Camping is one of the most rewarding and peaceful things you can do after a long week of work or household chores. It is definitely my favorite thing to do, especially when my husband and two sons come with me.
The problem is that often times, people don’t think about camping as time for relaxation because they think it is really uncomfortable and that they’d end up in more pain or more stressed out than if they had just stayed at home.
While it is true that sleeping on the ground for a long period of time can cause neck and back pains or even headaches, there is a nifty little item I like to bring with me to avoid this:a backpacking pillow.
Having the best backpacking pillow can make all the difference in comfort (and happiness) during your trips. Best of all is that most of them are really affordable and not that difficult to select.
Types Of Backpacking Pillows
First of all, let’s do a really quick rundown on what the types of backpacking pillows really are. As you probably would have guessed, backpacking pillows are different from your regular pillows to allow for more convenience when hiking.
Inflatable Pillows are the most popular since they take up the least amount of space and are generally cheaper than compressible or hybrid pillows.
They are much lighter but also firm once fully inflated. What is good about inflatable pillows is that you can adjust the firmness by inflating or deflating it, so you can find the right “level” that is most comfortable for you.
Inflatable pillows usually fold up into really small bags or pouches, usually no bigger than the palm of one hand, but they aren’t as comfortable as compressible pillows.
Compressible Pillows can be filled with down, some types of foam, synthetic fibers, or a combination. The feeling of compressible pillows is the closest you can get to regular pillows and they are more comfortable than an inflatable.
Compressible pillows are also really easy to use since you only need to take it out of the sack – no inflation required. However, these types of pillows are also generally bigger and heavier than their inflatable counterparts.
Simply put, hybrid pillows are a mixture of both compressible and inflatable. Hybrid pillows will usually have a compressible top made with some sort of foam or other material, and an inflatable bottom to increase size and support.
An example of a hybrid pillow is the Nemo Fillo, which actually made it on my list of top five. Keep reading to learn about the Nemo Fillo as well as the other backpacking pillows that made it to the top five.
What To Look For
Once you have a general idea on the type of pillow you want, you can now go into the details of what to look for when making your final selection.
Comfort & Support
How comfortable a pillow is depends on certain factors such as the type of pillow, the size, shape, how it is contoured, and the outer fabric.
All of these come down to personal preferences, but in general, compressible pillows are more comfortable than inflatable ones because compressible pillows are softer and feel more like normal pillows.
Although, some people actually prefer the firmness of an inflatable pillow compared to the softness of a compressible pillow. So it really comes down to what specifically makes YOU comfortable.
Weight & Packed Size
Remember that if you have to hike for a considerable amount of time before reaching your campsite, you’ll want a pillow that is as light as possible.
It is also really important that it can pack down into a small size if you are going on longer, multi-day treks or ultralight hikes where saving space is everything.
Inflatable pillows win in this category since most of them can pack down to fit in the palm of one hand. If multi-day trips are your thing, then weight and pack size should be your priority.
Ease of Use
The last thing you’ll want at the end of a long day is to have trouble setting up something as simple as your pillow. When talking about ease of use, I’m referring to how easy it is to set up, pack up, and clean.
Another factor when it comes to ease of use is if it actually stays in place when you’re using it. I’ve gone through a couple of inflatable pillows that slide out from under me in the middle of the night, causing me restless sleep.
Pillows with removable covers are great so that you can machine-wash them when you get home.
Stuff sacks are also helpful when packing away the pillow, but I feel that having an integrated stuff sack is considerably better so that you have one less thing to worry about and account for.
Top Five Picks
Selecting your backpacking pillow shouldn’t be too difficult. All you need to do is to really think about what you need.
If it’s something lightweight and small, go for an inflatable. If you can get away with bringing something bigger, go for the compressible or hybrid ones for that extra bit of comfort.
Nevertheless, I’ve picked out my top five favorite backpacking pillows for you.
1. Trekology Ultralight Camping Pillow
My first pick for the top five best backpacking pillows out there comes from Trekology – a company that designs and manufactures camping gear and hiking gadgets for people who want to “explore the greater outdoors”.
This is an extremely tiny, inflatable pillow that can deflate and fold into the size of a soda can (5” x 2”) and weighs only 2.75 oz. It takes about 3 to 5 breaths to inflate and measures 16” x 12” x 4”.
It is made from elastic TPU fabric that is durable and water resistant and the back of the pillow is made from a slip-resistant material so it stays in place while you sleep.
The pillow comes with a carry bag and is available in five different colors: blue, pink, brown, green, and orange.
Trekology has also come up with a new design for the pillow that has an improved ergonomic design to give better support to your neck.
- Friendly price
- It packs away really tiny and is very lightweight
- The material is soft and smooth so it feels comfortable
- It is not self-inflating or does not come with an inflator. You have to do it yourself
- It does not seem to hold air well enough
- One of the valves is very difficult to open to release air
2. Coop Home Goods Memory Foam Pillow
Next on the list is a backpacking pillow from Coop Home Goods, made and manufactured in the USA. It is a compressible pillow that is made from CertiPUR-US foam.
The protective cover of the pillow is made from a bamboo-derived viscose rayon and poly blend which is naturally thermo-regulating that can help improve your quality of sleep. It is also hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant.
It comes with a compressible stuff sack to help pack it down smaller so you won’t have too much difficulty carrying it around while backpacking.
While manufacturing this pillow, Coop Home Goods had the environment in mind – it is made without ozone depleters, mercury, lead, other heavy metals, and formaldehyde.
The pillow measures 19” x 14” when uncompressed, and 10” x 6” when compressed and is machine washable for easy cleaning.
- It is hypoallergenic making it great for people with sensitive skin
- The material is very soft and comfortable
- Machine washable – which is great for my two sons are usually very messy and like to get dirty
- It compresses without much difficulty into the stuff sack
- When compressed, it is bigger than the usual, inflatable backpacking pillows
- A little bit pricey
- It may be a bit too small for bigger-sized adults
3. REDCAMP Small Camping Pillow
Our second to the last pillow comes from Redcamp and is a ‘Soft-Top’ inflatable backpacking pillow. Their Soft-Top cotton cover is meant to give you that little bit of extra comfort while you’re camping. It is removable too in case you get too hot.
When packed into its self-contained stuff sack, the pillow is 4” x 4” x 3” and weighs 4oz. Inflated, the pillow measures 15” x 12” x 4.5”.
It makes use of a one-way air valve to make it easier to inflate – usually with only around 2 to 3 breaths. The fill material is a mixture of air and foam for added comfort as well.
So far it only comes in two colors, blue and black but comes with special discounts the more pieces you buy.
- It can be stored and tucked away easily in its bag
- It is slide resistant
- Very lightweight
- Soft and comfortable design
- The plug is a bit difficult to put and pull out
- It is a bit too high when fully inflated
- The price is just a little bit too high
4. Nemo Fillo Elite Pillow
Our last pillow is a very minimalist and simple pillow from Nemo. The Nemo Fillo is a compressible and air pillow that comes in four different colors: Moss green, nimbus grey, stalker stripe, and sunrise stripe.
It measures 10.5” x 17” and is 4+” thick so it is high enough for side sleepers.
The pillow weighs about 9.2oz, which is heavier than other backpacking pillows but it also comes with a stuff sack that compresses the pillow down to the size of a large potato or softball.
The inside of the pillow has memory foam for extra comfort whereas the cover is made from polyester micro suede that is washable.
- The stuff sack is integrated and built in so you don’t have extra items to carry or worry about
- The pillowcase is removable and washable – again, a benefit for those who have messy kids
- The foam is comfortable and you can adjust the height through inflation or deflation
- Very expensive for a backpacking pillow
- It slides around if you move around a lot
I would say the winner of best backpacking pillow would be the Nemo Fillo. While it is quite pricey, it is a hybrid pillow so you can customize it depending on your needs and what is comfortable for you.
The memory foam top makes it feel comfortable enough to pass off as a regular pillow, but the inflatable bottom helps you adjust it higher or lower, as well as add some firmness if that is what you prefer.
It weighs about 9oz. which is only just a bit heavier than the other inflatable pillows but still significantly lighter than other compressible pillows.
It also packs down and compresses into a small pouch that you can hold in one hand so it won’t take up too much space.
Last update on 2020-06-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API