backpacking travel pillow

Best Backpacking Pillow 2020 – Review & Buying Guide

Pillows are always underrated. Most backpackers don’t include them in their essential items during their expeditions. But in as much as they may seem as non-essentials pillows are very important. Especially if you spend most nights in bargain hostels or backpacking tents.

In most instances, backpackers use their clothes as head rests during the night. Having your head rest on clothes you spent most of your day in, doesn’t offer the best sleeping experience. You might wake up with imprints on your cheeks or a stiff neck which pretty much sums up a bad night’s sleep.

If you’ve been a victim of that don’t worry. Enter backpacking pillows. These are the latest and trendiest edition of pillows, some small enough that they can fit in your pocket. And this is what you need to transform your sleep during your backpacking trips.

Picking out the best backpacking pillow can be quite intimidating. Nonetheless, don’t worry because I have rounded up the best ten in the market. I’ll also discuss the important factors to consider when choosing a backpacking pillow and answer frequently asked questions.

10 Best Backpacking Pillows – Comparison

Type: Inflatable
Weight: 4.00 oz

Type: Inflatable
Weight: 9.60 oz

Type: Inflatable
Weight: 1.95 oz

Type: Inflatable
Weight: 2.78 oz

Type: Inflatable
Weight: 2.80 oz

Type: Inflatable
Weight: 1.95 oz

Type: Inflatable
Weight: 5.20 oz

Type: Compressible
Weight: 5.20 oz

Type: Inflatable
Weight: 4.00 oz

Type: Inflatable
Weight: 2.40 oz

Best Backpacking Pillows – Reviews

1. Cocoon Air-Core Ultralight Pillow

Weight: 4 oz; Packing Size:11 x 7.5 cm; Inflated Size: 33 x 43 cm

A super light inflatable backpacking pillow you will love travelling around with. One side is made out of microfiber which you can turn on to during the chilly nights. The opposite side is made out of nylon which is very cool, great for those warm nights.

The Cocoon Air-Core Ultralight Pillow comes in an array of colors. The most notable colors are, green, blue, and grey.

There is also an optimized hybrid version. Although it weighs double the weight of the standard Cocoon Air-Core Ultralight Pillow. It features an inflatable, exchangeable air core. It also comes with a layer of premium synthetic fill and a microfiber/nylon casing.

Pro Tip: Don’t max out the pillow when inflating it as your head will slide off while sleeping. Leave some allowance such that your head sinks in it a bit.
Pros Cons
Super light and compact Not stable, can roll out of place
Comfortable for different night types  
Customizable lift  

2. NEMO Fillo Inflatable Travel Pillow

Weight: 9.6 oz; Packing Size:9 x 6 x 4 inches

Looking to stay trendy and fresh during your backpacking trips? Then the NEMO Fillo pillow is what you need. But what makes the NEMO Fillo stand out, is its comfort and versatility.

It blends luxury foam with insulation giving it the perfect lift and firmness. It also packs to around 9 oz so you wont sacrifice on your packing space when carrying this luxury pillow.

The pillow is also covered with premium quality and ultra-soft pillow case. It can be machine washed without too much hassle or worry that it may lose its original colors. Besides, it features a multipurpose design perfect for all outdoor activities.

You can also get the Fillo’s integrated stuff sack. It will help you keep your pillow safe and clean during those backpacking trips.

Pros Cons
Small packing size At 9.6 oz, it’s heavy compared to it’s competition
Easy to clean  
Multipurpose design. Ideal cushion or lumbar support  

3. Klymit Pillow X Inflatable Pillow

Weight: 1.95 oz; Packing Size:11.3 x 6.35 x 2.5 cm; Inflated Size: 38.1 x 27.9 x 10.2 cm

The Klymit Pillow X is a comfortable, ultralight and durable pillow. It’s the lightest pillow on this list. The hybrid construction blends a lightweight and tough polyester top and bottom. This offers top-quality tear, puncture and abrasion resistance where required.

Its rugged build makes it a multipurpose pillow for almost all outdoor activities. Be it hiking, camping, backpacking you name it. It can also make up for a great seat cushion.

The pillow has an adjustable pressure valve to release air to adjust firmness to your liking. It also comes with a free stuff sack for maintaining your pillow’s compactness while on the go.

Pros Cons
Ultra-weight and compact None, it’s perfect
You can customize the lift  

4. Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow

Weight: 2.78 oz; Packing Size:7 x 8.5 cm; Inflated Size: 34 x 24 x 11 cm

The Sea to Summit pillow has a curved top that cradles your head. It’s one of the best contoured backpacking pillows. It also has a scalloped bottom edge which centers the pillow over your shoulders. This is perfect for sleeping in various positions without straining.

The Sea to Summit Aeros Premium casing is made of soft and durable polyester. It’s also filled with premium quality synthetic fill between the pillow case. A TPU bladder that boosts comfort and keeps your face dry from night sweats is also included.

The pillow comes in two sizes, regular and large, perfect for side sleepers or anybody who moves alot while sleeping. It also features a decent double valve. The double valve makes it easy to inflate and deflate the Sea to Summit Aeros Premium pillow.

Pros Cons
Great for both cold and warm nights It takes getting used to
Small packing size  
Great comfort  

5. Trekology Ultralight

Weight: 2.8oz; Packing Size:12.70 x 5.08 cm; Inflated Size: 16 x 12 x 4 in

The Trekology Ultralight is the most compact inflatable lightweight pillow on the market. Despite being an ultra-weight backpacking pillow, it does not compromise on comfort. It features an ergonomic design that has enhanced neck support to for the perfect sleep.

The new version is packed with layers of premium quality and durable elastic TPU fabric. The fabric is water resistance to improve its comfort and durability. Still on the same, the pillow’s back is made up of a slip resistant material. this material prevent your head from sliding off the pillow while you are a sleep.

You can inflate the Trekology Ultralight pillow by mouth with approximately 3-5 breaths. Additionally, it features a Quick Deflate feature to release air from the pillow fast. It also come with a free stuff sack.

Pros Cons
Small packing size Customizing your perfect lift can be challenging
Variety of colors to pick from  
Its Quick Deflate feature is a standout  

6. Exped Air Pillow UL

Weight: 1.95 oz; Packing Size:11.43 x 6.35 x 2.54 cm; Inflated Size: 38.1 x 27.9 x 10.2 cm

Exped boasts at blending durability with environmental friendliness in their products. That’s pretty much the case with the ultra-lightweight air pillow.

Its anti-slip GripSkin honeycomb-pattern coating that prevents you from sliding off is amazing. Also, the pillow features an anatomical shape that holds your head in place.

On its list of features are 2 fabric grommets that you can use to secure your pillow to a mat. It also has dual flat valves for inflation and deflation. You can use the valves for adjusting the pillow’s height.

It comes in two colors corn yellow and orange. Like any other pillow, for best comfort do not inflate the pillow to the max size.

Pros Cons
Durable and super light Doesn’t come with a pillowcase
Ergonomic design perfect for holding your head in place Didn’t feel too comfy

7. Therm-a-Rest Air Head Inflatable Foam Travel Pillow

Weight: 5.2 oz; Size:12 x 17.5 x 4 in

The Therm-a-Rest Air Head Inflatable Foam Travel Pillow is an exceptional lightweight pillow. Its compact shape does not take too much packing space. It features a cut out design to support your shoulders.

The pillow’s cover is made out of soft and brushed out material. This provides Next-to-Skin comfort and makes it super comfy. Don’t worry about cleaning. The cover has a zipper on the side so you can remove it and wash it separate from the inflatable tube.

Another great feature is its wide valve that allows you to inflate your pillow with a few blows. It closes with the turn of a screw, easier to operate than traditional rubber stopper valves. Because it’s inflatable, you can also adjust your pillow’s lift to your liking.

Pros Cons
Cut out design is great for lumbar support Its soft and brushed top foam isn’t ideal for warm sweaty nights
Removable top foam makes it easy to clean Albeit it’s compact size, at 5.2 oz, it’s a little bulky for light traveling

8. Kelty Camp Pillow

Weight: 5.2 oz; Packing Size:10 x 6 x 6 in

The Kelty Camp Pillow is a good choice if you are on a budget. Its cover is made out of nylon ripstop with its linear material being a blend of cotton and polyester.

It is filled with synthetic material which makes for average comfort. But you can add extra stuffing to fluff it up. Due to this fill, the pillow isn’t as lightweight as other backpacking pillows. But if you are on a tight budget, it’s a worthy compromise.

The Kelty’s Camp Pillow comes in a variety of colors and you also get a stuff sack for securing it when you are not using it.

Pros Cons
Cheap Slightly compressible
Durable Average comfort.The synthetic fill starts clumping up after sometime
Comes in a variety of colors Not light

9. Leisure Co Ultralight Inflatable Pillow

Weight: 4 oz; Packing Size:5”x 3” x 3”; Inflated Size: 14” x 10” x 4”

The Leisure Co Ultralight Inflatable Pillow packs a lot of decent features. It is the best most comfortable multipurpose outdoor pillow in the market.

It’s covered with a comforting jersey cotton blend that is slip resistant. It also provides insulation for warmth during cold nights. Inside, the pillow has a layer of padded synthetic filling that shapes to your head for comfort. Besides, the synthetic filling wicks away any moisture. So you won’t wake up to a sweat drenched pillow during warm nights.

The pillow is super light and compact, weighing approximately 4oz. It doesn’t take too much packing space and you’ll be able to travel with it without a hassle.

We aren’t done yet. The pillow inflates with a few blows and you can deflate it and customize the lift and firmness to your liking.

Pros Cons
Comfortable for different types of weather, cold or warm Only one side of the pillow is usable
Cut out ensures you don’t strain your neck and shoulder Might be too small for some people
Super light and compact  

10. Tillak Bubo Ultralight Inflatable Air Pillow

Weight: 2.4oz; Packing Size: 3” x 3”

This ultralight inflatable pillow packs great features for the best outdoor sleeping experience. Starting off, the pillow has a unique ergonomic design that allows it to mold to the shape of your head and neck. It also offers unrivalled cushion, and comfort, whether you sleep on your side, back or stomach.

The Tillak Bubo has premium quality polyester with a squashy brushed face fabric. It also has an air tight internal TPU lamination. The pillow is firm but smooth, perfect for any outdoor sleeping adventure.

The pillow weighs a paltry 2.4oz so you won’t have any trouble stuffing it into its stuff sack and carrying it with you.

With regards to inflation and deflation, it features its own Zephyr Valve system. It’s simple, durable, and adjustable.

NB: If you buy this pillow, 25% of the profits go into environment causes. A great gesture isn’t it?
Pros Cons
Comfortable and durable Lacks anti-slip resistance
Multipurpose, you can also use for lumbar support or cushion seat  

Types of Backpacking Pillows

Backpacking pillows come in two types, compressible and inflatable.

Compressible Pillows

Compressible pillows usually have fill inside them. The type of fill can either be pure synthetic material, down fabric, foam or a mixture of all the three. In a nutshell, they resemble home pillows, regardless of the kind of filler material used.

Compressible pillows filled with pure down fabric are more compact, lightweight and comfortable. This makes them costlier.

Compressible pillows filled with foam or synthetic fabric are firmer and are cheaper. One drawback about these pillows is that they are a little bit heavier.

Pros of Compressible Pillows

  • Soft and comfortable.
  • Durable than inflatable pillows.

Cons of Compressible Pillows

  • Take up too much packing space.
  • Heavier.

Inflatable Pillows

These kind of pillows unlike their compressible counterparts are filled with air. Are you are looking for an ultra weight and easy to pack pillow that takes up less packing space? Inflatables are what you should go for.

With an inflatable pillow all you have to do is give it a few blows and you are good to go. Additionally, you can let out some air via the valve to customize the pillow’s height and firmness. Being able to customize firmness gives inflatable pillows an edge over compressible ones.

Most inflatable pillows will create some noise when you move your head. This is uncommon in compressible pillows. They are also designed to be superlight and compact. The design compromises on its durability.

Pros of Inflatable Pillows

  • Takes up small packing space.
  • Cheaper than compressible pillows.
  • Lightweight

Cons of Inflatable Pillows

  • Not durable.
  • Compromise on comfort

Hybrid Pillows

Looking for a backpacking pillow that gives the best of both worlds? Then go for hybrid pillows. They combine the good feature from both inflatable and compressible pillows.

Hybrid pillows mix synthetic and down fabric. They also feature an inflatable feature for easier packing and so you can customize its lift. While comfortable to sleep on, they are not as light as their inflatable counterparts.

Pros of Hybrid Pillows

  • Comfortable as they come
  • Multipurpose

Cons of Hybrid Pillows

  • Heavier than inflatable pillows.

What to Consider When Buying a Backpacking Pillow

Here are some considerations for you to keep in mind in order to make your backpacking trip awesome.


Well, you definitely don’t want to travel with heavy luggage. A decent camping pillow should not weigh more than 4 oz.


Since you’ll be spending your cash buying one, you shouldn’t compromise on comfort. Besides, it’s the sole reason why you are buying the pillow in the first place. Ensure the pillow is of a high quality and soft material.


Having a pillow that’s too high or too low will leave you with a stiff neck after sleeping on it. For backpackers, an inflatable pillows is the perfect bet. With this you can inflate the pillow to your desired height to ensure a good night’s sleep. Moreover, you can go for a filled pillow and stack it up to give you the perfect lift.

Size and Shape

The size and shape of a pillow is very important. Backpacking pillows tend to be small. Thus, it’s best you go for contoured ones rather than their square shaped counterparts. This will ensure that your head, neck and shoulders rest well on the pillow all night long.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can the Pillows Be Washed?

Well, that depends on the type of pillow you have. Some compressible pillows do come with pillow cases that you can wash separate. But, if you buy one that doesn’t come with a pillow case, it is a good idea that you get one for it. Washing the pillow will affect the fill especially if its pure synthetic material. Synthetic material tends to lump up after washing affecting the pillow’s comfort.

For the inflatable pillow, you can detach its bladder and wash the pillow using soap and water. If the bladder is not detachable, deflate the pillow, close the air valve and wash it using soap and water. Always exercise caution when washing the pillow to avoid puncturing the tube.

Does the Type of Fillings Affect Comfort?

The type of fillings used in your pillow does matter a lot. Compressible pillows filled with pure synthetic material lump up after sometime. This makes them hard and uncomfortable.

If you are looking for comfort and compactness go for a blend of synthetic material and down fabric. Although they will cost more. You can also go for a hybrid pillow which has compressible and inflatable features. A hybrid pillow is quite comfortable as you can also adjust its firmness and lift to your liking.

How Far Should I Inflate My Pillow?

When it comes to inflating your pillow, blowing it out to its max isn’t always the best idea. Leave some allowance so that your head can mold into the pillow. A fully blown out pillow will be too tight meaning the pillow will slide out from under your head.

Do Backpacking Pillows Help Improve Your Sleep?

Compared to sleeping on a pile of clothes, backpacking pillows are much better.

When purchasing your pillow always consider which kind of sleeper you are. You will come across pillows crafted for back sleepers and others for side sleepers.
Does Pillow Size Matter?
But you will never go wrong with a fully-fledged pillow that can suit all sleeping styles. This kind of pillows have an ergonomic design that holds your head into place. The design also supports your neck and back muscles if you are a back sleeper. This ensures that you enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Does Pillow Size Matter?

Most backpackers like travelling light with all their stuff packed in one bag. In such instances, it’s important to have a light pillow that takes less packing space. However, for other outdoor sleeping adventure, weight won’t be an issue. So, the size of the pillow actually depends on the outdoor activity you’re planning to undertake.

Do Inflatable Backpacking Pillows Create Noise When Moving Your Head?

Inflatable pillows that have a nylon cover do create some squeaking sounds. It can be quite irritating. For some backpackers the noise isn’t a bother and they won’t lose their sleep over it. If you do find these noises a nuisance, opt for pillows with cotton or polyester covers. You can also buy such pillow covers separately.

Do all Backpacking Pillows Come with a Stuff Sack?

Most inflatable pillows do come with a stuff sack for securing your pillow while you are not using it. However, this depends on the brand.

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