Very few things can make an outdoor excursion more miserable than an uncomfortable night of thrashing around in your sleeping bag, unable to get to sleep to get ready for the next day’s adventures.
And while you carefully chose your sleeping mat to keep you insulated from the ground, and carefully selected a sleeping bag to keep you warm in cold weather and comfortable otherwise, there’s something you may not have considered.
What about a camping pillow? Whether it’s filled with air, or with foam, or is just a sack into which you place soft items, a camping pillow can ensure a good night’s sleep in the outdoors.
Read on for a look at our selections for the best camping pillows of the year.
Our Top Picks
Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow
Rumpl Stuffable Pillowcase
Best Air Pillow:
Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow
Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow
The two measures of a high-quality camping pillow are portability and comfort. Both criteria are met exceptionally well with the Therm-a-Rest compressible pillow, making it an ideal choice for camping, backpacking, airline travel and road trips.
The Therma-a-Rest Compressible pillow weighs in at just 9 ounces. Despite that light weight, the pillow expands to provide a 4-inch cushion, plenty of comfort for a nap or a full night’s sleep. In addition to its ample cushion, the Therm-a-Rest provides plenty of room to rest your head, at 14 inches wide and 18 inches long.
- Folds very compactly for travel
- Cover fabrics offer wide range of comfort
- Foam takes shape quickly after unpacking
- Washing may create damage
- May feel lumpy to some users
- Fluffing in dryer may not always be practical
Rumpl Stuffable Pillowcase
Let’s face it — only you know what you need for a good night’s rest or a restorative catnap. What the Rumpl Stuffable Pillowcase provides for you is the choice of what you’ll fill it with — a down jacket, maybe, or a comfortable hoodie — to rest your head. That’s why it’s our best value choice for a camping pillow.
With a weight of just 3.2 ounces, the Rumpl Stuffable Pillowcase is a no-brainer choice for packing light for whatever adventure you choose. You’ll also have a stuffable pillowcase that is environmentally friendly, constructed of recycled polyester and fleece.
- Can make inflatable pillows more comfortable
- Excellent durability
- Handy to keep in car
- Zipper can get stuck
- May be too small for some users
Best Air Pillow
Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow
If you’re thinking of the Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow as some sort of air mattress for you head, you’re thinking wrong. The Aeros Premium is engineered for great comfort, with a brushed polyester knit fabric cradling your head.
That material, in turn, is on top of a layer of synthetic fill material between your head and the air bladder that supports it. And the air bladder includes curved internal baffles designed to comfortably fit the contours of your head.
- Easy to adjust for personal comfort
- Easy inflation and deflation
- Stays stable during movement while sleeping
- Hard to find “sweet spot” for sleeping comfort
- May be susceptible to leaking
- Pillow case should come with pillow
NEMO Fillo Elite Luxury Pillow
A recent upgrade to the NEMO Fillo Elite Luxury Pillow makes it an even better choice as a camping pillow, and has earned it a place on our list of the best camping pillows. Improvements include new fabrics for more comfort, and an improved inflation system for more convenient use.
The NEMO Fillo Elite Luxury Pillow’s baffled air cell, which provides a custom fit to cradle your head, eliminates the uneven “ballooning” found in other air pillows that can make sleeping somewhat less comfortable than it should be.
Additionally, the “stuff sack” for the NEMO Fillo Elite is integrated into the pillow itself, meaning that it won’t get lost in your luggage or find its way to a dark corner of your backpack.
- Fully inflates with just a few breaths of air
- Good value for the money
- Can also be used around the house
- Inner air bladder feels a bit thin
- Can be noisy when moving head at night
- May not be best choice for people who sleep on their side
Big Agnes Pumphouse Ultra
The Big Agnes Pumphouse Ultra makes our list of the best camping pillows because of its versatility. While it is a camping pillow, the Big Agnes also is a sleeping pad inflation pump, a dry bag and a stuff sack. And it all comes in a package weighing less than 3 ounces.
To use the Big Agnes for sleeping pad inflation, all that you need to do is unroll it, attach to the sleeping pad’s inflation valve, and roll it up to force air into the sleeping pad. And from there, it’s your choice — you can use the Big Agnes as a dry bag for storage, or as an inflated camping pillow.
- Versatility a plus for camping gear
- Can also be used as a shower bag
- May not hold its form when used as a pillow
- May not fit all sleeping pad valves
HEST Standard Pillow
If you’re looking for a comfortable pillow for travel camping, where you don’t have to worry too much about the size and weight of your gear, the HEST Standard Pillow is a great choice to ensure comfortable nights of sleep.
Nearly two feet wide, and almost as long, the 8-inch thick HEST Standard Pillow is slightly curved at one end to comfortably cradle your head during nights in a tent, trailer or recreational vehicle. As a bonus, a zippered pocket allows you to adjust the thickness of the pillow.
- Exceptional pillow for car camping
- Soft and warm feel
- Machine washable
- Bulky, so not suited for anything other than car camping
- Heavy, weighing in at more than 3 pounds
Buyer’s Guide for the Best Camping Pillow
When you’re considering the purchase of a camping pillow, the first thing you need to consider is the type of camping you’re most likely to do.
If your preference is for car camping, you likely won’t have to be concerned too much about the weight or size of the camping pillow. On the other hand, if backpacking, canoeing or other mobile camping is your preference, weight and size will become primary concerns for you.
Read on to find out about the various types of camping pillows on the market. As you’ll readily discern, inflatable or stuffable pillows make great choices for backpacking or canoeing in the outdoors. But you need not necessarily limit yourself, depending on how much you value a truly comfortable night’s sleep.
If you’re looking for an outdoor sleeping experience that’s the most similar to what you get in your bed at home, you’ll want to take a serious look at the compressible pillow options available to you.
You’ll find compressible pillows stuffed with down, or with various type of foam or other synthetic materials. Routinely packaged within some sort of stuff sack, these pillows will expand once they’re unpacked to give you the sort of soft cradling of your head that you’re used to having at home.
And the good news is that in many cases, compressible pillows will be light enough, and compact enough, to fit into a backpack or other gear bag to bring a touch of home to your wilderness adventure.
Inflatable pillows are a self-explanatory option among camping pillows. But don’t be fooled into thinking that they necessarily will feel like air mattresses you may remember from your youth, with a sleeping surface that might be too hard, or might be too soft, or might feel like your head is wallowing from side to side.
In many cases, inflatable pillows incorporate features of other types of camping pillows, and when deflated, they usually will pack down into a size that won’t take up too much space in your backpack.
One drawback of inflatable pillows, particularly when they are simple air bladders, and aren’t covered with a pillowcase or other soft fabric, is that they can be noisy as you move around against what is usually some sort of plastic or other synthetic surface.
As the name suggests, and as mentioned briefly above, hybrid pillows combine features of compressible pillows and inflatable pillows in an attempt to capitalize on the best features of both options.
Broadly speaking, hybrid pillows most routinely are constructed as inflatable bladders, topped with some sort of foam or other synthetic material. But, mindful of the potential discomfort of sleeping on a plastic pillow, many hybrid pillows feature a softer surface covering to enhance comfort.
If you’re looking the optimum camping pillow in terms of light weight, and also in terms of convenience, a stuffable camping pillow may be the best option for you.
As the name explains, the fill in stuffable pillows is supplied by you. Maybe you’d like to sleep on the soft down jacket that keeps you warm during the day, or maybe the flannel shirts you’ve packed for your time in nature are appealing as a soft place for your head to lay at night.
The genius of a stuffable pillow is that it allows you to use soft and comfortable things you’ve already packed for the dual purpose of getting a good night’s sleep. And as a bonus, many stuffable pillows on the market today incorporate padding and comfortable materials into their design, enhancing your sleeping comfort.
Consider Your Sleeping Style
It may not be immediately apparent, but one thing you’ll need to consider in selecting a camping pillow that will be comfortable for you is your sleeping style. The way in which you sleep, whether on your back, on your stomach or on your side, should play a primary role in choosing the best camping pillow for you.
Side sleepers will need to pay particular attention to choosing a camping pillow, due to the need for keeping the head and spine aligned to ensure a comfortable night’s sleep. Many camping pillows don’t have a high enough profile to keep the head and spine in line, and others are not firm enough to get the job done.
One piece of advice for side sleepers is to take a look at consumer reviews of the wide array of camping pillows. Generally, those reviews will include comments from users who do sleep on their sides that will let you know whether a particular pillow will be comfortable for you.
However, as a rule of thumb, side sleepers generally will fare well with an inflatable pillow, which will allow them to customize the level of support their heads will need to stay in alignment with their bodies.
For stomach sleepers, low-profile pillows, of whatever type, will generally be a good choice, while back sleepers would be well-advised to find an option somewhere in between the low profile that serves back sleepers well and the more individually customizable options needed by side sleepers.
FAQs on Camping Pillows
Beyond the types of camping pillows and the importance of choosing a pillow that aligns with your sleeping style, there are a number of other considerations in adding this bit of gear to your camping and travel paraphernalia. Read on for answers to some other questions about camping pillows.
Do I Really Need a Camping Pillow?
Sure, in some sense, the idea of adding a pillow to your outdoor gear seems to run counter to the aesthetic of “roughing it” in the great outdoors. But consider your daily life, and the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, and the advisability of using a camping pillow becomes readily apparent.
Plus, there’s the fact that the unpleasant results of an uncomfortable night’s sleep — muscle aches and tiredness, in particular — can make your time in the outdoors much less pleasant, if not outright painful.
What’s the Best Weight for a Camping Pillow?
This question is of particular importance to backpackers, who will be carrying all of their gear, sometimes for multiple miles and many times for multiple days. For backpackers, the ideal weight of a camping pillow should be between 3 and 4 ounces.
And it goes without saying that space is at a premium for backpackers as well as weight, so the smaller that a camping pillow can be compressed, the better.
But size and weight also will be important for car campers, who may want to keep a pillow handy for napping while fellow adventurers are behind the wheel en route to a destination.
Air travelers, too, likely will want a camping pillow that can fit into a small space, and that doesn’t weigh much.
What Material Is Best for a Camping Pillow?
One thing that you should know as you search for a camping pillow is that you won’t really find anything that will exactly mimic the pillow on your bed at home, a mass of comfortable fill or down encased in a cotton, or maybe silk or satin, pillowcase.
Almost universally, camping pillows — or at least the surfaces that come into contact with your face — will be made with some sort of synthetic material. Given that limitation, durability should be a primary guide for your choice of a camping pillow.
Even with that, however, you may be able to bring a little touch of home into the outdoors with you, if you’re willing to pack a pillowcase from home in which to wrap your camping pillow.
Wrapping up the Best Camping Pillow for 2023
We hope this post has provided you with helpful information on how to choose the best camping pillow for your needs. We also hope that we’ve steered you to some specific pillows that will meet your needs and desires. For more on all kinds of camping gear, check out our Camping Gear section.