A comfortable pillow may not be the first item on your list if you are trying to pack light. But, if you find yourself sleeping on a smelly heap of stinky clothes or using your backpack as a pillow because all the pillows in the hostels are too flat, you will probably regret not bringing a pillow of your own.

Pillows are often overlooked and many first-time backpackers deem them trivial, but the quality of your sleep is very consequential when backpacking. At the end of a day’s long hike, a comfy backpacking pillow will add that much-needed level of comfort.

Backpacking pillows are light and some of them can even fit in your pocket when packed. To help you find the right one for you, here are the 10 best backpacking pillows on the market.

Our Top Pick: the Nemo Fillo

Features:

  • Hybrid design
  • Super comfortable
  • Supportive
  • Easy to adjust
  • Great for all sleep positions

Backpacking Pillow Reviews

I am sure you will find something in these 10 reviews that will be great for an overnight hike.

1. Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow

Specifications

  • Material: Polyester, foam fill
  • Construction: Compressible foam-filled pillow
  • Sizes: 16” x 12” x 4” to 27” x 16.5” x 4”
  • Weight: 7 oz to 15 oz

If you’re looking for something more traditional, the Term-a-Rest Compressible Pillow may be the right choice for you. It has everything you need in a backpacking pillow. It’s pocket-friendly and comes in four sizes.

The Term-a-Rest Compressible Pillow doesn’t pack down flat like most other models on the list, but it will fold into your backpack. It’s bulkier than your average backpacking pillow. However, it doesn’t make any sacrifices in comfort.

Every version of the pillow is 4 inches thick. You won’t have to use a down jacket to fill it. It feels soft against the skin, thanks to its brushed polyester cover. The Term-a-Rest compressible pillow is machine-washable and comes with a limited lifetime warranty.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Soft
  • Inexpensive
  • Comfortable
  • Comes in 4 sizes

Cons

  • A bit heavy
  • Bulky

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2. Cocoon Hyperlight Air-Core Pillow

Cocoon Hyperlight Air-Core Pillow

Specifications

  • Material: Polyester, Nylon
  • Construction: Inflatable air bladder
  • Size: 13” x 17” x4”
  • Weight: 2.7 oz

The Cocoon Hyperlight Air-Core Pillow doesn’t feel like an inflatable at all. Unlike most inflatable pillows, the Cocoon doesn’t solely rely on the air from your lungs to offer support. You won’t feel like you are resting your head on a balloon.

It manages to offer above-average support thanks to the polyester fiberfill. The pillow also packs small, sits snug, and inflates quickly. The Cocoon doesn’t come with neck contours or scalloped edges—it’s simplicity is one of its biggest perks. It has a familiar rectangular shape, so it doesn’t require much getting used to.

The Cocoon’s only drawback is its twist-style valve. Twist-style valves are usually not as reliable as multi-functional valves.

Pros

  • Light
  • Soft
  • Supportive
  • Packs small

Cons

  • Twist-style valve

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3. Trekology Ultralight Inflating Travel Pillow

Trekology Ultralight Inflating Travel Pillow

Specifications

  • Material: Polyester
  • Construction: Inflatable air bladder
  • Size: 16” x 12” x 4”
  • Weight: 2.8 oz

The Trekology Ultralight Travel pillow is a bit longer than your average backpacking pillow. Thanks to its size, you can use it for back support as well. Despite being 16” long, the pillow is super lightweight and packs small.

This pillow is also one of the most inexpensive models in its category. But, this doesn’t mean it’s cheap. The pillow offers good height and a great level of support. It’s not as comfortable as the Cocoon, but it should be comfortable enough for the average backpacking trip.

You can always put a shirt over it if you want more comfort. The Trekology features a one-of-a-kind valve system. There’s a button that’s used to seal and open the airway. The feature works quite well.

It only takes 3 breaths to inflate the pillow. The Trekology is a great choice for budget-conscious backpackers who prefer bigger pillows.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Great for back support
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to inflate
  • Durable

Cons

  • Not as comfortable as higher-end models

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4. Exped Air Pillow Ultra Light Pillow

Exped Air Pillow UL

Specifications

  • Material: Polyester
  • Construction: Inflatable air bladder
  • Size: 15” × 10.6” × 4.3”
  • Weight: 1.6 oz

The Exped Air Pillow UL isn’t the most affordable backpacking pillow, but it may just be the lightest one. It is also surprisingly ergonomic for a travel pillow. It is adjustable and comes in two sizes (L version: 18.1” × 11.8” × 4.7”; 2.1 oz).

The Exped features one of a kind honeycomb “Gripskin” surface. It keeps the pillow from sliding away while you’re sleeping. The pillow also has tabs on the side that allow you to secure it. Its durability is above-average as well.

Side sleepers and back sleepers should enjoy this pillow the most. The only problem with it is the crinkling. If you are a particularly light sleeper, the sound it makes may annoy you.

Pros

  • Adjustable
  • Anti-slip coating
  • Durable
  • Ultralight
  • Packs small

Cons

  • A bit pricey
  • Noisey

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5. Klymit Pillow X

Klymit Pillow X

Specifications

  • Material: Polyester
  • Construction: Inflatable air bladder
  • Size: 4.5” x 2.5” x 1”
  • Weight: 1.95 oz

The Klymit X is light and rugged. Despite its ruggedness, it offers excellent support. It cradles the sleepers head quite nicely. It’s one of the most durable backpacking pillows money can buy. The Klymit is abrasion, puncture and tear-resistant.

Its design allows you to easily adjust the height and firmness. However, because of its rugged design, it’s not the most comfortable pillow for side sleepers.

The pillow was designed to pack light, pack small, and last long, so there are some trade-offs in terms of comfort, but the pillow works more than well for back sleepers. It even comes with a lifetime warranty. When packed, the Klymit Pillow X can fit in the palm of your hand.

Pros

  • Supportive
  • Adjustable
  • Highly durable
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Lightweight
  • Packs small

Cons

  • Not the best choice for side sleepers

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6. Sea to Summit Aeros Premium

Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow

Specifications

  • Material: Brushed polyester
  • Construction: Inflatable air bladder
  • Size: 14” x 10” x 5”
  • Weight: 2.80 oz

The Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium is a very comfortable pillow with an effective valve system. The multifunctional valve allows for easy adjustments. It has more padding than the average light backpacking pillow.

The Sea to Summit doesn’t pack as small as most other pillows on the list, but it still won’t take much space in your backpack. Its scalloped bottom edge makes it a great choice for all sleep positions—back, side, stomach, and combo.

However, it’s thickness makes it especially great for side sleepers. It takes just 2 breaths to inflate the pillow. Thanks to the brushed polyester surface, the Sea to Summit doesn’t slip or slide. The fabric is also highly durable and super soft.

Pros

  • Light
  • Supportive
  • Super comfortable
  • Multifunctional valve
  • Durable

Cons

  • A bit expensive

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7. Therm-a-Rest Trekker Pillow Case

Therm-a-Rest Trekker Pillow Case

Specifications

  • Material: Brushed polyester
  • Construction: Pillow case
  • Size: 14” x 17”
  • Weight: 2.3 oz

If you’re perfectly comfortable sleeping on your clothes, The Trekker pillow case may be your best option. The Therma-a-Rest Trekker allows you to mold your shirts into a proper pillow. Backpackers have been using compressed clothes as pillows for ages.

While inflated pillows are considered to be more comfortable, some backpackers may have a hard time getting used to an air-core pillow. Aside from their compressible pillow, Therm-a-Rest has another convenient and inexpensive solution for such packers.

One could say that the Trekker is even more reliable than most inflatable pillows as it can’t pop. But, whether it’s comfortable or not depends on the clothes you’ve packed for your trip. So, if you plan on using the Trekker, you should pack puffy and soft clothes.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive
  • Convenient
  • Packs small
  • Simply

Cons

  • Not an actual pillow

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8. TETON Sports ComfortLite Inflating Pillow

TETON Sports ComfortLite Inflating Pillow
  • Material: Organic cotton, open-cell foam
  • Construction: Hybrid (inflatable and open-cell foam)
  • Size: 18” x 10”x 4”
  • Weight: 13 oz

This isn’t the lightest nor the smallest pillow on the list, but it certainly is one of the more comfortable ones. The fact that it is self-inflating isn’t even the best thing about the ComfortLite Inflatable pillow.

Even though it is inflatable, it is not your standard air bladder. The ComfortLite features an open-cell foam fill and a microfiber top. For a backpacking pillow, it offers a luxurious level of comfort. The microfiber helps soak up moisture.

Don’t worry, it’s easy to wash. The pillow also features a non-slip base, so you can rest assured it won’t move around while you sleep. Since it’s self-inflatable, once it inflates to your desired size and shape, simply push and twist it to stop it from inflating more.

Pros

  • Self-inflating
  • Super comfortable
  • Easy to wash
  • Durable
  • Open-cell foam

Con

  • Bulky

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9. Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow

Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow

Specifications

  • Material: Polyester, PFC-free dridown
  • Construction: Compressible foam-filled pillow
  • Sizes: 13” x 9” x 2.5″
  • Weight: 5.8 oz

Sierra Designs’ DriDown Pillow is the main competitor to Therma Rest’s compressible model. It’s one of the most comfortable models in its category. The texture feels great and the insert pad offers excellent support.

It lacks the firmness of an inflatable pillow, but it compensates for it with its super soft feel. The insert is removable, in case you want to save more space. Without the insert, the pillow top weighs only 2.8 oz.

The DriDown Pillow is built to last. It even comes with a lifetime warranty. However, this pillow does retain heat, so it may not be the best choice if you want to sleep cool. It is a great choice if you want a pillow that will keep you warm when you’re backpacking in cold weather.

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Easy to use
  • Durable
  • Soft

Cons

  • Gets warm quickly

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10. Nemo Fillo

Nemo Fillo pillow

Specifications

  • Material: Polyester
  • Construction: Hybride (inflatable bladder and foam)
  • Sizes: 17” x 11” x 4.0”
  • Weight: 9.0 oz

The Nemo Fillo is a highly versatile backpacking pillow that does a great job of balancing comfort and support. It’s heavier and more expensive than most other pillows on the list, but it has so much to offer. It’s clear that a lot of thought went into the design of the Nemo Fillo.

It’s inflatable baffles and memory foam cradle your head nicely while preventing it from sliding off. You can adjust the thickness by using the air valve. This makes it a great choice for the stomach, back, side, and combo sleepers.

Adjusting the air level is easy. The Nemo Fillo inflates in just 3 breaths. The microfiber top feels great against the skin. It’s packed size is quite impressive for such a big pillow. The Fillo packs down to 1.4 L. The Nemo’s only downside is its weight. But, carrying a few ounces extra is a small price to pray for quality sleep on a backpacking trip.

Pros

  • Supportive
  • Comfortable
  • Great for all sleeping positions
  • Soft
  • Easy to adjust
  • Washable cover

Cons

  • Heavier than average

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Best Backpacking Pillow Buying Guide

The best backpacking pillows are comfortable, but they still can’t compare to standard memory foam or latex pillows. Naturally, there are some trade-offs to consider.

When choosing a backpacking pillow, it’s also important to consider your own preferences. Here are a few factors that you should be aware of when buying a pillow for your journey.

Size and Weight

Hikers and backpackers must take size and weight into account more than a camper. Every ounce counts. When you’re out there wandering the earth, you’re basically carrying your house on your back.

Where would you like to store your pillow? Your pocket, purse, backpack, or briefcase? It’s best to look for a pillow that can fit in the palm of your hand when packed down. You can rest assured it will leave enough space for all the other essentials in your backpack and that you won’t even feel it.

Pillows that pack so small are usually inflatable. But, again, there will be some trade-offs to consider, such as lack of comfort, firmness, support. Quality inflatable pillows usually do a good job of balancing these features.

However, sometimes, getting a pillow that weighs a few more ounces may be worth it. For instance, if you are a combination sleeper, you’d want to make sure to get a pillow that offers support for all sleeping positions, and such a pillow may weigh more.

Sleep Position

Look for a backpacking pillow that complements your favorite sleep position. When it comes to pillows, comfort isn’t always universal. For instance, if you are back or stomach sleeper, you may prefer soft, low-profile pillows.

If you are a side sleeper, you may need a firmer pillow with a bit more height. This kind of pillow would offer you the much-needed neck and shoulder support. Side sleepers need to be extra careful when choosing a backpacking pillow as they are most likely to wake up with a sore neck if their pillow doesn’t offer enough support.

So, if you are a side sleeper you may want to check the Sea to Summit Aeros Premium or the Cocoon Hyperlight Air-Core pillow. If you are a stomach sleeper who doesn’t need much support, the Exped Air Pillow or the Trekology pillow should work best for you.

Medium-firm and adjustable pillows usually work best for combo sleepers—sleepers that often change sleep positions during the night. The Nemo pillow is a highly adjustable pillow that caters to most combo sleepers. Determine your own preferences for firmness or softness before you go pillow shopping.

Construction

There are three main types of backpacking pillows: inflatable, compressible, and hybrid. Naturally, each type has its own pros and cons.

Inflatable pillows are designed to offer maximum convenience. When packed, they are super light and can fit almost anywhere. Setting up an inflatable pillow takes no more than a few puffs. Some inflatables, like the TETON ComfortLite, are self-inflatable.

Models with a multi-functional valve are usually highly adjustable. However, inflatable pillows can be quite stiff. Most of them are super minimalist, so they provide very little cushioning. They can also be a bit noisy.

Compressible pillows are more like traditional pillows. They are usually filled with synthetic fibers or various foams. They are much heavier and bulkier than inflatable pillows, but are also super comfy and super soft.

Even though they don’t pack as small as inflatable pillows, they are still much lighter than traditional pillows. If you have room for such a pillow in your backpack, the nights on your backpacking trip will be much more comfortable.

Hybrid pillows combine compressible and inflatable designs and aim to offer the best of both worlds. The average hybrid pillow has an inflatable base for added support and a layer of fluff on the top for added comfort. If you are willing to add a few extra ounces to your backpack load and sacrifice a moderate amount of weight, getting a hybrid pillow for your backpacking trip will pay off.

There’s one more option to consider: getting a backpacking pillow case like the Therm-a-Rest Trekker. If you are adamant about packing ultralight but inflatable pillows don’t work for you, you can bring a backpacking pillow case and stuff it with your clothes every time you’re off to sleep.

The comfort level a pillow case offers depends on the clothing you fill it with. It’s a light, affordable, and convenient solution, but not the most comfortable option.

Durability

This is a category in which pillow cases outshine all the other options as there are least likely to malfunction. Compressible pillows are more or less like regular pillows. Unless you wrap yours around a pair of scissors, it will last you a while.

But, when it comes to inflatables and hybrids, things can get tricky. If they are not well-built, they will leak sooner or later. Budget options often have poorly-welded seams.

However, even when it comes to high-end products, leaks are a risk you have to accept when you bring a light inflatable backpacking pillow into the backcountry. A quality inflatable pillow is likely to survive abrasions, but it’s always a good idea to bring a repair kit with you. This exped mat repair kit should work with inflatable pillows as well.

Summary

Getting a good night’s sleep should never be considered a luxury, not even when you’re backpacking that is why we choose the Nemo Fillo. A backpacking pillow will help you wake up energized every morning of your journey. But, to make sure you get the right pillow, consider your own priorities, as well as your favorite sleep position.

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