The best ultralight pillows for backpacking are great for streamlining your luggage while exploring the backcountry. With the following pillows, you can experience a cozy sleeping experience outdoors!
Comfort remains an important aspect of a complete backpacking experience. Just because you are prepared for an adventure doesn't mean that you will disregard your personal convenience--especially when it comes to dozing off.
Standard pillows commonly used on camping trips are great. But they might not be a suitable option for backpacking, given that the trip requires a lot of weight management. Hence, you should check ultralight backpacking pillows instead. Not only do they provide comfort, but they are lighter and easier to carry.
Of course, this means that you can pack these pillows without sacrificing your valuables and other backpacking essentials.
Before we discuss the considerations in choosing a backpacking pillow, allow us to show you first some of the best options for this sleeping amenity. We have listed them below, including their key advantages and disadvantages. Check them out!
|Pillow Fill||Cover Material||Where to Buy|
NEMO Fillo Pillow
Therm-a-Rest Air Head Pillow
|Synthetic||Polyester / urethane||REI|
Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow
Exped Mega Pillow
ALPS Mountaineering Big Air Pillow
Trekology Ultralight Inflatable Pillow
17 inches x 11 inches x 4 inches
NEMO Fillo Pillow Review
The Fillo Pillow from NEMO is a precious backpacking item. This pillow is a must-have if you are unwilling to trade your comfort just because you are away.
First, the NEMO Fillo Pillow is lightweight, sitting only at 9 ounces. At the same time, it is compact. It gives you the packing convenience you need for every backcountry adventure.
The cushion and loft of the Fillo Pillow are also great. They ensure that you can sleep better inside your sleeping bag or cot. But at the same time, the pillow isn't mushy as compared to other pillows. In fact, many people use this pillow as a lumbar support when they are traveling long distances via planes or trains.
Its cover is made from microsuede that can be machined-washed. The microsuede doesn't just offer next-to-skin comfort but also adds a cooling effect.
|Microsuede exterior is extremely comfortable|
Can be inflated easily
Great for providing neck and lumbar support
|No notable drawbacks|
Polyester / urethane
15.5 inches x 11 inches x 4 inches
Therm-a-Rest Air Head Pillow Review
A comfortable sleeping experience is possible with the Therm-a-Rest Air Head Pillow. It offers four inches of thickness; its interior features a thick, baffled air chamber that offers customized support and loft. Its air chamber offers a stable platform to your head, which, in turn, prevents neck pains upon waking up.
The pillow is tailored with a synthetic-fill top, while its exterior has a brushed texture so that it remains comfortable when in contact with your skin. We also like this pillow because of its removable cover. After getting it dirty on your trip, simply remove it for machine washing.
At the same time, the polyester fabric used on this pillow has non-slip properties. This means that it can stay in place with no tendency to slip away from your head.
Interestingly, it has a shape that fits well in the hood of various sleeping bags. It is a great backpacking amenity, indeed.
|Pillow’s exterior is not irritating to the skin|
Offers optimal support to prevent neck pains
Lightweight and fits inside sleeping bags
|Its baffling could get improvement|
20-denier laminated polyester
14.2 inches x 10.2 inches x 4.7 inches
Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow Review
For ultralight backpacking, you got to have the Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow. Unlike other pillows here, it doesn't have a foam or down fill. Instead, it uses air, which significantly reduces its weight. Specifically, the pillow is just a little over 2 ounces, making it among the lightest pillows on this list.
But is this pillow uncomfortable to lie on? No. It is not a balloon that is stiff when pressed on. It has a 20-denier laminated polyester stretch-knit as its exterior fabric. It is not only comfortable, but it ensures that the pillow can be packed compactly.
The rugged RF-welded construction of this pillow guarantees that it will not get wrecked, regardless of how many times you use it.
We also like that it has curved baffles that create its natural contours. This pillow will not just let you lay down; it will also cradle you cozily during your sleeping time. Notably, it has a scalloped bottom edge that centers the pillow to your shoulders, regardless of your sleeping position.
|Offers a cradle for your head|
Semi-plushy makes it extra comfortable
Easy to inflate and deflate
|Not a luxury type of a backpacking pillow|
20.9 inches x 12.6 inches x 4.7 inches
Exped Mega Pillow Review
The Exped Mega Pillow is a beautiful addition to your backpacking checklist. Aside from being a comfortable pillow, it is also durable, easy to clean, and hassle-free to pack. The pillow is just under 7 ounces, so including it in your backpack won't be a problem.
Similar to other pillows here, this one is inflatable. So it offers the ideal travel convenience that every backpacker needs. Moreover, the pillow has a 3D design incorporating fleece padding and an air core. Hence, the pillow can also support sleepers with special needs.
Meanwhile, its low-profile FlatValve guarantees that you can inflate it easily. If you want to deflate the pillow, just put the built-in drain pin to its valve.
The exterior fabric is a nice polyester tricot. It oozes with utmost convenience when pressed tightly to your skin. Another wonderful aspect of this pillow is its three eyelets. These eyelets will let you attach the pillow to a sleeping pad. And the good thing is that the Exped Mega pillow sits snugly with most sleeping bag hoods.
|Provides a plush quality|
Built from durable materials
|No notable drawbacks|
20-denier brushed polyester
24 inches x 15.5 inches x 4 inches
ALPS Mountaineering Big Air Pillow Review
The quality of this backpacking pillow is just superb. Weighing only 7 ounces, the ALPS Mountaineering Air Pillow is a tested-and-tried option for backpacking and ultralight hiking needs. This particular pillow had a cover made from polyester fabric with high thickness so that it remains resistant to puncture.
The exterior has a brushed fabric, as well. It is supple but quiet. Every time you turn around, there's no noise or squeaking sounds. Of course, this texture offers the comfort that your skin is looking for.
This unit includes a flat valve, which is useful for quick inflation and deflation. With its compact size, it can puff up in less than a minute. The air in the pillow can be adjusted so that it can meet your desired comfort and support.
And since it is deflatable, the pillow is downright portable. It won't take up precious space in your backpack.
|Flat valve inflates the pillow easily|
Space-saver in the pack
|Doesn’t come with a washable pillow case|
15.98 inches x 12.01 inches x 4.02 inches
Trekology Ultralight Inflatable Pillow Review
The Trekology Ultralight Inflatable Pillow is a good pick for any backpacker. It has been tailored to be compact; it can be folded to 5 inches x 2 inches, which is technically smaller than a soda can. Hence, it is a travel-friendly item; it doesn't eat up too much space in the pack.
Aside from being a simple head pillow, it can also be used for lumbar support. You can actually buy two or more of these pillows to ensure that you can sleep comfortably while in the wild.
Inflation and deflation don't take much time, saving you the hassle and ensuring that you can rest whenever you need to. The design of the pillow is extremely durable. The elastic TPU fabric guarantees that the pillow is water and moisture-resistant.
The pillow also includes anti-slipping dots on its bottom. These dots generate friction between the pillow and the ground, ensuring that it won't slide off. With its curved structure, the pillow ensures that it can cradle your head and neck.
|Packs compactly for travel and backpacking purposes|
Water-resistant and puncture-resistant
Great for providing neck and lumbar support
Unlike camping, backpacking requires strict attention to the weight. We are not exaggerating when we say that every ounce matters for a backpacker. On the trail, the less weight you carry, the easier it is for you to move and reach your destination.
This is a key reason why having the right backpacking equipment is essential. Even the sleeping gear you bring should be picked appropriately. This time, let's take a look at the considerations in choosing a pillow for backpacking.
As I've mentioned, backpacking isn't similar to camping. A seasoned backpacker knows that being weight conscious can save you from potential hassles.
If you are going to pack all your camping gear in your backpack, it's evident that size and storage will become a problem. So aside from having the right backpack, you should also streamline the bulk of your gear.
For backpacking pillows, it is important that they can be folded or stowed compactly. If they consume more space than your sleeping pad, they are more of a liability than an asset.
We have seen many backpackers discard lofty, fluffy pillows to minimize weight and volume. Inflatable models became a trend because of this. Since you can inflate them, there's a guarantee that you can furl them flatly or tightly inside your bag.
Of course, compared to fluffy pillows, these backpacking pillows don't offer the same plush quality. Fortunately, many models today, such as the ones that we listed here, have upgraded their comfort-giving mechanisms without sacrificing their size.
The weight or compactness of a pillow doesn't matter if it is not comfortable. Just because you are backpacking doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice all forms of convenience.
Most of the time, manufacturers often trade lightness for comfort or vice-versa. After all, more comfort means more fill or materials inside the pillow, which could add to its weight. Fortunately, some manufacturers ensure that the trade-off wouldn't be too much.
The pillows that we listed here, such as the Trekology and Sea to Summit pillows, have contoured designs that form a cradle for your head. Even without having too much fill, these pillows provide a comfortable sleeping experience.
These days, synthetic fills are becoming a trend. They are lightweight but can provide at least a similar degree of comfort as foam or loft fills. If you choose these pillows, you can guarantee that your backcountry trip will be extra convenient.
Another relative aspect of comfort is the thickness of the pillow. Of course, this is something that you need to consider since most backpackers sleep on the ground unless they have a hammock with them, right?
The distance between you and the ground could also determine the level of comfort that you feel. And believe it or not, having a certain degree of separation from the cold, hard surface will give you a better evening rest.
Compared to standard camping pillows, these backpacking pillows aren't that thick. For example, the NEMO Fillo is three inches thicker than the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow. You can already see the difference, but for backpackers, this level of thickness should be already acceptable, especially if we are going to take into account the weight and packability.
You should just compensate for the absence of weight through the use of sleeping pads and sleeping bags.
When choosing the best ultralight backpacking pillows, durability should be prioritized. And when it comes to pillows, tents, and other outdoor gear, durability is measured via denier.
Specifically, denier refers to the fabric thickness. Technically speaking, the higher the denier, the thicker the fabric. If an outdoor pillow has a low denier count, then its durability isn't impressive. A 20-denier pillow shell is thicker than a 50-denier pillow shell.
But keep in mind that added thickness means added weight. So if you are going to make a trade, make sure that you prioritize taking care of your pillow while using them. Inflatable pillows, for instance, should be handled properly. We also recommended that you get patch kits with them.
How light should a pillow be so that it can be called ultralight? Or, at the very least, make the pillow a good choice for backpacking?
If you have noticed, all the pillows that we listed on this blog don't exceed ten ounces. That's how conservative our choices are when it comes to the best backpacking pillows. As we have mentioned earlier, every ounce counts. The added weight to your backpack would mean that your shoulders, knees, and back would be compromised.
As much as we are tempted to use fluffy, large pillows for a backpacking trip, they aren't really recommended. Sure, they can give you the comfort that you need, but their weight could become a burden.
Again, our picks in this blog prove that there are lightweight pillows that offer sufficient comfort and support for backpackers. With these pillows, you would be able to experience a fancy time during the night!
Many manufacturers today are trying to streamline their pillows to be compatible with sleeping bags. Hence, if you are going to bring your sleeping bag with you, then make sure that your pillow will also fit on the hood of the said bag.
Exped MegaPillow is a good example of those backpacking pillows that can perfectly fit with sleeping bags. For starters, rectangular pillows don't suit well with sleeping bags, which, in turn, make them prone to slipping while you are sleeping.
Because of this, it is essential that you go with pillows that have curved shapes. While they are smaller than rectangular pillows, these curved pillows can be fitted easily in the hoods of sleeping bags.
Backpacking exposes people to a lot of discomfort. But it is not something that should surprise you. At the same time, it should not dishearten you from making the trip.
Backpacking remains one of the most holistic and worthwhile undertakings you can do. So preparation is a must if you want to get the most out of the adventure.
Planning on how you should sleep on the trip is among the things that you should consider:
For you to be able to sleep comfortably, slight stretching will work wonders. After a long day of having fun and doing vigorous activities, it is possible that your muscles are already sore.
Of course, these bodily discomforts can prevent you from sleeping soundly. No sleeping position could relieve these problems.
So what we recommend is that you stretch your body before you go to sleep. There's even a thing called backcountry yoga, which requires you to stretch your calves, glutes, and other primary muscle groups.
Selecting the ideal place to rest is a must during the trip. Ideally, you should settle on spots that have been camped before. In this way, you minimize the need to clean the area, as well as reduce your impact on the environment.
For sleeping purposes, it is essential that the site is flat. The ground should be as flat as possible. In this way, you can place your sleeping ad and sleeping bag as evenly as possible. Terrains that have uneven surfaces will prevent you from sleeping comfortably. Get this part right, and you are off to a good start.
If the area is naturally sloped, it is better to search for a spot with the least slope. Make sure that you don't lie perpendicular to the slope. Instead, lay parallel to the slope, with your feet downhill.
You can't sleep properly if you are chilling. That's a fact. In fact, we have made a post regarding how you can stay warm and cozy while camping or backpacking.
Of course, there are tricks on how you can stay cozy. Layering yourself with insulated clothing helps in preventing heat loss. Using insulated sleeping amenities, such as bags and pads, can ensure that you stay warm throughout the night.
Backpackers typically lay on the ground to rest. But this doesn't mean that there should nothing be between you and a cold, hard surface.
A sleeping pad serves as a protective layer for backpackers. Aside from the sleeping bag, a sleeping pad will prevent the cold air and water from seeping into your body.
If possible, you should also bring a footprint. The more layers in between you and the ground, the more comfortable and warm you feel.
One of the major discomforts that you would encounter while backpacking is an insect bite. Having the best ultralight backpacking pillow is not enough to send you to dreamland if you are riddled with bugs.
To protect yourself from them, layer properly. Make sure that most of your skin is covered. If you don't have a tent, then you should shield your area with a mosquito net or bug net to keep the critters out. Insect repellents are useful, too.
By the way, insects are often attracted to light. So try to minimize your lighting a little.
Do you want more outdoor sleeping tips? Check this post!
The best ultralight pillows for backpacking will help you sleep comfortably after an exhausting day of walking, hiking, and carrying your stuff. These pillows will provide your head with a lofty sleeping experience. At the same time, they can offer support to your body or give some relief from the temporary muscle aches you sustained from the hike. As long as these pillows are present, your backpacking trip will be less stressful.