When going on a backpacking adventure, the value of a good night’s sleep is crucial for staying energized and productive. Spending days or weeks away from the comfort of your bed can leave you with not only separation anxiety, but also the lack of comfortability that you’re used to. Snuggling up to your new sleeping environment in the wilderness can be a challenge, leaving you restless and uncomfortable. You can be assured that getting accustomed to your new surroundings can take some time, but thankfully with this list of the top 10 Best Ultralight Backpacking Pillows, finding a comfortable place to rest your head and neck every night won’t be one more thing you have to worry about.
Now, throughout the different models and brands presented on this list, you’re going to be noticing a consistent pattern of required features we deem is necessary to earn the title of exceptional ultralight backpacking pillow. The specs we deemed a requirement, and we think you will too, not only involve being ultralight, but also involve how easily packable the product is, its compressibility, comfortability, and a level of durability when faced with the elements of your adventure.
It’s important that your gear doesn’t let you down, and actually contributes to the ease of your journey rather than cause complications. While we can’t speak for the rest of your gear, we are confident you will find the right kind of backpacking pillow that will not only meet your needs but will also become a permanent member of your necessary backpacking supplies.
Top 11 Best Ultralight Backpacking Pillows
1. Therm-a-Rest Airhead Down Pillow
The Airhead Down Pillow model emphasizes comfortability and convenience over weight and space. Along with being very comfortable to sleep on, the Airhead Down Pillow has more flexibility in air volume and comes in a distinct oval-like shape, and helps meet any user’s needs regardless of sleeping position.
With comfortability being the major aspect that makes this ultralight backpacking pillow so attractive, there are some downsides when in comparison with its competitors. The median weight for an ultralight backpacking pillow is around 3 ounces, and with the Therm-a-Rest Airhead Down Pillow weighing in just under 6 ounces, it’s clearly the heavier option.
It is also important to remark that some people are allergic to down feathers which serves as the main material for this pillow. Overall, this is a great option for someone who minds a heavier pillow in exchange for sublime comfort.
Sample Customer Review…I think this little pillow is pretty rad. The down on the cover is really soft. I like the color. It’s big enough to be a legitimate pillow, it deflates into a nice small size that takes up very little room and adds barely any weight to your pack.
I debated between this and a foam pillow that I could compress. My concern was that if it pops it’s useless, however, the foam pillow definitely added more weight and took up more space and I tried them both and this one is more comfortable. I figure if it does pop and I can’t patch it, at least I still have this soft down case that I can stuff with clothes or leaves or something and still fashion some sort of pillow. I don’t know. Hopefully, it won’t pop, it seems to be made out of quality material and I can’t imagine I’ll be very rough with it.
Long story short, I really like it.Read more reviews at Amazon.com
2. Nemo Fillo
Some of the best features of the Nemo Fillo are comfort and versatility. This backpacking pillow really hits the sweet spot by making a pillow with the comfortability of a compressible pillow as well as having the elasticity of an inflatable one. This pillow can be used for a backpacking adventure just as easily as it can for a road trip or a weekend away. This almost universal usability and comfort does come at a price. It is one of the heaviest pillows on this list weighing in at 9 ounces, which makes it not very suitable for long backpacking excursions but great for anything else!
Sample Customer Review…The Nemo Fillo Pillow is a perfect option for those looking to find a comfortable inflatable camping pillow. It has an internal storage bag, making for easy storage without the hassle of keeping up with a separate bag. It features an ergonomic valve as well as a foam layer on top of the air bladder to provide maximum comfort. Another great thing about the Nemo Fillo is that you can remove the cover to machine or hand wash to ensure a clean pillow. Overall the Nemo Fillo provides an absolutely wonderful camping pillow for the money. I would recommend it to anyone who values a good night’s sleep!Read more reviews at Amazon.com
3. Sea to Summit Aeros Premium
This Sea to Summit Aeros Premium pillow is unique in how it is designed specifically for your neck and shoulders no matter what position you sleep in. This design dedication emphasizes comfortability and makes a good night’s sleep a certainty. On top of being one of the most comfortable pillows on this list, it also is equipped with a multi-functional valve, making it only take a few deep breaths to blow up completely. At weighing only 2.78 ounces and reducing to a packing size of 7×8.5 centimeters, this pillow is a great choice and is considered one of the most comfortable pillows on our list.
Sample Customer Review…I love this little pillow! It is great for camping or backpacking, as it is lightweight and takes up about as much space as my fist. I am picky about stuff I buy…I only want something that is well made and that I think will last. I have not had this pillow for very long (only about 4 months) so I am not sure how it will hold up over time, but I used it for about a week at home before going camping, just to make sure I would like it, and it worked perfectly. It only takes a few breaths to blow it up, and you can adjust it to the hardness/softness that floats your boat. I recommend it!Read more reviews at Amazon.com
4. Teton Sports’ ComfortLite Self-Inflating Pillow
Don’t want to take the time to blow up or pump up your pillow while trying to make camp for the night? No worries, Teton Sports’ ComfortLite Self-Inflating Pillow will do it for you and save you time, effort, and breath. It is lightweight, but not the smallest compression size on this list. The non-slip base ensures your pillow won’t move even when you do.
Some say it is a little noisier or bulkier than other camping pillows, but it is comfortable and durable. It is also washable and comes with a nylon stuff sack for safe storage. The stuff sack has its own strap, which means it doesn’t necessarily have to fit inside your backpack depending on your preference and other gear.
Sample Customer Review…We have struggled to find a space-conscious option for family camping trips that worked for everyone. This is it! The self-inflating foam allows for a comfortable “pillow” feel while allowing for adjustment in firmness. The only small issue I have is that the combination of the pillow on my sleeping mat is a bit slick. This sometimes results in the pillow slipping above my head at night. My daughter has remedied this by putting the pillow inside her mummy bag hood to hold it in place. I chose to just deal with it as little as it actually affects my sleep.
I really love this pillow. As a Scout leader, I camp out 2 or 3 nights a month. This pillow is great, for hiking or car camping. I liked it so much I bought a second one for my son. I highly recommend it.Read more reviews at Amazon.com
5. Sea to Summit Aeros Down Pillow
The Sea to Summit Aeros Down, like the name implies, has a layer of down feathers in the cover for insulation and comfort. This does, however, make the pillow on the more expensive side of things. Before purchase, you may want to weigh the high cost with the high comfort for this item.
The pillow is also able to compress fairly small considering it is not a solely inflatable pillow. It is also one of the lightest pillows out there, making it an easy addition to your pack. The valve allows for micro-adjustments so you can get the perfect amount of firmness or softness for you and Goldilocks from one night to the next.
Sample Customer Review… have always struggled to find a truly comfortable lightweight backpacking pillow. I have tried a few different types from my down jacket in a pillowcase (not bad) to the standard Aeros (pretty good) and other similar generic inflatables (Also pretty good). This one really works well for me. I have the small size (2.5 oz on my scale) and it is plenty big and by far the most comfortable pillow I have tried to date. I really like the down when it is cold – I notice an appreciable difference in warmth. When it’s hot I flip the pillow over to its soft underbelly – the only downside being the plastic valve on the bottom but so far that hasn’t been an issue for me. Inflating takes only a few breaths and it deflates in seconds.
Best air pillow ever. The dual-layer airbag prevents leaking.Read more at Amazon.com
6. Trekology Pillow
This ultralight backpacking pillow by Trekology is the largest on the list at 16 inches. On top of being so big, the pillow is remarkably comfortable and can actually be used as excellent back support as well because of its size. The inflation valve system is unique and effective. Using a button to actually open and seal the airway, this simple design helps to ensure sealing the captured air inside the pillow with very little possibility of leakage. Trekology did a great job creating a large pillow while being easy to use and is actually very durable. Naturally, because of its size and durability, it’s also heavier than most other models, and more expensive.
Sample Customer Review…I bought this pillow for backpacking, and for the price, this pillow can’t be beaten! I assumed it would be pretty cheap feeling, but I was pleasantly surprised because that was not the case. The inflation valve has a button inside it that allows you to inflate the pillow without the air coming out of the pillow, and if you push it again it allows you to deflate it very easily. I expected the fabric to feel like a pool floaty, but it’s not like that. I find it pretty comfortable. It’s nice and compact and it really is as compact as a soda can when you put it in its bag. On top of that, it’s very lightweight. I personally used the storage bag for the pillow as a rock bag I could use to assist me in hanging my food bag while backpacking. I never heard of Trekology before buying this pillow, but they deserve more popularity in the ultralight backpacking world.Read more reviews at Amazon.com
7. Klymit Pillow X
One of the lightest pillows on our list, the Klymit Pillow X is only 1.7 ounces and is lightweight, comfortable and durable. It’s built with a mixture of inflatable technology while also having compressible capabilities, making it comfortable for any sleeping position along with being easy to pack.
Once deflated, the Klymit Pillow X can minimize itself to the size of your smartphone in its protective bag. Regarding the Klymit Pillow X’s durability, its polyester construction also makes the pillow puncture proof. These three great qualities are also complemented by the rippled circle design divided up into four different padded sections in the shape of an X, leaving lots of padded room for head placement and changing sleeping positions.
We chose this ultralight backpacking pillow as our number one choice because of how we feel it’s the perfect combination of all of our necessary requirements that not only help you get a good night’s sleep, but also directly make your packing and backpacking experience easier. Therefore, it earns the label of being one of the best ultralight backpacking pillows.
Sample Customer Review…I wasn’t sure whether I’d like this when I got it. It’s definitely an odd design, but it’s pretty brilliant. The center of the pillow is thinner than the sides, so the edges are like little built-in neck pillows. I usually have problems with camping pillows sliding around or getting out of place during the night, but this one stays exactly where it’s meant to be. It’s comfortable for both side and back sleeping, and it packs down to about the size of a deck of cards, (except lighter). The valve design is brilliant; it can latch, and even when it’s unlatched, it won’t let the air out until you want it to. The only issue I have with this pillow is the way the chambers are linked — getting the last of the air out is like solving a puzzle, and it can be kind of annoying when you’re just trying to pack up and get going. But that’s a small issue compared to how light, comfy, and inexpensive it is.Read more reviews at Amazon.com
8. Therm-a-Rest Trekker Pillow Case
The Therm-a-Rest Trekker Pillow Case takes a different, more creative approach to what it means to be an ultralight backpacking pillow. In fact, I’m sure as you insinuated from the title, the Therm-a-Rest Trekker Pillow Case rejects the standard notion that an exceptional backpacking pillow has to be inflatable and compressible. Instead, Therm-a-Rest Trekker Pillow Case has made a pillow case that is so comfortable, durable, stylish, packable and waterproof, putting in your excess packed clothes in as a substitution for the actual pillow doesn’t make you bat an eye.
The brushed polyester pillowcase feels great on your skin and only weighs 2.3 ounces. While being even lighter then our first pillow choice, this pillow case can actually pack down to essentially nothing, making it easily the most packable item on our list. This alternative to the standard industry approach to ultralight backpacking pillows still easily meets our previously claimed requirements, exceeds our expectations of packability, making it easily be one of the best ultralight backpacking pillows for optimizing space.
Sample Customer Review…I love this pillowcase! After years of using a stuff sack filled with clothes as a pillow when backpacking, this lightweight soft alternative is very welcome. Nylon stuff sacks make an annoying rustling sound whenever you move and just aren’t the right shape for a comfortable pillow.
This soft fleecy pillowcase weighs almost nothing and makes quite a comfy pillow when stuffed with fleece or other clothing. The opening is gusseted so the clothing doesn’t just fall out during the night. The pillowcase can double as an organizational tool to keep all your clean clothes in during the day. Highly recommend for backpacking!Read more reviews at Amazon.com
9. Nemo Fillo Elite Ultralight Pillow
For the tenth and final product that made it to our list, the Nemo Filler Elite is a great choice. Like the Nemo Fillo listed above, this pillow is incredibly comfortable but, unlike the previous Nemo model, this one is extremely light in comparison. At 3 ounces, this pillow is essentially a third of the weight of the other Nemo Filler model and still has many similar qualities regarding material and insulation. Both use a comfortable light layer of synthetic insulation below a soft cotton outer coating that makes it one of the more comfortable inflatables.
What the Nemo Filler Elite gains from being extremely lightweight, it loses in pocket compartments that are great for securing holding on to any miscellaneous valuable items required for your trip. Of course, if you’re looking for a reliable and standard ultralight backpacking pillow, this is an excellent choice.
Sample Customer Review…I bought one of these to try on an upcoming trip to Europe. It is lightweight, adjustable, compact, and best of all, comfortable to use. I have a significant issue with my neck so I am now using this pillow every night. It worked so well that my husband bought one to take along and now he is using it for his regular pillow, too. It took a few tries to figure out how to inflate it the desired amount and then twist it shut without losing too much air. That is just a little quirk of this now indispensable item. It is worth every penny!Read more reviews at Amazon.com
10. Exped Air Pillow UL
The Exped Air Pillow UL is another example of a great very light backpacking pillow with great packability, taking up the space the size of a smartphone. This ultralight pillow also comes attached with two clips that can latch on to any standard sleeping mat or air mattress, ensuring that the pillow stays in place while you sleep. The pillow is very easy to inflate and deflate, only needing a few gasps of air for inflation, and applied pressure to deflate. The ultralight pillow does lack some degree of durability, making it more prone to damage or puncture then other top models.
Sample Customer Review…I disagree with other reviewers that say this pillow is noisy; my experience has been that it is completely silent. I also think the material is perfectly comfortable against the skin and not overly sticky/plastic-y (put a T-shirt over it if you need to). This is the most comfortable camp pillow I’ve had–I especially like that it has a little “bump” in front that fits snugly in my neck, supporting my head just right. Inflates in seconds and never leaks. Packs down to virtually nothing. Great for backpacking. I can’t imagine trying to sleep without it at this point.Read more reviews at REI Co-op
Buying Guide: Things to Consider When Purchasing Ultralight Backpacking Pillows
The two most common styles for backpacking pillows are inflatable and pillowcase. An inflatable pillow will be blown up with air before you use it and deflated afterward to fit in your pack. A pillowcase will be filled with other things you have in your pack, usually clothes. An inflatable pillow will likely be more consistent and hold its shape. A pillowcase will likely take up less room and the contents can be shifted. Which will deliver the most comfort for you?
Different materials can be more comfortable than others. If you don’t want to carry a pillowcase or slip the pillow into a t-shirt at night, you will want to make sure the material of the pillow is something that won’t move around on you, feels comfortable on your skin, and doesn’t make too much noise. It is a good idea to test out your pillow before you take it with you to make sure it is as comfortable as possible. It is the best way to know if there’s a little rustling noise that keeps you up or other small details like that. Some pillows are also insulated to keep your head warm while you sleep. This might not be necessary for a mummy-style sleeping bag, but is definitely something to keep in mind when thinking about your perfect night’s sleep.
Shape and Size
There are many different designs when it comes to backpacking pillows. Some work best for side sleepers and others for back sleepers. How do you sleep? Will the pillow offer you the right kind of support in the right kind of places? Side sleepers, for example, might want a pillow with more lift to keep their neck from being in an uncomfortable angle all night. Some pillows allow you to customize a bit by adding more or less air to find the perfect amount for your comfort.
There are also many different sizes. If you pick one that is too small, your head could fall off while you’re sleeping; too big and it takes up more space and adds weight to your backpack. What is your Goldilocks pillow size?
How much weight will the pillow add to your backpack? It is considered a luxury item by most backpackers, which means you’ll want to be extra careful about the weight. Ideally, it should add no more than about 3 ounces to your gear. The less weight the better!
How small can you get the pillow while it’s not in use? Smaller often also means lighter, which is always a goal for your gear. Backpacks have limited space, which makes every inch valuable. Some pillows pack up smaller than others, so keep in mind how much space you think you can spare in your backpack. Can you fit one the size of your fist? A deck of cards? The smaller the better!
As always, when you make a purchase, you want to take into account the price of an item. Some backpacking pillows can get a little pricey, but you may decide it is worth it for a good night’s sleep. Price can often affect quality and durability, so be on the lookout for the perfect mix of all three.
Overall, all ten of these best ultralight backpacking pillows found in this article are exceptional choices compared to much of what the rest of the industry has to offer. And when it comes to crucial supplies and gear for your perilous adventure, or two-day backpacking trip, having the right equipment is necessary for success, even for something as routine as a good night’s sleep.
While we have ranked these products from what we deem as the best of the best and what we believe as slightly less, each one of these ultralight pillows are excellent. Every single product has a variety of different features that may better suit your needs as a backpacker. We hope that the diversity of products and functionality that is found within this article helped and contributed to you finding the best ultralight backpacking pillow you need. Cheers to your next adventure!
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Written by Will Chambers, Grace Sura, and Michaela Rossman