9 Best Backpacking Pillows

We tested the best backpacking pillows on the market for 2024 and this is how they performed.

Updated on February 14th, 2024
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© Jamie Lambert 

We tested the best backpacking pillows on the market today according to price, weight, comfort, and packability. Read on to see how they performed, which is best for you, and get some valuable buying advice.

Best Backpacking Pillows

The best backpacking pillows are:

The product comparison table below is sortable. Click the arrow in the heading cell to sort the models by preferred spec.

1. SEA TO SUMMIT Aeros Premium $49.95 2.8 oz Rounded Rectangular 9/10
2. TREKOLOGY Aluft 1.0 $16.49 3.3 oz U-Shaped 9/10
3. BIG AGNES AXL Air Pillow $39.95 1.6 oz Curved Rectangular 9/10
4. THERM-A-REST Pillow Case $15.95 2.3 oz Rectangular 9/10
5. ZPACKS Medium Pillow $49.95 1.4 oz Rectangular 9/10
6. THERM-A-REST Air Head Pillow $52.95 5.6 oz Curved Rectangular 8/10
7. KLYMIT Pillow X $26.99 2.5 oz Octagonal with X at the center 8/10
8. HYPERLITE MOUNTAIN GEAR Stuff Sack Pillow $59 1.7 oz Rectangular 8/10
9. NEMO Fillo Elite $59.95 2.8 oz Rectangular 8/10

Best Overall Backpacking Pillow

SEA TO SUMMIT Aeros Premium

sea to summit aeros premium

✅ Super comfy

✅ Packs down small

✅ Great for side sleepers


❌ Slightly pricey

❌ Touch heavier than other options


  • Weight: 2.8 oz
  • Shape: Rounded Rectangular
  • Fabric Denier: 50D Polyester
  • Inflated Size: 13.4 x 9.4 x 4.3 in

A pillow to cradle your neck lovingly, the Aeros Premium has a scalloped bottom edge that will center the pillow over your shoulders, no matter how you sleep. This design is not only one of the most comfortable we reviewed but also helped prevent the pillow from moving around while you sleep.

We love the brushed polyester stretch knit on the top and bottom that feels soft against the skin. The 50-denier polyester material makes this one of the most durable pillows on our list. Compared to other models we tested, the Aeros Premium stands out for its loft, which offers ample support for side sleepers.

We like that it inflates and deflates fast. And you can use the valve to fine-tune the inflation for optimal comfort. This allows side sleepers to pump the pillow to the max while letting back and stomach sleepers lower the height as desired. It is a touch heavier than other inflatable pillows we reviewed, but the lack of cons makes the Sea to Summit Aeros Premium our best overall backpacking pillow.

Best Budget Backpacking Pillow


Price: $24.99

trekology aluft 2.0

✅ Best budget inflatable pillow


❌ Heavier option


  • Weight: 3.3 oz
  • Shape: U-Shaped
  • Fabric Denier: Polyester, TPU
  • Inflated Size: 16 x 12 x 4 in

A discount pillow with a sub $20 price tag, the Trekology Aluft 1.0 has been a staple of frugal backpackers and is our pick if you want a comfy but inexpensive inflatable pillow. For its cost, the Trekology Aluft 1.0 delivers an outstanding value. It inflates quickly and is super comfy, thanks to its scoop design.

It'll last at least a season and can go even longer if you take care of it on the trail. It is the second heaviest pillow we reviewed, but for under $20, you can buy it and try it. If you don't like it, you then give it away without too much financial loss.

Best Ultralight Backpacking Pillow


Price: $39.99

big agnes axl

✅ Lightest inflatable pillow


❌ Not as packable as other options


  • Weight: 1.6 oz
  • Shape: Curved Rectangular
  • Fabric Denier: Nylon, TPU
  • Inflated Size: 16 x 10 x 4 in

One of Big Agnes's most popular pillows is the AXL, a lightweight backpacking pillow with features typically found in larger and heavier camp pillows. In fact, this is the lightest inflatable pillow we reviewed and our pick for the best ultralight pillow. It features a two-way, quick-release valve that allows for fast inflation and deflation.

We found the addition of a micro-release button for fine-tuning to be a handy extra. We like the kidney bean shape that helps keep the pillow under your head and shoulders. Unlike other models we tested, it’s also relatively noise-free.

Best Budget Stuff Sack Pillow

THERM-A-REST Pillow Case

therm-a-rest pillow case

✅ Inexpensive

✅ Lightweight


❌ Not as comfortable as a dedicated pillow


  • Weight: 2.3 oz
  • Shape: Rectangular
  • Fabric Denier: Polyester
  • Inflated Size: 17 x 14 in

The Therm-a-Rest Pillow Case lets you convert your daytime stuff sack into a comfortable pillow. Unlike the other two stuff sack pillows we reviewed, the Therm-a-rest is made from polyester. The major bonus to using this material is that this is the least expensive backpacking pillow we reviewed at just $16.

The inside of the polyester stuff sack has a brushed polyester lining which we liked to add a bit of comfort. But like other stuff sack pillows we tested, it still falls short of a dedicated pillow comfort-wise. We also found the fabric to be crinkly, which is not very conducive to a good night's sleep.

Best Stuff Sack Pillow

ZPACKS Medium Pillow

Price: $54.95

zpacks medium pillow

✅ Best stuff sack pillow

✅ Ultralight


❌ Slightly pricey

❌ Less comfortable


  • Weight: 1.4 oz
  • Shape: Rectangular
  • Fabric Denier: DCF
  • Inflated Size: 6 x 12 in

The Zpacks Medium Pillow takes the company's ultralight stuff sack and turns it into a comfortable backpacking pillow. We love the Dyneema construction, which makes this a super strong and waterproof stuff sack pillow. On the interior, the stuff sack is lined with a soft microfleece layer on one side. Just turn the sack inside out to expose the fleece layer and fill it with spare clothes.

Like other stuff sack pillows, this wasn’t as comfortable as other models we tested. However, if you want lightweight, at just 1.4 ounces, this is the lightest pillow we tested. It’s a good size for sleeping, but it is on the smaller end of the models we looked at. It’s also slightly more expensive than average, but if you’re looking for a stuff sack pillow, it’s our top pick.

Most Comfortable Backpacking Pillow

THERM-A-REST Air Head Pillow

therm-a-rest air head pillow

✅ Superior comfort

✅ Insulated


❌ Expensive

❌ Heavy


  • Weight: 5.6 oz
  • Shape: Curved Rectangular
  • Fabric Denier: Polyester Cover, Urethane Insert
  • Inflated Size: 11 x 15.5 x 4 in

The Therm-a-Rest Air Head Pillow is the easy winner for the most comfortable backpacking pillow we tested. It’s super lofty, firm and has a curved-shaped air chamber that delivers ample support for side sleepers. It’s also insulated, which makes this one of our favorite options for cold-weather camping.

Our biggest gripe is the weight; at 5.6 ounces, it’s the heaviest pillow we reviewed. At $53, it’s also one of the most expensive options we tested. The pillow itself can be a little crinkly, so if you toss and turn, beware. As a bonus, we like that the Therm-a-Rest Air Head Pillow ships with a soft, brushed fabric covering that can be removed for washing.

The Other Noteworthy Models


klymit pillow x

✅ Inexpensive

✅ Lightweight

✅ Durable


❌ Middle too low for side sleepers


  • Weight: 2.5 oz
  • Shape: Octagonal with X at the center
  • Fabric Denier: 30D Polyester
  • Inflated Size: 15 x 11 x 3.5 in

We like that the Klymit Pillow X offers a good balance of weight, price, and comfort. The hybrid construction of durable 30D polyester makes it more tear, puncture, and abrasion-resistant than other models we tested. The signature X shape cradles your head while sleeping.

We found that we didn’t slide off this in the night. However, this shape also means a low middle to this pillow, and side sleepers find this pillow less comfortable than other inflatable pillows we reviewed. We recommend the Klymit Pillow X for back and stomach sleepers only. Like with most inflatable pillows, we like that you can adjust the height and the air pressure to dial in the firmness and the loft to your liking.


hyperlite mountain gear stuff sack

✅ Ultralight

✅ Doubles as a stuff sack

✅ Comfy fleece lining


❌ Expensive


  • Weight: 1.7 oz
  • Shape: Rectangular
  • Fabric Denier: DCF + Porlatec®
  • Inflated Size: 12 x 17 in

We love the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sack pillow is a jack of all trades. By day it's a place to stash your gear to keep it dry. At night, it's your gateway to a good night's sleep; just fill it with soft clothes as needed. We like the simple design and that it’s made from light and strong Dyneema fabric.

The Dyneema fabric is waterproof, and it comes complete with a waterproof zipper. While we don’t find stuff sack pillows to be the most comfortable style of pillows overall, the fleece lining on the Hyperlight adds a surprising amount of comfort and warmth. Like all of Hyperlight’s products cost is a premium. This pillow is the second most expensive pillow we reviewed.


nemo fillo elite

✅ Insulated

✅ Comfy

✅ Washable cover included


❌ Expensive

❌ Small size


  • Weight: 2.8 oz
  • Shape: Rectangular
  • Fabric Denier: Polyester
  • Inflated Size: 15 x 11 x 3 in

You can make a fashion statement with the hybrid Nemo Fillo Elite rectangular pillow. It has a washable jersey blend cover available in a blue, dark gray, or sapphire striped pattern. We found this jersey cover to be soft and comfy on our faces as well. We like that it packs down small into the included stuff sack.

The best feature for us is the Primaloft insulation. This makes it a great option for colder three to four-season use. On the inside is an inflatable bladder with baffles that’ll cradle your head. Unfortunately, this is a small pillow and doesn't have as much loft as other pillows we tested. And at $60, the Nemo Fillo Elite is the most expensive pillow we reviewed.

Key Factors To Consider When Choosing


Backpacking pillow range widely in price. Simple pillow stuff sacks or inflatable pillows are the least expensive. Premium backpacking pillows are engineered to be ultralight or use high-end fabrics, Dyneema, which pushes up the price.

The best value backpacking pillows:

The most affordable backpacking pillows:

The best premium backpacking pillows:


Backpacking pillows should be lightweight. Since they are luxury items, we recommend nothing over 3 ounces.

The lightest backpacking pillows:


There is no point carrying a pillow if it doesn’t add comfort. We recommend testing the pillow in a store before you purchase it, if possible. For the best comfort, look for a thicker pillow that includes its own pillowcase or has a soft lining. If your pillow doesn’t have this, you can always wrap an item of soft clothing to wrap around your pillow to add comfort.

Size is the other important factor; bigger generally means more comfortable. And pillows with insulation will be comfier in colder climates.

The most comfortable backpacking pillows:


The smaller, the better when it comes to your backpacking pillow. Look for a pillow that compresses down and stuffs into your pack. The addition of valves for inflation and insulation adds to the size of a pillow. Stuff sack-style pillows can be used as stuff sacks during the day, making them the smallest option to pack.

The most packable backpacking pillows:

Other Things to Consider

Types of Backpacking Pillows

COMPRESSIBLE. These pillows are filled with various foams and synthetic fibers or some sort of combination. They may be super comfy and instantly ready for your heavy head, but they are very bulky and can be much heavier than their inflatable counterpart.

If comfort is what you want and you are willing to pay for it, then go for a compressible pillow with down feathers. They are the softest, most compressible, and lightest to carry.

INFLATABLE. Take your pick - self-inflation (blow up with your breath) or—for the lazy souls—you can get one that auto-inflates (open a valve and let the pillow expand). You can adjust the amount of air for more comfort, but they can be noisy when you move your head.

The big advantage of inflatable pillows is that they are super minimalist and lightweight. The downside is that they often provide little cushioning and can be quite stiff.

different backpacking pillow valvesTwo different types of valve.

HYBRID. These are the best of both worlds, as they are a morphing of inflatable and compressible designs. A hybrid pillow has fluff on the top to make it comfy for your head and an inflatable bottom to increase support. It will give you a dream-catching night's sleep, but you will have to be prepared to sacrifice a moderate amount of space and weight.

STUFF SACKS. Stuff sacks use your own clothing to inflate the pillow. You simply stuff your clothing inside the sack and lay down your head. When you wake up, you don’t even have to deflate the pillow.

You can keep the sack filled with your clothing until you need them. Just make sure you use soft clothing, like socks and shirts, that don’t have buckles or similar hard items.

Packed inflatable pillow (Sea to Summit Aeros).

Size and Shape

How do you sleep… on your back, on your stomach, or on your side? This will determine how much support you need to keep your spine aligned. Backpacking pillows can tend to be on the small side, so a contoured pillow rather than a square shape can help to keep your head actually "on" the pillow all night.

Side sleepers should consider pillows that are firm and have more loft. They need that extra height to support their head, neck, and shoulder while they sleep. Back and stomach sleepers typically rest with their head closer to the ground. As a result, they can choose softer, low-profile pillows that cradle their head and not prop them up.


Consider the height of the pillow for how you normally sleep. Backpacking pillows with inflatable bladders give the option to customize the level of support. A pillow of this variety will cost you more, but it may be worth it if you are prone to a sore neck or back. Also, consider the thickness of the outer material and whether you can add padding to it.

expedition air backpacking pillow ultralightAdjusting the softness and lift of the Exped Air Pillow UL.


Similar to sleeping pads, some pillows have insulation for cold weather backpacking. This insulation traps the heat inside the pillow, so you won’t feel like you are sleeping on an ice cube. We recommend looking for a pillow with insulation if you’re sleeping in cold conditions. In a pinch, you can use your buff or puffer jackets as a pillowcase for a little extra insulation.


One overlooked aspect of a pillow is the noise that it makes. Some pillows are nearly silent while you sleep, while others make an annoying crinkly noise. We recommend getting the least noisy pillow possible. Visit a local retailer and test out the pillow if you can. If you cannot, scour online reviews or ask existing owners about the noise level of the pillow you would like to purchase.


Since you’re mostly using your pillow in the tent and at night, durability isn’t the most important consideration. However, if you’re using an inflatable pillow, you don’t want it to get a hole. Look for pillows with thicker material to offer the best durability.

therm-a-rest air head backpacking pillowRemovable cover on the Therm-a-Rest Air Head pillow.

Justin Sprecher photo

About Justin Sprecher

Justin is a thru-hiker and writer with a passion for wild backcountry. He's thru-hiked the Pacific Northwest Trail, LASHed the Great Divide Trail and Arizona Trail, and clocked up 1,000s of miles on long-distance trails around the world.

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After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

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