about this pillow is that it comes in eight bright and beautiful colors. That way if you want to add some personality to your purchase you can choose a model that fits your sense of style. Finally, there are five different sizes available so you can pick one that works best for you.
EXPED Ultralight Air is an inflatable pillow, and one of the simplest and easiest to use that you can find.
If you’re not too worried about softness or you want something that you can insert into a better cover, then this is a great option for you. What makes the EXPED a good choice is its simplicity.
Inflating and deflating it takes no time at all, and when it’s fully compacted it takes up almost no space whatsoever.
If size and convenience are most important to you, this is an excellent choice. Another feature that we like about his pillow is that it comes with two baffles in the middle to help contour to your head. Also, it’s super easy to clean and comes in three different sizes so that you can find the right one for you.
If you’ve ever picked out a sleeping bag, you probably know something about down insulation. While pure duck down is ideal for a lot of reasons, synthetic variations can give you a lot of the same benefits while being more cost-effective.
In this case, you can match your bag with a DriDown Pillow from Sierra Designs.
Thus, if warmth and comfort are at the top of your list when picking out a pillow, this is a fantastic option for you. What we really like about this unit is that it comes with an insert and a pillow cover. The cover is what has the 600 fill DriDown, which makes it both soft and insulated. Because it’s two pieces, you can bring both or just one, depending on your storage needs.
However, we highly recommend bringing both, unless you plan on filling the cover with other materials. Finally, the fact that this pillow comes in four unique colors is a nice touch. Each of them is vibrant without being too flashy, so you get a splash of style without having to worry about getting it dirty.
If you’re looking for a pillow that is easy to use and won’t take up any space, then this Ultralight 2.4 oz. Compressible Air Pillow may be your best option. As far as inflatables go, this is one of the lightest and smallest, with a compact size of fewer than three ounces.
The material of the pillow is soft nylon, which can be fine for some users but it can be uncomfortable for others.
We recommend putting a layer of clothes between you and the pillow for the best results, but it will be up to you if that’s necessary. Another thing that we like about this model is that it comes with a one-year replacement policy. Most camping pillows don’t come with any warranty, so the inclusion of one is a great bonus.
Next, we have another hybrid pillow for you. This Camping Pillow / Inflatable Air Pillow is one of the better hybrid options, and it’s all due to the durable and adjustable inflation valve.
While the foam interior is comfortable on its own, inflating this pillow makes it much better overall. Best of all, it has a soft exterior so that you can sleep directly on it without any problems.
Speaking of the cover, it is super easy to clean and won’t absorb moisture. That means that even if you do sweat during the night, it won’t seep into the foam and start to smell over time. Best of all, the cover is also slip-resistant, which is a big deal when talking about inflatables.
Finally, this pillow has seven unique color options, including blue, orange, red, and camouflage.
Next, we have another inflatable pillow from Onwego. While this is an ultralight design that can take up less space in your bag than a pair of socks, ONWEGO ‘Soft-Top’ Inflatable Pillow is much more comfortable than you might think.
The secret is its “soft-top” covering, which makes it feel like it’s made of foam, even though it’s just air inside.
Filling and deflating this pillow is remarkably easy and can be done in seconds. The best feature that we like about this unit is that the cover is machine washable and removable, and it also wicks away sweat as you sleep.
Overall, the covering is the what sets this model apart from the rest. That, and the ability to adjust the firmness using the durable valve on the side.
If you had to choose between this and the ultralight model above, we would say that this model has the advantage with a softer covering. When comparing the two for size, this unit also weighs less than three ounces and folds up to take almost no space in your bag.
The other thing that we like about it is that it contours to your head and neck, further making you more comfortable as you sleep. Finally, it comes with a three-month hassle free return policy, which is more than you will get from most other companies.
As far as camping brands go, TETON is one of the better options out there. We already love the company’s sleeping bags and backpacks, and it seems that it has another winner in the form of this camping pillow.
What makes the TETON Sports Camp Pillow so desirable is that it has a soft flannel exterior and a thick padded foam interior.
The foam has four channel fiber fill which gives it a bit of extra loft for your head and neck. That means that you can lay on it all night without ever feeling discomforted. Best of all, if you already have a TETON sleeping bag, you can find a color and design that matches the pillow.
Finally, the best part about this pillow is that it comes with a limited lifetime warranty. That means that if anything goes wrong or it starts to break down for any reason you can contact the company, and they will replace it with no questions asked.
When trying to pick out the best pillow out of all of these, it’s hard to determine which will be more comfortable and reliable. However, our top picks would have to be the TETON Sports Pillow or the Sierra Designs Model. Both of these have the best options and feel the best overall. Both companies are also highly recommended and have a long history of customer satisfaction.
Plus, you never have to worry about deflation or discomfort with these pillows. Nonetheless, if you do decide to get a hybrid or an air-filled model, each of the ones listed will be more than satisfactory.
A passionate blogger! Editor at Chooserly, and a regular author at HuffingtonPost, LifeHacker & Forbes!