Sweet Dreams: The Best 5 Camping Pillows for a Good Night's Sleep
Camping & Hiking Expert Kate Wilson gives you her top camping pillow choices, as well as giving you the tools you need to help you choose the best pillow for you!
Any outdoor enthusiast will tell you that camping is all about leaving everyday life behind, immersing yourself in nature, and disconnecting from the rest of the world. But while roughing it can be fun during the day, evenings are when you start missing those comforts of home, especially at bedtime!
Although tents, sleeping bags, and pads are considered to be essential on any outdoor excursion, the importance of a good camping pillow is often overlooked during trip planning. Some consider a jacket or even their backpack sufficient to use as a head cushion, but investing in a quality pillow can make a big difference in getting a good night's sleep in your tent!
There are many options to choose from depending on your budget, sleeping style, and type of outdoor adventure. Below are some of the best camping pillows for both backpacking and car camping, as well as some tips to consider before buying that will help you choose the right one no matter where your plans take you!
Weight and packability are the most important factors to consider when choosing a camping pillow, since you’ll be carrying everything on your back, potentially for several hours! A pillow that is too bulky or heavy can quickly become a burden when you're trying to pack light. Some of the best options include inflatable pillows or options that are stuffed with foam that compress down to a smaller size.
Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow
One of the best backpacking pillows is the Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow. It is made of a soft, brushed 50D polyester fabric and has an ergonomic air bladder for added support and comfort. It can be secured to your sleeping pad to eliminate the annoying “pillow slide,” inflates easily with just a few breaths, and can be deflated and packed away in a small stuff sack when not in use. It's also extremely lightweight at 2.8 ounces and packs down 2.8” x 3.3” (regular size), making it perfect for ultralight backpacking trips where every ounce of gear counts.
The NEMO Fillo Elite Pillow is also designed specifically for longer outdoor adventures where weight and pack size matter. It's a 3" thick, medium-sized inflatable camp pillow that packs down to the size of a small lime, while still managing to offer back sleepers an incredibly comfortable cushion that cradles the head perfectly. Its unique hybrid style features an air bladder that is layered by Primaloft padding, then covered with a soft, machine-washable cover. At 15” x 11” in size, this option fits nicely inside most sleeping bags, too.
Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow
An affordable, slightly heavier option for backpacking is the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow. It's made of a soft, foam-like material that compresses down to a fifth of its normal 18” x 14” size but expands to full-size instantly when needed. It's also covered in a soft, brushed polyester fabric for added comfort. It comes with a stuff sack for easy packing and weighs 8.6 ounces. If you don't mind the extra weight, this pillow is rated highly for comfort!
When you're car camping, weight and packability are less of a concern and the options open up considerably. Larger pillows with foam filling are a popular choice since they offer excellent support and comfort equivalent to the ones you use at home.
Klymit Drift Foam Pillow
An excellent option for car campers is the Klymit Drift Foam Pillow. It comes in two sizes, including the large size which boasts a massive 6.5" thickness and is 23" x 16" in size. Covered in soft jersey material and available in fun outdoor-themed colors, this one may have you skipping the sunrise and catching a few extra winks each morning. It's not the most compact option, but if you have the space in your car, it's one to consider when a good night's sleep is a priority (when isn't it?).
Sierra Designs Dridown Pillow
The Sierra Designs Dridown Pillow is awesome for car camping when the temperatures dip. It's filled with water-resistant down which offers supreme warmth, and also features a silky, quilt-like material on one side that stays cool and cotton on the other. These little extravagances can definitely upgrade the experience when you're roughing it outdoors! It's also on the thinner side, which is preferred for stomach sleepers since it reduces neck strain. The Dridown weighs about 5.8 ounces, so it is lightweight enough for backpacking but it doesn't pack down as small and is therefore a favorite among vanlifers and car campers.
Some camping pillows are designed with temperature regulation in mind. The NEMO Fillo Elite Pillow mentioned above has a layer of reflective material that helps to keep the pillow cool in warm weather. Similarly, the Exped Air Pillow has a layer of insulation to keep it warm in cold weather. If you're camping in extreme temperatures, definitely consider a pillow that can adapt to the weather to ensure a restful night's sleep.
Inevitably, your pillow will be subjected to rough treatment, whether it's being packed into a backpack or tossed into the back of a car. It's important to choose one that has durable fabric and is able to withstand the rigors of the outdoors. Look for one made with sturdy polyester or nylon that is resistant to punctures and tears, and that offers a lifetime warranty if possible.
Care and Maintenance
Some options require more care and maintenance than others. Inflatable pillows will need to be topped up with air occasionally, and they may develop leaks over time. The Klymit Pillow X has a durable, puncture-resistant design and an optional removable cover that you can toss in the washer and dryer when needed. Memory foam pillows, while generally low-maintenance, will need to be cleaned to remove dirt and sweat. Machine washing can cause the foam to break apart, so hand-washing is advised, or using a delicate cycle with warm water and mild detergent.
Camping pillows range in price considerably. While it's generally true that you get what you pay for, it's important to consider your budget and how much you're willing to spend. If you're an occasional camper, it may not be worth splashing out on an expensive pillow, but if you're a hardcore outdoor enthusiast who spends most of your time camping, it's certainly worth investing in a high-quality option that will last for many years.
Some camping pillows are more versatile than others. The Exped Megapillow can be used as a pillow, for lumbar support, or even a seat cushion, making it a great choice for a variety of preferences. You can also release air through the valve for different levels of firmness, making it suitable for side sleepers or back sleepers.
Technology is changing faster than we can plan our next trip, and a good example of that is the Trekology Aluft 2.0. These hybrid pillows feature a proprietary air valve to add and release air quickly and precisely, and features a textured fabric on the bottom that keeps the cushion in place. It also includes straps that attach it to most sleeping pads to further reduce the chance that your partner snatches it in the night!
Inflatable pillows are notorious for being noisy as they brush against your sleeping pad. If you're a light sleeper, consider covers made with microfiber, fleece, or cotton to reduce the chance of being awakened in the night.
Well, there you have it! There are plenty of options to help you invest in a quality camping pillow that will enhance any outdoor adventure. Need help finding one for your next trip? Reach out to me or any of our Camping and Hiking Experts for personalized recommendations. We'll get you all set up for a cozy, comfortable night's sleep under the stars!