Until about 20 years ago camping pillows were essentially any house pillow that you were willing to sacrifice to the gods of the campground. Either that or your “pillow” was your down coat, sweater or – if was too cold out to sacrifice a sweater – your hiking boots positioned under the bag. There were a few inflatable pillows kicking about the marketplace that mostly attracted hardcore mountaineers. But in general, campers were expected to improvise. Happily, those days are over because today there are scores of different camping pillows on the market that will please just about everyone from 8,000-meter maniacs to weekend warriors. Below are the best camping pillows for 2019.
The Best Camping Pillows
Therm-a-Rest is a large, comfortable, convenient and easy to maintain self-inflating camping pillow that will allow you to get a good night’s sleep no matter what’s going on outside the large camping tent. It features upcycled urethane filling that self-inflates when you remove it from the integrated stuff sack. And it has one of the most comfortable brushed cotton cases you’ll find on any camping pillow. While it’s lofty and forgiving it doesn’t flatten out like a pancake under your head like many other pillows. It’s also affordable, fairly light at less than a pound and, in its compressed state, makes good neck support for long flights. Versatile, easy to clean and easy on the eye it’s our Best Choice.
Brushed cotton poly shell.
Great for camping, backpacking and more.
4 inches of loft.
Upcycled urethane filling.
Weight: 15 oz.
- Weight1 pounds
The Nemo Fillo Inflatable Travel Pillow is one of the most comfortable camping pillows you could realistically take into the backcountry with you. It weighs just over half a pound (which will be in the comfort zone for most backpackers), and because it’s inflatable it compresses down to palm size. Meaning you don’t have to choose between taking it or taking other things, like food. The microsuede cover has a delightfully soft feel to it, it’s large enough that your head won’t be sliding off every half hour and the hybrid foam/air design makes for a pillow that’s firm but not unforgiving. A real revelation for hardcore backpackers that’s also great for long flights and for lumbar support at the office. Make sure you combine it with a camping blanket from our list.
Ideal for camping and backpacking.
Removable pillow case.
Compresses smaller than a water bottle.
Foam/air combination for maximum comfort.
Weight: 9.6 oz.
- Weight9.6 ounces
The Sea to Summit Aeros is a blow-up pillow that is going to make a lot of recreational campers happy. It’s a big camping pillow for your head that fills up quick and deflates even quicker. It sports a comfy 50D brushed polyester shell, a high frequency welded internal bladder and a just enough loft fill between air bladder and shell to keep it from feeling too hard or too soft. If there’s a downside here it’s that the bulkiness of the design, which is a definite asset in the campground, is not going to work well with cold weather mummy bags and their pinched head areas. For everyone else though it’s a solid choice. If you love a good nights sleep in the outdoors check out our guide to the best camping mattresses.
Brushed 50D polyester shell.
Air/Synthetic fill hybrid for optimal comfort.
Curved baffles cradle the head.
2nd tab for easy deflation.
Weight: 4 oz.
- BrandSea to Summit
- Weight4 ounces
The Trekology Ultralight Inflatable Camping Pillow has a similar profile to the Sea to Summit Aeros but it’s a bit smaller which gives it superior versatility. While the large kidney bean shape is not ideal for cold weather bags it’s small and light enough at 2.8 ounces to warrant a try. The pillow fills completely with only 3 or 4 good deep breaths, you can adjust the level of firmness because it’s inflatable and it fits easily in the palm of your hand when stowed away in the included stuff sack. Sea level recreational campers are going to love it too for all the above reasons plus the outstanding comfort and affordable price point. You can even combine this pillow with a good sleeping bag from our list.
Ultralight backpacking pillow.
Fits in your pants pocket.
Enhanced neck support.
Fills with 3 to 5 breaths.
Water resistant TPU fabric.
Weight: 2.8 oz.
- Weight2.08 ounces
Therm-a-Rest was one of the early leaders in the move toward more comfortable camping and hiking gear and over the past 3+ decades, they’ve continued to push new products to the market that enhance the camping experience. Their Lumbar Travel Pillow is just such a product. Versatile, tough, lightweight, easy to use and relatively affordable. Like their groundbreaking sleeping pads of 35 years ago, this self-inflating pillow is filled with die-cut foam and fills itself in 1-2 minutes. It’s great for recreational camping although some might find it doesn’t compress enough for serious backpacking. This pillow comes in handy when you are sleeping on the camping cot.
Ultra-comfortable die-cut foam.
Soft polyester shell.
Great for campgrounds or backcountry.
100% self inflating camping pillow.
Inflates in 1-2 minutes.
Weight: 5 oz.
- Weight5 ounces
The Coop Home Goods memory foam camping pillow is one of the most comfortable camping pillows we’ve ever tried. Because of the memory foam, it doesn’t compress well but if you’ve just pulled into a campground outside Hermosa Colorado after an epic drive through the Rockies it’s going to feel just right when you lay down in your sleeping bag. It’s machine washable, is encased in what the company calls “Lulltra” fabric that keeps you cool even if it’s blazing hot out and comes with a 5-year warranty. A great all-purpose outdoor pillow for anyone who treasures comfort. Make sure you also check our double sleeping bags review for more great camping products.
Lulltra shell regulates heat.
40% viscose rayon 60% polyester fill.
Machine washable, tumble dry.
5 year limited warranty.
Weight: 1.6 lbs.
- BrandCoop Home Goods
- Weight1.6 pounds
The Teton Sports Camp Pillow is fluffy and comfy and easy on your skin. It’s soft yet durable and you might be tempted to use it in bed, or at least when you’re napping on the sofa. This is an attractive pillow with a removable 100% flannel case that’s double brushed for optimal softness. It comes with a durable stuff sack that allows you to compress the pillow by 60 or 70 percent. But in spite of that, this is not a pillow serious backpackers are going to take up the mountain. Not unless they want to leave some food behind to make space for it. However, it’s an outstanding choice for family camping trips or to have in the RV. You can use this pillow even if you are sleeping in a wearable sleeping bag.
Removable flannel pillowcase.
P5 poly hi-count inner shell.
Supersoft 4-channel hollow fiber.
Stuff sack with drawstring closure.
A highly compressible pillow.
Weight: 10 oz.
- BrandTETON Sports
- Weight9.6 ounces
Klymit Pillow X is the type of camping pillow any serious mountaineer will love. It weighs less than 2 ounces, compresses down to about the size of a lighter and can be inflated with just a few breaths to provide all-night comfort. It features an innovative X structure intended to keep your head properly aligned on the pillow (some believe it does, others not so much) and a 30D polyester top and tough 75D poly bottom. But the real star of the show here is the fact that it breaks down so small you can realistically carry it in your pants pocket and save pack space for more essential items. Maybe the best backpacking pillow out there. Our handy guide to the best tent heaters features more great products like this.
Adjustable loft and firmness.
Compressed size 4.5 x 2.5 x 1 inch.
Unique X-design aligns your head.
Inflated Size: 15 x 11 x 4 inches.
Stuff sack included.
Weight: 1.9 oz.
- Weight14.4 ounces
Trekology Inflatable Pillow is handsome and comfortable, ideal for recreational camping at just about any time of the year. The case is fashioned from soft brushed cotton, it inflates with just 4 or 5 good breaths, you can adjust the firmness by adding or releasing air and there’s a built-in stuff sack attached to the back that the pillow collapses into when you’re ready to go home. When fully inflated it’s a big camping pillow that will provide all the comfort of home. And that’s what you want when you’re camping at the seashore during summer vacation. Keep a couple in your RV or trailer and you’re ready for epic road trips. Make sure it is always packed in your backpacking backpack.
Integrated stuff sack.
Compresses to 7 x 3 inches.
Machine washable cotton cover.
Outstanding neck and upper back support.
Inflates and deflates quickly.
Weight: 6 oz.
- ModelTrekology Inflatable
- Weight1.12 ounces
The last item on our list is Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Pillow. This is a camping pillow after the heart of anyone who loves a good night’s sleep in the great outdoors. Sure, it’s a bit too bulky to tote up Everest. But if you’re into recreational camping with family and friends it will help ensure you wake up every morning feeling loose and well-rested. It’s firm without being hard and has a reasonably comfortable polyester shell that cleans up easy. There’s plenty of loft but at the same time enough give that you won’t acquire a stiff neck overnight. If you’re a big person we’d recommend you get one of the larger sizes. As the small is a truly small camping pillow. Find more great products like this by checking out our guide to the best camping chairs.
5 inches of vertical loft.
Convenient stuff sack included.
100% shredded polyurethane foam fill.
Great for light camping and long flights.
Weight: 9 oz.
- BrandWise Owl Outfitters
Camping Pillow Buying Guide
Features To Look For In Camping Pillows
A good camping pillow can make the difference between a memorably uncomfortable camping trip and one that you remember for all the right reasons. They’re small, light, typically inexpensive and should be on any camper or backpacker’s shopping list. When you’re out there looking for a camping pillow keep the following features in mind.
Size - Some people like their head lifted a good way off the sleep surface. Others like just a couple of inches of lift. You need to know which type of person you are before you buy a particular camping pillow because some camp pillows are quite lofty. If you aren’t sure how much loft might be right for you consider an inflatable camping pillow that provides you some leeway regarding how high up your head sits. Also, if you are heading into the backcountry the packed size of the pillow is crucial. You’ll need to have a camping pillow that either compresses down to almost nothing or an air pillow so you can remove the air before storing it away.
Shape - This is mostly a matter of preference. Some folks, particularly those who tend to sleep on their back, like a pillow that wraps around their head on both sides. Others prefer a more traditional pillow shape that mimics what they have in their bed. The fact is camping pillows today come in an array of different sizes and shapes so there is bound to be one that appeals to your particular tastes and needs. Just keep in mind that bulky pillows and mummy bags don’t really go together.
Material - There are 2 types of material considerations in play when talking about pillows: the shell material and the fill material. Camping pillow shells are normally fashioned from nylon, polyester, fleece, cotton or some similar type of material. They’re designed to be soft and non-irritating to your skin. As for what’s inside, the best camping pillows will use down as their fill. This is incredibly warm and soft and provides extreme compressibility. Others will use a urethane sponge fill that is very comfortable and more affordable and a few use memory foam. Of course, if you want to be sure your camping pillow will disappear effectively into your backpack get an inflatable one. You can set the firmness to whatever level you like and it won’t take up any space in your pack.
Comfort - One person’s comfort is another person’s discomfort. So this is another feature that is a personal call on the part of the buyer. Just keep in mind that it can be difficult to judge the comfort level of any camping pillow without first putting it on the ground and laying your head on it. Obviously, you can’t do that with pillows you find online. But they probably won’t allow you to ‘test drive’ the pillow in a brick and mortar camping store either. So the best thing to do is head for the reviews section and see what people are saying about the comfort level of the pillow you’re interested in.
Weight - Weight is not really a consideration if you’re going to be camping with the car nearby. However, if you plan on hiking into the wild for a week it will become a major consideration. When you venture into the backcountry you have to bring your entire life with you in your pack. As such you have to make sure you don’t load your pack up with relative luxuries like a big camping pillow. But not to fear: there are many inflatable pillows available that weigh almost nothing and won’t take up any space in your pack.
Ease of Use - Spending time in the great outdoors is both exhilarating and labor intensive. The last thing you want is to unnecessarily add to the workload. So it’s important to consider how easy the pillow is to pack, carry, set up and store away. You also don’t want a hiking pillow that’s going to be rendered useless if it gets wet. So if you plan on hiking into the backcountry and you have reason to think rain is in the forecast you might want to leave the down pillow at home and take a self-inflating camping pillow.
Packed Size - Any camping pillow worthy of the title will compress to some degree. But, as we mentioned earlier, if your tent is 20 feet from your car whether or not you have a compressible pillow is not really an issue. Packed size considerations only really come into play when you are heading away from civilization and space within the backpack is at a premium.
Support - Support is a measure of the firmness of the pillow. This is actually one of the factors that determines a pillow’s comfort. There is no set standard for support since everyone has different ideas of what’s comfortable and what works for them. If you like to have the option of adjusting the amount of support the camping pillow provides consider getting an inflatable pillow.
Camping Pillow FAQ
Q: Why do I need a camping pillow?
A: Our guess would be that folks who ask this question haven’t spent much time in the outdoors trying to get a good night’s sleep. The fact is, while there are lots of great sleeping bags out there for just about every person and climate, and there are an equally large number of camping pads to put under those sleeping bags to make the cold hard ground less of an issue, the pillow is the one thing usually missing from the outdoor sleeping equation. If you haven’t tried sleeping outdoors before try putting your sleeping bag on the floor tonight and sleeping in it without a pillow. Chances are you’ll understand before the night is over why having a camping pillow is so important.
Q: What is the difference between camping and backpacking pillows?
A: While there are some points of overlap (backpackers certainly need to set up camp and campers often use backpacks) camping and backpacking are 2 different activities that utilize 2 different sets of gear. Camping is usually defined as a leisurely activity that takes place in public or private campgrounds with the car in close proximity to the campsite. Often times right in the campsite. Because of this size and weight considerations are not as important when it comes to camping gear. Backpacking, on the other hand, requires that you take everything you will need to survive with you into the wild. There are no cars to be found. Typically no roads for miles in any direction. Because you need to carry everything you need to be conscious of what everything weighs and how much space it takes up in your backpack. This includes pillows. If you are going to take a hiking pillow with you on a backpacking trip it should compress down to almost nothing and weigh only a few ounces.
Q: Do these pillows cause allergy problems?
A: The overwhelming majority of camping pillows will cause no allergic reactions. Especially those that are blow up pillows. Stuffed pillows, however, may be on some people’s allergy radar because there are those who exhibit a sensitivity to down and other materials used as fill. Most pillow shells - whether blow up or stuffed - are fashioned from either cotton, fleece, nylon, polyester or similar materials. If you are concerned about possible allergic reactions always check both the shell and fill materials before making your purchase.
Q: How to wash a Camping Pillow?
A: Before you go ahead and toss your camping pillow in the washing machine check the label first. Some manufacturers give very specific instructions about how to wash their pillows and throwing it in the washing machine may, in fact, ruin it. If the pillow says it is machine washable use cold water, the gentle cycle, and a mild detergent. For inflatable pillows, you don’t have to clean anything but the shell and that can be done with a clean cloth dipped in a little warm water containing a bit of mild detergent. Rub the surface with the cloth until clean then wring the cloth out, run it under the faucet to remove the detergent, then soak it again in clean water and wipe down the shell to remove any detergent residue. With stuffed pillows try not to wash them too much. As frequent washing is likely to affect the loft on even the best camping pillows.