Best Backpacking Pillows of 2024

Best Backpacking Pillows: Two campers sleeping atop the mountain using inflatable backpacking pillows

In this post, we'll take a look at:

After a long day on the trail, having a comfortable pillow can make all the difference when it’s time to relax for the night.

But with weight and packability in mind, selecting the right backpacking pillow is crucial for a good night’s sleep.

We’ve tested a range of top-rated pillows to identify the five that rise to the top.

By understanding your sleeping preferences and gear priorities, our list will help you discover the perfect pillow partner for peaceful nights under the stars.

Let’s get started.

What Are the Best Backpacking Pillows?

  1. Most Ultralight: Big Agnes Rapide SL Pillow (1.58oz/45g)
  2. Best Overall: Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow (2.11oz/60g)
  3. Best Value: Sierra Designs Animas Pillow (2.11oz/60g)
  4. Most Comfortable: Nemo Fillo Elite Ultralight Backpacking Pillow (2.82oz/80g)
  5. Budget Option: Exped Ultra Pillow (1.79oz/51g)

1. Most Ultralight
Big Agnes Rapide SL Pillow

Big Agnes Rapide SL Pillow

Key Specs

Weight: 1.58 ounces (45 grams)
Material: Four-way stretch nylon
Price: $$


✅ Ultralight

✅ Small pack size


❌ Smaller size

The Rapide SL is a testament to Big Agnes’ dedication to lightweight backcountry comfort. Weighing a mere 1.58oz, its offset I-beam construction cradles the head stably without excess bulk or awkward lumps.

Through testing on multi-night trips, we found its ergonomic shape and fill provided ideal cervical support regardless of sleep position. The micro-adjust valve allowed personalized firmness that relieved pressure points.

Internal heat reflection technology paired well with the four-way stretch nylon for regulated temperature through varied climates. Fitting compactly in most sleeping bag hoods or stuff sacks, it compacts smaller than most standard store-bought pillows.

While the minimalist materials require an optional pillowcase in humid conditions, this is a small tradeoff for the perfectly portable comfort it brings to backcountry rest.

2. Best Overall
Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow

Sierra Designs Animas Pillow

Key Specs

Weight: 2.11 ounces (60 grams)
Material: 20D soft stretch-knit polyester
Price: $$


✅ Ultralight

✅ Small pack size


❌ Material could be a bit better

As one of the lightest backpacking pillows available, the Sea to Summit Aeros excels at shaving precious ounces without sacrificing comfort.

Its 20D polyester shell and TPU bladder construction proved durable through varied terrain and weather conditions during testing.

Featuring an easy-fill multi-function valve, inflation and adjustment was simple and precise. More importantly, its ergonomic contoured shape provided excellent cervical support. Attaching securely to my sleeping pad with the Pillow Lock system kept it stable through the night.

Though the slick texture took some getting used to against skin, its breathability prevented overheating easily. At only 2.11 ounces, compression was minimal thanks to the flexible bladder design.

Overall the Aeros sets the standard for maximizing function in a minimalist pillow perfect for extended ultralight trips. Reliable and conveniently portable sleep support deserve high praise.

3. Best Value
Sierra Designs Animas Pillow

Sierra Designs Animas Pillow

Key Specs

Weight: 2.11 ounces (60 grams)
Material: 20D polyester
Price: $$


✅ Fits with sleeping bag hoods

✅ Good for side sleepers


❌ Material can get sticky

As one of the lightest backpacking pillow options available, the Animas delivers exceptional comfort without excess pack weight. Its ergonomic shape and strategic print on the underside kept it stable through all sleep positions tested.

Inflation and adjustment using the straightforward valve proved simple and effective. While the material tended to feel sweaty against skin overnight, this is easily remedied by using a buffering cloth cover—a negligible tradeoff.

Where the Animas truly shines is its impressive compressibility. Noiseless construction prevented disturbing others as well.

All in all, the Animas gets high marks for maximizing functionality in a minimalist footprint. An excellent value for lightweight piloting through varied adventures.

4. Most Comfortable
Nemo Fillo Elite Ultralight Backpacking Pillow

Nemo Fillo Elite Pillow

Key Specs

Weight: 2.82 ounces (80 grams)
Material: polyester microsuede
Price: $$$


✅ High quality

✅ Great warranty


❌ The valve can accidentally pop out

Nemo continues setting the standard for maximizing lightweight comfort with the Fillo Elite. Featuring sustainable Primaloft insulation and I-beam baffling, it cradled my head stably through multiple testing trips.

Where it truly shines is the supple yet supportive feel imparted by its soft jersey cover. Inflatable within seconds to a plush sleeping surface through the valve, it easily compressed into integrated storage.

While some reports note the valve can occasionally pop out, this was not an issue I personally experienced. And when used carefully, it ensured proper inflation without losing air overnight.

Overall comfort and ease of use earned its place in my base gear for backcountry excursions demanding quality rest between adventures.

For dedicated lightweight piloting, the Fillo Elite remains a go-to option despite the minor valve quirk.

5. Budget Option
Exped Ultra Pillow

Exped Ultra Pillow

Key Specs

Weight: 1.79 ounces (51 grams)
Material: 20D stretch fabric
Price: $


✅ Relatively affordable

✅ Larger size


❌ None

As a highly rated budget-friendly option, the Exped Ultra Pillow delivers good comfort and functionality. Its anatomic shape perfectly cradled my head through varied sleep positions across testing trips.

The soft, recycled 20D fabric feels smooth against skin without being slick. Combined with convenient attachment loops, it reliably stayed put on sleeping pads or in mummy hoods without shifting.

The FlatValve ensures hassle-free inflation and deflation without disrupting your rest.

While other pillows edged it out slightly in plushness, the Ultra more than holds its own for the affordable price point.

For those who enjoy flying with a lighter load and want to spend less money, the Exped Ultra pillow is a great choice.

How to Choose the Best Backpacking Pillow

Backpacking pillows come in various types, including compressible, inflatable, hybrid, and stuffable options, each with its unique advantages.

Compressible pillows offer a soft and home-like feel, while inflatable pillows are lightweight and easy to pack. Hybrid pillows strike a balance between comfort and packability, and stuffable pillows offer customizable comfort.

Consider your sleeping pad compatibility, sleeping position, desired support and comfort, and the durability of the materials when making your selection.

  • Back sleepers should go for medium support pillows to align their head and neck with the spine, prioritizing comfort.
  • Stomach sleepers, on the other hand, need minimal support with thin, flat pillows to prevent neck strain.
  • For side sleepers, it’s crucial to choose thicker and firmer pillows to keep their head level with their spine and maintain proper alignment.

So, before you set out on your next trip, remember that a good night’s sleep starts with the right backpacking pillow that suits your unique needs and preferences.

If you’re interested in learning more about selecting the perfect backpacking pillow, be sure to check out our in-depth post on the topic.


How to choose the best backpacking pillow?

When selecting a backpacking pillow, consider your preferred sleeping position, degree of needed support, and packing priorities. Camping and hiking demand versatile, lightweight cushions that compress small yet provide comfort. Inflatable or hybrid options featuring adjustable foam or fill offer customizable loft perfect for backpackers. Back or side sleepers require thicker support aligning the head and spine, while stomach sleepers need thin, flat styles.
Additional factors include material durability for extended outdoor travel and compatibility with sleeping pads or packs. Compressible foam pillows mimic a home pillow’s soft feel while inflatable designs prove simplest to pack. Hybrid constructions strike a ideal balance between plushness and minimal bulk. 

What materials are used in the best backpacking pillows?

When selecting the best backpacking pillow, consideration of the materials used is important. Many quality options utilize a durable nylon shell with lightweight fillings that provide support and insulation. Down, down alternative fills like PrimaLoft and fiber fills provide loft and cushioning while remaining compressible. Inflatable pillows often feature a lightweight composite plastic or vinyl bladder paired with a breathable fabric exterior. Hybrid pillows combine foam padding with an inflatable chamber for optimized support and packability. No matter the material composition, choosing a pillow made with water-resistant and abrasion-resistant fabrics ensures comfortable outdoor use.

Do thru hikers use pillows?

While extra comfort items may seem unnecessary, many experienced thru-hikers appreciate the value of a lightweight backpacking pillow for long-distance treks. Covering dozens of miles per day takes a toll, and having neck and head support can aid better rest and faster recovery between demanding hiking days. Inflatable or compressible pillows pack down small to negligible ounces yet still provide crucial orthopedic assistance. Some hikers go pillow-less to save space and grams, but most agree even a basic inflatable pillow earns its place for ensuring quality sleep during multi-month treks, ultimately making the difficult journey more enjoyable.

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Why you should trust us

At Hikinglite, we're all about helping you hit the trails with lightweight and ultralight outdoor gear that won't weigh you down. Our crew of content creators? Real outdoor enthusiasts who've logged countless miles on the trails.

Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

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