10 Best Backpacking & Camping Pillows of 2024

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A backpacker relaxing on the shore of an alpine lake surrounded by mountains on an inflatable sleeping pad and the Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow
Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight – Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

A pillow can make all the difference between sleeping like a baby and tossing and turning through the night. While some hikers consider a pillow a luxury item, we wouldn’t hit the trail without one on overnights in the backcountry and frontcountry.

We’ve spent over 1,000 nights sleeping under the stars trying more than 30 different models in our pursuit of the best pillows for camping and backpacking. In this guide, we cover which ones are the most comfy, supportive, and packable to get you resting your best on your outdoor adventures.

Of course, even the best pillow can’t do it alone. Packing the right backpacking sleeping pad, camping mattress, and sleeping bag for backpacking or camping will have you snoozing like there’s no tomorrow.

Quick Picks for Backpacking And Camping Pillows

Check out this quick list of our favorite backpacking and camping pillows if you’re in a hurry, or continue scrolling to see our full list of favorites with in-depth reviews.

Best camping & backpacking pillow overall: Therm-a-Rest Compressible ($32)

Best budget backpacking pillow: Trekology Aluft Pro ($22)

Best stuff sack pillow for ultralight backpacking: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Pillow ($59)

Best budget camping pillow: Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Pillow ($25)

Best full-size camping pillow: HEST Pillow ($89)

Most comfortable air pillow: Klymit Luxe ($50)

Comfy & durable air-foam hybrid pillow: NEMO Fillo ($45)

Best ultralight air pillow: Sea to Summit Aeros Premium ($55)

Best air pillow for back-sleepers: NEMO Fillo Elite Luxury ($70)

What’s new

We’ve been testing several new backpacking and camping pillows on our recent adventures, and there have been some big changes to our list.

  • The NEMO Fillo Elite Luxury beats out the standard Fillo Elite for a spot on our list because it’s larger and more comfy for a very small increase in weight and bulk.
Small blue backpacking pillow

Therm-a-Rest Compressible

Best camping & backpacking pillow overall

Price: $32

Weight: 7 oz.

Pillow Type: Compressible foam

Pros

  • Very comfortable
  • Less expensive
  • Very durable
  • Machine washable
  • Fun pillowcase patterns

Cons

  • Bulky
  • A bit heavy for backpacking

The Therm-a-Rest Compressible pillow feels almost like camping with the pillow you use at home, but it’s more compact and it doesn’t matter if it gets dropped in the dirt. While it’s bulkier than some of the other pillows on our list, we’d usually rather pack this ultra-comfy pillow than a smaller one that’s less plush.

The Compressible is comprised of a soft polyester cover with upcycled foam chunks inside. It packs into a sleeve on the cover, and the foam can be compressed down to eliminate some of the bulk. When you’re ready to use the pillow, the foam springs back to its original loft shortly after unfolding it. There’s also a drawcord on the cover that can be cinched to tailor the firmness and support to your liking.

The Compressible is CleverHiker Founder Dave Collins’s all-time favorite pillow. He’s used it for some of his most challenging backpacking trips – including multi-day treks through Jasper, Yosemite, and Banff National Parks – because he knows the great night’s sleep he’ll get with it far outweighs the extra ounces and bulk in his backpack. 

The Compressible Pillow comes in several sizes for different use cases. We prefer the small size since it cuts out some weight and bulk for challenging backpacking trips, but it’s still large enough to feel luxurious in the frontcountry. Folks who tend to car camp more than backpack might prefer the medium for its larger size and still-reasonable weight, while dedicated glampers will likely find the large to be the best option.

The bottom line is: if you’re looking for a backpacking pillow that will most closely match the feeling of the one you use on your bed at home, this is it.

Stock image of Trekology Aluft Pro

Trekology Aluft Pro

Best budget backpacking pillow

Price: $22

Weight: 6.3 oz.

Pillow Type: Air

Pros

  • Very comfortable
  • Affordable
  • Removable cover is machine washable
  • Height provides excellent support
  • Strap keeps pillow in case

Cons

  • A bit heavier & bulkier than some
  • Some users report durability issues

 

The Trekology Aluft Pro is one of the most affordable backpacking pillows on the market, and it’s also one of the most comfortable we’ve tested. This budget-friendly pillow has a surprising amount of premium features that make it feel like a real luxury in the backcountry.

Our favorite detail on the Aluft Pro is the strap that keeps it in place. Nothing’s worse than fighting through the night to keep your inflatable pillow on your pad, so we find that this feature adds a ton of value for very little weight. That said, the strap is removable if you don’t struggle with this and want to save a few grams. 

If you’re like us, you sleep like a baby in the backcountry after a hard day of hiking. And snoozing hard can often lead to… drool. The cover of the Aluft Pro is removable and machine-washable, so sunscreen, sweat, and saliva are no problem. You can start each adventure with a fresh, clean pillow.

We absolutely love this model, and have very few downsides to note. Although there are enough users reporting the Aluft Pro leaking air after a few uses that it definitely bears mentioning. One of our gear testers tested this pillow over the course of about a month on the Arizona Trail without incident, and any gear that makes it through the prickly campsites of the AZT is pretty hardy in our view. Still, it’s always best to pack a patch kit and be prepared to perform field repairs if issues arise.

This pillow may be a little heavier and bulkier than some of the truly ultralight air-filled options on this list, but we think most hikers will be very pleased with the comfort and convenience of the Aluft Pro. However, if saving weight and bulk is a priority for you, take a look at the Aluft 2.0. This pillow isn’t as thick and soft as the Pro model, but it’s a couple ounces lighter, considerably smaller when packed, and even more affordable.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Pillow

Best stuff sack pillow for ultralight backpacking

Price: $59

Weight: 1.7 oz.

Pillow Type: Stuff sack

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Compact
  • Very durable for the weight
  • Doubles as waterproof stuff sack

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Requires extra clothing
  • Slippery underside

For hikers who prioritize saving weight above all else, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Pillow is a very comfortable and functional option that serves a dual purpose.

With the Dyneema sides facing out, this is a waterproof stuff sack for your clothing or whatever else you want to keep protected from the elements. But turn it inside out at night to expose the fleece lining, and you’ve got a soft and comfortable pillow. 

We find that this pillow is best used in warmer hiking months. Since you need something to stuff inside to give it loft, it’s better in temperatures where you won’t need to sleep in all of your clothes. A down jacket is an excellent way to fill out the pillow, and then you can add other things – like extra socks or base layers – to dial in the firmness. 

Of course, you may run into the unexpected chilly night when you do end up wearing all your extra clothes for sleeping, in which case your pillow won’t be very plush. But we’ve found that we usually have a few small things to stuff inside when this happens (like other stuff sacks, a pack towel, or toilet paper roll) to make a passable pillow for the night.

The HMG Stuff Sack Pillow is very similar to the Zpacks Medium-Plus Dry Bag Pillow. Both cost the same, weigh the same, and are great choices, but there are a couple of key differences. The Zpacks pillow is a little longer and made with slightly thicker Dyneema fabric. However, the HMG pillow wins the spot on this list over the Zpacks stuff pillow because the zipper placement is more convenient. The Zpacks zipper is at the very top, so you would need to pull things out to access clothes that are lower down. The HMG zipper splits the pillow about a quarter of the way down, making it more convenient to put small things up top and larger things in the bottom part with quick, easy access to both.

While the HMG pillow is made with a slightly thinner DCF fabric than the Zpacks pillow (0.8 oz./sq. yd. DCF vs 1 oz./sq. yd. DCF), we’d say the durability is pretty much a tie. CleverHiker Senior Gear Analyst, Casey Handley, finally reached the end of the road with her HMG Stuff Sack Pillow after about six years and 4,000 miles of hiking. Pretty impressive for a fleece-lined stuff sack weighing less than two ounces.

Though the HMG Stuff Sack Pillow is expensive, the durability makes it worth the cost – it’ll likely outlast many air pillows in the same price range. This is as light as it gets if you want to go minimal without sacrificing comfort.

Stock image of Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Pillow

Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Pillow

Best budget camping pillow

Price: $25

Weight: 9 oz.

Pillow Type: Foam

Pros

  • Very comfortable
  • Affordable
  • Durable
  • Supportive
  • Machine washable

Cons

  • A bit heavy for backpacking
  • Bulky
  • Foam chips can feel lumpy

The supportive and affordable Camp Pillow from Wise Owl Outfitters offers a lot of comfort. 

This pillow is pretty similar to our top pick, the Therm-a-Rest Compressible, but it’s a bit more geared towards frontcountry camping. The Wise Owl is one inch larger in length and width than the Therm-a-Rest Compressible, so naturally it weighs a few ounces more. When packed, this is one of the bulkiest pillows on our list, and it weighs over half a pound. We don’t recommend it for backpacking, but it does a great job of mimicking the pillows we use at home while car camping.

There are many cheap pillows like this one on the market, but the Wise Owl earns its place on this list for its supportive design. During testing, we found that similar budget pillows had a tendency to flatten out quickly, while the Wise Owl held its shape much better. The loft is adequate for side sleeping, and the foam filling can be shifted around inside to tailor the support. 

Among the affordable competitors, the Teton Sports Camp Pillow is the most comparable option as far as quality for the price. This pillow has a synthetic feather-like fill that flattens out more than the Wise Owl’s foam fill, so it could be a more enticing option for back-sleepers who don’t want their head to rest so high.

Both the Wise Owl and Teton Sports camping pillows are great options, and if we were choosing between the two – we’d probably just buy whichever one was running a better sale at the time.

Light blue backpacking pillow

HEST Pillow

Best full-size camping pillow

Price: $89

Weight: 2 lb. 3.2 oz.

Pillow Type: Foam

Pros

  • Very comfortable
  • Supportive
  • Very durable
  • Machine washable

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Too heavy & bulky for backpacking

The HEST Camp Pillow brings the comfort of home to your frontcountry endeavors. It’s nearly as large as a regular bed pillow, and the shredded memory foam fill provides excellent support that doesn’t flatten out. 

At 2 lb. 3.2 oz., the HEST Pillow is one of the heaviest and bulkiest pillows we tested, so it’s not for backpacking. But it’s the perfect luxury pillow for car camping and travel when comfort is a priority. 

For the ultimate plush setup, we like to pair this pillow with the Exped MegaMat from our list of the Best Camping Mattresses. This dream duo will have you sleeping like a rock and may make you forget all about your bed at home.

The regular size is plenty big for our needs, but an even larger Standard Pillow is also available if you’re after maximum luxury. Just keep in mind that the Standard costs quite a bit more and will take up more space in your gear storage if you’re stuck deciding between the two.

The HEST Camp Pillow is our top recommendation for those who value comfort above all else and for campers who have a hard time catching Z’s when away from their bed at home. Though it’s quite expensive, the high-quality materials and washable cover will keep it adventure-ready for many years of outdoor fun.

Stock image of Klymit Luxe

Klymit Luxe

Most comfortable air pillow

Price: $50

Weight: 7 oz.

Pillow Type: Air

Pros

  • Very comfortable
  • Supportive
  • Wider than most backpacking pillows
  • Lightweight for the size
  • Machine washable cover

Cons

  • A bit expensive
  • A bit heavier & bulkier than some

The Klymit Luxe pillow is our top recommendation for backpackers who prioritize comfort. This large, supportive pillow is heavier and bulkier than the pillows we usually take for long backpacking trips, but it’s by far the most comfortable air pillow we’ve tested.

At 22 inches long and 12.5 inches wide, the Luxe is the largest backpacking pillow on our list. It’s also one of the thickest with a whole five inches of loft. When you consider the dimensions, the weight and packed size are actually a lot more impressive. We firmly believe that if your backpacking pillow isn’t comfortable, it’s wasted weight and space anyway. So we’re willing to carry the Luxe into the backcountry over an ultralight option for its significant boost in comfort.

Though the Luxe is far from affordable, we think it’s actually a pretty fair price for what you’re getting. You’d pay the same for a smaller, lighter pillow that maybe isn’t as comfortable. And if you’re going to be spending the same amount of money, it’s definitely worthwhile to consider trading in the weight savings for added comfort.

Like many modern camp pillows, the Luxe comes with a removable cover that can safely go through the washing machine. What makes this cover a bit unique, though, is the snap closure on the end that hides away the valve stem. This small detail eliminates any chance of the valve interfering with your sleep, and we’ve really come to appreciate it.

Car campers and backpackers alike will love the Klymit Luxe for its unrivaled balance of comfort, weight, and price. Those who don’t mind carrying a little extra weight and bulk in exchange for more comfort should stop the pillow search here.

Stock image of NEMO Fillo

NEMO Fillo

Comfy & durable air-foam hybrid pillow

Price: $45

Weight: 9 oz.

Pillow Type: Foam/air

Pros

  • Very comfortable
  • Supportive
  • Above-average durability for an air pillow
  • Machine washable case
  • Integrated stuff sack

Cons

  • A bit bulky/heavy for backpacking
  • Slippery underside

The NEMO Fillo has been one of the most popular camping pillows on the market for many years because it’s well-made, provides excellent support, and it’s plush enough for the frontcountry while still being reasonably light for the backcountry. 

Its soft, removable cover, durable air bladder, and sturdy valve make this pillow a high-quality investment that will really up the comfort on your camping trips. But what really sets the Fillo apart from other air pillows is the thick foam topper. Some air pillows can end up feeling like you’re sleeping on a pool toy, but this layer of foam – combined with the I-beam air chambers and the soft microsuede/jersey cover – make for a much more comfy night’s sleep.

At nine ounces, the Fillo isn’t our first choice for long backpacking trips, but it’s a comfortable option for car camping, travel, and short backcountry adventures. And while it’s also a bit bulkier than many of the pillows we prefer to backpack with, the plush design is worth it for those who prioritize a cozy night’s sleep when hitting the trail for multi-day trips.

For backpacking, we prefer the Fillo Elite Luxury and Fillo Elite listed below for their lower weight and bulk. But you’ll miss out on the cushy foam layer of the standard Fillo and an extra inch of thickness with those alternatives.

Users who will get the most value out of the Fillo are those who are looking for a pillow that feels luxurious for car camping while being light enough for the occasional trek into the backcountry.

Green air inflatable backpacking pillow

Sea to Summit Aeros Premium

Best ultralight air pillow

Price: $55

Weight: 2.7 oz.

Pillow Type: Air

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Compact
  • Supportive
  • Good valve

Cons

  • Too firm for some
  • Minimally insulated

The Sea to Summit Aeros Premium is one of our all-time favorite air pillows for backpacking since it strikes the perfect balance between comfort and low weight. 

At just 2.7 ounces, the Aeros Premium is one of the lightest air pillows on the market, and it also packs down incredibly small. Don’t let its tiny size fool you though, this thing packs a ton of comfort. The regular size – our size preference for saving weight on backpacking trips – sits at 4.3 inches high, so it’s got a great amount of loft and support for side sleepers. 

That said – when inflated to its full height – the Aeros Premium is pretty firm, and it can start to hurt your ear if you lay on one side for too long. You can easily let out some air to make it a bit squishier, but we still find pillows with foam tops (like the admittedly much heavier NEMO Fillo) to be more comfortable for side sleeping.

One of our favorite features of the Aeros Premium is the multifunctional valve. The first flap opens up to a one-way valve for quick deflation, and you can also press the center of this valve to make micro-adjustments to the firmness. Opening the second flap reveals the dump valve which makes for quick and easy deflation. 

Another unique detail is this pillow’s compatibility with Sea to Summit’s PillowLock system. PillowLock is a set of soft Velcro-like stickers that come with Sea to Summit backpacking sleeping pads. These special tabs latch on to the fabric of the Aeros line of pillows and lock them in place while you sleep. Unfortunately, PillowLock isn’t sold on its own at this time, so you can only take advantage of this feature if you also have a Sea to Summit pad.

Backpackers looking to cut out weight without sacrificing support should keep the Aeros Premium at the top of their list. This tried-and-true favorite sits taller than many other ultralight air pillows, and its superb valve makes it easy to dial in your perfect firmness.

Stock image of NEMO Fillo Elite Luxury

NEMO Fillo Elite Luxury

Best air pillow for back-sleepers

Price: $70

Weight: 4 oz.

Pillow Type: Air

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Very comfortable for back-sleepers
  • Wider than most backpacking pillows
  • Integrated stuff sack
  • Machine washable case

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Slippery underside
  • A bit heavier/bulkier than UL backpacking options

The NEMO Fillo Elite Luxury has become one of our go-tos due to its generous dimensions, soft surface, and low weight. 

At 21 inches wide, the Fillo Elite Luxury stretches across the entire width of a regular-size backpacking sleeping pad, so you have plenty of room to roll around without coming off the pillow. Backpacking pillows have a tendency to slide off of pads, but we find the extra length usually ensures that at least part of the pillow remains in place for a comfy night’s sleep.

The Fillo Elite Luxury sits at three inches high, so it’s not the most supportive option for side-sleepers. But back-sleepers will appreciate that this pillow doesn’t strain your neck by keeping your head too high. CleverHiker Senior Gear Analyst Casey Handley, who is a rotisserie-sleeper that usually ends up on her back or stomach, tested this pillow over 500 miles of the Arizona Trail, and she found that the width gave her plenty of room to change positions and the height was perfect for providing support while sleeping on her back. 

Hikers looking to shave off a few grams may find the standard Fillo Elite to be a good middle-ground between weight and comfort. It’s only 15 inches wide (a full six inches less than the Luxury model), but it weighs in at just 2.8 ounces and packs down smaller. While there’s less room to wriggle around on the Fillo Elite, those who tend to stay stationary through the night will likely prefer this lighter and less expensive version.

With a light layer of synthetic insulation on top and a soft jersey case, the Fillo Elite Luxury is more comfortable than most other inflatables. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s well-designed with an integrated stuff sack that’s impossible to lose, a removable case for easy washing, and a top-notch valve.

Stock image of Sea to Summit Aeros Down

Sea to Summit Aeros Down

Ultralight air pillow with a warm & comfy down layer

Price: $65

Weight: 2.5 oz.

Pillow Type: Air

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Compact
  • Supportive
  • Durable
  • Good valve

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Too firm for some

The Sea to Summit Aeros Down pillow is the lightest air pillow on our list and it’s more padded and comfy than the average ultralight option. 

This pillow has a thin layer of down cushioning on top that provides some extra comfort and warmth, but it’s also what makes it a bit spendier than many others. That said, we think the Aeros Down is worth the cost for its quality build. CleverHiker Senior Gear Analyst, Casey Handley, has spent more than 75 nights in the backcountry – including her thru-hikes of the Colorado Trail and Long Trail – with the Down Pillow, and it’s still going strong.

Just like the Aeros Premium above, the Aeros Down also has an excellent valve system. The first flap conceals the one-way inflation valve that also allows for easy micro-adjustments, and the second flap opens up the dump valve for effortless deflation. 

Hikers looking to shave every gram possible without sacrificing the comfort and support of an air pillow can’t go wrong with the Aeros Down Pillow.

Teal hexagonal shaped foam pillow

REI Trailmade Mummy Bag Pillow

Affordable & comfy foam pillow for camping

Price: $25

Weight: 5.25 oz.

Pillow Type: Compressible foam

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Very comfortable once you get the foam situated
  • Supportive
  • Lightweight
  • Machine washable

Cons

  • Heavier/bulkier than some
  • Foam chips can feel lumpy

The REI Trailmade Mummy Bag Pillow is an affordable option that slips inside the hood of a mummy sleeping bag for all-night comfort that stays put. This pillow is plush enough for camping, light enough for backpacking, and packable enough for travel, so it’s an excellent choice if you’re looking for a do-it-all pillow.

We find the foam filling of this pillow to be comfier than many air pillows since it’s not as firm and it conforms to your body shape. However, the Trailmade feels lumpy compared to our favorite foam pillow, the Therm-a-Rest Compressible, listed above. Still, the Trailmade is lighter and more affordable, so it’s a solid option for budget-conscious hikers. And you can always shift the shredded foam fill around to customize the shape a bit. 

One of the best features of the Trailmade is the innovative cover. It has a cozy fleece side and a cool polyester side, so you can flip it to optimize comfort depending on the conditions. When you’re ready to pack up in the morning, the foam pillow compresses into the cover to save space in your backpack. And then once you’re back home, pop the whole thing in the washing machine to bring it back to good as new.

We tend to opt for a lighter and smaller pillow on long, challenging backcountry trips. But the Trailmade only weighs 5.25 ounces, so it’s totally backpacking-worthy if comfort is a priority.

A camper stuffing the HEST Pillow inside itself
The HEST Pillow inverts & folds into itself so it stays clean & is more compact for travel

What’s Most Important to You in a Camp Pillow?

PRICE

Quality sleep is priceless, but you don’t have to break the bank to get a great camping pillow. That said, we find that spending more often means an increase in comfort, weight savings, and durability. We prioritized price and comfort over all else when selecting our favorite budget pillows, so going with one of those options will mean a bit more bulk and weight to carry.

Best budget pillows

Best mid-range pillows

COMFORT

Comfort is our number one priority when choosing a pillow for backpacking and camping. After all, you could get the lightest, most affordable pillow in the world, but it would still be useless if it’s not comfortable.

When assessing comfort, we look for pillows that are warm yet breathable, maintain loft to provide support, and have a soft cover.

Most comfortable backpacking pillows

WEIGHT

Every ounce matters for backpacking, but your sleep system is an area where carrying a few extra grams can be well worth the tradeoff. We find that as long as a pillow is below about eight ounces, we’re willing to carry some additional weight into the backcountry if it means we’ll get a more restful sleep.

Backpacking pillows with the best balance of comfort & weight

PACKED SIZE

When you have to squeeze everything into a backpack or bike panniers, it’s best to go with an air pillow that packs down small. If luxury and comfort are the ultimate goals (say for car camping), go for something a little cushier.

Most packable camp pillows

Best luxury camp pillows

Which Pillow Type Is Right For You?

There are pros and cons to every type of camping pillow. Here are the main categories of backcountry pillows and some quick links to our top recommendations.

Stuff sack pillows are great for backpacking trips since they’re ultralight & multipurpose

STUFF SACK PILLOWS

Stuff sack pillows are ultralight and excellent for backpacking, but they require a puffy jacket or other soft clothing to give them loft. They can be very comfortable with the right stuffing, but depending on what you fill them with, they can also be hard or compress too much. Our top picks: Zpacks Medium Dry Bag Pillow & HMG Large Stuff Sack Pillow

UL INFLATABLE PILLOWS

Ultralight inflatable pillows weigh next to nothing and hold their shape to offer good height and support for side-sleepers. If you choose an air pillow, make sure to figure out the firmness that works best for you. Over-inflated air pillows can be a bit unstable, difficult to keep in place, they can be hard on the ears after a few hours. Our top picks: Sea to Summit Aeros Premium & NEMO Fillo Elite

The Therm-a-Rest Air Head is pricey, but it’s large & has a very comfy shape

COMPRESSIBLE PILLOWS

Compressible pillows are made of materials that expand, like shredded pieces of foam. They’re often very comfortable and closely mimic the pillows we use at home, but they also tend to be much bulkier and heavier than stuff sack pillows and ultralight inflatables. We usually choose these types of pillows for car camping, but a small one can also be a real game-changer for backpacking. Our top picks: Therm-a-rest Compressible & HEST Pillow

HYBRID PILLOWS

Hybrid pillows often consist of an air bladder topped with a layer of foam or down insulation. They share the same height and support benefits of ultralight air pillows, but they’re typically much more comfortable. These pillows are heavier and bulkier than ultralight air pillows, but they’re often lighter and more compact than compressible pillows. Our top pick: NEMO Fillo

You can adjust the firmness of Inflatable pillows by changing the amount of air inside

Critical Pillow Considerations

A female with braided hair sleeping on her side on the large HEST Pillow
The HEST Pillow is large, so it’s great for side sleepers

SLEEPING STYLES

Size, shape, warmth, and surface all come together to determine how comfortable a camping pillow is. Look for one that compliments the position you like to sleep in, accommodates your size, and satisfies your preferences for softness or firmness. Side sleepers commonly prefer pillows with a bit more height to support the neck and shoulder, while back sleepers might prefer softer, lower-profile pillows.

TEMPERATURE

Just like it’s important to have a sleeping pad that insulates you from the cold ground, it’s key to have a pillow that protects your head and face from the cold night air. Especially if you go for an inflatable, consider that the air temperature will penetrate through the baffles of the pillow and transfer to your body. Having a barrier of insulation (like fleece, down, or foam) between your head and the air chamber will keep you a lot warmer and more comfortable. Similarly, you’ll want to choose a pillow that has a comfortable fabric surface that will wick away sweat and keep you cool on warm summer nights.

SLIDING

A pillow that keeps sliding out from under your head can be really annoying and disturb your sleep, and that’s a common annoyance with backpacking/camping pillows. But there’s an easy fix!

Some pillows have tabs on the sides to attach an elastic cord that will secure around your pad, or you can use a few inches of adhesive velcro to create your own pillow-lock system. Simply adhere the soft side (loops) to your pad and the rough side (hooks) to the underside of your pillow – being careful to line them up right. And voilà, your pillow will stay put much better.

The NEMO Fillo & Sea to Summit Aeros are two of our favorite ultralight pillows for backpacking

QUIETNESS

Unfortunately, some of the lightest pillows are also the noisiest due to the crinkly materials they’re made from. While Dyneema and plastics may be ultralight, it can be like trying to sleep with your ear pressed up against a potato chip bag. 

Everyone shifts and moves some during the night and it’s likely you’ll hear some rustling no matter which pillow you choose. If you’re a particularly fidgety sleeper, you may want to choose accordingly or bring earplugs for your tentmate.

WASHABILITY

Dirt and grime are part of the backpacking/camping lifestyle and many just learn to live with it. But for more fastidious hikers, there are pillows with removable cases that can easily be machine-washed with your clothing after each trip. Down pillows require a bit more care as dirt, sweat, hair oils, and drool can eventually cause them to lose their loft, but it isn’t difficult to rejuvenate them with a little know-how. Check out our tutorial on How to Wash a Down Coat for some pro tips.