The freshness of the first day of a trek can give way to tiredness next morning if you don’t sleep well in night. That is why you should carry a comfortable backpacking pillow with yourself, for it helps you sleep long and deep outdoors.
Read on to learn which are the best picks for your next backpacking trip. First, however, let’s check out the factors to consider when buying a backpacking pillow.
Quick Picks for Killer Backpacking Pillows
Things to Consider When Shopping for a Good Backpacking Pillow
When going for a trek, you would want your backpack to be as light as possible, and so picking a pillow that occupies a very little space is a good idea. While inflatable pillows deflate to a really small size, they are not only ones that are highly portable. Many pillows come with a removable inner covering, which, once removed, makes the pillow small and easy to carry.
Ensure the size of the pillow is adequate for you. Side sleepers may require a lengthier and thicker pillow than back sleepers. Whereas, a small, flat pillow will work best for stomach sleepers.
Your backpacking pillow should be firm enough to give good support to your head and neck but not so much that if feels like a rock. You can check the firmness of a pillow by firmly pressing your hand over it. If the pillow presses down completely to its bottom, it is too soft and will not adequately support your head and neck.
On the other hand, if the pillow doesn’t presses down at all, it is too firm and will be difficult to sleep on. Pillows that press down only partly are a good choice, for they offer the best firmness to comfort ratio.
Some backpacking pillows are thin to start with but come with a pocket at the back or on the side through which you can stuff in clothes and make the pillow as thick as you want. You might want to look at such pillows too, as, besides offering customizable thickness, they are also very light and portable.
Some pillow covers are smooth to touch and keep you a little warm, helping you fall and stay asleep easily. Some pillow covers, on the other hand, can retain a lot of heat passing into it through your head. They are not a good option, especially if the weather is not cold.
Types of backpacking pillows
There are many different types of backpacking pillows available, the most popular being the following:
These pillows don’t occupy much space in your bag—and that’s their biggest advantage. Another advantage is that they are not as costly as some others, for example, down backpacking pillows.
Some inflatable pillows come with a hard nylon exterior and tend to make noise whenever you turn your head a little. You might want to stay away from them, unless, of course, you are a sound sleeper and a bit of noise doesn’t bother you at all.
Filled with light, compressible material, they can be squashed down to a much smaller size. Some can be compressed more than others, but even the most compressible of these occupies more space than an average inflatable pillow.
However, they also offer better comfort. You might want to consider them if comfort is an important factor for you and if your bag has a few inches of additional space and back strength to carry a few ounces more.
Down Travel Pillows
Some absolutely love them and some hate them, but there’s no denying that they are more comfortable than most other types. Low-end down travel pillows compress effectively but often fail to regain their original loftiness when taken out. They might become too thin to be comfortable.
So while buying this type, test pillows by compressing them fully to check if they spring back to their original shape. Online buyers might want to check other users’ reviews and whether a warranty against loss of shape is being offered.
Offering the best combination of portability and comfort, these pillows contain a thin layer of padding around the centre, which is filled with air. They are light and small, yet reasonably comfortable.
Reviews of 5 of the Best Pillows for Backpacking
Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow
A combination of a synthetic inner and down pillow on top, the DriDown Pillow is a good option for backpackers, as it is light and very usable.
With the synthetic pillow inside, it weighs 5.8 ounces; without it, a mere 2.8 ounces. Carrying it on those tough trails won’t hurt your back a wee bit. You can use spare clothes as inner filling, even a little, a few days’ old clothes will do (and that’s a relief). The covering is quite thick and doesn’t let odor pass through.
The pillow is a little on the small side. Some side sleepers may find it a little small. The good part, though, is the sides are almost as lofty as the middle. Because it’s not big, stomach sleepers too can use it.
The quilted down is soft to touch. You will enjoy the cozy feeling it gives when you lie on it. The pillow keeps you warm, but not so much that you start feeling uncomfortable after lying on it for a few hours on a warm night.
Big Agnes Air Core Pillow
This is a simple yet effective backpacking pillow. The best thing about it is that you don’t feel your head bobbing even a little when you lie on it. (Not many budget backpacking pillows can truly claim this.)
The pillow is big enough to ensure you can easily turn during sleep (side sleepers like me will like this) and it downsizes really tiny when deflated. You can easily fit into your pocket if you want to.
I have found an additional use of the Big Agnes Pillow—as a back cushion. When half inflated, it works superbly as a back cushion, allowing me to sit on a chair for long hours without any discomfort. If you buy it and experience slight back pain every now and then, you might want to try this too.
The surface of the pillow is, however, not really soft. It’s not rough or poky, but nor is it soft to touch. You might like to wrap it in a sweatshirt rolled inside out or any other soft cloth when using it.
Kelty Luxury Pillow
The Kelty Pillow is comfortable, but there’s a caveat attached. By itself, it goes almost completely flat—thinning to half an inch—when you lay your head over it. The pillow comes with pocket at the back, through which you can put clothes inside to make it sufficiently thick. I, however, prefer using a cheap inflatable pillow as inner filling.
The pillow surface is comfortable and soft to touch. It also keeps your head a little warm, so that you lull into a sound, cozy sleep. The warmth is agreeable, not so much that you feel overheated.
However, the stitching could have been a little bit better. It is not like it comes out after a few trips, but it does have a non-quality look to it.
This pillow, however, is not pricy. Considering that, it does offer good value.
Cocoon Air-Core Pillow Ultralight
Don’t let the small size fool you. When it comes offering loft, the Cocoon Pillow is as good as any. If you like lots of loft in your pillow, you might really like it.
The pillow fabric adds comfort and warmth, besides being soft to touch. It feels nice when you lay the head over it. But, and it could be a big ‘but’ for many, the pillow has a bit of rocking effect. It didn’t bother me, but my husband (we bought two pillows), found coping with it tough.
The pillow also offers great portability. It deflates into almost nothing. The other benefit is that you can set it up in nanoseconds.
All in all, this is a good backpacker’s pillow. The rocking effect, however, can be a concern for some. And one more thing: you can’t select the color. It might matter to some, though personally I couldn’t care less if mine was blue instead of green.
YOUR Pillow! by SHO
The first thing that catches your eye when you at look it is its colors. You might love it or don’t like it, but you sure will not be able to take your eyes off it for a few seconds. If you like stylish things, you might want check this product out, for there are not many like it.
Looks apart, this pillow is also comfortable to use. It is soft yet manages to provide good support to ensure you have a good night’s sleep and wake up without a neck wink. The surface, made of soft polyester, gives the pillow a comfortable feel.
The pillow self-inflates upto 50%. If you want more bulk, just exhale a few times into it, until you got it as high as you want. Because it self-inflates, it can be taken out of the bag and used instantly.
Oh, and did I tell you it comes with a life-time warranty? Yes, it does. Plus it also has the standard Amazon’s 30-day money back guarantee on it.