How to Choose the Best Ultralight Camping Pillow

A close-up of a hiker holding a comfy camping pillow

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

Getting a solid, uninterrupted night’s sleep is crucial, and your camping pillow plays a key role in your sleep system. While some ultralight backpackers might see it as a luxury item, we firmly disagree.

In this post, we’ll dive into different camping pillow types, important factors to consider, and how to align your sleep habits for the best camping experience, including where to find the lightest options.

Interested? Let’s get started.

Key Takeaways

  • Explore different types of lightweight camping pillows, including compressible, inflatable, hybrid, and stuffable options, to find the most suitable one for your needs.
  • Evaluate factors like sleeping pad compatibility, support and comfort levels, and material durability when choosing a camping pillow.
  • Consider your sleeping position when selecting a camping pillow. Back sleepers need medium support, stomach sleepers require minimal support, and side sleepers benefit from thicker, firmer pillows.

Types of Lightweight Camping Pillows

Camping pillows come in various shapes and materials, each with its unique advantages. Understanding these types will help you make an informed decision:

Compressible Pillows

These pillows are filled with down feathers, foams, or synthetic fibers. They’re soft and comfy, often resembling your home pillow. They’re easy to use, just take them out of their stuff sacks. However, they can be heavier and bulkier than other types.

Camping Pillow: The lightest compressible pillow - Down Pillow by Cocoon

The lightest compressible pillow we found is the Down Travel Pillow S by Cocoon, weighing 2.46 oz (70g) without the bag. It comes with hydrophobic down fill and a soft nylon shell.

Inflatable Pillows

These pillows are filled with air, making them lightweight and easy to pack. You can inflate them through a valve, which is convenient for backpacking as they take up minimal space. However, they can be less comfortable and a bit noisy.

Also, be mindful that using your breath to inflate them over time can introduce moisture, potentially causing mold. Since they are reasonably priced, it’s worth considering replacing them every couple of years.

Camping Pillow: Lightest inflatable pillow the Big Agnes Rapide SL

The lightest inflatable pillow we found is the Rapide SL Pillow by Big Agnes, weighing just 1.76 oz (50g) without the bag.

Hybrid Pillows

These pillows are a mix of both compressible and inflatable designs. They provide a comfortable top layer for resting your head and an inflatable bottom layer for added support. Hybrids strike a balance between comfort and packability.

Introduced a few years ago, hybrid pillows have gained popularity, especially among ultralight backpackers. Just keep in mind that they can be quite expensive.

Camping Pillows: Lightest hybrid pillow - Sea to Summit Aeros Down Pillow

The lightest hybrid option we know of is the Aeros Down Pillow by Sea to Summit, weighing in at 2.4 oz (68g).

Stuffable Pillows (Pillow Sacks)

These innovative pillows are fabric sleeves you can fill with items like clothes, jackets, or socks. They’re lightweight, pack well, and offer customizable comfort. However, comfort and support can vary based on your chosen stuffing.

However, we personally don’t use them because every piece of clothing we have is already accounted for, and we may need them to keep us warm at night – leaving us with nothing to fill these pillows.

Camping Pillow: Lightest stuffable camping pillow - Pillow Sack by Granite Gear

Stuffable pillows are undeniably the lightest pillows around. The lightest option we know of is the Pillow Sack by Granite Gear, weighing just 1.48 oz (42g).

What to Consider When Choosing a Pillow

Selecting the ideal camping pillow goes beyond type; it involves aligning it with your specific needs and preferences. Here are key factors to consider:

  • Sleeping Pad Compatibility: Inflatable pads can compress pillows, so you may want to opt for a wider pillow. Closed-cell foam or self-inflating pads, on the other hand, work better with thicker pillows.
  • Sleeping Position: Thin and flat pillows work well for stomach sleepers, while side sleepers benefit from thicker, more supportive options. Back sleepers should opt for a medium thickness.
  • Support and Comfort: Some prefer plush pillows, while others want firmer support. Consider what feels best for your head and neck, as a good night’s sleep hinges on comfort.
  • Material and Durability: Examine the materials used in the pillow’s construction. Synthetic fills are durable and more affordable, while down feathers are often lighter and softer but can be pricier. Additionally, down pillows require more care when washing.

Sleeping Habits and Pillow Selection

A close-up of a camper in her tent sleeping on a camping pillow.

Your sleeping habits greatly impact the camping pillow that suits you best. Align them with the right pillow for a well-rested and adventurous wake-up.

Let’s examine how various sleep positions relate to pillow choices:

Back Sleepers: If you’re a back sleeper, your spine alignment is crucial for a comfortable night’s sleep. Here’s what you should consider:

  • Medium Support: Back sleepers typically require a moderately supportive pillow, providing adequate elevation to maintain proper alignment of the head and neck with the spine.
  • Comfort is Key: If you lie on your back, you’ll want a comfortable pillow. Contoured options can provide the right shape for added comfort.

Stomach Sleepers: Stomach sleepers have their own set of requirements for a good night’s sleep:

  • Minimal Support: Stomach sleepers don’t need a lot of support. Opt for a thinner, flatter pillow to avoid straining your neck.

Side Sleepers: Side sleepers need a pillow that accommodates their unique position:

  • Thicker Support: Side sleepers should choose pillows with more thickness and support to keep their head level with their spine.
  • Firmer Feel: A firmer pillow helps prevent your head from sinking too far into the pillow, maintaining proper alignment.
  • Example: Consider a thicker, supportive pillow like the hybrid option from Sea to Summit.


Choosing the right camping pillow means matching it to your camping style and sleeping habits. We’ve explored different pillow types and crucial factors like sleeping pad compatibility, support, and comfort levels. Your unique sleeping habits also play a significant role, whether you’re a back, stomach, or side sleeper.

By considering these factors, you’ll be ready to find the ideal camping pillow for a peaceful night’s sleep during your adventures. Now, equipped with this knowledge, it’s time to discover your perfect pillow and enjoy restful nights.

Searching for an ultralight camping pillow? Explore our TOP 5 guide for the lightest options available.


Are camping pillows worth it?

Absolutely! Camping pillows are worth the investment for a comfortable night’s sleep in the great outdoors. They provide essential support and comfort, ensuring you wake up refreshed and ready for your outdoor adventures. Plus, they’re designed to be compact and lightweight, making them easy to carry and store.

What kind of pillow to use for camping?

When it comes to choosing a pillow for camping, consider your specific needs and preferences. Compressible pillows are soft and comfy, resembling home pillows, making them great for car camping. Inflatable pillows are lightweight and compact, ideal for backpacking. Hybrid pillows offer a balance between comfort and packability. Stuffable pillows are versatile and lightweight, allowing you to customize your comfort.

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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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