Best Camping Pillow

Photo of author
Written By Jay Clatworthy

Off Grid Camping contributor.

ImagePillow DetailsPrice
Sea To Summit
Premium Hybrid
  • Curved Baffles Cradle Your Head
  • 50D Polyester Comfort Cover
  • Unique Mini-Valve For Easy Inflation/Deflation
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Sporttrek Inflatable
Travel Pillow
  • Super Comfortable
  • Pack Up Ultra Small
  • Adjustable Pressure
Check Price
OZtrai Travel Pillow
  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • Carry Bag
Check Price

The best camping pillow for you will depend on multiple factors ranging from budget, to preference, to sleeping style, and more.

In this article, we will explore the different types of camping pillows, some example products, and some considerations you need to keep in mind when making your final choice. 

Best Camping Pillow – Recommendations (Buying Guide)

oztrail camping pillow

OZtrail Compressible Travel Pillow

The OZtrail camping pillow compresses into the small carry bag. Includes a pouch you can stuff a jumper or jacket into if you need extra padding.

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SportTrek Ultralight Inflatable Air Pillow

This pillow can self-inflate, but can also blow air in via the screw valve. folds down small to fit in your pack. Great for hiking.

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Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Hybrid Pillow

The Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow is a combination of an air bladder inside, covered in a synthetic stretch for comfort and insulation. Great to have inside swags.

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Best Backpacking Pillows

If you are looking for a good backpacking pillow, then you want to choose something that is ultra-light and takes minimal space.

Many hikers use their backpack itself as a pillow or fold some parts of their clothing into a pillow shape.

But if you would like a dedicated pillow for hiking to have in your pack, then an air bladder/inflatable type product might be the best backpacking pillow for your needs.

Should I Bring a Pillow Camping?

If your baggage and transportation have space for you to include a pillow, then I would absolutely recommend you bring a camping pillow.

You need the most comfortable, and highest quality sleep you can get to deal with the many challenges and joys of camping, and a pillow will help on all counts. 

Camping Pillow Guide – Hiking and Camping Pillow Types

There are many different types of camping pillows you can choose from each with its own pros and cons.

Whether you are sleeping in swags, tents, or under the stars, the kind of pillow you should choose for camping will depend on numerous factors. I will expand on these different pillow types in this section and highlight some of their individual characteristics. 

BYO

The best camping pillow for you might be your pillow from home. For most of our short trips with the kids, we all just load our home pillows into the car or caravan.

This is good in that we don’t need to buy anything new, we can use pillows we are familiar with and comfortable with, and they help with a great night’s sleep. 

The downsides with using your home pillows though are that they are quite bulky for the most part and take up a lot of space.

If you are going hiking, when space is at a premium, then, of course, your camping pillow is not an option as it will fill up your whole backpack.

The other downside to taking your home pillow as that there is a good chance your pillow might get dirty and or/wet from being exposed to the elements, and you may not want to do this to the pillow you sleep on every night. 

Compressible Camping Pillow

Compressible pillows are filled with soft compressible materials, usually polyurethane foam, that can be squeezed down small in your luggage/gear, but still provides a good amount of comfort and support.

They are smaller than your home pillow but still big enough for a good night’s sleep. 

Inflatable Camping Pillow

As the name suggests, an inflatable camping pillow is designed with an air bladder that you blow up when needed, and then deflate when packing away for transportation.

The benefit of inflatable camping pillows as they can be deflated to a very small size which will fit in a very small space or pocket in your bag. 

There are cheap inflatable pillows and more expensive ones, and as the price goes up, the quality of the material improves, the shape becomes more ergonomic, and the inner support system becomes more complex.

The cheaper models are just a simple inflatable bladder in the shape of a small pillow. However, the more advanced models have the air distributed through different areas with internal walls to improve comfort and air distribution. The other benefit of the more expensive models is that they often give greater air pressure control.

They include advanced valves that can let the air out at a very slow rate, so you can easily adjust it to get the air pressure just how you want it. 

The main downside of inflatable pillows is the comfort factor and how stiff and unresponsive they can feel at times. Still, if you have the budget for a more expensive one, you can eliminate a lot of those typical frustrations.

Though they will never feel like compressible foam. The other downside of inflatable pillows is that they don’t naturally have any insulation, so if it is cold, the cold from the ground will come straight up through the pillow to your head. 

Hybrid

A hybrid camping pillow tries to strike a balance and achieve the best elements of both the compressible and inflatable concepts has an inner air bladder surrounded by foam, or down, to give you the best of both worlds. 

Hybrid pillows are likely to be more warm, given the insulative layer around the air bladder.

Camping Pillow Considerations

As you are trying to decide which type of pillow is best, consider these issues to help narrow in on the best pillow for you. 

Space

Your method of transportation and the type of baggage you are using will play a big role in determining the space you have available for a camping pillow.

Someone who is hiking with a single pack will have very different space requirements to someone who is taking their van with a suitcase. There’s no right or wrong size pillow. It all depends on how you get around and what you take with you.

It’s just good to be conscious of it. 

Ergonomics

Do you have any specific support requirements? Do you have a specialized pillow at home? If you go camping, then you don’t want to increase stress by having a bad night’s sleep.

Be clear on what ergonomic support you need from a camping pillow, and make sure you look for those qualities as you shop around. 

Sleeping Style

Are you a side sleeper? Or tummy? Or back?

Depending on which way you usually sleep, you will need a pillow of a certain height. E.g., Side sleepers need a higher pillow, and the support needed to go from ground level to hold your neck level is higher than that required to hold your head up while sleeping on your back.

Again, there is no right or wrong. You just need to keep it in mind and buy one that provides adequate support for your sleeping style. 

Temperature

Think carefully about the likely night temperatures where and when you plan to go camping. Keep in mind that pillows and their contents provide not just comfort and support for your head, but also insulate it from the cold ground temperature.

If the nighttime temperature is going to be cold, then be sure to consider this in your choice of pillow, or come up with an alternative plan to help with the temperature of your head (beanie/hood/sleeping bag) to combat the lack of insulation your pillow provides. Especially true of going with a simple inflatable option. 

Sleeping Space

The space that you have to sleep in will also influence the best camping pillow for your situation. If you are hiking and going to be very limited in the amount of headroom you have in your sleeping position, this could rule out some of the bigger hybrid pillow designs.

Best Camping Pillow – Summary

Perhaps your pillow from home will suit your camping needs fine, if so great. But if space is a rare commodity, then you will need to look at a camping pillow.

A foam or hybrid option is likely to provide you with the best experience, but the science and design of inflatable camping pillows are getting better all the time, making them an increasingly acceptable option.