The Best Backpacking Pillow of 2017

Are you a fan of long naps and extended periods of sleep? But you also love to explore and bask in the outdoors? Mate, get yourself a backpacking pillow from our list, The Best Backpacking Pillow of 2017!

Most novice backpackers ask - Have you ever used a backpacking pillow? Why would you need a backpacking pillow? Can I just use my travel pillow? My answer: YES, you’ll need a backpacking pillow if you want to have a nighttime as good as when you are at the comforts of your home. I once thought that bringing pillows are too luxurious for camping, but when backpacking pillows sprung, I knew I had to get one.

Perhaps you’re wondering what sets a backpacking pillow apart from the usual travel pillow and what’s so special about it. We’ll try to answer your questions about backpacking pillows, and the best part is we’ll give you a round-up of the best backpacking pillows out there, how about that?

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Best Backpacking pillow 1

A tent with pillows feels like home!

Innovative products such as sleeping bags, pricey insulated tents, camping fans (insert article here), and inflatable sleeping pads are specially made to make campers feel as comfortable as possible.

Perhaps a backpacking pillow will be a great addition to your backpacking essentials because it’s versatile – not just for backpacking but all outdoor activities as well where you need to spend a night on stiff, non-reclinable chair or the flat grounds of the great outdoors.

I felt the need to buy a backpacking pillow when one time, my neck hurt so bad in the morning from sleeping parallel to the ground without any neck support in my old sleeping pad.

Trust me, no matter how plush your sleeping pads and bags are, they’re all worthless without a pillow – yes, your back and neck will hurt too so don’t attempt skipping the pillow fella! In a nutshell, a backpacking pad is a major thing you need for a sound sleep.​

Really, what’s so special about backpacking pillows?


Design Of Backpacking Pillows

1. Inflatable and lightweight

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Backpacking pillows have valves for inflation and deflation

Most backpacking pillows are inflatable and lightweight. They’re not made of foam! All you have to do is blow air through the opening and keep blowing until you reach your desired softness.

Most of these pillows are designed that way to reduce the space it consumes inside the rucksack because apparently, we have all our clothes, toiletries, food, and other stuff inside our trusted pack that are more important than the pillow.

2. Mostly rectangular in shape​

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Here’s what a backpacking pillow looks like

Unlike your weird-looking neck pillows and rounded travel pillows, a backpacking pillow’s conventional shape is a four-cornered one – just like a bed pillow. My first backpacking pillow was of the usual type, nothing so special. It has a memory foam on top and has a flat surface.

Modern ones have features such as contours, diamond stitches, and other kinds of curvatures to keep the head stable and prevent the pillow from slipping.

3. Various sizes

There isn't a standard size for backpacking pillows. There are small and large ones. Of course, the lightest would be the smaller ones but also expect them to slip all the time, especially if you roll back and forth while sleeping. In contrast, larger pillows provide more stability.

Moreover, your preferred size should be based on your sleeping style – whether you sleep on your stomach, back, or side. If you sleep on your belly, thin pillows work best whereas if you sleep on your sides, thick pads are ideal.

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4. Material

Don’t expect any feathers or ultra-soft cotton pillows because backpacking pillows are constructed from polyesters, smooth fabrics, and nylons.

Don’t worry, they’re still comfortable to use like your pillows at home. If ever you don’t like the feel of it under your head, just grab your fleece jacket and cotton shirt then wrap it around the pillow.


The Best Backpacking Pillows of 2017

**Below, you'll see more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices and read customer's reviews on Amazon.

1. Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow

Campers and backpackers are raving for this Therm-a-rest Compressible Pillow, so I had to try it out. So what’s so special about it? Aside from its cute colors (I purchased the denim one), it’s, as you may have guessed, compressible.

Also, it features brushed polyester on the outside with soft urethane foam fill on the inside and a thickness of 4” to 5” when fully expanded.

Remember when I said that most backpacking pillows are inflatable? This one’s different – it’s compressible. You just have to roll it and tuck it in the extra sheet on the other side of the pillow, and you’re done.

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via Amazon.com

Once you wrapped it up, the size goes down to one-third of the actual, small indeed. Also, it comes in three sizes: small – 12” x 16”, medium – 14” x 18”, and large – 16” x 23”. I purchased the medium one ‘cause I want a bigger pillow for my sleeping bag, and my head fits real nice on it.​

I was surprised when I first unwrapped it. Upon rolling it out, it looked flat and not fluffy like in the picture. But after a few minutes, it looked exactly like in the picture. So yeah, you have to leave it for a few seconds after every unwrapping because the small foam cubes inside the pillow need to “fluff up” first.

Lastly, the pillow’s washable. I used to wash it after 5 or 6 overnight trips.​

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Good material (felt cool to the skin)
  • Washable
  • Just the right size
  • Durable
  • Comes in different sizes
  • Very soft and comfortable

Cons

  • Reports of varying firmness of the Therm-a-rest pillows (the denim one is firm while other designs are significantly softer)
  • Though it’s compressible, it still takes up a considerable space
  • Clumps from after washing

2. Trekology Compact Inflating Camping Pillow

The Trekology Camping Pillows are compact, virtually weightless, and inflatable. It folds to the size smaller than a soda can (perfect for stuffing inside the backpack), but it’s pretty big upon inflating. Also, it has an ergonomic design, giving you a comfortable head and lumber support.

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via Amazon.com

The pillow is inflatable, so you have to fill it with air through the valve and deflate it for storage. 10 seconds tops to fully expand the pad, of course, it depends on the firmness you want.

The pillow is made from polyester and is very squishy. Also, it has a nice contour, having three ridges on the center and raised sides, allowing you to sleep comfortably on your sides. For side-sleepers out there, this pillow’s ideal for you.

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via Amazon.com

Lastly, the pillow is made of slip resist material to prevent slipping, so it stays in place while you rest. I must say this pillow’s impressive!

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to inflate/deflate
  • Good material (felt cool to the skin)
  • Just the right size
  • Takes up little storage space in the pack
  • Durable
  • Slip-resistant
  • Very soft and comfortable

Cons

  • Some reports of bad pillow stitching
  • Not washable

3. TETON Sports Camp Pillow

The TETON Sports Camp Pillow is lightweight, extra soft with its brushed flannel material, portable, and just the right size (14” x 18”).

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Via Amazon.com

The manufacturer included a stuff sack for storage, so if it doesn’t fit in your bag, you can just dangle it over your arm. When I saw the pillow, the first thing I thought of was the home pillow because of the resemblance. Like the home pillow, this backpacking pillow is stuffed with soft cotton and covered in a pillow sheet.

The pillow’s pretty soft and comfortable, but I wish it’s a little firmer. I washed it several times too, and it came out fluffy and looks new every time.

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via Amazon.com

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Good material (felt cool to the skin)
  • Durable
  • Washable
  • Very soft and comfortable

Cons

  • Takes up too much space inside the pack
  • Slips under the head if you move a lot when sleeping
  • Not firm enough
  • The size is too small

4. Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow

If you’re looking for a more advanced backpacking pillow, check this one out.

The Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow is made from brushed 50D polyester knit, features a TPU bladder for an increased comfort from wicking away perspiration, curved internal baffles creating contours for head support, and a scalloped bottom edge designed for all sleeping positions - whether you sleep on your back, side or upright in a chair. Quite impressive, huh?

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via Amazon.com

I was very amazed at the features of this pillow, so I went to the nearest camping shop and tried it out. It’s vacuum-packed and fits in a palm when wrapped up, so I inflated it through its big valve and in just a matter of seconds, it sprung into a medium-sized soft pillow.

The brushed polyester feels great against the skin and the TPU bladder really works – it dries up any sweat, so you won’t feel clammy in it even if it’s summertime and it’s humid outside.

I also find the shape of the pillow unique. It’s contoured so you get a lot of head support and the curved side fits in the neck, so I use it to sleep on my shoulder during car campings.

However, the pillow’s not too thick, so if you’re used to sleeping on high pillows, you might need to buy two or just fold your shirt or jacket and place it underneath the pillow for added height.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to inflate/deflate
  • Good material (felt cool to the skin)
  • Durable
  • Slip-resistant
  • Wicks away perspiration
  • Very soft and comfortable

Cons

  • Not washable
  • The size is too small
  • Not too thick or high enough

5. Ultralight Inflatable Pillow By Instant Camp

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via Amazon.com

Now we’re down to the last one. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Ultralight Inflatable Pillow by Instant Camp.

The weightless pillow is compact, takes up little storage room, features a unique design, and offers utmost comfort and convenience.

The pillow is pretty easy to inflate and deflate and the nylon fabric feels gentle to the face. It also features an ergonomic design, with center baffles to cradle the head and prevent the pillow from slipping.

via Amazon.com

The pillow has just the right size – not too big nor too small but it’s a bit thin so you have to add some material under it for additional thickness. Overall, this pillow is a well-constructed one.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Good material (felt cool to the skin)
  • Slip-resistant
  • Durable
  • Very soft and comfortable

Cons

  • Not washable
  • Not too thick or high enough

The Verdict

If you’ve read the detailed reviews of each product, I’m sure you’re having a hard time choosing the best because all five have stellar qualities and features.

When I travel, I need my bag’s interior to be spacious enough to fit all of my essentials. Thus, I can’t afford to give up a good amount of room just for the pillow. So my top picks are the inflatable ones - Trekology Compact Inflating Camping Pillow, Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow, and the Ultralight Inflatable Pillow By Instant Camp.

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A backpacking pillow is a must-have!

The Aeros and Ultralight Pillows, though they’re weightless and takes up very little room, were both too small and not too thick which presents a problem to high-sleepers like me.

The goal of a backpacking pillow is to provide support to the head and the upper back so that they won’t hurt in the morning and the only way to do that is to elevate the head through the help of the pillow. If the pillow’s too thin, it just defeats the purpose.

Personally, I find the Trekology Pillow to be the most ideal backpacking pillow for all outdoor enthusiasts. It’s lightweight, inflatable, slip-resistant, has the right size and thickness and it definitely feels great to sleep in.

Truly, a backpacking pillow is the solution to a sound sleep whether you’re camping, flying on a plane, or sitting on a bus.

Hey there backpacker! What backpacking pillow have you tried? Have you tried any from this list? Or are you still looking for the best one to purchase? Share your thoughts below!

Don’t deny it - you’re glad you came across this article. Can you do us a favor? Will you share this article? We’ll really appreciate it. Cheers!

Cindy Herrera
 

I’m Cindy, a free-spirited outdoor enthusiast. Since childhood, I was very much exposed to the outdoor environment. Our family frequently goes on weekend camps and my father, who was a skilled hunter, used to teach me and my siblings valuable things about wildlife survival. Now that I’m a married woman with two wonderful kids, it’s hard to keep up with outdoor activities while parenting at the same time… so I made this blog to share the best of my knowledge, experiences, and tips from other bloggers to you, my fellow outdoor enthusiast because merely talking about the outdoors makes me feel closer to it.

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