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Camping is fun, but fatigue is a factor to consider. After a long day of hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, or hunting, all you want to do is lie down and do away with the exhaustion.
But you can sleep and still wake up in pain!
Body aches, stiff neck, and headaches are not a good experience, but they are somehow common among many campers who don’t tag along best quality camping pillows.
Camping pillows come in a smorgasbord, each tailored to meet specific camping style, sleeping position, tossing, among other needs and preferences.
In this article, we reveal the 18 best outdoor pillows that will make your star-gazing nights worthy of nostalgia. So, if you are in the market for a backpacking-friendly pillow or a full-on fluffy down pillow, you will love this article.
The best part?
We have sorted these pillows into three specific categories to help you narrow down to a specific pick: inflatable pillows, compressible pillows, and hybrid pillows. That means that instead of fumbling through the dark, you simply navigate to the specific category that piques your interest.
So, which category of camping pillows are you interested in?
What Is a Camping Pillow?
A camping pillow is designed to be lightweight and to pack small and compactly than your typical home pillow. Its main function is to add some comfort to your camping, traveling, and outdoor living.
In most cases, camping pillows are made just large enough to prop your head in a fixed yet comfortable position.
Do I Really Need a Camping Pillow?
Chances are you have ever tried resting your head on a pile of clothes, a rock, a log, or thick guidebooks for the night. Or, you have used either a dry bag stuffed up with clothes or a trusty wadded-up fleece jacket as a pillow.
While true bush crafters and thrift seekers might make do with these camping pillow alternatives, most people can attest that such improvisations are usually recipes for restless nights, neck pains, and headaches.
A camping pillow can help get rid of the risks and ensure you sleep comfortably and soundly. Besides, getting the right pillow has been observed to promote proper spine alignment and optimal head and neck support.
Unlike standard home pillows, camping pillows are small, lightweight, and easy to maintain making them most suitable for camping and other outdoorsy activities. They can also be used in other scenarios including flight travel, car trips, and even sleepovers.
Additionally, having a dedicated camping pillow beats trying to get rid of the campfire smoke smell out of your home pillow. Still, some units come with fancy and useful features such as ergonomic shapes, inflatable designs, non-slip sides, and a myriad of materials to choose from.
However, a camping pillow might be unnecessary for a couple of reasons including the following:
Arguably the plushest of the bunch, inflatable camping pillows are perfect for campers looking for something almost as sizeable as their home pillows.
These types of camping pillows can be inflated or deflated to desired firmness and loft for optimal comfort. Further, air pillows pack down super light and small for easier storage and hauling.
We have compiled some of the best inflatable camping pillows below to get you started. Just keep in mind that these pillows can feel a bit wobbly at times, and poorly made brands may leak overnight.
|Pillow Brand||Shell Material||Dimensions (L X W X H)||Weight (Ounces)||Packed Size|
|Nemo Fillo Pillow||Polyester Microsuede||17 × 11 × 4 in.||9.17 oz.||6 × Ø4 in.|
|Exped Air Pillow, Medium||50D Tricot Polyester w/ Thermoplastic polyurethane Film Laminate||15 × 10.6 × 4.3 in.||2.5 oz.||4.7 × Ø2 in.|
|Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow, Regular||20D Polyester, w/ Thermoplastic polyurethane||14.2 × 10.2 × 4.7 in.||2.1 oz.||2.8 × Ø2 in.|
|Klymit Pillow X||30D Polyester, 75D Polyester||15 × 11 × 4 in.||2.5 oz.||4.5 × Ø2.5 in.|
|Trekology Aluft 2.0 Inflatable Pillow||Polyester, Thermoplastic polyurethane||16 × 12 × 4 in.||3.9 oz.||5 × Ø2 in.|
|Hikenture Ultralight Camping Pillow||Cotton w/ Polyester Lining, Thermoplastic polyurethane||17.3 × 12.2 × 4.7 in.||5.6 oz.||5 × Ø3 in.|
|Rugged Camp Camping Pillow||Cotton||16 × 12 × 4 in.||2.75 oz.||5 × Ø3 in.|
A backpacker’s favorite, the Fillo Pillow from Nemo Equipment comes in four beautiful colors and has just enough loft to ensure a restful night’s sleep. While this pillow is primarily an air pillow, it does come with a memory foam topper for better cushioning.
Moreover, it comes with a removable and easy-to-clean pillowcase that is made of either polyester microsuede or jersey fabric.
The Fillo Pillow essentially brings together the comfort of memory foam and the packability of air pillows. You get a one-inch foam topper and a three-inch I-beam air chamber for unmatched comfort and support. The pillow is then encased with a soft-to-touch pillowcase to significantly reduce any crinkly noises
The air chamber has multiple baffles that help provide consistent and stable support to your head and neck.
Like most air pillows, the Fillo Pillow provides an adjustable loft making it suitable for most sleeping positions. Its twist and pull/push valve and small air chamber make the adjustments super easy to achieve. The pillow requires just about two to three breaths to fully inflate.
Quick twist-and-pull action is used to inflate while a twist-and-lock motion seals the air inside the pillow.
You can expect some minor rubbing noises if you move around too much in your sleep. But for the most part, the baffled air cells and foam topper help dampen the noises. That said, the underside is left bare and might cause the pillow to slide off your sleeping mat or pad.
The Nemo Fillo Pillow brings together the packability of air pillows and the comfort of memory foam. It weighs just slightly under 10 ounces and packs down into a small bundle measuring 6 inches long and 4 inches in diameter. That is roughly the size of a medium-sized Nalgene water bottle or a large avocado.
The foam topper won’t give you a hard time as it naturally compresses and conforms to the storage bag. Speaking of which, the pillow comes with an integrated stuff sack, so you don’t lose it outdoors or have it mixed up with the rest of your gear.
The Nemo Fillo Pillow is a premium inflatable pillow that excels at being adjustable and highly portable without forsaking comfort. The loft and foam insulation provided by the pillow easily makes it a solid winter camping option and a backpacking must-have.
The Exped Air Pillow is the epitome of a good quality camping pillow and for good reasons. It is super lightweight, wide, and backpacking-friendly. Further, it comes in three main sizes including medium, large, and extra-large sizes.
To top it all off, the pillow has arguably the most practical inflating/deflating system.
Different sleeping styles demand varying pillow profiles and the Exped Air Pillow attempts to cater to all. Well, at least for back and side sleeping positions.
Firstly, the pillow is made of a tricot polyester fabric that feels comfortable to rest on.
The fabric is further strengthened with a Thermoplastic polyurethane Film Laminate, so you don’t have to stress about air leaks. However, the fabric isn’t as soft or as comfortable as in most air pillows.
Like most inflatable camping pillows, the Exped Air Pillow allows you to adjust the loft quickly and easily. Beyond this, the pillow has a unique anatomical shape that will be sure to meet the needs of side sleepers and back sleepers alike.
Tapering towards the neck, its shape results in a higher loft at the top and a lower one at the bottom. Side sleepers could benefit from the higher side of the pillow while back sleepers will appreciate the lower profile end.
(Keep in mind that if you toss and turn constantly during sleep or are a combination sleeper, using the varied pillow lofts might be problematic since that would mean unfastening the cords/straps every time you want to use either side of the pillow.)
Additionally, the Exped Air Pillow is contoured and slightly indented in the middle to accommodate varying head sizes. The contoured shape equally helps hold your head in place and significantly prevents shifting during sleep.
The last thing you want is to deal with a finicky camping pillow that’s hard to inflate or pack away. Fortunately, the Exped Air Pillow is easy to inflate or deflate and doesn’t need too much effort to maintain.
With two dedicated low-profile valves, one for inflations and the other for deflations, Exped easily finds a soft spot in many campers’ hearts. Just about three to five short breathes through the intake valve will have it fully inflated. Plus, the inlet valve has an integrated flap to prevent air from escaping during inflations.
Letting out air is child’s play thanks to the dedicated release valve and built-in deflation pin. That said, getting the right loft will quickly prove to be a challenge, and duplicating those ideal comfort levels will be even harder.
While the pillow stays put on the sleeping pad, the manufacturer has included two grommets on the sides to allow you to secure it further with a cord or strap. Its honeycombed, non-slippery fabric similarly helps keep it in place.
Cleaning the pillow is a breeze as you can simply wipe down its surface with a clean wet cloth.
Lastly, the Exped Air Pillow weighs only 2.5 ounces and has a packed size of 4.7 inches in length and 2 inches in diameter. In addition, it comes with a stuff sack to help you store and haul the pillow with more ease.
The Exped Air Pillow is well-made and packs all the positives you’d expect in a good quality inflatable camping pillow. Its valve system might need some time getting used to and you might want to grab a slightly cushioned pillowcase for better comfort.
If you fancy an even more lightweight version, then the similarly designed Exped Air Pillow UL, which weighs just 1.6 ounces, is a good recommendation.
The Aeros Ultralight Pillow is a culmination of Sea to Summit’s decades of experience making sleek, lightweight, and practical outdoor gear. The pillow outdoes the rest in terms of aesthetics and more importantly, remains lightweight and comfortable.
It comes in three main sizes including regular, large, and deluxe, and can be bought in either sea foam, aqua, or grey color styles. The Aeros Ultralight Pillow is relevant to casual campers as well as gram-counting multi-day backpackers.
The pillow is made of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) air bladder that has been laminated with 20-denier stretch-knit polyester fabric. The fabric has been slightly brushed to feel soft to touch and operates silently. Unlike other air pillows, this one does not come with that all-familiar plastic bag feel.
Furthermore, its seams have been radio-frequency-welded for better longevity and resilience. Though not machine-washable, cleaning the pillow can be easily done by handwashing it. Or, just by wiping down its surface with a clean wet cloth.
The Aeros Ultralight Pillow edges its Premium counterpart in terms of weight and packed size. The pillow weighs just over two ounces and packs down into a minuscule 2.8-inch-long cylindrical bundle with a diameter of only 2 inches.
What’s more, the unit comes with an included stuff sack to help you store and transport the pillow.
From its contoured shape to its three-in-one valve system, the Aeros Ultralight Pillow is among the most comfortable air pillows you’ll find today.
The pillow has a scalloped bottom edge to help centrally position it between your shoulders. Its contoured profile helps cradle varying head sizes while the integrated baffles provide extra stability. Whether it is part of your sleeping system or a travel necessity, you can be assured that this pillow will always be comfortable and supportive.
The Aeros Ultralight Pillow inflates easily with a few puffs and deflates even faster. Its low-profile multifunction valve system allows for one-way inflations, pillow firmness fine-tuning, and rapid deflations.
Inflation and deflation valves come with pull tabs while the fine-tuning function is easily carried out with a slow-release button.
Aeros UL pillow is compatible with Sea to Summit’s sleeping pads which come with a PillowLock system. The system is essentially a glorified Velcro system that secures the pillow to the sleeping pad.
However, that means you must buy a compatible sleeping pad from the company to fully enjoy the convenience. But you can always improvise your system to prevent it from sliding around too much. See the buyer’s guide below for a few ideas on the same.
Despite all the positives, the Aeros Ultralight Pillow is not immune to the various downsides associated with most inflatable camping pillows. The biggest one being that it can be hard finding the right firmness each time to cater to various sleeping styles.
Put simply, the Aeros Ultralight Pillow by Sea to Summit is luxuriously comfortable. It has all the features to justify its steep pricing and offers a good balance between comfort and weight. It’s a no-brainer for anyone looking for a lightweight, comfortable, and easy-to-use air pillow for their travel or camping needs.
Available in gray (Recon), red, and teal color styles, the Pillow X is a lightweight, well-priced inflatable pillow. It comes with an iconic X-shaped profile that promises comfort and cradling support for many types of sleepers.
While the Klymit Pillow X Recon variant packs a tad bit smaller than the other variants, the rest of its features are similar to the other variants.
Pillow X features 30-denier polyester on the top surface and 75-denier polyester fabric on the bottom surface. This results in a lightweight unit with a comfortable top and relatively durable, puncture- and abrasion-resistant bottom. And to give you some peace of mind, the pillow comes with a lifetime limited warranty.
However, the polyester fabric is noisy, crinkly, and might not feel very comfortable resting your head on it. Further, its slippery nature means the pillow will slide around a lot on your sleeping pad particularly if you toss and turn constantly during sleep. The pillow’s low weight only exacerbates the slippage.
You might want to get a suitable pillowcase to help dampen the noise and reduce slippage. It will make it easier to clean and maintain the pillow. Else, the material is notorious for soaking up skin oils and sweat – all of which might cause some discoloration on the pillow in the long run.
As far as comfort in air pillows go, the Pillow X scores averagely.
You will be able to adjust the pillow’s firmness levels with a few quick motions; just about two to three breaths to bring it to full inflation and a quick-and-easy twist on the valve closure to deflate or fine-tune its loft.
Side sleepers with broad shoulders might want to get a thicker pillow.
Of particular attention is Pillow X’s valve system which could clearly use some improvements. It has no one-way flow, and you might lose air in between breaths or while trying to close the valve.
Then again, it only weighs about 2.5 ounces and packs down so small that it could easily get lost in your backpack. The pillow has a packed size of 4.5 inches in length and 2.5 inches in diameter making it the go-to option for backpackers and ultralight campers. Plus, it comes with an included stuff sack for storing and carrying convenience.
Essentially, the X-shaped design on the pillow is meant to provide self-centering support and comfort to your head. Think of it as a small hammock for your head. For most people, this will work like a charm.
That said, the design means slightly compromised inflations and deflations since air must pass through each air chamber.
For an air pillow that’s lightweight and packs down small, look no further than the Klymit Pillow X. It comes with a novel yet practical “X” profile that helps it stand out in a sea of generic air pillows. However, expect some slippage with the pillow and some minor challenges with the valve system.
An incremental improvement over Trekology’s Aluft 1.0 model, this inflatable pillow comes with a slightly redesigned aesthetic and a couple of anti-slippage features. The Aluft 2.0 is budget-friendly and available in up to six stylish color choices including teal blue, black, and orange among others.
It weighs just under four ounces and packs down to a small compact bundle measuring 5 inches high and 2 inches in diameter. We found the included stuff sack super convenient for hauling and storing the pillow.
The sack has a small loop you can slip your fingers through or attach to your backpack using a carabiner.
Like its previous model, the Aluft 2.0 is made of polyester and thermoplastic polyurethane. As you would expect, the surface can be quite slippery resulting in the pillow sliding around when sleeping. To prevent this, the Aluft 2.0 features a textured bottom and comes with a detachable sleeping pad strap
The anti-slipping rubber dots on the bottom helps increase friction while the strap goes around your sleeping pad to secure the pillow in place. The strap can be easily removed if not needed or swapped with whichever anti-slippage system tickles your fancy.
Unlike Velcro anti-slippage solutions, the strap and textured bottom don’t do much to counter vertical movements. So, you want to toss the pillow in a t-shirt or suitable pillowcase for a better experience.
The valve system is located on the underside of the pillow, nicely out of the way. It includes a valve button and a rubbery seal cap. With just a click, you could easily inflate or deflate the pillow in a matter of seconds.
However, fine-tunes are slightly harder to achieve at first as you must press the button and release rapidly until the desired firmness has been attained. For inflations, the button should be in the up position, and for deflations, it should be in the down position.
Hopefully, the next iteration of the Aluft manually inflatable camping pillow will have a more streamlined fine-tuning mechanism. Anyway, the pillow only needs three to five breaths to be fully inflated.
At full firmness, the Aluft 2.0 measures 16 inches long, 12 inches wide, and 4 inches high. Its baffles and contoured profile work wonders at providing head-cradling support and comfort.
Aluft 2.0 is a backpacker’s dream air pillow.
This pillow is super comfortable, lightweight, easy to inflate and deflate, and won’t break the bank. A bit more of a nitpick is that this pillow could perform even better if it had some foam padding on top for plush comfort. But then again, there are hybrid pillows for that.
Other than that, you probably won’t find a better deal than this manually inflatable pillow.
This unit is among the most comfortable air pillows in the market yet. Made by Hikenture, this pillow doesn’t compromise much on comfort and still manages to stay within a backpacking-friendly category. It comes in four stylish colors including blue, black, green, and grey.
The Hikenture Ultralight Camping Pillow could easily be passed off as a lumbar support pillow or even a traveling pillow. However, it shines best as a sleeping pillow.
At 5.6 ounces, this pillow is approximately double the weight of most inflatable camping pillows. It even packs down a little larger than most options at about 5 inches tall and 3 inches in diameter. However, the resulting soda-can-size is still pretty small to haul or stuff in your pack.
The pillow features a larger sleeping surface, thicker and cushier materials, and anti-slippage accessories.
Sporting an hourglass shape and a somewhat curved mid-section, the Hikenture Ultralight Camping Pillow provides incredible cradling support and comfort. The pillow measures 17.3 inches long and 12.2 inches wide with a maximum loft of close to 5 inches.
When fully inflated, it provides just enough loft for side sleepers with broad shoulders to sleep comfortably.
Moreover, the pillow is made of a thick TPU bladder encased in a soft, quilted, and removable fabric cover. For the most part, the air bladder promises plenty of mileage without any air leaks thanks to the thicker material.
Made of a soft and breathable cotton top with a woven polyester lining, this pillow’s cover performs spectacularly in making the pillow comfortable and silent to sleep on while ensuring clean-ups and general maintenance will be child’s play.
While the fabric cover does help keep the pillow in place, the manufacturer has included a removable elastic strap for good measure. Simply wrap it around your sleeping pad to prevent it from sliding off during sleep.
Moving on, we have the recessed valve system that allows you to quickly and easily blow up or deflate the pillow. It features a one-way valve so you can inflate the pillow to the desired firmness without losing air in between breaths.
The pillow only needs three to five breaths to bring it to full firmness.
That said, the Hikenture Camping Pillow suffers from the same issues as most air pillows. Sure, it will provide you with adjustable firmness for optimal head-and-neck support for most sleeping positions. But getting to the perfect loft each time can be a little hard to achieve.
Plus, fine-tuning the pillow is no fun as you must press the click button rapidly so as not to lose too much air.
Put simply, the Hikenture Ultralight Camping Pillow is the best quality you can get for the given price point. It might not be the lightest air pillow in the market, but the extra ounces translate to a more comfortable and easier to use camping pillow.
This is yet another camping pillow featuring a tried-and-tested ergonomic design. It has the all-familiar raised sides and a slightly sunken middle section for optimal head-and-neck support and comfort.
Made by Rugged Camp Equipment, this pillow comes in five vibrant color styles and is loaded with lots of useful features. At only 2.75 ounces, the Rugged Camp Camping Pillow is extremely lightweight and won’t take up too much space in your backpack.
It comes with a stuff sack for convenient carrying and storage. Further, its durable components and strong build are the perfect matches for nature’s spontaneity.
At its price point, this camping pillow offers plenty in terms of usability, comfort, and versatility. It is made of knitted cotton, which has been further treated to provide puncture and water resistance. As a result, the pillow is an absolute toughie against the rigors of camping.
Our only gripe here is that the material is slippery meaning you might keep collecting the pillow from the ground. Ensure your sleeping pad has features to hold the pillow in place before committing to a purchase.
Alternatively, just buy some suitable accessories to help prevent the slippage.
The pillow has a contoured shape complete with baffles to provide cradling comfort and support for your head and neck. The design further helps prevent you from rolling off the pillow during sleep.
Next, we have the well-executed valve system which allows you to blow up the pillow with only a few breaths. Letting out air is just as quick to accomplish since all you must do is pull the plug out. That said, this inflatable camping pillow is notorious for leaking air overnight.
The slow deflation heavily limits its usage to more casual camping trips and possibly, travel.
For the lucky ones, the pillow might come with a bonus 11-in-1 multi-tool for your inner survivalist’s delight. The small multi-tool includes a knife, wrench, screwdriver, saw blade, and bottle opener among others.
Without any true distinguishing feature, the Rugged Camp Camping Pillow is easy to overlook. But if you took a closer look at it, you’d be dazed at how much value it brings to the table. The pillow is lightweight, highly packable, easy to blow up and deflate, and is comfortable.
That said, it is best suited for weekend warriors on a budget or casual backpacking trips. Else, the slow overnight deflation and excessive slippage won’t be fun for multi-day camping trips.
Compressible camping pillows are mostly made of bits and pieces of foam to allow for some squeezability. They are pretty much like standard foam pillows, so you can expect them to be comfortable but slightly heavier and bulkier than inflatable pillows. They get their tag from the fact that to haul them, you have to compress them to minuscule, wieldable size.
That said, here are our top picks:
|Pillow Brand||Filling Material||Shell Material||Dimensions (L×W×H)||Weight||Packed Size|
|Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow, Medium||Urethane Foam||Polyester||18 × 14× 4 in.||9 oz.||14 × 5× 6 in.|
|Klymit Drift Camping Pillow, Regular||Memory Foam, Polyester Fiber||DWR-coated 75D Ripstop Polyester, Cotton Jersey||18 × 12 × 5.5 in.||19 oz.||11 × 5× 5 in.|
|Coop Home Goods Original Travel & Camp Pillow||Cross-Cut Memory Foam, Microfiber||Polyester, Rayon||19 × 13 × 3.5 in.||24 oz.||10 × 6× 6 in.|
|Outbright Camping Pillow||Shredded Polyurethane Foam||Polyester, Bamboo||16 × 12 × 3 in.||24 oz.||12 × 6 × 6 in.|
|Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Pillow, Medium||Memory Foam||Polyester Microsuede||18 × 14 × 5 in.||11 oz.||10.5 × 6 × 6 in.|
|Teton Sports XL Camping Pillow||Poly-fiber Fill||Poly-flannel||18 × 12 × 2.5 in.||12.8 oz.||9 × 7 × 4 in.|
Like most Therm-a-Rest products, this Compressible Pillow is designed to be comfortable and easy to use. It won’t give you a hard time when setting it up and is machine washable.
Plus, it comes with plenty of options to choose from in terms of sizes and color patterns. You can get the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow in either small, medium, large, or extra-large sizes.
The medium variant weighs about nine ounces, which might be a bit much for backpacking adventures. Luckily, the pillow comes with an integrated sleeve that can be used to pack it down compactly and make it easier to store.
Simply roll the pillow and tuck it inside the sleeve. Next, slightly compress it further and lock it in place using the included drawstring and cord lock. The result is a convenient packed size measuring 14 inches long, 6 inches wide, and 5 inches high.
That said, the compression style and integrated sleeve pose a few minor challenges. Firstly, the pillow has no actual stuff sack. Thus, it remains partially exposed to the environment and gets dirty more easily especially if you plan on attaching it to the outside of your backpack using a carabiner.
Then again, the pillow is machine washable and dryable so getting rid of any accumulated dirt or grass stains will be easy to do.
Rolling it down might be a little harder to accomplish at times. Additionally, it might take some considerable fluffing and waiting for the pillow to regain its max loft after unpacking.
By making it with partially upcycled or recycled materials, Therm-a-Rest tries, at least to some extent, to be more environmentally conscious with this pillow.
The urethane foam offcuts left after the production of Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads are used as filling for these pillows. The pillow shell is made of brushed polyester and about 60 percent recycled polyester. Ultimately, the use of recycled or upcycled materials means lesser waste ends up in landfills.
That said, the comfort and quality of the pillow are not compromised one bit.
Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow feels soft against the skin and has a max loft of up to four inches. Its brushed surface further ensures that there won’t be any slippage or crinkly noises when using it.
But you might still experience a few minor issues with the pillow:
You must fluff the pillow regularly to get the right loft and it will eventually get lumpy after several uses and washes.
For some people, the pillow feels partially filled and could result in a flatter profile.
It could be argued that lesser foam filling equates to a more malleable and comfortable sleeping pillow, but your mileage may vary.
The Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow is a steal for anyone looking for a comfortable pillow that won’t take up too much space. Plus, it is made of upcycled materials without forgoing performance or comfort. However, its integrated sleeve among other minor quirks makes it a little inconvenient to use.
The Drift Camping Pillow from Klymit is a must-have for any car camping enthusiast. It comes in two main sizes, regular and large, both of which provide luxe comfort. The pillow scores highly in terms of usability, durability, cleaning, and adjustability but not so much on portability.
This pillow is made of a cotton/polyester outer shell and stuffed with shredded memory foam and gel fiberfill also known as micro-denier polyester. Unlike foam-only pillows, the Drift Camping Pillow manages to stay comfortable and conforming without being too squishy.
Moreover, the included cotton pillowcase feels soft to touch and won’t be noisy when you rest your head on it.
The Drift Camping Pillow is quite large even for a regular size model. It measures 18 inches in length, 12 inches in width, and is 5.5 inches high. Its high loft makes it almost indiscernible from a standard home pillow. Additionally, it does not lose too much loft even after compressing it during packing.
The regular size option will fit perfectly in most hooded sleeping bags while the larger and taller version will be best suited for use with hoodless bags.
Aside from its high loft, the Drift Camping Pillow has one of the most unique and well-thought pillowcase systems yet. Essentially, you have the filling stuffed inside a zippered shell that’s then enclosed in a zippered reversible pillowcase.
For traveling and storage, you will love this pillow for two things:
The tough 75-denier ripstop polyester pillowcase and its durable water repellent (DWR) coating work exemplarily at repelling dirt and moisture.
In addition, there is a soft cotton jersey attached to the other side. Shifting from either mode is made simple by the built-in storage sleeve and compact inner pillow. However, this feature is simply a cover-up for the lack of a proper stuff sack.
The Drift Camping Pillow comes with a Velcro strap to help compress and hold it in place. Keep in mind that the pillow can only fold by half, which is still a sizable bundle measuring 11 inches long, 5 inches wide, and 5 inches high.
That, combined with its weight of close to 20 ounces make this pillow too heavy and bulky for backpackers.
You don’t want to leave it folded for too many days as the filling tends to crease but that’s nothing some good fluffing won’t fix.
The zippers on the pillow shell and pillowcases are a lifesaver when it comes to maintenance and customization. You can unzip the inner pillow shell to add or remove filling allowing for more custom comfort and loft.
For clean-ups, the pillowcase is removable and machine-washable, but the inner pillow is not washable.
The Klymit Drift Camping Pillow is a good contender for the most comfortable car camping pillow. It easily topples most foam camping pillows and comes with plenty of convenient features. However, backpackers might want to look elsewhere for more lightweight and compact options.
This pillow is a more travel-friendly version of the Original Pillow that’s made by Coop Home Goods. Much like the revered bed pillow, this foam pillow offers proper support and comfort to most types of sleepers.
The Coop Home Goods Camp Pillow is a good option for those looking for a super comfy unit without worrying about weight or packability. It could even double as a throw pillow for home use or a travel pillow during flights.
Comprising cross-cut memory foam and microfiber blend filling encased in a polyester liner, this pillow provides head-contouring comfort while preventing any potential clumping. Further, the blended fill maintains shape with minimal fluffing between uses.
The pillow comes with a soft, non-slippery, and breathable pillowcase made of 60 percent polyester and 40 percent bamboo-derived viscose rayon. The latter is always the preferred option for people looking for hypoallergenic fabrics.
We found the pillowcase soft and comfortable to sleep on and it doesn’t have the slightest of noises during use. Originally, the pillow isn’t very lofty, but Coop Home Goods advises that you can adjust the loft as needed by removing or adding foam.
For this reason, the pillow comes a bit overstuffed, so you don’t lose too much loft in the process. The process can be a bit messy especially when done at camp but it’s just a minor inconvenience.
While this pillow might not be the most lightweight or portable option, it comes with a stuff sack and a strap to help minimize its packed size. The polyester stuff sack is water-resistant and will protect your pillow from any accidental spills, dirt, and dust.
Featuring a ladder lock buckle that wraps around the storage bag, the strap holds the pillow securely at the desired compression. The pillow might pack down to a manageable bundle measuring 10 inches in length, 6 inches in width, and 6 inches in height for your carrying convenience.
That said, it weighs about 24 ounces making it too heavy for backpackers especially those who love taking multi-day hikes.
Washing the pillow is a breeze as you can remove and machine-wash the pillowcase and liner separately. You might want to grab a suitable protective cover for an even easier cleaning routine.
If you don’t mind the extra ounces, then the Coop Home Goods Travel & Camp Pillow is easily one of the most comfortable camping pillows you will find.
However, it costs a lot more than your standard foam pillow and its adjustability is a bit questionable. You will have to get a storage bag to carry the excess foam filling if you really want the custom loft and comfort.
Pushing the limits of bamboo fabric covers, we introduce this camping pillow from Outbright. It is designed around comfort and ease of use making it perfect for all your camping trips.
The Outbright Camping Pillow doesn’t provide much in terms of color choices or size variations.
Then again, nothing beats a comfortable pillow for a restful night’s sleep under the stars.
Away from its drab-looking exterior, the Outbright Camping Pillow doesn’t skimp on quality. The inner liner is zippered and stuffed with shredded polyurethane foam then encased with a durable yet soft-feeling pillow cover.
The cover is made of 60 percent polyester and 40 percent bamboo fabric, which feels soft to touch and has hypoallergenic qualities. Moreover, the cover is slightly perforated to ensure more breathability and comfort.
Both the pillow cover and liner are well sewn and feature strong zippers.
You can easily adjust the loft by adding or removing some of the fill to fit your anatomy and sleeping style. Plus, the filling has been loosely stuffed to allow for easier compressing and customization.
Since it’s not advisable to wash the foam filling, the Outbright Camping Pillow avails you the option of removing the fabric cover for easier cleaning. The cherry on top is that the polyester/bamboo cover is fully machine-washable but be sure to follow the included care instructions.
However, comfort isn’t always guaranteed for most side sleepers since the pillow has a considerably small height. At its full fluffiness, the Outbright Camping Pillow measures 16 inches in length, 12 inches in width, and only about 3 inches in height.
In addition, you will need something to store the removed filling if you so choose to adjust the pillow’s loft.
Weighing about 24 ounces, the Outbright Camping Pillow is not at all meant for backpacking. Additionally, it would take up too much space in your pack with its substantial packed size. When compressed, it packs down to a bundle measuring 12 inches long, 6 inches wide, and 6 inches high.
It comes with a handy duffel-style carry bag with top handles for convenient transportation and storage. The bag is nice and stylish but does little to compress the pillow for travel.
Another cool feature we liked about the pillow is the included deodorizer of sorts. The pillow comes with a lavender sachet stashed inside a small cotton bag and gives your pillow a mild, fresh, and relaxing fragrance.
Finally, if you’re unsatisfied with the pillow, it comes with a friendly protection policy entailing a 60-day zero-risk, money-back guarantee.
The Outbright Camping Pillow might not excel at being lightweight or even portable, but it makes up for it in terms of comfort. You can easily adjust the fill to conform to your needs and the included extras are a nice touch.
However, pay close attention to its dimensions as the pillow might be a smidge too small to be comfortable.
Popular for its high-quality camping hammocks, Wise Owl Outfitters knocked it out of the park with this snuggly foam pillow. It comes in small, medium, and large sizes with up to four color options to choose from.
The Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Pillow strikes a good balance between convenience and comfort while still maintaining a low weight. The pillow is not limited to car camping only – it is passable for use during flights or even short backpacking trips.
This pillow measures 18 inches long, 14 inches wide, and roughly 5 inches high for the medium size. It is large enough for most people’s comfort and its high loft makes it compatible with most sleeping styles.
While you might not be able to add/remove the filling, some fluffing will easily bring it to the desired firmness. Plus, memory foam naturally expands after uncompressing it.
Speaking of which, the Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Pillow is made of head-shape-conforming memory foam enclosed in a soft, micro-suede cover. You get a soft, comfortable, and breathable surface to sleep on while enjoying the benefits of memory foam.
The manufacturer claims that the pillow is machine-washable and safe for use in a home dryer. We were a bit skeptical about this claim, but it does hold up well after all. Stick to a cold gentle cycle and only tumble dry at low settings or just follow the included care instructions for the best results.
Moreover, the zippered pillow cover is removable and safe for cleaning and drying in a washer and dryer machine. That said, you might want to get a suitable pillowcase to help prolong the life of the pillow and make cleaning even more hassle-free.
Sure, the Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Pillow doesn’t hold a candle to inflatable pillows when it comes to weight and portability. But this pillow is perhaps the most lightweight and highly packable compressible pillow yet.
It weighs a mere 11 ounces and packs down to a manageable bundle measuring 10.5 inches in length, 6 inches in width, and 6 inches in height. It won’t take up too much trunk space and might be passable for short backpacking trips.
Additionally, the pillow comes with a waterproof stuff sack to help store and compress it down accordingly. The sack even has a drawstring closure to keep the pillow in its compressed state.
Our only gripe is that stuffing the pillow back into the sack might at times require more effort than is desired. And we think that a compression strap would have been more effective at lessening the packed size.
Designed by the USA-based company, Wise Owl Outfitters, this camping pillow is a solid choice for car campers and backpackers alike. The pillow is super comfortable, easy to clean, and packs down considerably small and compact.
A bit of nitpicking might reveal a few flaws with the pillow but overall, it’s a good choice to consider.
Teton Sports went big with the buffalo plaid and tartan patterns on this camping pillow. It comes with up to four color styles to choose from including brown, black, green, and grey. If you already own Teton Sports sleeping bags, chances are high that you will find a pillow that matches the bag.
A little bulkier and heftier than other pillows on the market, this stylish unit is almost comparable to standard bed pillows in terms of comfort.
Like most Teton Sports products, this camping pillow is well built and will easily match up to the harshness of the great outdoors.
It comes with a tough inner shell made of P5 Poly Hi–Count fabric and stuffed with Teton Sports’ proprietary poly-fiber blend dubbed the SuperLoft Elite 4-Channel Hollow Fiber. We love that the filling quickly regains its shape shortly after you remove the pillow out of the storage bag.
In addition, a nice and soft pillowcase is included to provide a comfortable sleeping surface. The pillowcase is made of brushed poly-flannel, which has a bedsheet-like soft and smooth texture. In place of zipper systems, the pillowcase has the classic envelope-style opening that’s found in most home pillows.
For cleaning purposes, the outer shell is easily removable and can be washed in a washing machine. Just be sure to follow the care instructions to the letter.
The durable taffeta storage bag helps keep the pillow intact and clean during transport. Overall, the durability of this pillow is further affirmed by the included Lifetime Warranty.
With a packed size of 9 inches long, 7 inches wide, and 4 inches in height, this pillow will be almost unnoticeable in most car trunks. The pillow packs down just a few inches tall of a medium-sized Nalgene water bottle.
It will be perfect for car campers and perhaps ultralight campers on overnight or weekender trips. However, keep in mind that the pillow weighs a whopping 12.8 ounces, which is slightly heftier than most compressible camping pillows.
That said, the included storage bag is a lifesaver, not only for protecting the pillow while in transit but also for helping compress it down to size. The carry bag comes with a drawstring and barrel lock closure to help keep the pillow securely in a compressed state.
For an easy-to-use, comfortable camping pillow that won’t break the bank, look no further than the Teton Sports XL Camping Pillow. It may not be suitable for backpackers, but car campers will greatly enjoy its durability and ease of use.
However, its eventual lumpiness can be a let-down especially if you partake in lengthy multi-day camping trips.
Hybrid camping pillows promise to deliver the best of both worlds. Midway between inflatable and compressible pillows in terms of construction and weight, hybrid pillows are normally made of an air chamber surrounded by a layer of foam or other material.
Despite being slightly heftier and bulkier than your conventional inflatable pillows, hybrid pillows manage to deliver similar support and comfort to air pillows while negating the annoying slippages.
Below are succinct reviews of some of the best hybrid camping pillows in the market.
|Pillow Brand||Fill Material||Shell Material||Dimensions||Weight||Packed Size|
|Exped Down Pillow, Medium||700-Fill Goose Down||50D Tricot Nylon||15 × 11 × 5.1 in.||5.3 oz.||5.1 x Ø3.5 in.|
|Klymit Luxe Pillow||Synthetic Fill||40D Knit (Polyester, Polyamide), 75D Polyester Bladder||22 × 12.5 × 5 in.||6.4 oz.||7 × Ø3 in.|
|Therm-a-Rest Air Head Down Pillow, Regular||650-Fill Duck Nikwax Hydrophobic Down||Polyester, Urethane Bladder||15.5 × 11 × 4 in.||4.9 oz.||4.25 × Ø3.5 in.|
|Sea to Summit Aeros Down Pillow, Regular||Duck Down||10D/20D Nylon, Thermoplastic Polyurethane Bladder||13.4 × 9.4 × 4.7 in.||2.5 oz.||3.15 × Ø2.56 in.|
|Cocoon Air-Core Hood/Camp Pillow||Synthetic Insulation||Polyester Microfiber/20D Nylon, Thermoplastic Bladder||14.57 × 11.02 × 3.5 in.||3.81 oz.||4.72 × Ø3.15 in.|
Exped Down Pillow aims to fuse the low weight and high packability of inflatables with down comfort. This hybrid pillow comes in medium and large sizes with only two color choices namely Ruby red and Moss green.
At 15 inches long and 11 inches wide, the Exped Down Pillow is not the widest pillow we’ve come across. But it is easily one of the most comfortable camping pillows you’ll find on the market.
The Exped Down Pillow has a maximum loft of just over five inches high owing to its inflatable air chamber and down topper. The pillow shell is made of 50-denier tricot nylon fabric with the topper slightly stuffed with 700-fill-power down.
Its outer shell is slightly brushed to feel super soft and smooth against your face. Furthermore, comfort and support are enhanced by the pillow’s ergonomic shape and the easily adjustable inflatable inner.
Slightly curved at the bottom edge, the pillow forms a small neck notch for comfy side sleeping. Your head will stay snugly in place allowing for a natural spinal alignment. Moreover, it has slightly varied lofts at the bottom and top to help cater to other sleeping styles.
Although you can easily inflate and deflate the air chamber as needed, we found the valve system a little gimmicky to use. For some context, the valve system features a one-way inflation flap and a deflation pin for rapid air release.
Fine-tuning the pillow height takes a few attempts to get right as the deflation pin is designed for rapid air release. Then again, the pillow gets fully inflated in just under three breaths.
The Exped Down Pillow comes with grommets (eyelets) on either side that you can use to hold it down securely on a sleeping pad. Just pass a strap or cord through the eyelets and around your pad to prevent slippage.
If you need to clean the pillow cover or repair the air bladder, they both come apart super easily.
Hauling this camping pillow is a breeze thanks to the included storage bag with its drawcord closure. This 5.3-ounce unit can be compressed down to a compact carry bundle measuring 5.1 inches long and 3.5 inches in diameter.
For a car camping pillow, you cannot go wrong with this down-filled unit. It comes in stylish vibrant colors with several useful features and components to match. However, you are going to pay a couple more bucks for the down filling as compared to other pillows with synthetic toppers.
The Luxe Pillow is as good as it gets, especially for campers looking for lightweight alternatives to their home pillows. This rectangular pillow is a tad bit larger and heavier than most hybrid camping pillows, but arguably sports better workmanship and more comfort.
It has an air bladder made of 75-denier polyester that delivers great resistance against abrasion, punctures, and tears. The bladder is enclosed in a quilted cover made of 40-denier knit fabric that comprises a one-to-one combination of polyester and polyamide.
Like the Klymit X inflatable pillow, the Klymit Luxe Pillow has a more refined baffle system that delivers cradling comfort and support for most types of sleepers. There are subtle weld patterns on the air bladder that will help lift and stabilize your head at a more natural spinal alignment.
The baffle system remains effective even when the air bladder is fully inflated since your head stays comfortably centered.
We found the soft quilted cover to dampen most of the noises from the inner air bladder. Plus, the airy loft and fluffy synthetic cushioning managed to offer good support and insulation. The only issue you might experience here is the inevitable slippage due to how slippery the underside of the pillow is.
You can adjust the loft of the pillow to your liking by inflating or deflating the air bladder with the use of the valve system. The system is hidden away with a press-stud closure and works by simply twisting the knob as needed.
The air bladder fills up after three to five breaths but might lose some air as you quickly try to twist the knob to close. On the other end, minor adjustments to the pillow’s firmness are easy to accomplish because of the valve’s ability to release air at a slow and controllable rate.
The Klymit Luxe Pillow measures 22 inches long, 12.5 inches wide, and with a max height of 5 inches. Undoubtedly the best alternative to lugging around your bed pillow to the great outdoors, this pillow will suffice for most car campers.
While it can be packed down into a compact carry bundle measuring 7 inches long and 3 inches in diameter, keep in mind that this pillow weighs just a few ounces shy of seven ounces.
It comes with a rugged stuff sack to help you compress and carry it more conveniently. The sack even has a drawstring to hold the packed-down pillow in place.
The pillow cover can be removed and tossed in the washing machine. Nevertheless, inserting the air bladder back inside the cover might be a little tricky for the first couple of times.
If you don’t mind the extra ounces and larger profile, then you can’t go wrong with the Klymit Luxe Pillow. While the baffle system might seem a bit over the top, the design is exemplarily executed on this pillow. Be sure to mitigate against the pillow slippage issue to best enjoy the Luxe Pillow.
The Air Head Down Pillow from Therm-a-Rest comes in beautiful color styles such as the navy-bluish Midnight Print and lime-greenish Green Mountains. Both the large and regular-sized models feature a baffled urethane air chamber and a polyester down topper.
Made of responsibly sourced filling, the Air Head Down Pillow comprises partially recycled lining fabric. Its polyester cover feels soft to touch and is stuffed with 650-fill-power Duck Nikwax Hydrophobic Down.
The filling has been waterproof treated to eliminate down’s biggest flaw, clumping up when wet. As a result, you get a comfortable pillow that dries up fast and maintains its loft for longer.
If you’re allergic to down, you may consider getting similarly designed non-down Thermarest pillows. The Air Head Inflatable Pillow has a synthetic-filled topper while the Air Head Lite Pillow is a good quality inflatable pillow.
The Air Head Down Pillow has a thick, elastic urethane air bladder at its core for malleable comfort and support. It gives the rest of the pillow its ergonomic shape and has a mid-section baffle system to provide extra stability.
The pillow has a contoured shape that allows it to be slid perfectly in the hood of most sleeping bags. Furthermore, the curved shoulder notch at the bottom helps promote cradling support for side sleepers.
With its twist valve system, loft adjustments are quick and easy to do but inflations might have you losing some air in between breaths. Notably, the polyester/down cover isn’t too slippery on most sleeping pads but could use some securing.
Like most inflatables, the Air Head Down Pillow can be a hit or miss on some nights in terms of comfort. Getting the loft just right and more so being able to release the air slowly can be a challenge.
When packed down, the Air Head Down Pillow measures about 4.25 inches in length and 3.5 inches in diameter. This, coupled with its tolerable weight of 4.9 ounces, makes it a lightweight and highly portable option to take with you for ultralight camping or backpacking.
In addition, the pillow comes with a stuff sack to help you haul and store it more conveniently. The storage bag has a drawstring closure for an even more compact bundle.
Lastly, the pillow’s care instructions are pretty much straightforward so you can help extend its service without too much of a hassle. The air bladder can be removed from the cover and gently hand washed. On the other hand, the pillow cover is completely safe for use in washers and dryers.
Wash the pillow cover at a cold, gentle cycle and dry it at tumble dry, low settings for the best results.
A backpacking-friendly inflatable pillow with a thin layer of down filling is exactly what you will be getting in the Air Head Down Pillow. The pillow is steeply-priced for its size but given its Therm-a-Rest origin, you can rest assured that it is extremely well-built and comfortable.
The Aeros Down Pillow combines the comfort of down filling and ultralight properties of inflatable air chambers. The pillow comes in either regular, large, or deluxe sizes with the former having a feathery weight of 2.5 ounces.
Further, the regular-sized pillow comes in a 20-denier stuff sack, which occupies a footprint of about 3.15 inches in length and 2.56 inches in diameter. That said, the pillow’s down filling and well-built valve system are perhaps the main highlights of this pillow.
The Aeros Down Pillow has an unobtrusive, low-profile, multifunction valve system that’s perhaps the easiest to use system we’ve stumbled upon yet. It comprises a one-way inflation valve, a deflation valve, and a fine-tune air release button.
You could easily have it fully inflated with just under three breaths. The fine-tune button allows for precise adjustments so you can get the right loft each time. Additionally, packing it away is effortless and fast thanks to its rapid air release valve.
At 13.4 inches long and 9.4 inches wide for the regular size, the Sea to Summit Aeros Down Pillow is the smallest in our hybrid pillows list. Therefore, it only relies on a thickly cushioned down topper, soft fabric cover, and air chamber to redeem its comfort. But for some extra bucks, you can go with its large and deluxe variants if you really crave that comfort.
The 85% duck-down filling helps provide some insulation and cushioning resulting in a snug 4.7-inch lofty pillow. The filling and air-core are enclosed in a soft and cool-to-touch fabric cover. The pillow shell is made of a 10-denier nylon top and a 20-denier nylon base.
The nylon pillow shell is a bit slippery and makes the slide around the pad a good bit. You will have to have already owned or purchased Sea to Summit's sleeping pads to enjoy their effective anti-slippage PillowLock system.
The pillow’s thermoplastic urethane bladder has anti-hydrolysis qualities. This simply means that it won’t break down when exposed to moisture be it from sweat, accidental spills, or drool.
We love that you can easily adjust the firmness and loft of the pillow using the intuitive valve system. However, the differentially cut baffles don’t inspire much confidence in terms of comfort and support. Well, at least from our experience.
While the baffles do allow for the down fill to fully fluff up, the pillow’s lack of divots on the surface makes it easy to slide off it.
Sea to Summit is a market leader when it comes to camping gear. Therefore, it stands to reason that even a medium-sized hybrid pillow like this attracts such a high price tag. That said, the valve system alone is worth every penny and the added down cushioning is nothing to sneeze at.
The Air-Core Hood/Camp Pillow is specifically designed for use with hooded mummy sleeping bags.
The pillow has a curved design with rounded edges to allow for a perfect fit inside most mummy bag hoods. As a bonus, the bottom notch conforms to your neck and shoulder contours for optimal comfort and support.
When packed down, this 3.81-ounce pillow measures 4.72 inches in length and 3.15 inches in diameter. Its low weight and small packed size make it a good option to consider for all types of camping including backpacking and car camping.
It comes with a drawstring stuff sack that comes in handy for transporting and storing the pillow. The sack is made of ripstop nylon fabric with reinforcements at the seams for extra resilience.
The Air-Core Hood Pillow is essentially an inflatable air chamber encased in a layer of synthetic fill inside a dual-sided pillowcase. The pillow cover comes in either light blue/grey or wasabi/grey color combinations.
The top side of the pillow cover is made of a soft polyester microfiber while the bottom is made of a cool-to-touch quilted 20-denier nylon fabric. The dual-sided cover offers a good balance of comfort and durability.
You can easily switch between either side for a more customized and temperature-responsive sleeping experience.
For cleaning and repairs, the cover has a hidden zipper system on one of its sides that you can use to access and separate the cover from the air bladder. However, the manufacturer warns that the bladder is not washable, and the removable cover should be hand-washed preferably in lukewarm water.
The Air-Core Hood Pillow measures 14.57 inches long and 11.02 inches wide with a maximum loft of 3.5 inches. The layer of synthetic filling provides cushioning and some degree of insulation while the inflatable core gives the pillow its loft.
The pillow has a built-in twist-and-pull valve that works great for quick inflations and fine-tuning. Unlike in other inflatables that have rapid deflation valves, air does not rush out of the Air-Core Hood/Camp Pillow when the valve is opened.
The slow deflation rate gives you more control when fine-tuning so you can end up with your desired comfort and loft.
Aptly named, Air-Core Hood Pillow performs better as a mummy bag accessory than a stand-alone camping pillow. If you choose to overlook its slippery surfaces, this pillow is super lightweight, comfortable, and easy to fine-tune.
Plus, it is not unreasonably priced as most hybrid camping pillows.
There are plenty of choices for camping pillows in the market today and getting the right one can be a challenge. Fortunately, we have done the footwork for you so you can make a better decision when shopping for your next camping pillow.
Below, we have taken a keener look into the pivotal elements that make up a solid camping pillow. We have also included a few tips to help you prolong the life and performance of your unit.
While most campers are partial to inflatable camping pillows, there are still plenty of other types of camping pillows worth checking out. These include compressible, hybrid, and stuff sack camping pillows. In some cases, campers might opt for travel pillows, but they are essentially shrunk-down home pillows that lack all the perks of a good camping pillow.
Inflatable camping pillows are some of the most popular types in the market today. These types are most cherished for their feathery weight and great portability. They come in two main subtypes namely self-inflating and manually inflatable pillows.
Both subtypes have internal air sacks to store air and valves to regulate inflations and deflations. They are the best option when looking to save on weight and space. Air pillows are super lightweight and can be deflated flat for easier transportation and storage.
Though you could easily improve their comfort levels by slowly letting out air, inflatable pillows are generally not very comfortable. They feel stiff when fully inflated and can get squeaky if you move around too much during sleep.
Since the experience is like sleeping on a balloon, there is always the risk of punctures or deflations as you continue to use the air pillows. Therefore, you want to always go for air pillows with strong high-quality fabric for guaranteed longevity.
Compressible pillows or foam pillows offer slightly better comfort and support than air pillows. They feature either natural or synthetic fill encased by a fabric outer shell. The filling could be anything from shredded foam, synthetic fibers, down, or a combination of either.
They resemble home pillows but are often more compressible and packable for the outdoor lifestyle.
Compressible camping pillows are most suitable for car campers and weekend warriors who don’t mind the extra ounces. They take up more space and are slightly heavier than air pillows. However, foam pillows are some of the most comfortable options yet.
These types of pillows help address some of the main shortcomings that come with inflatable camping pillows. Hybrid camping pillows feature inflatable cores or bottoms and soft, compressible tops. They are designed to deliver optimal comfort while maintaining some acceptable levels of packability.
The inflatable portion of the pillow helps provide support while the layer of compressible fill increases comfort.
While you might escape the “balloon” experience with these pillow types, you can expect them to be slightly heavier than air pillows. Similarly, hybrid camping pillows are less comfortable as compared to compressible camping pillows.
Leaning more towards the DIY side of things, we have “stuffable” or stuff sack pillows. They are essentially sacks that you can stuff cushioning or clothing into to act as a pillow. Stuff sack pillows are extremely lightweight, portable, and multipurpose.
That said, they are only as comfortable as what you stuff into them. An insulated down or fleece jacket works well with this type of camping pillow in terms of comfort and warmth. However, colder nights might leave very little clothing to stuff into the sack, which ultimately means no pillow for the night.
If you prefer stuff sack pillows, always go for those with soft but strong face fabrics. Some padding, zipper or Velcro closures, and other useful features on the stuff sack are much welcomed.
Ultimately, you want your camping pillow of choice to be as comfortable and supportive as possible. Sure, comfort is relative but there are always specific features and factors that influence the level of comfort and support provided by any camping pillow.
Secondly, your sleeping position should be considered whenever you are shopping for your sleeping system and more so the camping pillow.
If you often sleep on your back then you want the sleeping platform and pillow to maintain a natural spinal alignment. A soft pillow will offer just enough comfort and support without stressing your upper spine.
Stomach or front sleepers usually do not require much support and thus a thin flat camping pillow should suffice.
On the other hand, if you sleep on your side, then you will require adequate support for their neck and spine. A thicker and firmer camping pillow is typically the way to go for side sleepers. For combination sleepers, a camping pillow of medium height and firmness should be a worthy option.
Compressible or foam pillows could work for most sleeping styles but what matters most is the height of the pillow.
Save yourself the expensive chiropractor appointments and go for a camping pillow that is suitable for your sleeping style.
The shape and size of your camping pillow will often influence how comfortable and supportive it is.
When it comes to shapes, pillows mostly come in rectangular, square, and kidney-shaped styles. Further, they may be slightly contoured to provide snug-fitting comfort and support. For this reason, always opt for ergonomically shaped camping pillows whenever possible.
A well-contoured camping pillow conforms to your neck and holds your head comfortably in place.
In addition, size is a big factor when it comes to comfort and support in camping pillows. You want the pillow to be big enough to offer adequate support and compatibility with your sleeping style. Else, you risk waking up each day with a kink in your neck.
Here, you want to consider the width, loft, and firmness level of your pillow of choice. The pillow should be wide enough to support your head without affecting comfort too adversely. Next, we have the loft, which is simply the compressed height or thickness of the pillow.
Choosing the right pillow loft for you depends on a couple of factors. These include your sleeping position, body size and weight, head size, shoulder width, pillow placement, and the firmness of your sleeping platform.
For simplicity, just stick with what is suitable for your sleeping style.
A medium- or high-loft will feel most comfortable for side sleepers and back sleepers while a low-loft camping pillow should suffice for stomach sleepers. If you find it even more challenging to pick the right loft, then an inflatable pillow might be a solid option to consider.
Most inflatable camping pillows can be adjusted to any loft needed by simply letting air in or out of them.
The materials used to construct the outer fabric and filling of the pillow ultimately affect its longevity and overall comfort. Ideally, you want a comfortable, rugged camping pillow that won’t puncture easily, split at the seams, or be susceptible to mold and mildew among other risks.
Read on for more insight on the topic…
Given that you will be resting your head against the exterior fabric of the pillow, you will want it to be not only nice and soft but also very reliable. Some common fabrics used to make the shells include polyester, nylon, cotton, or blends of either fabric.
Premium camping pillows might even come with bamboo-derived, linen, or satin face fabrics. Polyester cover fabrics are quick-drying, soft, and easy to maintain while nylon ones come a close second. On the other hand, cotton pillow shells are natural, breathable, and very durable.
Similarly, other factors to look out for in the pillow shell include the type of stitching, denier rating, and thread count.
Fabrics with ripstop-style stitching are preferred for endurance and anti-tear qualities. Evenly- or double-stitched seams are equally desirable as they hold in the filling securely. Moreover, a bit of quilting on the fabric goes a long way in cementing the longevity of the camping pillow.
Furthermore, you want a high-denier and high-thread-count pillow shell for the added strength and coziness. See, a higher thread count unit or a higher grams per square meter rating means a smoother and tougher surface. Skin oils, sweat, and dust won’t easily get into the pillow thus reducing the risk of damaging the pillow’s filling.
Some quilting on the pillow cover also helps improve its resilience but should not be overdone as it might cause discomfort.
Notably, inflatable pillows often have more rugged shells made of either thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), polyvinyl, or polyethylene. After all, a single prick could mean the end of life for your favorite air pillow.
Depending on the material, some face fabrics crinkle, squeak, or make rubbing noises whenever you move around during sleep. This can get annoying fast so you want to go with pillows that operate noiselessly for the best overall experience.
Nylon fabric is especially notorious for being very noisy when in use.
Finally, always go for pillows with waterproof and insulated shells whenever you can find them. They come in handy on chillier nights and might be easier to maintain than their counterparts. You can’t go wrong with polyurethane-coated face fabrics as they offer excellent water resistance.
If your pillow doesn’t come with an integrated pillowcase then you might want to get a suitable one to go with the pillow. A good quality pillowcase works wonders at prolonging the life of your camping pillow.
The pillow filling or stuffing refers to the materials used inside the pillow to provide comfort, loft, and support. Like home pillows, camping pillows will have either natural or synthetic filling. No single pillow filling will work for every camper therefore some trial and error and lots of learning are highly advised.
Natural pillow filling includes down feathers, wool, cotton, latex, buckwheat, and Kapok (Ceiba pentandra). In general, the natural filling tends to be costlier, heavier, and harder to pack than most synthetic filling. So, it is understandable that most camping pillows won’t have a natural filling.
That said, down and cotton are perhaps the only natural filling materials you can be found in a good number of camping pillows.
Down filling outshines the rest of the pack with its malleable comfort, durability, sustainability, and literal feathery weight. However, it can be a little difficult to clean and maintain particularly due to the harsh conditions associated with the camping lifestyle.
If you are considering getting a down camping pillow, then you want to opt for only high-fill-power and responsibly sourced down. A higher fill power translates to a fluffier, loftier, and higher quality down.
For cotton-filled camping pillows, you can expect the filling to be soft, odorless, and breathable. The major downside of cotton camping pillows is that they can get a bit lumpy over continued usage.
On the other hand, synthetic pillow filling includes memory foam, polyester fiberfill, and microbeads.
Shredded memory foam is revered for its moldability, clump-free comfort, and slightly supportive nature. The main downside of memory foam filling is that they emit a chemical odor and could off-gas during initial uses.
Polyester fiberfill comes a close second for its affordability, low weight, and easy maintenance. However, it has plenty of disadvantages including being harmful to the environment, clumping up too easily, and sleeping warm.
Moreover, polyester fiberfill pillows might feel warmer than usual and require frequent readjustments and fluffing.
Microbeads filling might be considered as a more affordable alternative to buckwheat hulls filling. The microbeads are mostly made of polystyrene. Although not commonly used in camping pillows, the filling is breathable, super lightweight, and malleable.
A couple of reasons you might not want a camping pillow with microbeads filling includes a potentially negative impact on the environment, less durability, some off-gassing, and inconsistent loft. Microbeads tend to flatten out over time resulting in a lumpy, uncomfortable pillow core.
Besides the materials, friendly return policies and lengthy warranties are sometimes good indicators of the durability of the given camping pillow.
Usually, the weight and portability of each camping gear must be considered before committing to a purchase. Camping pillows are no different, they too must be compatible with your camping style, storage space, and weight limitations.
Broadly speaking, we have two main camps when it comes to the types of camping – backpacking and car camping.
Forgoing comfort in favor of lightweight and highly packable gear has always been the norm, especially for backpacking trips. If you prefer comfy camping pillows, then you will have to brace yourself for the added weight and bulkiness.
Most backpackers and thru-hikers prefer inflatable camping pillows for their small packed sizes and low weight. However, you could still go with other types of pillows if they will fit nicely in your backpack with the rest of your gear.
To aid with transportation, look for pillows that come with storage bags with built-in carry loops/handles. The loops could come in handy if you don’t have enough space in your pack. Just attach the pillow to your pack by the loops using carabiners
The pillows should be highly compressible to increase the chances of fitting snugly in your backpack.
Car campers are spoilt for choice when it comes to shopping for camping pillows. They could easily get away with bulkier and heavier pillows that offer great comfort, support, and ease of use. If you’re car camping, you might also want to inspect the durability of your preferred camping pillow before adding it to the cart.
Camping pillows are designed to pack down extremely small for storage and transportation purposes. A pillow can transform from a standard size to a water-bottle-sized unit when packed down. The pillow type and materials used heavily influence the resulting packed size.
Stuff sack pillows have tiny packed sizes as they have no real filling inside them while inflatable pillows come a close second. Moreover, stuff sacks can be used to store and haul other camping items, which further maximizes storage space in your pack.
The packed size of hybrid camping pillows is slightly larger than typical air pillows due to the added padding.
On the other end, compressible pillows are built for comfort and thus they are typically bulkier and heavier than the other alternatives. But various filling materials used in the compressible pillows will affect how small the unit packs down.
If you’re planning for a backpacking trip, then the weight of your camping pillow is an important deliberation. Much like the packed size, a low packed weight often means the camping pillow won’t be very comfortable or supportive.
Stuff sack pillows and air pillows are some of the most lightweight options you will get. Conversely, hybrid and compressible camping pillows are far much heftier than other alternatives.
Some camping pillows will come with extra features to make them more comfortable and easier to use. After assessing how your preferred unit performs on the key factors, a few additional but useful attributes are much welcomed.
Most campers would appreciate having cooling features in their favorite camping pillow particularly for the eventual warmer nights. Heat regulation in camping pillows is taken care of by the filling, cover fabric, or integrated cooling materials.
Like home pillows, most camping pillows with cooling features work in about three major ways:
Breathable and moisture-wicking filling and cover fabric allow airflow in and out of the filling. This means less warmth build-up inside the pillow and a cooler sleeping experience. Although a bit rare in camping pillows, units with fillings such as down, wool, or buckwheat hulls are extremely breathable and airy.
While compressible pillows with memory foam might be very comfy, memory foam is notorious for trapping heat. So, be prepared for the night sweats, or just ensure you have plenty of ventilation inside the tent.
For pillow shells, you want to go for camping pillows with bamboo, rayon, wool, or cotton fabrics for their exceptional breathability and moisture-wicking properties.
Since water filling is not practical for camping pillows, units with cooling gels are the next best alternative. The continuous heat transfer via conduction from your head/neck to the pillow causes a cooling effect.
Graphite and copper apply the same principle to cool you down, but they are a rarity in camping pillows.
The last option for cooling is the use of phase-change materials (PCM), a technology first developed by NASA. They work by melting or solidifying at given temps to absorb or release heat as needed. The technology is quite novel so you would be lucky to find affordable camping pillows with PCMs.
Waterproofing and insulation are similarly desirable features to have in your dream camping pillow. With that in mind, down, fleece, and foam filling excel at providing insulation. Polyurethane- or silicone-coated pillow shells help ensure no sweat or moisture seeps into the filling inside the pillow.
Additionally, inflatable camping pillows contain dead air pockets that work relatively okay at keeping you insulated.
To conclude, your preferred camping pillow should be easy to maintain and contain features that prevent it from slipping from your sleeping platform.
Your camping pillow of choice should have an easy-to-accomplish maintenance and care process. Most foam camping pillows are machine washable and easy to clean. Down-filled pillows require more care and attention during cleaning else you risk losing their loft.
On the other hand, many inflatable camping pillows might only need spot cleaning but be sure not to overlook any included care instructions.
Camping pillows take a beating more than your typical home pillows. In most cases, you might end up with a smelly, musky pillow covered in grime just after one or two camping trips. So, you want them to come with removable and machine-washable covers for an easier clean-up.
With the lack of proper beddings, sleeping pads can be very slippery to sleep on. If it’s not you and your sleeping bag sliding off, then it’s your camping pillow slipping off. Campers swear by nestling the pillow into the sleeping pad to solve this problem.
Manufacturers go a step farther by including sleeves on the sleeping pad and even hook-and-loop fasteners on the pillows and pads to make coupling that much easier. Some pillows will even come with elastic straps on the underside. The straps can be used to wrap around your sleeping pad to secure it in place.
But that’s not all…
Good quality pillows will often feature anti-slippery or textured surfaces to help increase friction and effectively prevent sliding. The textured surface might comprise tiny rubber dot patterns that not only add friction but also stickiness.
The design of the pillow might come in handy in ensuring it stays in place. Some camping pillows have contoured shapes that mold snugly to your head and shoulders. This slightly prevents it from slipping off the sleeping pad.
If your ideal camping pillow lacks any of the above features, then you can try the following:
Remember, a camping pillow is just half of it, you will still need comfortable and good quality sleeping system accessories if you value a goodnight’s sleep. This includes a solid camping tent, sleeping pad, and suitable nightwear, etc.
A good camping pillow is an integral part of any outdoor sleeping system. The extra comfort makes a huge difference after a day’s worth of hiking and other outdoor recreational activities. We hope the selection above gives you a few options to consider when it comes to shopping for your next camping pillow.
With the help of the best camping pillows, sleeping under the stars at camp can still be comfortable and relaxing.