Are Camping Pillows Worth It?

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Multiple camping pillows in an RV

When you retire to your tent at the end of a long, fun day camping, where do you lay your head?

The answer may be more important than you think to your health and enjoyment of your trip. A camping pillow is a vital part of any camp kit, yet one that many people neglect. 

Read on to learn more about this essential item and what to look for when buying one. 

What Is a Camping Pillow?

Camping pillows are a fairly self-explanatory accessory. They’re pillows modified to be better suited for the needs and wants of campers, as opposed to those sleeping in a regular bed. In many cases, this means changes in size, weight, material, or other factors. 

It’s portable and resistant to the elements and facilitates rougher use than its more domestic counterpart. 

What Do Backpackers Use for a Pillow?

Backpackers have even more specific requirements than regular campers. They’re traveling often-long distances on foot.

That means every ounce of weight matters, as does every inch of space in their bags. With these needs in mind, many experienced backpackers opt for a camping pillow that inflates come bedtime.

These are typically ultra-light. Thay can deflate and fold up to take up next to no space in your pack when not in use. Other backpackers skip the pillow altogether.

Instead, they’ll rest their heads on a pile of clothes, a stuff sack, or other similar, soft item that’s already along with them. 

Do You Need a Pillow for a Sleeping Bag?

You certainly don’t need a pillow for your night in your sleeping bag as a matter of necessity.

After all, people slept outdoors for millions of years without anything resembling a pillow! You may be able to catch some shut-eye by resting your head on the ground or your hands if you’re without a pillow. 

However, most campers find bringing a pillow or similar item is worth the packing space and weight. Without a good night’s sleep, performing at your best physically for long hikes or other activities is challenging.

Even for days when you plan to just hang around the campsite, a lousy night of sleep can make you grumpy in even the most idyllic surroundings. 

A couple laying on their camping pillows in their sleeping bags

Camping Pillow Buying Guide

Like all outdoor accessories, some camping pillows are better than others. Here are some key things to consider when shopping for one to ensure a great rest. 

Size

There’s no right answer when it comes to the size of a camping pillow. It all depends on how you plan to use it. For example, if your pillow only travels from your home to your car to your tent, portability isn’t as important as comfort.

On the flip side, backpackers who plan long treks should opt for smaller pillows to maximize space in their packs and minimize weight. 

Material 

Many camping pillows end up significantly dirtier than the pillows on your bed at home. This makes sense, with the likelihood of getting dirtier and sweatier in the great outdoors, combined with less accessible showers and bathrooms. 

Buyers should consider what a camping pillow consists of before purchasing it. Is it machine washable for easy cleaning? Are there fillings or fabrics that resist odor or keep you cool? This can be a critical aspect of your camping pillow’s comfort and longevity.

Durability

Speaking of longevity, the durability of your camping pillow is also a top concern. What does it matter if you have the most comfortable, compact, lightweight pillow if it breaks down after a few trips?

Camping pillows need to stand up to the rough-and-tumble outdoor life, so check reviews for any wear issues and closely inspect their materials.

Pros of Camping Pillow

If you’ve been getting by without a camping pillow on past trips, you may wonder why it’s worth getting one now.

These are just a few advantages of this helpful addition to your camping kit.

Good Rest

We all know how it feels (and how we function) after a night of good rest compared to a bad one. Camping trips are supposed to be fun, so why put yourself in a worse state of mind and body by getting a poor night of sleep? 

A good camping pillow will help provide better rest, leaving you refreshed and ready for whatever the day throws at you.

Decreases Neck or Back Pain

Back and neck pain is no joke. These persistent issues can flare up at the worst times and take days or weeks to fully return to normal.

One of the surest ways to give yourself neck and back problems is not to support your body correctly while you’re sleeping. Even a single night sleeping on the ground without proper neck support can leave you regretting your trip for a long time. 

A dog laying near camping pillows

Low Cost

Unlike many expensive outdoor accessories, you can find most camping pillows for as low as the $15 to $20 range.

Even top-end models rarely exceed $30 to $40. This means there’s little reason not to try one out and see the significant difference it’ll make in your sleep. 

Are Camping Pillows Worth It?

To be sure, camping pillows do add some extra weight and take up space in your pack. Some backpackers argue this means you should leave them at home, with pillow functions fulfilled by other items like stacks of clothes.

If you’re heading out on extremely long treks or practicing an ultralight style of backpacking, this may make sense.

However, the vast majority of campers and backpackers will benefit from bringing along a camping pillow. While they do add weight, it’s typically negligible. Most importantly, a good night’s rest is worth it to most smart and experienced lovers of the outdoors. 

The Best Camping Pillows

There are a lot of camping pillows out there. We’ve narrowed them down to some top picks for various needs and camping styles. 

Our Pick: Travel & Camping Memory Foam Pillow

Material: Cotton cover with memory foam fill

Size: Pack size – 10.6 inches long and 5.11 inches in diameter, In use – 15.7 inches by 9.85 inches by 3.9 inches

Our overall best choice goes to this Alkamto model, which offers a sleeping experience similar to the memory foam pillows many people have at home. It cradles the head and neck of sleepers while keeping them cool with ventilation holes designed to prevent night sweating. 

In addition, the cover is machine washable and comes with a convenient, waterproof travel bag that makes it perfect for camping trips, no matter how dirty they get. 

Keep in Mind:

alkamto Travel & Camping Comfortable Memory Foam Pillow with Extra Cotton Cover – Easy to Carry Portable Bag (White)
  • ✔ LIGHT & EASY TO PACK - Easy to carry pillow around for all kinds of trips (like camping / fishing / backpacking /...
  • ✔ COMFORT LIKE AT HOME - Our specially developed luxury viscoelastic memory foam pillow adapts perfectly to the...

Highest Rated: Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Pillow

Material: Polyester with memory foam fill

Sizes: Small: Pack size – 9 inches by 6 inches by 4 inches, In use – 12 inches by 16 inches by 4 inches. Medium: Pack size – 10.5 inches by 6 inches by 4 inches, In use – 14 x 18 x 4 inches.

This Wise Owl pillow receives top ratings from owners, with more than 8,600 Amazon reviewers awarding it an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars. It’s also filled with comfortable memory foam, has a machine washable cover, and comes in two sizes for campers of different needs. Reviewers praised it for its comfort, value, and portability. 

Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Pillow - Camping Essentials and Travel Pillow for Airplanes, Camping, and Travel - Memory Foam Washable Pillow - Small/Medium
  • Versatile: Whether you're sleeping on a hammock, a plane, a beach, in a car, RV, or under a tent, our travel pillow will...
  • Comfortable: Made with cushioned memory foam wrapped in a soft, micro-suede cover, our backpacking pillow gives you a...

Budget Friendly: Teton Sport Camping Pillow

Material: Flannel with a poly-fiber fill

Size: Pack size – 4 inches by 7 inches by 9 inches, In Use – 18 inches by 12 inches by 4 inches

Those looking for a camping pillow that provides the comfort and portability they need without breaking the bank can try this Teton model. At around $18, it’s just over half the price of our top picks. 

Still, it offers ultrasoft comfort by using a special “SuperLoft Elite 4-Channel” poly-fiber fill. Both the pillow and flannel cover are washable, ensuring this wallet-friendly camping pillow stays fresh for the long term. 

TETON Sports Camp Pillow; Great for Travel, Camping and Backpacking; Washable, Black, 12 x 18 inches ; 9.6 ounces
  • SMALL PILLOW THAT’S BIG ON COMFORT: Extra soft travel pillow is the perfect support when it’s time to relax; Just...
  • WASHABLE: Designed to be taken anywhere; This travel pillow and pillowcase can be washed together or separately

Lumbar Support Camping Pillow: Hikenture Camping Pillow

Material: Cotton with air fill

Size: Pack size – 3 inches by 3 inches by 5 inches, In use – 17.3 inches by 12.2 by 4.7 inches 

Back pain can knock even the most enthusiastic campers out of commission, so take care of your spine with this high-quality lumbar support pillow. You can use the ergonomic design, either sitting or lying down for maximum versatility. 

It’s also one of the most portable options out there, with the ability to fully deflate for packing. Then, when it’s time to rest, it fills up again in just a few breaths. 

Keep in Mind:

Hikenture Ultralight Inflatable Pillow with Removable Cover for Neck Lumber Support - Upgrade Washable Travel Air Pillows for Camping, Hiking, Backpacking (Grey)
  • 🔒 𝗨𝗣𝗚𝗥𝗔𝗗𝗘 𝗙𝗢𝗥 𝗕𝗘𝗦𝗧 𝗗𝗨𝗥𝗔𝗕𝗜𝗟𝗜𝗧𝗬 - No more air...
  • 😴 𝗨𝗣𝗚𝗥𝗔𝗗𝗘 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗥𝗘𝗠𝗢𝗩𝗔𝗕𝗟𝗘,...

Ultra-Light Option: Compressible Backpacking Pillow

Material: Knitted cotton with air fill

Size: Pack size – 5.16 inches by 2.8 inches by 2.72 inches, In use – 16 inches by 12 inches by 4 inches

Sometimes, cutting weight is the top priority. At just 2.75 ounces, there’s no better choice than this Rugged Camp compressible backpacking pillow. It achieves this low weight through light. It has puncture-resistant material that quickly inflates with an easy two-way valve that prevents air from escaping. 

When folded, it can fit in almost any backpack pocket. That makes it a simple choice compared to the comfort it provides.

Rugged Camp Camping Pillow - Inflatable Travel Pillows - Multiple Colors - Compressible, Lightweight, Ergonomic Head Neck Support Camping Plane Travel - Lumbar Back Support (Orange/Black)
  • INFLATES INSTANTLY WITH 3-5 BREATHS - Our unique two-way air value lets you blow up this pillow fast without any air...
  • GET A GREAT NIGHT‘S SLEEP ANYWHERE - The travel pillow’s enhanced comfort design is ideal for camping, backpacking,...

Be Well Rested on Your Next Camping Trip

A camping pillow may seem like a small thing. But as you can see, it can greatly impact the quality of your rest and everything else that follows. Varieties are available for campers of all types, from long-distance backpackers to casual weekenders. 

These affordable, long-lasting accessories will surely bring campers years of sweet dreams, no matter where they lay their heads. 

Last update on 2024-05-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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