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The Best Camping Pillows For The Outdoors

Photo: Big Agnes Q-Core Deluxe Pillow

Glampers aside, roughing it typically means forgoing the majority of the creature comforts of our homes in favor of the bare necessities needed for survival. After all, unless you’re driving directly to the site, you’ll likely be carrying any and all supplies into camp on foot — meaning your loadout will be limited to items you can fit inside a backpack. And while this does mean having to make some sacrifices, a good night’s sleep doesn’t have to be one of them, as a slew of leading outdoor brands has recently been delivering some increasingly plush yet lightweight and packable sleeping bags, pads, and camp pillows.

Today, we’ll be focusing on this latter group of off-grid bedding, exploring the various innovations bestowed upon the segment along with the new and different types of camp pillows that have been unveiled as of late. Now offering all the comfort of regular at-home pillows in rugged and wildly condensable forms — often the size of a standard Nalgene water bottle though at times as small as a 12oz can —camp pillows have more and more become a must-have staple for everyone from overlanders and car campers to long-distance backpackers and off-grid overnighters. In this guide to the best camp pillows, we’ll be shining a lot on the latest and greatest items currently available, as well as what you should take into account when shopping.

Best Camp Pillows Breakdown

Photo: NEMO Fillo Elite Pillow

What To Look For

Because the camping pillow space has genuinely evolved at such a rapid rate, it helps to have an educated sense of what advancements have been made in recent years in order to obtain a better grasp of what to look for when in the market for a camp pillow. Below, we’ll highlight some of the more pivotal elements you need to factor in before pulling the trigger on your purchase.

Pillow Types: Before diving headfirst into the nitty-gritty, you’ll want to have a general grasp on the main types of camping pillows that currently exist. There are some unique outliers, but for the most part, the lion’s share of camping pillows will fall into one of these three categories. The first kind is regular, traditional-style camp pillows that are essentially just more durable, downsized versions of the kind you’d find in your bed at home. The next — and most popular — type is inflatable camping pillows, which contain an internal bladder that can be inflated to fill up the pillow, not unlike a sleeping pad. The final type is stuff-sack-style items, which are more like rugged pillowcases that you can stuff with clothing and other soft goods to make a usable pillow. There are also hybrid pillows that are inflatable but still contain some additional fill or insulation.

Photo: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Pillow

Construction: Considering that you’ll be pressing your face and head up against its exterior, you’ll want to opt for a pillow with a durable yet soft-to-the-touch outside material. On top of the construction technique(s) used to piece the pillow together, you’ll also want to look into the internal materials, liner materials, and the type of construction used for the air bladder (if you’re looking at an inflatable camping pillow). Seeing as it plays a pivotal role in determining durability and comfort — two of the three most important elements of a camp pillow — it’s hard to overstate how crucial exterior construction is to achieving a solid camp pillow.

Insulation: Especially when looking at camping pillows intended for use in colder climates, you’ll find offerings that feature insulation that provides additional warmth as well as padding. On cheaper items, more traditional fills are employed such as cotton, though on some of the more premium camping pillows brands have utilized high-end name-brand insulation — the kind you’d regularly find in premium outdoor jackets.

Photo: NEMO Fillo Elite Pillow

Size, Weight, & Compressibility: Another massively important element to consider when shopping for a camping pillow is its size, weight, and compressibility. Alongside weight, there are two size factors to think about, with the first being the dimensions of the pillow when unstuffed or fully inflated, and the second being the size of the pillow when compressed down into its most compact form. To give a general idea, a camp pillow roughly equal in size to your at-home pillow should break down to the size of a water bottle.

Durability & Weatherproofness: Unlike your pillows at home, camping pillows have to be able to contend with the dirt, grime, and weather brought on by off-grid existence. As such, you’ll want to opt for a comfortable yet rugged pillow that isn’t susceptible to mold or mildew. On a similar note, you’ll also want to check out the care process for any given pillow, as some are much easier to clean than others.

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow

  • Foam filling makes it easy to compress
  • Comes in 3 different sizes
  • Firmness can’t be adjusted like with other types

Best Budget Pillow: Anytime you’re in the market for sleeping pads, camp pillows, or other off-grid bedding peripherals, it’s always worth checking out the offerings from Therm-a-Rest, as the company offers quality gear at fair prices, as evidenced by items like its compressible pillow. Backed by a lifetime warranty and produced in half a dozen unique pattern options, this packable pillow features a soft pre-brushed polyester construction that conceals a lightweight urethane foam filling.

Type: Foam-filled
Material: Pre-brushed polyester

Cocoon Sleeping Bag Hood Pillow

  • Lightweight
  • Cradles your head nicely
  • Hybrid design lets you tailor the fill better
  • Tends to slide around without a sleeping bag

Best for Sleeping Bags: Combining the best elements from regular and inflatable camping pillows, the Cocoon Sleeping Bag Hood Pillow utilizes an inflatable air core with a twist-valve that’s encompassed by a soft synthetic polyester fill that allows users to adjustable support levels to their liking. Sold with an included stuff-sack this lightweight 3.8oz pillow features a removable, dual-sided washable cover with a hidden zipper that is equipped with a soft microfiber side and a rougher but more rugged micro-ripstop nylon on the opposite side. Shaped to fit inside the hood of a mummy bag, this pillow also boasts a unique baffle design that provides support and cradles its user’s head.

Type: Inflatable-synthetic polyester fill hybrid
Material: Microfiber with micro-ripstop nylon base

Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow

  • Very comfortable
  • Easy to pack
  • We wish it came in a bigger size

Best for the Cold: Sierra Designs makes a wide range of excellent, technically focused insulated outdoor gear, from jackets to camp slippers. And for this item, the company has applied this expertise to an advanced camping pillow design, delivering a lightweight and packable yet immensely comfortable two-in-one pillow with a triple-layer construction comprised of a 20D polyester ripstop exterior, a 20D taffeta liner, and a 2oz fill of 650FP Perfluorinated chemical-free DriDown insulation.

Type: DriDown-filled
Material: 20D polyester ripstop with 20D taffeta liner

Rumpl Stuffable Pillowcase

Rump Stuffable Pillowcase
  • Weighs just 0.2lbs
  • Water-resistant on both sides
  • Zipper isn’t super reliable

Most Attractive: This stuffable pillowcase from leading outdoor blanket brand, Rumpl saves on space and weight by using other clothing and soft goods as its cushioning when it comes time to hit the hay. Tipping the scales at just 0.2lbs, this 11” x 16” pillow-case — which breaks down to 4” x 6” when stowed in its included stuff-sack — features a dual-sided configuration with an ultra-soft 100% post-consumer recycled polar fleece on one side and ripstop polyester on the other, though both are treated to a DWR finish for added stain and water-resistance.

Type: Stuff-sack
Material: Polar fleece with ripstop polyester base

Klymit Luxe Pillow

  • Designed to keep your head in place
  • Very durable yet comfy
  • Machine-washable
  • Comes with lifetime warranty
  • Might be too flat for those who like fluffy pillows

Best Overall: If this item’s plush diamond-quilted stitch pattern didn’t already give it sway, its “Luxe” monicker should leave little doubt as to the thoroughly luxurious nature of this camp pillow. Outfitted with a machine-washable 40D knit construction nylon-poly blend cover with a 75D polyester lining, this inflatable pillow sports clever a self-centering “X design” to keep your noggin planted in place. Weighing just 6.2oz, this premium pillow is also protected by a lifetime warranty.

Type: Inflatable
Material: Knitted 40D nylon-poly blend with 75D polyester lining

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Pillow

  • Dyneema is one of the most durable fabrics in the world
  • Super lightweight
  • Waterproof
  • A bit pricy for a stuff-sack
  • Some may find the Dyneema not as comfy as other options

Best for Backpacking: Since its inception, Hyperlite has carved out a unique position for itself in the outdoor gear realm, building its reputation atop a host of insanely rugged yet lightweight hiking backpacks, tents, and other essentials crafted from cutting-edge Dyneema composite fabrics. For the American brand’s Stuff Sack Pillow, it’s applied its signature Dyneema construction to this style of a camp pillow, shaving off even more weight and making for what’s almost certainly the best pillowcase-style camping pillow currently on the market. Made by hand in Maine and available in both small and large sizes, this Dyneema pillow also sports water-resistant #5 YKK zippers and a Polartec 100-weight fleece lining.

Type: Stuff-sack
Material: Dyneema

NEMO Fillo Elite Pillow

  • Weighs just 3oz
  • Gives surprisingly nice neck/spine support
  • Feels cool on your face
  • Tends to move around

Best Inflatable for Backpacking: Building on its already impressive Fillo model, NEMO’s Fillo Elite Pillow is an award-winning outdoor pillow that’s big on comfort and sustainability while weighing in at just 3oz — making it one of, if not the lightest pillow on our list. Protected by NEMO’s lifetime warranty, the Fillo Elite features an updated, more ergonomic valve design, an integrated stuff-sack, and a polyester jersey exterior (which is also offered in a solid gray color option in addition to the striped version seen above). Inside, this top-shelf pillow sports 100% post-consumer recycled PrimaLoft insulation and a 3” I-beam baffled air cell.

Type: Inflatable
Material: Polyester jersey

Exped Mega Pillow

  • Most similar to your pillow at home
  • Easy to adjust the fill
  • Feels great against your face
  • Heavier than most other options
  • Isn’t super compact

Best for Side Sleeping: At 6.5oz, Exped’s aptly-named Mega Pillow may not be one of the lightest on our list, though it’s without a doubt one of the most comfortable — and arguably the most similar to using an at-home pillow. Sold in red or green, the Mega Pillow employs a synthetic polyester tricot fabric exterior and synthetic insulation and features a low-profile “FlatValve” design with a custom-branded Exped valve pull, a trio of eyelets for securing to a sleeping bag, and an included stuff sack. The cover and air-core can also be separated for easy washing.

Type: Inflatable-fleece padding hybrid
Material: Polyester tricot fabric

Big Agnes Q-Core Deluxe Pillow

  • Made with aviation-grade laminate
  • I-beam construction keeps your head from moving around
  • It’s too big for a lot of sleeping bags

Most Rugged Inflatable: Designed to seamlessly pair with Colorado company’s sleeping bags, Big Agnes’ Q-Core Deluxe Pillow is a premium item through and through. Utilizing a special offset I-beam construction to minimize weight without sacrificing comfort or stability, the Q-Core Deluxe is adorned with a tear and puncture-resistant four-way stretch nylon that’s been bestowed with an antimicrobial treatment. In addition to boasting aviation-grade TPU lamination and built-in advanced heat reflective technology, this pillow also features a low-profile, single port, two-way valve, and an included stuff sack.

Type: Inflatable
Material: Puncture-resistant four-way stretch nylon

Sea to Summit Aeros Down Pillow

  • Really durable
  • Fortified with down insulation
  • Compact
  • Hard to tell how much down fill actually improves comfort

Honorable Mention: Sea to Summit’s existing Aeros model already stood as one of the most popular and sought-after camp pillows, though the Australian outdoor brand has managed to take the product to new heights with a thoroughly plush down fill variant. Built atop a nonslip 20D fabric base, the Aeros Down Pillow has a nylon exterior, an ultralight, high-strength thermoplastic urethane bladder that’s filled via a fine-tunable multifunction mini-valve and supplemented with RDS-certified down insulation. This pillow also sports a cushion-top design and a differentially-cut, horizontal baffle setup that hugely mitigates down migration, keeping fill and comfort consistent, even straight out of its included 20D stuff sack.

Type: Inflatable
Material: Nylon with nonslip 20D fabric base

The Best Camping Blankets

Photo: Matador Pocket Blanket

Looking to further supplement and plush up your off-grid sleeping situation? Then be sure to check out our guide to the best camping blankets for more warm yet rugged extra layers to help fight off the cold.