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Travelers, Rejoice: These Backpacking Pillows Are Lightweight, Compact, & Comfy

Sleeping in the woods under the stars is a dreamy experience that can be ruined quickly if you don't have a comfortable place to rest your head. To optimize your wilderness adventure, I personally recommend investing in one of the best backpacking pillows you can find. There are essentially three types to choose from:

  • Inflatable: These pillows inflate when you're ready to use them and deflate back down when you're done. The advantage is they're much lighter and take up less space in your bag. The downside is they don't have that fluffy, "pillow" feel.
  • Non-inflatable: These are small, compact pillows that either stuff into a sack or roll up like a sleeping bag. Often filled with foam, they're fluffier and feel more like a traditional pillow, but the tradeoff is that they're also significantly heavier and take up more space in your pack than an inflatable pillow.
  • "Stuffable" pillowcase: The most lightweight, bulk-free option for backpacking excursions is to simply take a small, outdoor-ready pillowcase you can stuff a puffy jacket or other soft item into. Some folks find this a bit lumpy while others can hardly feel the difference.

Once you've decided on a style, think about the ease of use, too. For inflatable styles, this means designs you can blow up quickly and deflate with ease. For non-inflatable versions, it means they're easy to roll up or fold down.

Below, I've rounded up a selection of the best backpacking pillows in all three categories to give you a range of options. Read on to find the perfect one for your next trip. (And a helpful hint: For the pillows that come in multiple sizes, I referred to the dimensions of the smallest option available.)

1
The Best Overall

Weight: 12 ounces

Packed size: 7.5 by 4 inches

Full size: 20 by 11 by 4 inches

What's great about it: This lightweight backpacking pillow offers an exceptional combination of comfort and packability. It's not the lightest on the market, but it's more comfortable than other comparable options, according to fans, and still fairly lightweight. The comfort is largely due to the innovative blend of baffled air cells and thick foam, as well as the silky microsuede cover that's both removable and machine-washable. On top of that, the bottom has shock cord lacing, so you can attach a puffy jacket or other item of clothing to add extra loft. As a bonus, the stuff sack is attached, so you won't lose it (or waste time tearing your tent apart trying to find it in the morning).

  • Available sizes: One size
2
The Most Lightweight

Weight: 1.6 ounces

Packed size: 4.7 by 2 inches

Full size: 15 by 10.6 inches

What's great about it: If what you want is the absolute minimum in weight and bulk, this ultralight backpacking pillow is your best choice. One of the smallest and most lightweight options on the market, it's made with a strong, easy-to-use inflation valve and anti-slip coating, so it won't slide around under your head. The exceptional weight rating means you'll sacrifice a degree of comfort, and it's a bit more fragile (aka prone to puncturing) than others, according to reviewers. Still, the extreme packability makes it a great option if you're packing for a trip where every micro-ounce counts. It comes in two sizes and has a stuff sack included.

  • Available sizes: Medium, Large
3
The Best Budget Option

Weight: 2.8 ounces

Packed size: 4.9 by 2.4 inches

Full size: 16 by 12 inches

What's great about it: For folks who are on a budget and don't want to drop 40 or 50 bucks on a camping pillow, this affordable backpacking pillow is a great find. It's not quite as light as some of the others, nor is it as durable, but it's a wonderful bargain that reviewers say they love. "This pillow is a must have for anyone doing any sort of minimalist camping," wrote one fan. "I bought this for a three day 4 night backpack trip and it was exactly what I needed to be comfortable."

  • Available sizes: One size
4
The Best Non-Inflatable Pillow

Weight: 7 ounces

Packed size: 13 by 4 inches

Full size: 16 by 12 inches

What's great about it: If you don't like the rigidness of inflatables, and you're willing to give up a bit of packability for that comfier "pillow" feel, this Therm-A-Rest backpacking pillow provides the sensation you're looking for. It's made with a breathable polyester cover and a soft urethane foam filling, so it feels good against your skin and won't kink your neck. When not is use, it can be rolled up and tucked away with a drawcord. With more than 2,100 reviews on Amazon, it has a small cult following, and customers have called it things like "perfect" and "sublimely comfortable." On top of all that, the cover is machine-washable.

  • Available sizes: Small - X-Large
5
The Best Stuffable Backpacking Pillowcase

Weight: 4.8 ounces

Packed size: 5 by 4 inch

Full size: 16 by 10 inch

What's great about it: This "stuffable" backpacking pillowcase offers an excellent alternative to a traditional pillow that conserves space and weight by not including any stuffing. It's designed to be stuffed with your own fleece, puffy jacket, or a similarly soft garment when you arrive at your camping destination. The advantage is that you get that lofty feeling without much added size or weight. The construction features soft polyester fleece covered in silky sleeping bag material. It's fully machine-washable and comes in five cute colors to choose from.

  • Available sizes: One size

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