The amount of energy you’ll have for camping activities directly depends on how well you sleep at night. A good camping pillow plays a large role here – it holds your head and neck in the right position, so you wake up refreshed and well-rested.
Compared to the pillows we use at home, camping models are both lighter and smaller (to make packing easier). Besides size and comfort, choosing the best camping pillow also relies on what type of sleeper you are.
In this article, we’ll present the best camping pillows in all three main categories — inflatable, compressible, and hybrid pillows. This way, you can find a model that matches your sleeping habits and provides you with home-level comfort no matter where you are.
Comfort is EVERYTHING when you’re trying to get a decent night of sleep between days of hiking or other activities. Do not underestimate the difference the right pillow can make to your level of comfort and the quality of your sleep while camping, just like it can at home.
Choosing the right one is not as easy as you might think. Try one of each type at home and see how well you get on but be prepared that you may get through quite a few models before you find your ideal camping pillow. I personally find Hybrid models to be my favourite; inflatable ones seem to me to amplify noise like lying on a drum skin, but everyone is different and finding your perfect pillow is definitely worth taking some time over.
Some people like to have their pillow inside the hood of their sleeping bag, some prefer to have it on their sleeping mat/pad. If you’re in the second of these camps then I would recommend some elastic straps around both the pillow and your mat/pad to stop the pillow falling off or moving from under your head. A top tip from a friend of mine is to use your spare t-shirt pulled over the top of your sleeping pad with your pillow pushed up inside it to keep it in place!
How To Choose A Camping Pillow – Buying Guide
Type of Pillow
Three types of pillows are commonly used on camping trips: compressible, inflatable, and hybrid pillows (a mix of the previous two). Which one you should choose depends on whether you like a softer or a firmer sleeping surface and how much space you have for packing.
Compressible camping pillows: These are very similar to the pillows we have at home. They can be filled with down or synthetic materials (like foam) and are generally considered the most efficient camping pillows in terms of comfort. However, they won’t provide optimal head support and aren’t particularly compact when packed.
Inflatable camping pillows: An inflatable pillow for camping contains a TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) bladder which you inflate with air. This type of pillow allows you to adjust the firmness and packs very compact when deflated. However, it’s not particularly comfortable.
Hybrid camping pillows: These take the best out of the previous two and combine an inflatable bladder with a soft foam-filled layer on top. They promise the best sleep quality, but they are also bulkier than inflatables and cost significantly more.
Size and Shape
Your new pillow must be sufficient in size to keep your head in place and give you good support. However, it must also remain small enough, so it doesn’t take up too much space when packing. Finding a balance between these two sides is crucial for overall practicality.
As for the shape, the pillow for camping must be ergonomic. A properly shaped pillow will keep your head and neck in line with your spine, distributing pressure evenly and allowing you to relax.
Head and Neck Support
A good pillow for camping must support your head and neck the right way, otherwise, you might as well be sleeping on a pile of clothes. However, not all of us sleep in the same position – some sleep on our backs, others on their stomachs while many side sleepers.
If you are a stomach sleeper, your head doesn’t require much support and you can use a thin pillow. On the other hand, side sleepers need a thick pillow while back sleepers should get something in between.
Weight of the Pillow
Since you’ll have lots of other camping gear weighing you down, all the best camping pillows are lightweight. However, if you’re conscious about every ounce, there are still some differences between pillow types.
For example, inflatable camping pillows are generally very light. On the flip side, non-inflatable foam-filled pillows can be a bit heavier so they are more commonly used for car camping.
To provide top-level durability and comfort, manufacturers use various materials when making camping pillows. Natural materials like cotton or down camping pillows have the highest level of comfort and breathability, but they aren’t firm and can be less durable.
On the other hand, inflatable camping pillows are firm and durable but they won’t allow any air circulation. Additionally, they often come with some type of material on top (cotton or microfiber) to increase comfort.
Ease of Use
As we’ve mentioned, the pillow should easily fit in your backpack. For easier packing, many of these camping pillows are similarly sized to a soda can. And, when you decide to unfold them, you should be able to do that with ease.
Compressible camping pillows should open and fluff up mostly on their own (with a little help), while inflatable pillows should have a high-quality valve to blow the pillow up quickly. On the other hand, they should also be easy to deflate and fold back down when it’s time to go home.
Q: What Kind of Pillow Should I Use for Camping?
Q: How do I Keep my Pillow from Sliding on my Sleeping Pad?
If your camp pillow constantly slides over the pad or in the sleeping bag, you can easily solve the problem by applying some seam sealer on the bottom of the pillow. A few small dots or lines will do the job just fine and provide traction that prevents sliding.
Q: How do You Make a Camping Pillow?
The only materials you’ll need to make a camp pillow are a piece of memory foam, a 1-gallon Ziploc bag, a larger piece of polyester fleece, and a webbing or leather strap. Here’s what you need to do:
- Cut the foam in the shape of your future pillow and place it in the Ziploc bag
- Create small holes in the bag and push the foam to the bottom
- Place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the bag
- Use a medium-heated iron over the foil to permanently seal the bag
- Based on the pillow dimensions, sew a pillowcase from the polyester fleece
- Place the sealed foam in the case, roll up the pillow and tie it with the strap.
Q: What Can I Use Instead of a Pillow?
If you don’t own a pillow or don’t want to bring it with you, you can use rolled-up clothes as a pillow alternative. Fleece jackets work best for this purpose, but other items can also be fairly comfy if you pack them tight and put them in a stuff sack.
Q: How do Self-Inflating Pillows Work?
Self-inflating camping pillows contain compressed foam inside a sealed airtight chamber. Once you open the valve, the foam starts expanding and causes the camp pillow to start drawing in air. When the foam fully expands, you need to close the valve to prevent it from deflating.
Globo Surf Overview
A well-made pillow can make a big difference on a camping trip. To cater to your sleeping habits and make your nights as comfy as possible, the best camping pillow comes with a lot of different features. Hopefully, our reviews and guide have helped you pick a pillow that will completely change the way you look at sleeping in a tent.
More Camping Reviews:
- Backpack Cooler
- Pop Up Tent
- Family Tent
- Multi Tool
- Portable Radio
- 4 Season Tent
- Camping Gear
- Camping Table
- Camping Games
Have you tried a camp pillow that made it onto our list? Is it comfortable to sleep on? Is it compact and easy to take with you? What about durability? Please share your experience with us in the comment section below.