For some, worrying about getting a good night’s sleep when camping is a real concern. Sure, there are some people who can drop off with one foot out of the tent and a sock for a pillow, but we can’t all be blessed with such skills. Sometimes we need a little bit of support, a little bit of warmth and, if it's not too much to ask, a little luxury.
Even if you're someone who can sleep well in a tent, a decent camping pillow will still be a great boon to your rest, especially if you're going to be camping for several nights. The support that a decent pillow and camping mat offers your neck, head, and spine will help align your body during sleep and improve your recuperation and a general feeling of morning freshness.
Where and how you are camping will affect what you’re looking for, so we’ve brought together a cross-section of the best camping pillows available today. There are options that pack up to tiny sizes, ripe for being picked up by a backpacker or trekker, right through to ergonomic memory foam options that are ideal for leaving at the main camp, ready to welcome you after a hard day on the trails.
Camping pillows are no longer simply air-tight sacks full of stale breath. Over the past few years, there has been real energy and method injected into their design. There are even a lot of options out there which are ‘real’ pillows, with a memory foam filling and comfortable lining.
Here are our recommendations for the best camping pillows:
The best camping pillows 2021
Therm-a-rest Compressible Pillow
Best value (Editoru2019s Choice)
The Therm-a-rest Compressible Pillow is a well-traveled companion of ours, offering excellent comfort without taking up too much space in our pack. The pillow is stuffed with foam offcuts, up-cycled from the manufacturing process of the equally impressive Therm-a-rest ProLite sleeping mat. This foam compresses down tightly and grows exponentially when unrolled. For example, the medium pillow rolls up to be about the size of a one litre water bottle, but when released measures 36cm long, 46cm wide, and 10cm deep. The brushed polyester outer is soft, and made from 60% recycled materials.
Pros: Environmentally responsible, lightweight, very comfortable, fully machine washable
Cons: Some options will pack up to a smaller size
Size: 46 x 36 x 10cm
Weight: 260g (Medium)
Machine washable: Yes
Cabin Max Memory Foam Travel Pillow
Travel and camping luxury option
This memory foam travel pillow with a washable cotton cover, provides ideal comfort and support while flying, camping, and traveling. The ergonomic memory foam adapts to the contours of your neck and head while the durable open-cell memory foam technology offers maximum resiliency. It comes in a handy travel bag and rolls up to a convenient travel size of 10 x 22cm.
Pros: Comfortable and supportive
Cons: Large, heavy, not fully machine washable
Size: 42 x 25 x 7cm
Machine washable: Yes (cover only)
Fillo Elite Ultralight Backpacking Pillow
Best lightweight option
Nemo Equipment's Ultralight Fillo Pillow is an award-winning design, offering any backpacker or trekker some welcome luxury without piling on the weight and taking up valuable pack space. Using a three-layer foam system and a jersey cover, the Fillo is soft and supportive. It packs up small, and all it needs is a little breath of air to plump it up to its maximum 8 cm depth. The best part is that it compares to the size of a lime when it is packed in the integrated stuff sack.
Pros: Lightweight, low-profile
Cons: Expensive, not fully machine washable
Size: 39 x 27 x 8 cm
Weight: 80 g
Machine washable: Yes (cover only)
OEX Traverse Self-Inflating Pillow
Best budget option
The OEX's self-inflating mechanism is easily operated and fills the pillow completely to offer great all-night support without any deflation, and the suede fabric finish is a nice comfort touch. This pillow is a great size, measuring 36 x 8 cm when inflated, and is nice and portable when packed away into its 19 x 8 bag.
Pros: Extremely lightweight and compact
Cons: Not overly comfortable, between build qualities available
Size: 36 x 19 x 8cm
Machine washable: n/a
Exped Air Pillow
Best for minimal size and comfort
Exped is a tested and trusted expedition brand and, much like its dry bags, this pillow will not let you down. The 50D nylon will keep your pillow puncture-free while remaining comfortable, and the 38 x 27 x 11cm size will be ample enough for a night of quality sleep. When packed up, it measures up at 12 x 5 cm u2013 an ideal size for anyone looking to minimise space and maximise comfort.
Pros: Extremely portable, lightweight, robust, easily stored
Cons: Air inflated, not overly comfortable compared to other options
Size: 38 x 27 x 11cm
Machine washable: No, wipe clean
The best in detail
Remember, if you’re heading off to the hills, you need to make sure you’re carrying the right gear. From three-season hiking boots to the best waterproofs and greatest 30-35L backpacks, we’ve got detailed, expert guides to help equip you with the finest outdoor gear around. Check them out now.
What camping pillow is right for me?
Our personal preference takes us toward Therm-a-rest’s Compressible Pillow. Not only is it carrying some serious compact comfort, but it holds a green philosophy that really resonates with us. The option you pick will ultimately come down to one factor – you.
All the options we’ve recommended are portable and stowable, but to varying degrees. For trekkers, backpackers, and Duke of Edinburgh expeditioners, you may want to look for an inflatable pillow as they take up next to no room in your pack. For those who are setting up camp near the car or in a location that will be used for a while, the memory foam options (which are still portable, they are just a bit bulkier) will probably be right for you.
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William Lobley is a Senior Content Writer and reviewer for WhatsTheBest, specialising in technology, gaming, and the outdoors. He also writes for Empire Online.
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