We all know that getting a good nights rest can mean the difference between waking up feeling refreshed and rested vs. tired and rundown. And out of the trail is no different, that’s why I’ve reviewed the top options for best backpacking pillow of 2018 to help you get those zzz’s.
When hitting the trails on a backpacking trip having a lightweight and comfortable backpacking pillow is a must. This goes for just camping on the weekends as well, and they every double as an excellent travel pillow when flying.
Backpacking pillows are either inflatable or super compressible, which means you can easily pack them into your backpack. Plus they don’t weigh more than a few ounces. So don’t sweat it.
Like any other piece of outdoor equipment, you value comparing the best products to make you buy the right gear. So go ahead and dive into these pillow reviews and learn about everything you need to consider when searching for the best pillow for backpacking and camping.
- 1 Comparison Table of the Best Backpacking Pillows 2018
- 2 Backpacking Pillow Reviews
- 2.1 Klymit Pillow X
- 2.2 Nemo Fillo Pillow
- 2.3 Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow Premium
- 2.4 TETON Sports ComfortLite Self Inflating Pillow
- 2.5 Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow
- 2.6 Klymit Luxe Camping Pillow
- 2.7 Trekology Ultralight Inflating Camping Pillow
- 2.8 InstantCamp Ultralight Inflatable Backpacking Pillow
- 2.9 Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow
- 2.10 Exped Air Pillow
- 2.11 Exped Down Camping Pillow
- 3 Guide to Finding the Best Backpacking Pillow
- 3.1 What is a Backpacking Pillow?
- 3.2 How Are They Different Than Your Everyday Pillow?
- 3.3 Things to Consider When Choosing the Right Pillow for Backpacking & Camping
- 3.4 The Bottom Line
Comparison Table of the Best Backpacking Pillows 2018
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Backpacking Pillow Reviews
When you pull it out of your pocket, it’s smaller than your favorite BIC lighter. But once you inflate it, this portable travel pillow may be the best backpacking pillow out there. It inflates to make a sizable space to lay your head after a long day on the road.
The self-centering, X-patterned design helps to keep your head supported and your pillow under your head instead of sliding into your neighbor’s lap.
The bottom layer is made out of 75D nylon. That helps to keep it from puncturing or wearing out, even if you sleep in the most rugged of environments. The top of the Pillow X is made out of 30D nylon. Less weight, and softer to the touch so that this pillow is the best of both worlds. Soft and strong. All at under two ounces.
All around one of best lightweight travel pillows ever made. Perfect if you never know what type of adventure you’ll be going on next. This pillow is small and light enough that it will always fit in your pack.
Type: Flat inflatable
Weight: 1.95 oz
Best For: Multi-purpose travel
The Nemo Fillo pillow is a best seller among travelers due to it’s unrivaled comfort. A hybrid foam and air design allows this packable travel pillow to be both incredibly soft and supportive. Although it doesn’t pack quite as small as fully inflatable designs, the added comfort is hard to pass up.
At 17 inches long, this foam travel pillow is great for supporting your head, neck, or even lower back during travel. It’s long enough to hug and lay your head on at the same time. The true peak of travel snuggling technology.
And speaking of snuggling, the micro-suede exterior of this pillow will have your skin screaming for more. Throw out your micro-beaded face scrubs and your moist towelettes. A couple hours of shuteye on this baby will have your skin feeling fresh as a summer breeze.
I thought it was funny that Nemo alikened the packed size of this pillow to that of a russet potato. Then I got my hands on one, and it was hard to deny that when this pillow packs down into it’s integrated stuff sack, it’s about the size and shape of a potato.
This pillow is the best backpacking pillow for someone who values comfort while on the go. And no other pillow will do it quite the way the Fillo does.
Type: Air/foam rectangular
Weight: 9 oz
Best For: Comfort lovers, pillow snugglers
The Aeros Premium pillow is just one of a long line of high quality, camp-comfort supplies. This inflatable travel pillow is designed with a synthetic layer of padding between the durable internal air bladder and the soft outer fabric. This barrier is designed to maximize comfort and wick away moisture. Just in case you sweat in the night.
At four ounces and about three cubic inches when packed, the Aeros Premium pillow walks a fine middle ground between the best lightweight travel pillow and the most comfortable travel pillow.
The scalloped, rectangular design makes a great support for when you’re lying flat in your tent, but also cradles your head well if you’re side-sleeping on a train or plane.
Although this pillow is one of the larger inflatable models on the market, it’s high-tech valve works beautifully. Just a couple of breaths has you ready for your afternoon siesta. A combined deflating valve helps keep air in when you want and out when you’re done.
Although the Aeros works well in nearly all applications, I favor it’s design for tent camping. This is arguably the best backpacking pillow for supporting your head when sleeping on flat ground.
Type: Padded inflatable
Weight: 4 oz
Best For: Camping
Teton hit an incredible price point with their ComfortLite self inflating travel pillow. This thing is a real masterpiece of modern design. A high-pressure inflation valve will do all the work for you and fill this pillow up to 18″ by 10″. Then adjust the thickness to your preference between three and seven inches of cushion for your cranium.
The grey bottom of this pillow is non-slip so that your pillow stays in place while you sleep. The top is made from ComforTech™ Stretch Microfiber and feels very soft to the touch.
The included stuff sack for this pillow is a sturdy affair. It won’t fail you. When all is said and done, the ComfortLite pillow packs down to a three inch tube that is just over a foot long. That’s about the size of a rolled up t-shirt. The main difference is that this is a lot useful than a t-shirt when it’s time for some shut eye.
All things considered, the ComfortLite self inflating pillow from Teton is a great all-around travel pillow. It’s medium size and simple design are an excellent deal for the price point. Throw this in your car for long trips or in your pack for your next trek, your neck will thank you.
Type: Self inflating rectangular
Weight: 12 oz
Best For: Multi-use travel
The Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow is a classic for anyone who’s been traveling more than a decade. These things come in various shapes and sizes and many have been passed down from traveler to traveler for decades.
This pillow earned it’s place in the traveler’s hall of fame because of it’s simple design, affordable price, and snazzy colors.
The urethane foam filling of these pillows is specifically designed to compress small and expand big. There is a built in compression stuff-pocket that lays flat across the back of the pillow when not in use. Although not as compressible as most inflatable travel pillows, there’s something about the familiar feeling of a stuffed pillow that air bags will never rival.
To top it all off. These pillows are affordable, yet also made right here in the USA. All things considered, these pillows are great for anyone who wants a pillow that feels familiar instead of a high-tech inflatable model. These also make great kids pillows as they are available in a wide range of sizes and shapes. May be the best backpacking pillow for the kids.
Type: Stuffed rectangular
Weight: 12 oz
Best For: Multi-purpose travel
Luxury lovers rejoice! The Klymit Luxe was made just for you. It’s hybrid design, using a polyester fill as well as an inflatable bladder aims to achieve maximum comfort. And even though this pillow is almost as big as your favorite one at home, it packs down to a tight package and weighs surprisingly little.
Unlike other hybrid pillows, the Luxe likes the idea of a pillow having a pillow case. This lightweight travel pillow’s case is made to feel familiar and soft. You might even forget you’re on a train.
This travel pillow packs down into a special stuff sack that is included with purchase. At just 3″ by 7″ — it’s a pretty neat package, considering the size and comfort of what fits inside.
This pillow is great for anyone who values comfort on the road. Or anyone who drools while they sleep. After all, you can always throw the pillow case in the washing machine.
Type: Air/poly-fill hybrid
Weight: 6.4 oz
Best For: Comfort lovers
At an ultralight 2.75 ounces, the only thing that might be lighter than this pillow is it’s price. The Trekology Dreamer pillow is the real deal if you’re looking for the lightest, tightest, travel pillow around.
This pillow isn’t long like a couple of the comfiest on this list, but it inflates to a great size for your head. The ergonomic design is specifically made to cradle your neck in a comfortable position, no matter where you are.
Typical of an inflatable travel pillow, the Trekology Dreamer pillow has a slip resistant and durable bottom, with a soft top. It sure isn’t as soft as the Luxe, or Fillo pillows are, but it will get you to sleep next time you’re in the airport.
Really, this pillow is exactly what it looks like. The Dreamer is an ultralight travel pillow without any extra bells and whistles to inflate the price. It packs down to nothing and weighs even less. Although it may not be as comfortable as your bed at home, that’s probably not why you left the house in the first place.
If it weren’t for the next pillow on our list, this would be the best backpacking pillow for anyone on a budget or looking to save space and weight.
Type: Ultra-lightweight inflatable
Weight: 2.8 oz
Best For: Ultra-lightweight travel
At just 2.4 ounces, this might be the lightest travel pillow on the market. When it’s tucked into it’s stuff sack, this pillow is the size of a deck of playing cards! When it’s inflated it makes an 18″ long rectangle with an ergonomic stitch pattern to cradle your head.
Unlike the Trekology Dreamer, this pillow is a great night’s sleep if you’re a side sleeper. That’s due to it’s longer shape and unique center baffles.
This pillow sets a beautiful balance between multi-use comfort and ultra-lightweight packability. The exterior fabric is a soft, but sturdy nylon. It feels higher quality than cheap travel pillows but doesn’t weigh you down too much.
If there is a downside to this pillow, it’s written in it’s own design. Because InstantCamp designed this pillow to be the lightest, tightest package on the market, it has no foam in the fabric and does not self inflate. That keeps things simple, but may not feel as comfortable to a pillow purist.
This is the best backpacking pillow for ultra-light travelers. Particularly side sleepers. And it only costs a tad more than the Dreamer.
Type: Ultra-lightweight inflatable
Weight: 2.4 oz
Best For: Ultra-lightweight travel
Sierra Designs has been working tirelessly for years to push down fabric technology to it’s limits. The new DriDown technology that made this pillow, as well as all of their new DriDown products, is a testament to all of their work.
Softer, tougher, and more resistant to moisture than down of the past, the DriDown pillow is wicked comfortable.
Sierra Designs isn’t just pushing the bar with its down either. This pillow has an innovative design that allows you to pack all or only part of your pillow.
Composed of a synthetic interior pillow and a soft, DriDown outer sack, this pillow has two modes.
When combined, they make for an incredibly supportive and soft head rest. But if you’re looking to save space or weight, then leave the inner pillow behind and stuff your pillow with clothes instead. Just maybe not your socks, you could leave those out.
This pillow is great for people that lead a dual life of city and woodland travel.
Type: Two part hybrid stuff-sack design
Weight: 5.8 oz (2.8 oz case only)
Best For: Multi-use comfort travel. Trains and tents.
The Exped Air pillow comes in a variety of sizes and all of them are at the peak of lightweight lounging performance. They cost a bit more than the other ultra-lightweight pillows in this list, but that’s because of their superior quality and materials.
This pillow (the medium version) packs down to the size of your fist and inflates in just a couple of breaths to a full size pillow. Even the medium, which is the smallest size Exped sells, is almost a foot across and a half across. At full inflation, you’ll get just over four inches of lift for your dome while you’re dreaming.
The exterior of this pillow is made out of a polyester tricot fabric that feels great on the skin. There’s no way to hide the fact that this pillow is un-padded, but hey, one pillow can’t do it all.
Exped specially designed the shape of this pillow to fit just about any sleeping position. Slightly scalloped, and with one side a tad larger than the other, everything about this pillow is finely tuned to maximize comfort. This is the best backpacking pillow for acrobatic or abnormal sleepers.
If you’re the type to take on all sorts of adventures and often find yourself sleeping in bizarre places, then this is the one for you. It’s easy to fit into any bag, pocket or secret spot you’ve got. That way you can have high quality and comfortable sleep, no matter what.
Type: Ultra-lightweight inflatable
Weight: 2.5 oz
Best For: Ultra-lightweight travel
If the Exped Air pillow looked great, but just a little thin in the skin, then you’re in luck. Exped makes it’s Down Pillow specifically for the comfort-inclined.
This pillow has a strong air bladder on the inside, which is removable for washing. This feature is exceedingly popular among pillow droolers. However, it’s just nice to be able to throw your pillow in the wash from time to time anyways. Especially if you just spent a bunch of money on expensive new face soap to keep your pores clean.
And speaking of your face, it will love the down padded outer layer of this pillow. Coated in Exped’s signature tricot fabric, this pillow is silky smooth on your skin.
This pillow uses a single, combination valve to fill and deflate. That helps keep things simple. The valve works well and has almost no profile on the pillow, so you won’t notice it rolling around under your neck.
Just like the Exped Air Pillow, the Down Pillow has a specially designed shape that accommodates a wide range of sleeping positions.
This pillow is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a quality hybrid pillow that can give you a little extra comfort, or if you’re worried about keeping your pillow clean.
In fact this is the best backpacking pillow for all around use. It does a bit of everything. It’s extremely comfortable, washable, reasonably lightweight and very easy to pack. Most important of all, it makes for a great night’s sleep.
Type: Inflatable/down hybrid
Weight: 6.7 oz
Best For: Multi-use comfort travel
Guide to Finding the Best Backpacking Pillow
What is a Backpacking Pillow?
What’s to say your favorite pillow from home can’t go backpacking? What’s the big deal with all these ultra-lightweight, high-tech, travel pillows?
If you’re still asking those questions, you’ve clearly never tried to pack a full size pillow for a multi day hike into the woods. Chances are though, that you have tried to sleep without a pillow before.
You don’t need me to tell you that that sucks.
Backpacking pillows are the modern solution to on the go sleeping. No more stuffing your hood with old underwear or stacking up guidebooks to lay your head on at night.
With the best backpacking pillow in your kit, you can take a siesta no matter where you are. Best of all, backpacking pillows pack down small enough to fit in your pocket. That way they aren’t a hassle to bring along, no matter where you’re off to.
How Are They Different Than Your Everyday Pillow?
Backpacking pillows are designed to pack down small enough to transport easily, whether you’re headed to the hills or hopping on a plane. Other than the ability to pack down small, travel pillows vary widely.
Some are ultra-lightweight and can be deflated down to the size of a wallet and weigh mere ounces. Other backpacking pillows have built in padding and are designed to bring the comfort of your own bed out on the road with you.
In between these two extremes you will find countless innovations in design, shape, materials, and virtually every other feature a pillow could possibly have.
Some self inflate, some have multiple modular layers. There are pillows with built in stuff sacks, ergonomic shapes, clips, dual valves, non slip sides, and just about every fabric innovation imaginable.
So can your favorite childhood pillow still cut it as a backpacking pillow? Well, I suppose if you strap it to your pack and take it backpacking, then it is officially a backpacking pillow. However, when you’re done with that hassle, choose whichever you think is the best backpacking pillow from this list.
You’ll be much happier.
Things to Consider When Choosing the Right Pillow for Backpacking & Camping
Sometimes the easiest way to choose gear is to examine your own lifestyle first, and then select gear that best meets your needs.
Here are some of the most important factors to consider when you are looking for the best lightweight travel pillow to add to your gear collection.
Travel pillows come in three general styles. This will mostly affect the comfort and packability of your pillow. In my opinion, the best backpacking pillow is not limited to one use and therefore I value hybrid pillows.
However, many people prefer their pillow to work very well for the specific type of travel they’re into.
The lightest and most packable pillows are undoubtedly inflatable models. Some are self-inflating and others require a little breath work on your part.
An inflatable travel pillow is great because they can expand to be quite large, but pack down so small you have to take care not to lose it. Perfect for keeping in your car, or taking in your carry on at the airport.
Inflatable pillows aren’t just easy to pack, they are incredibly lightweight as well. Most weigh in at around three or four ounces.
The con of inflatable models are that they do not offer the same level of comfort as their counterparts. Most companies try to mitigate this aspect by creating special shapes that cradle your head and neck. The best backpacking pillow for taking on long hikes is definitely an inflatable model.
However, there’s no getting around it. The feeling of an airbag is just different from the feeling of the pillows you slept on growing up.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are compressible pillows. These are the most similar type of travel pillow to the ones on your bed at home.
In fact, at first glance, you might mistake a compressible travel pillow for your average pillow, even if it’s a bit small. However, high tech down and synthetic fillings along with specially designed shapes, stuff sacks, and fabrics set these portable pillows apart from their average associates.
The huge bonus to a compressible travel pillow is comfort. These pillows feel as similar to your own bed as you can get. Even though they pack down small, they are usually supportive and great to snuggle with.
The downside to even the best compressible travel pillow is that it will never pack as small or weigh as little as an inflatable model. However, size isn’t everything, and neither is weight.
The best backpacking pillow to keep in your car for long drives is a compressible model. You can pack a lot more comfort into one of these. If you’re not worried about size or weight, compressible is the way to go.
If you like your pillow to be packable, but aren’t ready to give up your comfort just yet, then a hybrid pillow is what you need. They combine an internal air bladder with a padded outer layer. That means it will pack down smaller than a compressible travel pillow, but will be softer and more supportive than an inflatable travel pillow.
There are many types of hybrid pillows on the market. Each is made with it’s own special fabrics, fillers and air bladders. Some are certainly better than others.
Among hybrid pillows you will find two main styles to choose from. Some hybrid travel pillows have a removable outer case, usually padded or down, that can be washed. Other hybrid travel pillows integrate this layer into the pillow itself.
I can’t tell you which style is superior. Removable covers can be washed, which is a huge bonus if you tend to nap off the beaten track. However, they can also be lost. You’ll have to compare those two factors in your own life and make the best call.
A hybrid is the best backpacking pillow for the all around adventurer that values comfort, but knows they may need to stuff their pillow into a backpack from time to time.
It’s important to remember when we talk about the weight of a travel pillow that we are talking about the difference of a couple of ounces. It’s a pretty small difference when you look at the big picture. Especially if your pillow will live in your car as opposed to your pack.
That said, every little bit counts, and you will definitely notice the difference between a pillow that weighs eight ounces and one that weighs two.
If you tend to travel by foot, go for one of the lighter, and more packable pillows. Otherwise, don’t worry too much about the weight of your pillow, you’ll notice how comfortable it is much more acutely.
For me, this is one of the most important factors. I’m a big guy, and a side sleeper, so it’s not always easy to get comfortable in the woods.
If a pillow isn’t big enough to support your head or if it doesn’t stay put while you sleep, you won’t get much sleep. And even if you do, you’ll wake up with a wicked kink in your neck.
The best backpacking pillow for you will usually match your sleeping style at home.
Take a look at the pillows on your bed. How big are they? Are you the type to have the biggest fluffiest pillows possible? Or is your home setup a modest affair? Let that inform your selection when you choose a packable travel pillow.
Comfort & Sleeping Position
Although size has a lot to do with your comfort in various sleeping positions, there’s a lot more that goes into the best backpacking pillow for you than just size. Companies go to great lengths to develop high-tech ergonomic designs that will cradle your head and support your neck in various sleeping positions. Some have had more success than others.
If you sleep on your back, you’re in luck, and your sleeping skills are the envy of travelers everywhere. You probably don’t need to worry too much about the size and shape of your travel pillow.
If you sleep on your side or chest, you’re going to want to pay more attention to this aspect of your pillow. Longer shapes and thicker profiles allow for more types of sleeping positions and more neck and back support.
No matter who you are, look for a design that is shaped to cradle your head. Not only that, but make sure the pillow is thick enough to support your neck. Bigger people may need slightly bigger pillows for this reason.
After all, no point buying a lightweight travel pillow if you still need to stack old laundry underneath it every night. The best backpacking pillow for you will work fine all on it’s own.
Packability is the name of the game. It’s what separates a travel pillow from the masses. It is also the main limiting factor to your overall comfort.
If you’re looking for the most packable pillows, check out inflatable models. The Trekology Dreamer and the InstantCamp Ultralight Inflatable are two good options. They weigh virtually nothing and pack down to fit in your hand.
Just be sure you don’t go packing crazy and lose your tiny little pillow. These things can get seriously small.
Oft overlooked, the durability of your travel pillow could mean the difference between years of sweet dreams, or a quick end to all your nappy aspirations.
Consider your lifestyle and where you normally sleep when you travel. If you tend to be on cars, trains, planes, and buses, then durability is not so important.
However, anyone who plans to take their travel pillow camping should carefully consider the materials used. Cheaper inflatable models are especially easy to pop if they meet with the wrong rock.
The best backpacking pillow will last longer than you. You’ll either lose it, or get too old to go camping. Then you can pass it down to your kids.
There are a ton of extra features that companies have tried packing into their travel pillows. Some are more useful than others.
In general, when it comes to a simple piece of equipment like a pilllow, a pair of socks, or a hat, more features doesn’t necessarily mean better. If fact, it can often impair the primary function of the gear.
However there are some features that are tried and true, and really do make a pillow better in my experience.
Self inflating is awesome for an inflatable travel pillow. It’s not that it’s hard to inflate one yourself, it’s just really cool if your pillow does it for you.
Removable and washable outer layers are awesome! I’ll admit that from time to time I drool in my sleep. Between that, and all the dirt I get on my gear, it’s nice to be able to wash it.
Low profile valves, quality stuff sacks, and easy carry loops all also improve the quality of a pillow.
In order to find the best value on your personal best backpacking pillow, you’re going to have to do some math, and you’re going to have to make some judgement calls.
All in all, none of these backpacking pillows cost all that much and the difference in prices is not huge.
When I think of the value of a piece of gear, I consider three factors.
- How well will it perform its purpose? Will I be happy with my purchase? In the case of a pillow, will I be comfortable when I sleep?
- How long will it last? Is it durable enough to stand up to years of use or will I be back to the store in a month to find a replacement?
- How much does it cost?
When I’ve narrowed my choices down to one or two comparable products, these three questions are how I decide on my personal best value.
The Bottom Line
When it comes down to it, a good nights sleep is universally one of the most important parts of a big day of travel. And unfortunately, too many travelers don’t get that because they don’t have a lightweight, packable travel pillow.
Fortunately you’ll be one of the privileged few napping on your next trip because you bought the best backpacking pillow on the market.
By now, you know what’s out there. You’ve seen all the best options and have a good sense of what goes into the best backpacking pillow.
If you’re looking for the best ultralight travel pillow, I recommend the InstantCamp Ultralight Inflatable Backpacking Pillow. It packs down to nearly nothing and weighs even less.
The best hybrid pillow reviewed here is the Klymit Luxe Camping Pillow. It’s durable, washable, and incredibly comfortable. Unlike the DriDown pillow from Sierra Designs (which is also excellent) the Luxe packs down nice and small, even when it has all it’s parts.
If you’re looking for the best affordable travel pillow, then you are going to want to pick up the Trekology Dreamer if inflatable is your style. But if compressible is your thing, then a simple, Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow will do the trick and it won’t break your bank.
And the best backpacking pillow overall?
Well, it’s hard to single out any one pillow that rises above the rest. After all, this list is full of top contenders. However, the Exped Down Camping Pillow really does tick all the boxes. It may cost a little more, but it’s high quality construction, smart design, and high level of comfort make it a real winner. And, of course, the cover comes off and is machine washable.
You’re going to have to make your own assessment of pros and cons. After all, everyone’s sleep is as unique as they are. One thing’s for sure though, you’re ready to be a travel pillow expert. Pick your favorite from this list, and you’re sure to love it.