Never underestimate what a good night's sleep can do for you. When you are hiking, camping or travelling, you need to be on top form to make the most of your day, and it all starts with a quality night's sleep. Of course, when you are trekking, you will want to maximise as much space in your backpack as you possibly can, and a bulky pillow is not a good use of space. However, like many other gadgets and accessories, the current range of cleverly engineered camping pillows have managed to shrink drastically while maintaining comfort.
Camping pillows are specifically made to be compact yet provide good support to ensure you get proper rest. This really pays dividends if you're camping for several nights. The support that a decent pillow and sleeping mat can offer your neck, head and spine will serve to align your body during sleep, and therefore improve your recuperation and give you more energy to tackle the day.
These pillows have come leaps and bounds over the years and are no longer air-tight sacks of stale breath. The new contemporary designs are made with thought and can fold down to the size of a lime (or lemon if that's your citrus of choice) without compromising on comfort. There are even options that are similar to ‘real’ pillows, with a memory foam filling and comfortable lining, so you don't need to fret about being poorly rested during your trek.
Below is a quick guide on what to look for in a camping pillow, and following this, our current top five camping pillows.
What to look for in a camping pillow
Type: Camping pillows are compressible foam or inflatable. The former are generally more comfortable, while the latter are often lighter.
Insulation: Some camping pillows have added insulation. Some people feel the cold more than others and if you’re one of these people, a pillow with some extra insulation might be useful.
Weight: You’ll spend more time carrying your pillow than sleeping on it. Therefore, lightness is key, although balancing this with comfort is important.
Packed size: A camping pillow is a luxury and you don’t want it going into your rucksack at the expense of something more important. Make sure the camping pillow you choose can be accommodated in your pack.
The best camping pillows
Sea To Summit Aeros Premium Pillow (Medium)
Type Insulated inflatable | Weight 79g | Packed size 8.5 x 7cm | Dimensions 34 x 24 x 11 cm
Pros: Lightweight, comfortable, medium and large sizes
Cons: No eco/recycled materials used
This excellent pillow offers backpackers a little extra luxury after a long trek without the added bulk. Once folded into the integrated stuff sack it comes to the size of a lime and needs only a little air to fill it up 8cm deep.
The insulation it has is fully recycled Primaloft and it has something called an I-Beam baffled air cell design, which just means the inner of the pillow has baffles rather than a smooth balloon shape. The good news is that it works very well and the Fillo Elite Ultralight is fantastic.
Trekology Ultralight Inflatable Camping Pillow
Type Inflatable | Weight 78g | Packed size 13 x 5cm | Dimensions 40 x 30 x 10cm
Pros: Lightweight, many colours available
Cons: NEMO Fillo Ultralight is more comfortable
Trekology also won Best Value for our walking pole group test. Its camping pillow is the same weight as the NEMO pillow above but isn’t quite as comfortable due to the lack of insulation and inferior fabric.
It’s still a great camping pillow that packs down to the point where it barely robs any space at all.
Exped Ultra Pillow
Best lightweight pillow
Type Inflatable | Weight 50g | Packed size not given | Dimensions 38 x 27 x 12cm
Pros: Weighs next to nothing, recycled fabric, reasonably thick
Cons: NEMO pillow is more comfortable
There are more comfortable camping pillows than this one, such as the NEMO Fillo Elite Ultralight above. But this is almost 40% lighter and 100% more comfortable than no pillow at all. There are some neat touches, such as eyelets for attaching it to a sleeping mat, and there is a larger version available, if you want more comfort.
In addition to its lightweight build, we’re also impressed with the sustainability credentials here. The Exped Ultra Pillow is made from recycled stretch fabric and is a certified climate neutral product.
Type Inflatable | Weight 170g | Packed size 13 x 10cm | Dimensions 53 x 32 x 12cm
Pros: Most comfortable here, internal stuff sack, regular pillow shape, climate neutral product
Cons: Relatively heavy
The most pillow-like pillow you’ll find that remains reasonably compact when packed away is this. While inflatable, it also has fleece padding surrounding the air baffles, which provides a lot of comfort for campers.
Although the MegaPillow sounds chunky, it's still reasonably light. However, there are certainly smaller, lighter options available. If you have the space for it, your body will thank you for it.
Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow Cinch Small
Type Insulated inflatable | Weight 210g | Packed size not given | Dimensions 38 x 28 x 13cm
Pros: Sustainable, very comfortable, three sizes
Cons: A bit heavy, not very compact
Similar to the NEMO Fillo in principle but at a lower price. The Therm-a-Rest pillow also features an inflatable core paired with insulation and is available in three sizes. The down sides are that it’s heavier and not as compact – the Regular size is about the dimensions of a one-litre bottle when rolled up.
It is made with foam offcuts, up-cycled from the manufacturing process of the equally impressive Therm-a-rest ProLite sleeping mat. The brushed polyester outer is soft and made from 60% recycled materials. If you are looking for a sustainable, supportive option then this would be an excellent choice for you, provided you have the space for it.