To get the most out of your backpacking adventure, you need to sleep well during the night. The key to making this possible is a well-made pillow for backpacking.

Instead of sleeping on the ground (or on your jacket), a pillow gives you the required comfort and proper support. On top of this, it packs very small, so it won’t take too much space in your backpack.

To help you with your choice, our 10 Best Backpacking Pillows article provides all the information you need to find the lightest and most comfortable design. With several different types and designs available, finding the right one will guarantee you wake up well-rested every morning.

How To Choose A Backpacking Pillow – Buying Guide



There are three types of backpacking pillows to choose from – inflatable, compressible, and hybrid. Each type has its own level of comfort and packability.

Inflatable: This type of pillow is the lightest and most packable. Inflatable backpacking pillows can either be self-inflated or require you to inflate them. Because they are incredibly small when packed, inflatable backpacking pillows can be easily carried on the trail or stored away.

The only downside to inflatable backpacking pillows is that they don’t offer the same comfort level as a real pillow. However, it’s still a great choice if you want a cushion for your head while saving the max amount of space.

Compressible: Compressible pillows are the closest to a standard home pillow (just much smaller). From down and synthetic fillings to special shapes and fabrics, compressible pillows deliver top-level comfort. 

They deliver great head and neck support while still packing down to a small size. However, a compressible pillow will never pack as small as an inflatable design. If you’re not worried about fitting a pillow into your backpack, the compressible type is the way to go.

Hybrid: Hybrid backpacking pillows are a combination of inflatable and compressible pillows into one design. These backpacking pillows have an inner air bladder and a padded outer layer. The air bladder means that it can still pack compact but the padded layer gives better support when sleeping.

When shopping, you’ll come across many different hybrid pillow designs with their own shape, fabric, and air bladders. It’s a big plus if the outer layer can be removed for easier washing. Hybrid pillows are great for backpackers who are still trying to save space but don’t want to sacrifice comfort.


Generally speaking, most backpacking pillows only have a few ounces of weight difference between them. However, every ounce can count when you have to carry your backpacking gear over longer distances. This is why finding a lightweight pillow is important.

If you are concerned about weight, you should choose the lightest and most compact pillow design. Down backpacking pillows are generally very light but can cost a bit more. If you are willing to sacrifice a few ounces, you will gain an edge on comfort.


Most backpacking pillows are small so they can be portable. On the other hand, pillow size is important for a good night’s sleep. If you’re not used to one, a small pillow can leave you with a sore neck. If a pillow is too small, it can also move around too much, so you’ll have to readjust it throughout the night.

It’s ideal if you can find an ultralight pillow similar in size to the pillow you normally use at home. Though home pillows are rather large, there are many backpacking pillows that are compact for storage but can expand to a comfortable size.


Even though we usually focus on packability when buying a backpacking air pillow, comfort is very important too. Three things that determine the comfort are the pillow type, its size, and your sleeping position. As we mentioned earlier, compressible backpacking pillows are more comfortable than inflatable ones but are also larger when packed. Also, an air pillow that is too small can cause your head to slip off during the night.

Additionally, sleeping positions can change the comfort of your pillow too. If you are a back sleeper, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a comfortable backpacking air pillow – their shape likely won’t affect you. On the other hand, if you are a side sleeper, you should pay closer attention to the pillow’s shape. Backpacking pillows that are longer and thicker tend to provide more support for your neck and back.

Generally speaking, a pillow should be thick enough to support your neck, as this will maximize your comfort. In relation to this, you shouldn’t buy a pillow that requires additional support by putting a jacket on the bottom.


Packability is the golden rule for hiking pillows. Inflatable backpacking pillows are the most packable, but may not be the most comfortable. A compressible hiking pillow delivers more comfort but won’t be as small when packed. This is why a hybrid might be just what you need, bringing the best of both.


It would be frustrating if your pillow popped on the trail. Durability is affected by the pillow type and materials used. The best backpacking pillows will be made of high-quality materials to ensure that they are long-lasting. With just a little caution, a top-rated ultralight pillow should last forever. 


Hiking pillows come in several different shapes – from a traditional square shape to contoured, ergonomically shaped pillows. The shape you should get comes down to your personal preference, so there’s no saying that one is better than the other. Keep in mind, however, that a certain shape might be more suitable for your sleeping position (bean-shaped for side sleepers, for example).


Lift is important because it determines how much support the pillow gives to your head and neck. Inflatable or hybrid backpacking pillows can be great because the lift can be customized depending on how much air is inflated into the bladder. If you are prone to a sore neck, you should find a pillow that delivers a generous lift and some extra padding to keep you comfortable on the trail.



Q: What Is A Pillow For Backpacking?


A pillow for backpacking is a compact pillow that is easy to take with you on the trail. It shouldn’t take too much space in your backpack, while still providing decent comfort and head support when you’re using it. Top-rated hiking pillows are those that balance between top-level comfort and minimal weight and size.

Q: How Are They Different Than Your Everyday Pillow?


Backpacking pillows are smaller, lighter, and more compact when packed. The main focus here is saving space in your backpack while still having something comfortable to sleep on. However, most hiking pillows won’t be as comfortable as your pillow at home.

Q: Is A Pillow For Backpacking Necessary?


No, it isn’t necessary. However, it can make a huge difference in comfort while sleeping on the trail. While you can also sleep on the ground or on a rolled jacked, don’t be surprised if you wake up to a hurting neck. A hiking pillow gives you a basic amount of comfort and support needed for a proper rest.

Q: How Do You Wash Backpacking Pillows?


It depends on the pillow type. If you have an inflatable pillow, you should never put it in a washing machine. Instead, clean it with a moist cloth and mild detergent. On the other hand, compressible down-filled pillows are usually perfectly safe for machine washing. Also, if you have a hybrid pillow with a removable case, you can wash the case in a machine.

Q: How Do Self Inflating Pillows Work?


Self-inflating pillows come with high-capacity valves and a foam construction inside. When you open the valve, the air from the outside is sucked into the pores of the foam, allowing the pillow to self inflate. When you want to pack it, you simply have to reverse the valve and squeeze the excess air out.

Globo Surf Overview

A great pillow makes sleeping on the road significantly more comfortable. The best backpacking pillows will allow you to wake up fresh and rested, just like at home.

Hopefully, you found the information in our guide useful, so you can pick a backpacking pillow and be prepared for all your future adventures.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!