When I’m spending time outdoors, whether I’m heading up north for a few days of camping or visiting my local trails for some backpacking adventures, I always like to be as comfortable as I can.
As a camping enthusiast, you probably know that there’s a trade-off between comfort and practicality, and this means you sometimes have to leave things at home that just aren’t worth lugging around.
However, one thing I always brought with me outdoors has been a pillow, and in this post I want to share some of my top recommendations for the best camping pillow and some great options for the best backpacking pillow as well.
Having a pillow is important because it allows me to get a good nights sleep so I wake up well-rested and ready to spend a new day exploring and enjoying the outdoors.
It’s also a lot more comfortable to spend the night sleeping on an actual pillow rather than bunching up some of my clothes or just laying flat on the ground.
It’s definitely a lot easier to bring a pillow with you if you’re car camping, because you can even bring a full sized one if you want, but camping pillows are smaller, lightweight, and easy to pack whether you’re camping out of your car or going on a backpacking trip.
These days, there are quite a few different options to choose from when it comes to backpacking pillows and ones that are suitable for camping, so in this post I want to cover some of my top recommendations for both types depending on what you’re looking to bring with you.
Make sure to scroll down to the bottom, after my list of recommendations, for an in-depth buyer’s guide and some tips on choosing the right pillows for your needs.
The Best Camping Pillow
Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow
The Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow is one of my favourite pillows for camping for a few reasons.
For starters, I really like how small I can pack it down because the foam interior is really packable and doesn’t take up much space when I stuff it into a stuff sack.
On the other hand, I don’t find that it compresses down too much when I’m using it for sleeping so it’s a good trade off between portability and comfort.
I also noticed that there are a few different sizes that you can choose from, so you can pick up a smaller one if you’re looking for something more lightweight or you can go with the big one if weight isn’t as much of an issue and you just want to be as comfortable as possible.
As for the design, the exterior is made from a brushed polyester material, which is quite soft and feels nice to lay down after a long day of hiking or exploring.
On the inside is a urethane foam and like I already mentioned it is very compressible so this makes it a suitable choice for car campers and backpackers as well.
Depending on your preferences, there are a few different colors and patterns you can choose from so make sure to check out the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow to see if there’s a specific one you like.
Sea To Summit Aeros
The Sea To Summit Aeros is a nifty inflatable camping pillow and it’s definitely one you’re going to want to check out if you’re looking for something small, portable, and lightweight.
This would be one of my recommendations when it comes to the best backpacking pillow, and it’s also great if you’re doing car camping or just setting up your tent in the backyard and spending the night under the stars.
When it’s not being used, it can be deflated into a very small size, and when you need to use it it just takes a few breaths with the multifunctional valve to inflate the entire thing.
What I really like about this pillow is that there are these curved internal baffles and this helps to make a little contoured area that cradles your head while you’re sleeping so that you don’t move around or slide off the pillow during the night too much.
To make it even more comfortable, there are these scalloped bottom edge centers that help to keep the pillow in place around your shoulders so you can use it if you’re laying down or even just relaxing on a camping chair.
As for comfort, outside shell is made from a soft brushed polyester knit material so that it’s soft when you’re laying on it compared to those pillows that have more of a plastic feel to them.
Depending on your preferences, there are both two sizes to choose from as well as different colors.
Klymit Pillow X
When I’m going backpacking or trying to travel light, I’m a huge fan of inflatable camping gear so I would like to recommend Klymit Pillow X if you’re looking for something inflatable and lightweight as well.
Personally, I find inflatable camping pillows to be very comfortable and I really like them during the summer because my head doesn’t get as hot if it’s a little bit warm or humid at night.
The Klymit Pillow X is especially great for backpacking because of its lightweight design and advanced features that make it comfortable to use when you’re trying to catch some sleep out in the backcountry.
One of the most interesting features is the self-centering design that helps to keep your head centered and stabilized on the pillow so that you can sleep better throughout the night without waking up with your neck in a weird angle.
It’s also really lightweight, coming in at just under two ounces, and it packs down really small, so if you’re looking to keep the weight of your backpack down or just not have to deal with so much weight in your car, then this is a good option for you.
As for the design, it uses a blend of different polyester material that help with comfort and also help to provide long-term durability against abrasion and puncturing.
When it comes to finding a good camping pillow that’s lightweight, durable, and quite comfortable, it’s the Klymit Pillow X that I would recommend checking out.
Exped Air Pillow
The Exped Air Pillow is another great lightweight inflatable pillow for camping.
To fill it up, it just takes two breaths until it’s completely inflated, so it’s ready to go after seconds of pulling it out.
It’s designed using a soft tricot polyester material, which is great whether you’re doing some winter camping or spending time outdoors all summer long.
What I really like is the actual shape of the pillow, and it’s shaped so that it doesn’t move around during the night when you’re sleeping.
You can either choose to sleep on the higher side of the pillow or lower side, and this makes a world of difference depending on whether or not you sleeping on your back or on your side.
There are also a few different sizes available to choose from so you can go with a smaller one if you’re looking for something portable, or you could opt for the larger one if comfort is your main priority.
TETON Sports ComfortLite
The TETON Sports ComfortLite is a self inflating pillow, which comes with a self-inflating valve making it really easy to use this pillow and get everything set up for you throughout the night.
On the inside is a soft foam fill, and the exterior is made from a comfortable microfiber material that doesn’t get too hot in the summer or too cold during the winter.
On the bottom there’s even a non slip material that really helps to keep the pillow in place throughout the night against the soft material of your sleeping bag or sleeping pad.
To make it easier to travel with, it comes with a nylon stuff sack, so you can just clip it onto your backpack or toss it into the trunk of your car quite easily.
At just 12 ounces, this is a really lightweight backpacking pillow, and I would recommend checking it out if you’re looking for some neck support and more comfort through the night the next time you’re camping.
The Nemo FILLO commands a premium price, and in my opinion it’s one of the best camping pillows available to choose from these days.
What makes it so great, is that on the inside is some quality memory foam, and this helps to make a lot more comfortable compared to the alternatives that aren’t using as high quality materials.
There’s also a three inch inflatable bladder that comes with these nifty engineered baffles.
This helps to keep the pillow balanced and provides ample cushioning while allowing you to adjust the height of the pillow depending on your comfort level and preferences.
Being able to adjust the height it’s really helpful, especially if you’re sleeping on uneven ground or if you’re someone that rolls around a lot through the night and you need something that offers plenty of support.
To make it even easier to bring with you camping or backpacking, the Nemo FILLO comes with an integrated stuff sack and they can be packed down into a very small size where it hardly takes up any space at all.
If you’re looking for a premium camping pillow that’s both comfortable and portable, I would recommend taking a look at the Nemo FILLO.
Tips for Choosing the Best Backpacking Pillow
Inflatable vs Self-Inflating
There are basically two main different types of pillows for camping: inflatable and self inflating.
Ultimately, it’s up to your own personal preferences to decide which of the two types you prefer, and each offers their own benefits and drawbacks for using out in the backcountry in the comfort of your tent.
Self-inflating pillows are a lot easier to use because all you have to do is uncompress it and it will open up into a normal size.
These ones also come with a soft foam interior and you don’t have to worry about any punctures or damage rendering the pillow unusable.
The other type, inflatable pillows, are what I prefer using and I like them because I find them alot more comfortable and easier to go camping with.
For some people, one of the main drawbacks might be having to inflate it on your own, and a common problem that people sometimes run into is that the pillow deflates through the night, so you might have to inflate it once or twice throughout the night.
On the other hand, these are a lot more lightweight and easier to pack so for those of you looking to travel lightly and keep your pack weight down, the inflatable ones are where it’s at.
When it comes to compressibility, it really depends on whether or not you’re car camping and you can stuff everything in your trunk or if you’re backpacking and everything has to fit on your back.
When you’re able to use a car, being able to compress a pillow down doesn’t really matter as much, but if you’re backpacking then it’s a good idea to go for something that offers plenty of portability and compressibility.
Something that’s compressible will also give you more room in your backpack or car that you can use for other pieces of camping gear or backpacking equipment.
Another important factor is the weight of the camping pillow that you’re looking at.
Depending on what you’re doing, the weight is important because if you’re backpacking you definitely don’t want something too heavy, but if you’re travelling in a car or RV then it’s not that big of a deal.
You might not even need to go with a dedicated camping pillow if you have the chance to just bring a full size one, but they are a lot easier to manage and not as bulky or obtrusive.
For people doing some backcountry camping, it’s a given that you want to bring something as light as possible that you still find comfortable, practical, and suitable to use.