Aside from camping chairs, camping cots, and backpacking tents, camping pillows can either make or break your trip. You would need a good night’s sleep after an exhilarating day out, but you can only sleep comfortably with the best camping pillow to avoid tossing and turning. Camping pillows are generally more lightweight and waterproof than a traditional pillow. A makeshift pillow out of clothes can do the trick for others, but it’s best to invest in a good camping pillow. This is important especially if you like to spend time out in the wilderness.
Photo by Scott Goodwill on Unsplash
Things to Consider in Looking for the Best Camping Pillow
Finding the best camping pillow can be a challenging task because there are just so many pillows in the market. There will always be a pillow that suits you depending on your needs and preferences.
A camping pillow’s main purpose is to give you that well-deserved rest you need after a tiring hike. It’s important that your camping pillow should be comfortable. The last thing you need is to spend the entire night tossing and turning and finding that perfect sleeping position. Looking for the best camping pillow is a subjective matter and is dependent on what pillow you are used to. It’s important to know what you like in a home pillow and find a camping pillow that comes as close as that.
In terms of support, your camping pillow should provide you with the same support as your home pillow. If not, a close counterpart should do. It should give you proper support so you can wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. When looking for the best camping pillow, consider how it supports your head and neck so you can avoid waking up with a stiff neck. Choose the right camping pillow that offers great support regardless of your sleeping positions and patterns.
Packability and Weight
For backpackers and campers who like to travel light, the smaller the pillow packs down, the better. If you want a camping pillow that doesn’t take up too much space on your pack, consider getting lightweight pillows. But if you need a more comfortable pillow, you may want to think about carrying extra weight. In the morning, a pillow that folds down into a smaller size is a more convenient choice. It all depends on what you prioritize and what factors you can compromise on.
Since your camping pillow is a long-term investment, you should consider how much you want to shell out for this purchase. There may be many low-budget and affordable choices, but they may be lacking in other factors. The Thermarest pillow is a good choice if you want an inexpensive pillow that provides the comfort of your home pillow.
15 Best Camping Pillows
1. Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow
The Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow is a popular choice among campers for its price and quality. The eco-friendly Thermarest pillow is made from upcycled Therm-a-Rest mattresses and comes in different colors and sizes to fit your needs. While it tops the lists for being comfortable and well-made, it’s rather bulky and takes up space in your packs. The Thermarest pillow is highly recommended for travelers on their next camping, backpacking, and even biking trips. With a starting price of 25 USD, this is the best camping pillow that feels like your normal home cushion, but smaller and more portable.
Pros: Affordable, straightforward, durable
Cons: Bulky, heavier than most compressible pillows
2. Cocoon Ultralight Air Core Pillow
The Cocoon Ultralight Air Core Pillow is known for its unique two sides, meant to be used in two different conditions. One side of the pillow is covered with soft microfiber, while the other side is covered in nylon. The microfiber side is perfect for staying warm on a cool night and the nylon side for warm nights. However, having two sides means that the air pillow may be a little wobbly and is prone to sliding around, especially when the microfiber side is used. At 14 x 18 inches and 16 x 22 inches, it falls a bit on the larger and bulkier side.
Pros: Machine washable case, soft and warm
Cons: Slippery underside, bulky
3. Teton Sports ComfortLite Self-Inflating Pillow
The Teton Sports ComfortLite Self-Inflating Pillow comes with a sturdy non-slip base so even if you tend to shift sides when sleeping, it doesn’t move. The inflating pillow comes in a blue organic cotton top and an orange microfiber top which are both comfortable and soft. Its ComfortTech microfiber top also helps absorb sweat so you don’t wake up feeling sticky, but don’t worry–it’s easy to clean as well. When inflated, it measures 18 x 10 x 4 in, although this might be a small pillow for some campers. What campers love about this portable pillow is that it shrinks to just 12 ounces when deflated, making it easy to carry inside backpacks and duffel bags. For easier portability, the Teton pillow also comes with a stuff sack made of nylon and a shoulder strap.
Pros: Light, easy to clean, self-inflating
Cons: Size may be too small for some campers
4. REI Co-op Trail Break Pillow
For travelers who prefer a more comfortable pillow, the REI Co-op Trail Break Pillow is a good choice. It is also one of the more cheap pillows at 20 USD, making it an affordable yet quality purchase. However, it isn’t the lightest camping pillow at 10 oz. The REI pillow is a good choice for camping and backpacking trips where bulk isn’t a concern. With its quality and affordability, it can be rivaled with the Thermarest pillow; it all boils down to where you will be using it. If weight isn’t that much of a concern for your activities, the REI Co-op Trail Break Pillow is the best camping pillow for you.
Pros: Affordable, provides good support
Cons: Heavy, bulky
5. Trekology Ultralight Inflating Travel/Camping Pillow
The Trekology Ultralight inflatable pillow is another perfect choice for budget-conscious campers who want maximum comfort. When deflated, it rolls up to be the same size as a pair of balled-up socks, but it inflates to cover your whole head and extra headspace. Campers who tend to roll around while sleeping need not worry as the Trekology pillow is made of a slip-resistant material. However, the surface is on the plastic side which may lack the softness; this can be remedied by covering the pillow with a fleece jacket. Cleaning the pillow can be done with a wet paper towel or cloth, or by running it through a faucet before drying and packing it in the stuff sack.
Pros: Inexpensive, water-resistant
Cons: Plastic surface may be uncomfortable
6. Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Pillow
Weighing over just an ounce and a half, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Pillow is a compact yet multipurpose camping pillow. It can also be compared with the Zpacks dry bag pillow, but the Hyperlite has a more rectangular shape. The pillow can also be utilized as a water-resistant stuff sack. While it is a small pillow, it isn’t the most comfortable and you will need a puffy coat to make it more fluffy. Its slippery underside may also be a nuisance for campers who tend to shift while sleeping. Nonetheless, the Hyperlite Stuff Sack Pillow is the best camping pillow for ultralight backpacking and camping adventures.
Pros: Water-resistant, compact
Cons: Slippery underside, less supportive
7. Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow
The Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow has been a top choice for backpackers and campers due to its easy to clean surface and its weight. At just 2.8 oz., it manages to deflate up to five inches thick. The Sea to Summit pillow also has a 500 polyester blend and a sturdy surface so you can comfortably rest your head after a tiring hike. It also provides good neck support so you don’t wake up with a stiff neck and absorbs sweat easily. While it is pricier than its other ultralight counterparts at 44 USD, the Sea to Summit pillow delivers well on its promise of comfort and weight.
Pros: Ultralight, easy to clean
Cons: Not the most comfortable
8. Klymit Inflatable Pillow
The Klymit Inflatable Pillow features a unique X-shaped air bladder that keeps you well-supported and stabilized, with adjustable height and pressure. While the X design can be a bit uncomfortable for side sleepers, those who prefer to lie on their backs can appreciate this feature. The bottom material of the headrest is made with a 75D polyester that can resist tears, abrasions, and punctures. The regular-sized Klymit Inflatable Pillow has dimensions of 15 x 11 x 4 inches when fully inflated. Meanwhile, the largest measures 17 x 12 x 4.25 inches when fully inflated.
Pros: Good head and neck support, comes in different sizes
Cons: Silky outer fabric causes the pillow to slide around
9. EXPED Ultralight Pillow
The EXPED Ultralight Pillow is a great choice for travelers, backpackers, and campers who prefer using a lightweight and small pillow. At just 1.6 ounces, it is one of the lightest camping pillows in the market. The pillow also offers adjustable height, perfect for those who prefer to sleep on their sides or backs. For those who tend to shift while they sleep, the EXPED Ultralight Pillow has an anti-slip GripSkin pattern to avoid the pillow from sliding away. There are also tabs on the sides where you can attach elastic cords to and the pillow is made from durable polyester, making it very sturdy. While it isn’t the cheapest pillow at 38 USD, it is the best camping pillow for those who swear by traveling light.
Pros: Very lightweight, compact
Cons: Uncomfortable, fabric is not soft
10. Coop Home Goods Camping and Travel Pillow
Who says you can’t afford a luxurious pillow in the middle of a camping trip? Coop Home Goods Camping/Travel Pillow is the best camping pillow if you miss the feeling of sleeping on your pillow at home. This handcrafted camping pillow has a breathable and cool pillowcase made from a synthetic bamboo blend and memory foam that molds to your head shape. Campers who are on the sensitive side will appreciate the hypoallergenic and dust mite-resistant pillowcase. Coop Home Goods’ pillow foam is also CertiPUR-US certified, meaning that it’s free from harmful and ozone-damaging chemicals. On the downside, the pillow isn’t exactly compact, but it’s still easy to carry.
Pros: Highly comfortable, dust mite-resistant
Cons: Heavy, bulky
11. Nemo Equipment Fillo Pillow
For campers who tend to sleep on their side, the Nemo Equipment Fillo Pillow is a must-buy. It is also one of the more popular camping pillows because its foam topper provides great support. On top of that, its design helps side sleepers get a relaxing sleep. The pillow also comes with a stuff sack that protects the pillow from camp dust and other unwanted particles. The pillow weighs about 9 oz. when inflated, which can be a bit bulky, so it’s highly recommended for car camping trips. On another note, it folds up into a small water bottle and its removable cover is machine washable. Although it isn’t like cheap pillows at 40 USD, it’s the best camping pillow for side sleepers who want to get maximum support without compromising on comfort.
Pros: Machine washable case, best for side sleepers
Cons: Bulky, slippery underside
12. ZPacks Dry Bag Pillow
The ZPacks Dry Bag Pillow is among the best multipurpose camping pillows around, making it a good choice for trips where you need to travel light. During the day, you can use it as a water-resistant stuff sack for your clothes and important belongings. At night, turn it inside out and fill it with clothes. While the fabric tends to slide on air mattresses, the fleece surface is warm, comfortable, and feels good on the skin. The ZPacks Dry Bag Pillow also comes in two sizes: medium and medium-plus sizes. The medium-plus variant is more recommended since it’s wider. If you’re looking for a multipurpose portable pillow, the ZPacks Dry Bag is an excellent choice.
Pros: Multipurpose, water-resistant
Cons: Slippery underside
13. Therm-a-Rest Air Head Pillow
Another recommended camping pillow is the Therm-a-Rest Air Head Pillow. The Air Head Pillow and its compressible counterpart are very comfortable and made to last. The Air Head Pillow’s air bladder is made of thicker material than most inflatable pillows and provides a more compressible foundation. It is also one of the more sustainable variants since it’s made out of partially recycled fabric and covered with soft brushed polyester. However, it may compromise on weight. If you’re looking for an ultralight camping pillow, this may not be your best bet. If you need a comfortable pillow for camping or casual backpacking trips, the Thermarest pillow is the best camping pillow for you.
Pros: Comfortable, ergonomically shaped
Cons: More expensive, bulky
14. Big Agnes AXL Air Pillow
At just 1.8 oz., the Big Agnes AXL Air Pillow is one of the most lightweight camping pillows around. Its design focuses on minimalism and ease of use, with a slightly oversized stuff sack as well as a repair kit and stick-on patches in case the pillow gets punctured. While it offers great support, it lacks a bit on the comfort side and lacks soft fabrics. However, this can be remedied easily by wrapping the pillow in a space fleece jacket. This may not be the snuggest camping pillow out there, but if you prioritize traveling light, then you may want to give the Big Agnes Air Pillow a try.
Pros: Lightweight, easy to use
Cons: Less comfortable, noisy
15. Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow
For campers who sleep on their stomachs, or for those who prefer using a thin pillow, the Sierra Designs DriDown is the best camping pillow to buy. It’s made of a polyester pillow and an outer shell with a down topper that reduces the weight and contours around your neck. The pillow top is soft, which tends to flatten overnight, giving less support than expected from a camping pillow. At 7 oz., the pillow doesn’t deflate and takes up space in your pack if you prefer lightweight pillows. Although it caters mostly to a specific type of sleeper, it’s recommended for car campers and luxury backpackers.
Pros: Easy to use, lifetime warranty
Cons: Flattens easily
Do you need a pillow when camping?
Having a pillow when camping guarantees a comfortable sleep, whether overnight or if you need quick naps to power you through your hike. Camping pillows made specifically for camping, so they are far more lightweight and portable than your normal pillows. Depending on the materials used, they can be similar to your home pillow, but more compact and less bulky. Camping pillows are also more convenient to bring on such activities since they can be easily stored in your bag as compared to normal pillows.
What are the Different Types of Camping Pillow?
There are mainly four types of camping pillow: compressible, inflatable, hybrid, and folding:
A compressible pillow is a pillow that is filled with down feathers, synthetic fibers, foam, or a combination of all three. If you want a camping pillow that is similar to the one you use at home, this is the type of camping pillow for you. Compressible pillows are generally preferred for car camping and short outdoor trips. It is also more comfortable as compared to inflatable pillows. On the flipside, compressible pillows, especially those made with synthetic fiber and foam fills, tend to fall on the heavier and bulkier side.
Inflatable pillows are filled with air in order to increase its size. They are more portable as compared to compressible pillows since they normally come in stuff sacks. While these are highly lightweight and portable, they are not the most comfortable camping pillows. Other inflatable pillows also tend to make a lot of noise when sleeping on it. Although these don’t provide that much comfort, an inflatable pillow is a perfect choice if you want to travel light.
A hybrid pillow combines both features of inflatable and compressible pillows. This type of pillow has a compressible layer on top to provide maximum comfort. The bottom has an inflatable side to extend the support to your neck and back. The inflatable side also reduces the volume so it can be stashed conveniently on your pack. Hybrid pillows cost more and they tend to come in only one size.
Folding pillows are generally the best types of camping pillow for tent and RV camping and on trips where you don’t have to move from place to place. They also provide excellent support to your head and back and are ideal for campers with digestive or respiratory issues. Although folding pillows are very compact, they are still considered bulky if you plan on keeping them in your pack.
How do I Carry a Pillow for Camping?
How you store and take care of your camping pillow determines its longevity and durability. Inflatable pillows are normally kept in a stuff sack, but these shouldn’t be kept in a stuff sack for a long period since odor tends to build up over time. Make sure you unfold the pillow and place it flat after every camping trip. Leaving the valve open when the pillow is loosely folded is also recommended.
Whether you’re planning on camping in Yosemite National Park, or a multi-day camping trip in Canada, camping pillows should be on your list. These handy cushions provide excellent support to your head, neck, and back, and lets you have a peaceful sleep. Camping pillows come in different types, sizes, and shapes, but they should suit your needs perfectly. As an investment, one should put into consideration their sleeping habits and other preferences in order to find the perfect camping pillow. This article has rounded up some of the best camping pillows you should consider buying for your next adventure.
Once you have found the best camping pillow for you, get ready for an unforgettable overnight camping experience.