After a long day hiking in nature, you might think you’re tired enough to fall asleep on just about anything. While that could very well be true, you might wake up the next morning with a sore neck and maybe even a headache if you spend the night sleeping a couple of balled-up sweatshirts-and that’s certainly not a good start to your day. That’s why you should resort to nothing but the best camping pillow to ensure a restful sleep on your camping adventures!
With so many camping pillow options out there, it might feel like an overwhelming choice to make. Read on to learn about what I think are the best camping pillows, and why.
What is a Camping Pillow?
Before we get to my list, let’s go over what exactly a camping pillow really is.
A camping pillow is, rather simply, a pillow designed to be used when camping. You might think that stuffing together some jackets might do, but it rarely does. A camping pillow is meant to bring the same comfort of your bed at home to your tent, while also being lightweight, compact, and resistant to the elements. That means they are usually small, waterproof, and easy to clean. Depending on your specific needs and activities, they might also have additional features.
No matter what camping pillow you decide on, the best camping pillow will be shaped and built in a way to provide good neck and head support; to deflate, fold, or squish into a smaller version of itself when not actively being used; and to be as lightweight as possible to facilitate transportation.
Different Types of Camping Pillows
Since there are so many different types of camping out there, you might have already guessed that there are different types of camping pillows, as well. Here are the four categories:
Compressible Camping Pillows
These pillows are the most comfortable because they’re the closest camping pillow to the regular at-home pillows on your bed. Depending on the brand, they could be filled with down, foam, or other synthetic materials. As the name suggests, compressible camping pillows usually compress into a smaller size to fit into a little pouch. They are great for car and RV camping-basically any activity for which if you don’t have to carry everything in your backpack!
Inflatable Camping Pillows
Inflatable pillows are also relatively straight forward. Valued for how little space they take up when not inflated, they’re basically little air mattresses for your head (except for you don’t need an air pump to blow it up). You can regulate how thick and hard you want your pillow by filling it with more or less air. Though they take up less space than compressible camping pillows and provide good head and neck support, they’re usually less comfortable.
Stuff Sack Camping Pillows
Stuff Sack Camping pillows are the least comfortable camping pillows because they are just one step above squishing your sweater into a ball, but they are by far the best option for itinerant, backpacking trips because of how little space they take up when not in use. In fact, they actually provide more storage, because they are essentially a pillowcase in which you can stuff just about anything to give it as much or as little shape as you want.
Hybrid Camping Pillows
Hybrid camping pillows are the best of compressible and inflatable camping pillows in one! Usually made up of an inflatable sack and a layer of foam, they fold into a smaller volume than traditional compressible pillows while maintaining the comfort of some stuffing to avoid the feeling of sleeping on a balloon! Because of the extra layer, they’re bigger than inflatable camping pillows and stuff sack camping pillows, but I think they’re a great compromise for someone looking to travel lightweight while still preferring that extra level of comfort at night.
The Best Camping Pillow
Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for: the best camping pillows on the market!
Best Camping Pillow Overall
Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow
With a scalloped shape to best support your head and neck, and the incredible lightweight of 6.9 ounces or less (depending on the size you choose), this Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow is beloved by many. Plus, it folds into almost half the size of a Camelbak water bottle! It’s hard to find all these great qualities in a single camping pillow.
- Inflatable-easy storage
- Soft but durable material
- Water wicking properties
- Scalloped shape for more comfort
- Comes in three sizes
- Expensive compared to other inflatable camping pillows
Best Camping Pillow on a Budget
TETON Sports Camp Pillow
The TETON Sports Camp Pillow is perfect for you if you’re looking for quality without stretching your wallet. With over 5,000 ratings that average above four stars, the only downside is that its cotton material can get dirty quickly.
- Over 5,000 great reviews
- Machine washable
- No inflation
- Heavier than other camping pillows
- Cotton gets dirty fast
Best Camping Pillow, Large
Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow
This Therm-a-Rest pillow is the perfect choice for you if you’re not ready to give up on the size of your pillow. It comes in extra large!
- 27 inches x 16.5 inches x 4 inches
- Polyester stuffing is comfortable
- Versatile use for different kind of travel
- Drawcord and lock compression system for easy storing
- Heavier than most camping pillows
- Takes up more space than most camping pillows
Best Camping Pillow, Fancy
Sea to Summit Aeros Down Pillow
If you’re a glamper more than a traditional rustic camper, then you’ll love this Sea to Summit Down Pillow. It’s more expensive than most-but for good reason!
- The most comfortable kind of camping pillow
- Certified to the Responsible Down Standard
- Comes in three different sizes
- Compresses to almost half the size of a Camelbak water bottle
- More lightweight than other compressible camping pillows
- Have to hand wash
Best Camping Pillow, Memory Foam
Cozy Hut Memory Foam Camping Pillow
- Comfortable memory foam
- Cover is machine washable
- Cover has moisture-wicking properties
- Takes up a lot of space even when compressed
Best Camping Pillow Hybrid
NEMO Fillo Pillow
This NEMO Fillo Pillow is a great compromise between the less comfortable stuff sack and inflatable camping pillows, and a softer compressible camping pillow.
- Compact size makes it easy to transport
- Made of machine washable microsuede
- layer of foam provides more comfort
- Comes with a lifetime warranty
- More expensive than other types of camping pillows
- Takes up more space than inflatable camping pillows
Best Camping Pillow Stuff Sack
Rumple Stuffable Pillow
Just too attached to the idea of sleeping on bundled-up clothing? Then at least do it in style with the Rumple Stuffable Pillow!
- Incredibly light
- Made of sustainable material
- Easy to pack and carry
- Comes in one size
- Comfort depends on what you stuff it with
How to Choose the Best Camping Pillow
Now that we’ve gone through my list of the best camping pillows, it’s time for you to choose the best camping pillow for you! You might still be feeling overwhelmed even after reading the guide above, and that’s normal.
Here are some more things you should consider before making your choice:
This is the number one most important thing to consider when deciding on the best camping pillow. If you’re backpacking across a mountain range for several days, the chances of you having enough room for a compressible pillow are pretty slim, which means your appropriate camping pillow options can already be narrowed down to an inflatable pillow, stuff sack pillow, or hybrid pillow-though perhaps even a hybrid pillow might take up too much space!
If, on the other hand, you’re traveling with your RV, car camping, or sticking to the same campsite for the entire trip (and the location you pick to build your tent is a short walk from your car), you can probably afford yourself a more comfortable experience with a compressible camping pillow. Some people even bring along their home pillows, so whatever amount of money you were planning to spend on a camping pillow could be allocated elsewhere in your camping budget.
This is an important point related to the category above. The best camping pillow for you will fit within the weight limits acceptable to whatever outdoor activity you will be partaking in. If you’re embarking on a long solo backpacking trip in which every extra ounce matters, don’t fool yourself into thinking that a pillow won’t make that much of a difference. By day two, I promise it will! Experts agree that the best camping pillow is one that weighs about seven ounces or less, and folds down to the size of a water bottle, or smaller!
For RV and car camping, however, weight doesn’t matter as much as the size does, because it’s the vehicle that will do the heavy lifting for you!
Though this might be a no-brainer when deciding on the best camping pillow, it’s still a category worth mentioning. Don’t splurge on a camping pillow if you don’t have the budget for it-especially because there are some pretty cheap camping pillows out there that certainly get the job done (refer back to my best camping pillow on a budget)!
Remember, however, that especially for compressible camping pillows, the stuffing will probably influence the cost of the pillow. For example, down stuffing is very comfortable but obviously more expensive than synthetic foam.
Popular brands will also have a higher price ticket. Though sometimes the brand represents an established reputation of excellent quality that you can rely on blindly, don’t discount those cheaper and lesser-known brands before reading the reviews!
Closely associated with the matter of weight, the compressibility of the best camping pillow is most pressing (hah!) when everything needs to fit into your backpack. You’ll quickly realize that a bed pillow would probably take up the majority of your hiking backpack, which is why camping pillows are optimized exactly to avoid that problem.
As you might imagine, inflatable and stack stuff pillows are actually the best camping pillows for compressibility because they can be folded down into a very thin layer, as opposed to compressible camping pillows, which simply cannot shrink any smaller than their stuffing allows.
The durability of a camping pillow is most important for inflatable and hybrid pillows, for which a hole in its material would render it completely useless. Durable camping pillows should be sturdy enough to resist the poking and prodding of rocks, pine needles, and other camping materials that might push against them in your backpack or car. Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is a particularly strong material to keep an eye out for!
It’s also worth your time to take a look at the reviews and see what previous buyers think of the pillow you’re interested in. If anyone talks about the product wearying down quickly, steer clear!
Since we’ve already talked about compressibility for travel purposes, let’s talk about the size of the camping pillow when it is unfolded, inflated, and/or stuffed. If you’re sleeping directly under the stars, it might not matter how big your pillow is; but if you’re squeezing into a small tent that perhaps you’re even sharing with other happy campers, you’re not going to want an extra-large pillow that takes up more space than your fair share! So it’s important to keep into account the size of the pillow not just when it’s folded up, but also when it’s in use.
If you’re sleeping in a tent, hopefully you don’t have to worry about the damp ground seeping moisture into your space; it’s still a good idea, however, to choose the best camping pillow with a certain degree of water resistance to protect against moisture in the air, accidental spillage, or getting water damage if you drop your pillow on the wet ground while unpacking it from your car or backpack (it happens to the best of us!). Waterproofness is even more important if you’re sleeping outdoors, without the cover of the tent, or especially even without the extra layer of a camping mattress.
Pillow loft is the height, or thickness, of said pillow, which dictates the incline of your head and the angle of your neck while sleeping. Traditionally, both side sleepers and back sleepers prefer medium to high loft, while stomach sleepers prefer low loft. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you’re camping, your loft preference doesn’t matter anymore! It’s important to keep in mind your own personal preferences to ensure good sleep on your camping trip.
Just like you wash your pillow covers every so often at home, so too should you remember to clean your camping pillows every once in a while. Some are easier to clean than others: some camping pillows have a removable cover that is machine washable, other synthetic compressible pillows can often be directly thrown into the washing machine as one, and still some inflatable pillows can simply be wiped down. Remember that down pillows are a little trickier: those need to be cleaned by professionals.
Think about how often you’ll be cleaning your camping pillow (which is directly related to how often you’ll be using it, and where) to determine how easy you need the care instructions to be.
Think about what special features are most important to you to make your camping sleeping experience the best it can be. Do you prefer self-inflating valves? Small pockets for things like sleep masks? Natural fiber covers? Remember to make a list in relation to your budget-the more special features on your best camping pillow, the more expensive it will be.
While a return policy, and even a warranty, might be more important for the more expensive hiking gear on your camping list, you shouldn’t forget to ask store employees-or read the entire description in the online store to find-what the return policy is. Even if your camping pillow is just fifteen dollars, you want to make sure you can get your money back if something goes wrong!
A good return policy or warranty is also a good sign, because it means that the company is betting that you’ll be happy with your product, and won’t want to return it.
How to Care for Your Camping Pillow
Just like your home pillow, it’s important to keep good care of the best camping pillow you pick. Overtime oils, skin cells, and other small debris accumulate into the material, even if you can’t see it.
As far as how often you wash it, it really depends on how often you use it. Go with your gut, and remember that it’s always best to overclean a pillow rather than under-clean!
As mentioned above, each kind of camping pillow-whether that be compressible, inflatable, hybrid, or stuff sack-is cleaned in different ways. In general, camping pillows will either be completely machine washable, have a machine-washable removable outer layer, or be easy to clean by wiping down with a wet rag. Pay special attention to any camping pillow with down stuffing, because that might be a bit trickier and require washing by hand.
As with anything, refer to the care guidelines for precise steps on how to care for your best camping pillow!
Go Find Your Best Camping Pillow!
I hope you now feel inspired to go out and find the best camping pillow for all your camping needs. Remember that a good night’s sleep is worth every penny, and sets you up for a more successful outdoor adventure for the next day. My favorite continues to be the Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow because of its shape, light weight, and great quality.
Now that you’ve secured your pillow, it’s time to think about the rest of your camping gear. Check out the rest of our site for product recommendations!