The Best Camping Pillows

Taking a camping pillow with you on your next hiking trip or weekend getaway can really mean the difference between a good night’s sleep and tossing all evening. Many hikers choose to use a pile of dirty clothes for a pillow, but this can be uncomfortable or smelly.

If getting the best possible night’s sleep is important to you, then you’ll want to take a camping pillow with you on your next camping trip.

Camping pillows range in luxury and quality, from inexpensive inflatable plastic bubbles to micro fleece-lined insulated sleeping companions. All camping pillows share a few common traits which are important to their success and we’re going to cover all of the critical details. While it might not be necessary to take a camping pillow, I certainly feel that sleep quality is a critical factor in recovering, staying healthy, and staying happy when camping.

Top Pick: Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium

Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium and Ultra Light

The S2S Aeros Premium (top) and Ultra Light (bottom)

True to the nature of the best camping pillows on the market today, the Sea to Summit pillow is lined with polyester knit, and curved to keep your head on the pillow.

If you’ve never tried using a small camping pillow before, you won’t understand how gross it can be to have plastic or nylon right against your face. Sea to Summit lined their Aeros pillow with soft polyester fiber to solve that problem and give you a restful night’s sleep.

They’ve offered this pillow in “regular” and “large” sizes which is a great touch for those looking to gain better sleep for a little heavier pillow. Synthetic insulation between the lined pillow case and the internal air bladder helps to wick away moisture and increase the dryness and comfort of the pillow. A single multi-function valve can be used to inflate and deflate the pillow with a simple adjustment.

Overall, Sea to Summit earns our Top Pick award for quality of craftsmanship and attention to detail. The pillows pack down remarkably well and, for all its features, manages to stay lightweight.

Runner-up: Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Ultra Light

Sleeping with my battery pack to keep it warm Sea to Summit camping pillows are so iconic, there are even Chinese knockoffs of them.

It’s easy to see why when you dig into the specs:

The Ultra Light weighs just 2 oz. And it packs down to less than the size a soda can.

But that’s not the Ultra Light’s only magic trick — it’s comfy, too.

There are lighter camp pillows out there (the Klymit Pillow X, for instance), but when we tested them they didn’t perform as well nor were they as comfortable as the Ultra Light.

For someone who wants a pillow for camping AND backpacking, the Ultra Light is a top option. The one downside is that, like all inflatable camping pillows, there’s a risk it can spring a leak.

We’ve been using the Sea to Summit pillows in the field for over two years now and ours haven’t started leaking noticeably yet, but be aware of that risk. Take good care of them and they should last you a while.

One way S2S has reduced the chance of leaks is by installing a high-quality valve. The two-part system make it easy to inflate and deflate the pillow, and its reinforced edges have held up well to our testing.

While there’s always a risk of inflatables springing a leak, the two-part valve on the Sea to Summit Ultra Light has held up well during our 2+ years of field testing.

Budget Pick: Trekology Pillow

The Trekology pillow has the look and feel of the Sea to Summit Ultra Light, but at a much cheaper price.

We found it to be pretty comfortable. The valve system is unique but worked well. During our testing we experienced no leaks.

Trekology recently updated the pillow to be even smaller and lighter — something we can definitely get behind. The new design also has rubber dots on the bottom to reduce the chance of slipping. It’s a welcome innovation. Too often we’ve had camping pillows slip and slide underneath our heads at night.

Like most inflatables, the Trekology took us around 3 breaths to fully inflate. It performed about as well as some of the top inflatable backpacking pillows, which is admirable given its price.

Accordingly, we think it’s one of the best inflatable camping pillows for campers on a budget.

Best for Backpacking: Therm-a-Rest Trekker Pillow Case

No too long ago, we field tested 9 of the top backpacking pillows. The Trekker Pillow Case from Therm-a-Rest came away as our favorite.

Backpacking pillow cases are a different breed than inflatables. You don’t inflate them. Instead, they get their cushioning from whatever clothes you stuff inside.

Stuff one well and it’ll make for a comfy, lightweight, and non-bulky camp pillow that has no chance of springing a leak.

The Trekker Pillow Case stood out because — in addition to being comfortable and supportive — it weighs a mere 2.3 oz and retails for an affordable price. Other backpacking pillows can cost up to three times as much.

Of course, you’ll want to be sure to carry some good clothes for stuffing. Down jackets work particularly well.

But pillow cases aren’t for everyone. If you prefer an inflatable backpacking pillow, our favorite in that category was the Cocoon Hyperlight Air-Core Pillow. It was one of the most supportive inflatables we tested and was also exceptionally durable. It weighs 2.4 oz and inflates fully with three breaths.

» MORE: The Best Backpacking Pillows

Most Options: Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow

Therm-a-Rest is a well-known sleeping pad maker for camping and hiking. Operated by parent company MSR, they’re known for great customer service and high quality products. Both of which I can personally attest to!

With the Compressible Pillow, you’ll be able to take advantage of Therm-a-Rest’s unique and highly compactible foam which expands radically when you unpack it from the included bag. Roll the pillow up and stuff it into its own case to pack it down to one-fourth or less of its expanded size. One of the coolest features of this pillow is the number of available sizes and colors. Pick from eight colors, each of which come in four different sizes.

For that reason, we’ve awarded this camping pillow as the most versatile buy for someone looking to diversify their camp pillow selection. With a total of 32 options of colors and sizes, you’ll definitely find something for you.

How to Choose the Best Camping Pillow for Your Needs

Types of Camping Pillows

Self-inflating camping pillows are more convenient, but the foam used to help the pillow expand adds extra weight. On top of that, when compressed the pillow naturally weighs more and takes up more space than a pillow without internal foam.

Inflatable camping pillows you must inflate with your breath can be lighter and more compressible, but they’re not as convenient. Inflating with your breath also introduces moisture and bacteria inside the pillow. Eventually the inside can become dirty and mildewed.

Stuffable pillow cases tend to be cheaper and have no chances of springing a leak. However the pillow’s comfort and support are reliant upon the clothes you stuff into it.

Ultralight backpacking pillows are usually smaller and lighter — and thus less comfortable — than camping pillows. Consider one if you need a good pillow for both camping and backpacking.

Your pillows from home can double as super comfy camp pillows! If you’re car camping or tent camping and aren’t concerned too much with the weight and bulk of your gear, I highly recommend packing your favorite pillow from home and just using that in your tent.

Weight

When we are going camping, it’s to important consider weight in all of our gear choices. Weight adds up eventually, and — if you’re planning to carry your inflatable camping pillow in your backpack — you’ll want to keep weight down. However, some reasonable weight additions are warranted when those additions help us function better in the backcountry.

When car camping, RV camping, or camping around the house, weight may not be such a factor. If you don’t have to carry the pillow in your backpack but instead have the luxury of carrying the pillow in your car or RV, a heavier and more luxurious pillow may be a better choice for you.

Compressibility

This is an important factor when hiking or carrying a lot of gear. Again, if you’re carrying the pillow in a car or RV this might not be as important.

Compressibility is critical to being able to fit and carry all the gear you’ll need for a camping or hiking trip in one bag. Choosing a pillow with high compressibility means the pillow packs down into a relatively small package when not in use. Choose a highly compressible pillow if you’re carrying the pillow in a backpack or suitcase to save room for other important items.