5 Best Backpacking Pillows

As any experienced backpacking traveler knows, a good pillow can make a huge difference when it comes to getting a good rest.

However, it’s not practical to pack a regular pillow. Portable and lightweight, backpacking pillows are the perfect solution to this problem.

With this in mind, we will go over the five best backpacking pillows on the market.

Quick Comparison Table: 5 Best Backpacking pillows

BrandSizeWeightExternal MaterialsInternal Materials (Filling)Price
InstantCamp
Our Best Pick
18 x 10.75 x 6 inches2.4 ouncesNylonFoam, polysterCheck Price
TETON Sports ComfortLite10 x 18 x 4 inches12 ouncesMicrofiber , cottonFoamCheck Price
Sea To Summit Aeros5 x 11.5 x 5.5 inches8 ouncesBrushed 50D PolyesterSynthetic fill, TPU bladderCheck Price
Cocoon Hyperlight AirCore3.6 x 2.6 x 0.2 inches2.72 ounces7 Denier NylonSynthetic fillCheck Price
Therm-a-Rest Compressible16 x 23 x 4 inches5 ouncesPolyesterExpansive foam fillingCheck Price

How to Choose the Best Backpacking Pillow for You?

In order to choose the best backpacking pillow, you need to take into account a few important aspects. Even though they are others, there are five main characteristics that a backpacking pillow can have:

Inflation

Basically, there are two main methods of inflation for backpacking pillows: Manual and self-inflating.

Self-inflating backpacking pillows do not require users to puff them full of air every time they are being used.

Without a doubt, this method requires less work and, as a result, is more convenient. Additionally, they are much easier to keep clean.

However, self-inflating backpacking pillows have a couple of downsides. For one, they tend to be bulkier as they require a valve to become inflated.

Also because of this, they tend to be a lot heavier than manually-inflated backpacking pillows.

On the other hand, manual inflation requires you to blow air into the pillow several times, which can be somewhat tiring and morose.

However, manually-inflated backpacking pillows are incredibly light and take up very little space when deflated and folded.

Packability

Simply put, packability refers to the ease and efficiency with which a backpacking pillow can be folded in order to be packed. As any backpacker knows, space is crucial when it comes to the art of packing.

As you can probably imagine, having a pillow that fits in your hand can be a serious advantage when it comes to packing lightly and efficiently.

To the contrary, having a bulky pillow that doesn’t really fit anywhere can be a serious problem in the same situation

As previously mentioned, manually-inflated backpacking pillows take up less space than self-inflating pillows, making them less voluminous easier to fold and pack.

For that reason, manually-inflated pillows tend to have a greater level of packability.

Weight

Before we go deeper into their weight, you should be aware that all backpacking pillows are extremely lightweight. As a matter of fact, together with compactness, lightweight is the main and most important characteristic a backpacking pillow can have.

Haven gotten that out of the way, it can be said that some models of backpacking pillows are lighter than others. Apart from the type of inflation it has, a pillow’s weight is affected by the time of materials it is made of and its overall size.

Even though a few ounces can seem irrelevant, they can make a big difference during long hikes. For that reason, it’s always good advice that you choose a backpacking pillow that’s lightweight without sacrificing other important aspects.

Support

Undoubtedly, the most important benefit an inflatable pillow can provide is support. Without good support, a pillow may as well not be there. For that reason, you should always test a pillow’s level of neck and head support before deciding to buy it.

In order to offer an adequate level of support, a backpacking pillow needs to have the right size in terms of both length and height. Height, in particular, can completely change the position of your neck during sleep.

Comfort

The last thing you need to take into account when choosing a backpacking pillow is how well it complements your sleeping posture.

Some of these pillows may be more well-suited for side-sleepers, while others may be better for those who sleep on their back.

When testing a backpacking pillow, try to figure out whether it contours and holds your head, keeping it comfortably in place while you sleep.

Any pillow that is able to do this will surely allow you to sleep uninterruptedly and without strain.

1. InstantCamp Ultralight Backpacking, Camping and Travel Air Pillow


Made from a state-of-the-art nylon shell that is completely occlusive to air, this backpacking pillow is as lightweight as it is durable.

And, trust me, it is lightweight. With only 2.4 ounces, it’s light enough to go unnoticed until it’s time to sleep.

In order to be as lightweight as it is, the InstantCamp Ultralight had to sacrifice in terms of durability. Its nylon shell is not particularly thick, which makes it very vulnerable to breakage and other types of damage.

Inflation: In order to be as lightweight as possible, the InstantCamp Ultralight does not have a self-inflating valve. However, inflating it manually is not a difficult task. As a matter of fact, it can be done with only two or three puffs.

Packability: Apart from being very lightweight, this backpacking pillow is amazingly compact and easy to pack. As a matter of fact, when folded, it is roughly the same size of a pack of cards. Additionally, it deflates quickly and effortlessly.

Weight: At this point, there is probably no point in mentioning how lightweight this backpacking pillow is. If it’s worth anything, I will point out that it’s the most lightweight on this list of the best five backpacking pillows available.

Support: Being compact and lightweight, the InstantCamp Ultralight is not as large as many would want. Without a doubt, this affects the level of support it has to offer.

Comfort: When fully inflated, this backpacking pillow can be a bit too terse and firm. Unfortunately, this makes it somewhat uncomfortable by not allowing your head to entirely set in.

Pros
  • One of the lightest backpacking pillows on the market.
  • Easy and quick to inflate and deflate.
  • Works well with most travel sleeping mats.
Cons
  • Not as resistant and durable as many would wish.
  • Can be too terse to be comfortable for some users.

2. TETON Sports ComfortLite Self Inflating Pillow

Despite being very affordable, this pillow offers a high level of quality, even featuring a fine cloth cover. It’s self-inflating, a fact that will please many.

However, due to having a self-inflating valve, it’s heavier than most backpacking pillows on the market

Inflation: As previously mentioned, the TETON ComfortLite has self-inflating features that add to its convenience.

Packability: Unfortunately, due to having a self-inflation valve, this pillow is bulkier and less packable than all the others on this list.

Weight: At 12 ounces, this pillow is definitely heavier than many of its kind. However, it’s still light enough to take on long hikes and travels.

Support: The TETON ComfortLite is nice and firm without being too terse. When fully inflated, it’s tall enough to provide a proper level of head and neck support.

Comfort: Featuring a microfiber cloth top that’s soft and cozy, this pillow is definitely very comfortable.

Pros
  • Even though they’re soft and comfortable, its materials are durable.
  • Easy to clean by just wiping with a humid rag.
Cons
  • Somewhat bulky and heavy in comparison to other backpacking pillows.
  • Not great for sleeping on your side.

3. Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow Premium

Covered in knit polyester, this is one of the softest and snuggliest pillows out there. Making it great for side-sleepers, this material keeps itself dry throughout the night.

The Sea to Summit Aeros is also rather large, making it harder for sleepers to roll off. At the same time, it is nicely contoured, holding your head in place comfortably.

Inflation: One of the downsides of this pillow is that, compared to others of the same kind, it is somewhat difficult to manually inflate and deflate.

Packability: Being somewhat large in size, this backpacking pillow is not as packable as many others. However, with some diligence, it can be packed in a few minutes.

Weight: Weighing eight ounces, this pillow is definitely on the heavier side, particularly considering it’s not self-inflating.

Support: Firm, very well-contoured and ergonomically designed, this pillow offers a healthy amount of support that’ll allow you to get a repairing sleep.

Comfort: Ergonomic and soft without sacrificing firmness, the Sea to Summit Aeros is definitely a comfortable backpacking pillow.

Pros
  • Features curved internal baffles that help accomodate your head.
  • Its pillow case absorbs and eliminates perspiration.
Cons
  • It’s not as secure as many would wish, sometimes becoming slightly deflated during the night.

4. Cocoon Hyperlight AirCore Pillow

Apart from a soft nylon shell, this pillow features a polyester fiber fill that increases support and overall comfort. Simple and compact, this snuggly pillow can easily adapt itself to most sleeping situations. Additionally, it’s remarkably lightweight.

Inflation: Complementarily to its straightforward style, this pillow is easy to inflate. However, it’s valve is sealed with a twisting motion that is not entirely secure.

Packability: Without a doubt, the Cocoon Hyperlight AirCore is one of the most packable pillows on this list. Its simple square design has a lot to do with this.

Weight: At only 2.72 ounces of weight, the Cocoon Hyperlight is remarkably light.

Support: As previously mentioned, this pillow’s square design is very straightforward. However, its polyester fiber fill provides a nice level of support.

Comfort: Unfortunately, this pillow does not have any contours or scalloped edges for increased comfort.

Pros
  • Features a polyester fiber fill that increases comfort and support.
  • A simple design makes it extra compact and lightweight.
Cons
  • Having no contours, baffles or scalloped edges, it’s not as ergonomic as other backpacking pillows.

5. Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow

Despite being fully self-inflating, this pillow is light and compact. This feat is accomplished through the use of a hi-tech expansive foam filling.

Its polyester exterior is nice and soft without sacrificing durability.

Amazingly compressible by featuring a drawstring and cord lock, this is a versatile pillow that can be used for many different types of travel and adventure expeditions.

Inflation: Amazingly, this pillow is self-inflating without using a bulky and heavy valve. Even though its self-inflating process is somewhat slow, it’s reliable and efficient.

Packability: Due to having a special foam filling, the pillow can be compacted to astounding degrees, greatly increasing its level of packability.

Weight: Weighing only five ounces, the Thermarest Compressible Pillow is lighter than most self-inflating pillows.

Support: Without being the most outstanding on this list, the Thermarest Compressible Pillow’s level of support is more than acceptable.

Comfort: Its combination of a brushed polyester cover and a lofty urethane fill result in a fantastic level of comfort.

Pros
  • Machine washable.
  • Self-inflating without a heavy valve.
  • Secure drawstring and cord lock.
Cons
  • Somewhat pricey.
  • Its expansive foam filling can feel lumpy.

In Conclusion

Each one of these backpacking pillows has proven its worth. However, after extensive testing, one clearly stands out.

Lightweight, compact and amazingly ergonomic without sacrificing durability, the InstantCamp Ultralight Backpacking, Camping and Travel Air Pillow rises to the top.

Breana
 

Chief editor here at Sky-Liners, Breana is a former expat and outdoor enthusiast who grew up on camping, hunting, and hiking. If she could live anywhere, it would be a tree fort in the woods. For now, she's surviving on weekly hiking trips and monthly mountain breaks. You can read more about Breana's adventures on her blog at 3rdCultureWife.

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