Choosing the right backpacking pillow is an investment in your physical (and mental) health, so you want to find one that is right for your sleep style (belly, back, or side), budget, and comfort level (firm/soft). So, which are truly worth their weight for the investment in a good night’s sleep?
The best backpacking pillows come as a stuff sack (pillowcase with zipper), compressible foam, air inflatables, down feathers, or a combination of synthetic material and air inflation. Ultra-lightweight are 3oz or less, lightweight are up to 5oz, and moderate to luxury weight are more than 5oz.
Fascinatingly, many companies offer backpacking pillows that meet all of the checkmarks (and more) on your search list and yet do not take up priceless space in your already tight backpack. We have looked at comparable reviews and have tested many backpacking pillows ourselves, and these 9 (organized by type of pillow) are, without a doubt, the best 9 backpacking pillows on the market.
If you are looking for the most lightweight option for a backpacking pillow, you are most likely going to find that in a stuff sack/pillow case. The Therm-a-Rest Trekker Pillow case is the most low-budget option (at $13) on this list that still provides a high value of sleep.
This incredibly low-priced stuff sack only weighs 2.3oz meaning it falls into the ultra-lightweight category of backpacking pillows- an extreme advantage when every ounce truly counts in your portable suitcase.
It also has customizable firmness based on what you stuff it with. So, if you are a side sleeper, you can stuff the Therm-a-Rest Trekker Pillow Case with more support for your neck and back and create an appropriately tall pillow. Alternatively, if you are a belly or back sleeper, you can stuff this with softer clothing for a shorter, fluffier pillow since your neck will not need as much support.
Plus, with this option, you will find that the polyester lining is soft, warm, and slip-resistant creating a comfortable layer between you and the clothes that you stuff inside of it. Still, note that the polyester lining might be a bit more crinkly than what you are hoping for, but the slip-resistance is worth it if this is the one layer between your head and your tent floor.
If you are an avid backpacker looking for a lightweight, luxury stuff sack pillow option, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Pillow is a solid option. While it is a bit on the pricier side (coming in at $50), you will see that its higher cost is well worth it.
This option is the lightest backpacking pillow on this list– weighing only 1.7oz and consequently fitting into the ultra-lightweight category. When folded and stored, you can even fit this backpacking pillow into your pocket! This option comes in two sizes (large or small) that are not much different in weight but can allow you greater flexibility depending on your sleeping preferences.
This backpacking pillow is water-resistant because of the Dyneema fabric used. While this fabric will make it a bit slippery, you can always place a shirt or another layer between your pillow and tent floor. Since there is a zipper on the backside to keep your stuff in place, you should not have any reason to worry.
The ZPacks Dry Bag Medium Pillow is another high-quality stuff sack pillow option, moderately priced at $35, but you will be impressed by the features that it comes with. Specifically, this ultra-lightweight 1.8oz backpacking pillow takes up little room in your tight storage, yet adds impressive comfort.
This option has a fleece lining on one side and is water-resistant on the other, so you can flip it inside-out when you are ready to sleep or pack up. You might find that the water-resistant layer adds a bit of a crinkle while you are sleeping, but a pro hack is stuffing an extra t-shirt between the two colliding water-resistant layers to decrease the noise (as well as to decrease the slipperiness of the base).
If you are looking for a comfortable sleep sack for a back or belly sleeper (or one that you can stuff a little more firmly for a side sleeper), this moderately priced option is warm, comfortable, and ready to give you a high-quality night’s sleep at a very minimal weight added to your backpack.
Another style of pillow that you can use for a backpacking pillow is made with compressible foam, so you can roll it up and squish it into your backpack by day, and roll it out for the comfort of your head by night.
But, it is a bit heavier. Specifically, the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow comes in at 7oz– falling into the moderate weight category. Still, with this 7oz, you get a high level of soft comfort that is perfect for back and belly sleepers. Plus, the price point is highly competitive since it is only $25.
Along with this weight and price, you will be pleased to know that there are sizing options from small to x-large meaning you can choose the smallest one that you are comfortable with. The personalized pillow case patterns make for a soft (and fun) way to style your backpacking gear.
And, they are machine washable making cleanup (and long-term backpacking trips) more realistic. If you are willing to add a slight bit more weight, this is the softest backpacking pillow option you are going to find for the high-quality materials and incredibly priced value.
Yet another type of backpacking pillow that you will find is an inflatable pillow– one that is pumped with air and can be deflated when not in use. Unfortunately, we were not pleased with any air-only inflatable pillows enough to place them on our list. However, there are many options that use air inflation with a combination of synthetic materials that are well worth their price and are still just as compact.
The Nemo Fillo Pillow is an average price at $40 and is a 9oz foam and air combination. While 9oz places this style of pillow in the moderate weight category, it is well worth it for the comfort and support that this pillow offers- especially for side sleepers. (If you are a back or belly sleeper you could opt for the Nemo Fillo Pillow Elite which is a 3oz, lighter and smaller option that will provide enough support for this style of sleeper).
Its micro-suede cover is removable (aka washable), and its durable materials including the air bladder between the outer foam layer offer a high level of comfort and support after a long day of backpacking. This is a highly popular backpacking pillow- and for good reason.
We were really that impressed with this company and each style of pillow that it provides. Specifically, the Therm-a-Rest Air Head Pillow is a combination of air and open cell foam (that covers the air bladder), so you are getting another high-quality inflatable + synthetic material option.
This option is pretty comparably priced at $42,95, and you will be particularly pleased with its 5.6oz which places it just out of the lightweight option into moderate weight. Still, it is a tall, comfortable option that also allows for a high level of firmness– especially perfect for side sleepers.
You will notice, though, that underinflation of any inflatable pillow will allow you to adjust the firmness, but it may also increase the crinkly noise that can drive you crazy while you are trying to sleep. So, if you are looking for a less firm option, this might not be the right option.
Still, it has an outer covering that can be washed, and its cases have so many cool patterns to choose from, so your pillow is sure to stand out among your tent mates’. If you are looking for a high-quality air inflation plus synthetic material type of backpacking pillow, Therm-a-Rest has you covered.
Sea-to-Summit is another high-quality company and it did not fall short on the Aeros Premium Pillow. This lightweight 2.7oz air inflatable pillow is topped with a synthetic fill for a more comfortable top layer. You will appreciate the softness that is added by the brushed polyester knit material.
It has very little insulation, so this inflatable pillow is best for back and belly sleepers considering its little insulation to protect it from minor deflation when exposed to cold temperatures. But, if you will not be in cold temperatures, it is noted for its tallness that tends to do better for side sleepers.
Still, it has a good two-part valve system, and it offers scalloped bottom edges for decreased movement of your pillow. Plus, it comes from a reliable company that is consistently rated high for backpacking pillows.
Another Sea-to-Summit backpacking pillow that impressed us was the Aeros Down Pillow option. Even though it has a slight layer of down feathers, it still has an ultra-lightweight 2.5oz to hold it up- something that is highly impressive. It is another combination pillow with a high-quality air bladder for inflation purposes.
Although this backpacking pillow is a bit pricier (at $60), the down layer adds padding, warmth, and stability that simply cannot be matched by other types of synthetic fill plus air inflation style pillows. Truly, this is the perfect backpacking pillow for side, belly, or back sleepers, and it is one that has yet to be scrutinized by our reviewers.
It is made with the same two-part valve system and outer materials as described in the above Sea-to-Summit option, and it is another reputable product from a high-quality company.
9. HEST Pillow
If you want a truly luxurious camping pillow, you should opt for the $80 HEST Pillow, although this heavier pillow is almost full-sized and is heavier than what most backpackers are willing to carry at 2lbs and 3.2oz (making it more ideal for car camping than backpacking). Still, it is worth noting on this list because of how impressed we were by its support.
It is filled with sturdy shredded memory foam adding structured support, warmth, and longevity that comes when using high-quality materials. It is machine washable, and it is perfect if you have a little extra space or can even leave it in your car between hikes while backpacking. For a luxury backpacking/camping pillow, the HEST Pillow is hard to beat.
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