I quite like my pillows to give a lot of lift - I usually sleep with two relatively beefy ones. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find a good equivalent whilst camping, with the normal pillows providing barely any lift and the blow up ones being rather uncomfortable. Sounds like a minor point, but I really don't sleep nearly as well when this is the case which makes for rather grumpy company on backpacking trips!

Has anyone tried any that they'd recommend which give a fair amount of lift, but at the same time are still relatively portable and pack down small?

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    Have you tried shoving some spare clothes into a stuff sack and using that? What about incorporating your pack (I use my pack as a leg rest since I go out with a 3/4 length pad)?
    – BMitch
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 2:24
  • @BMitch Spare clothes works well for longer trips, but when just going for 1 - 2 nights I generally find there's not enough spare clothes to provide a good pillow! Incorporating the pack sounds like a good idea though... hadn't thought of that.
    – berry120
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 9:24
  • I use this one mec.ca/AST/ShopMEC/HikingCamping/StuffSacksPillows/PRD~5009-948/… and it is the most confortable pillow i tried so far
    – Amine
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 12:55
  • Just bring your beefy pillow from home. I have friends that do that all the time. I only use my coat or my pack.
    – slybloty
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 13:06
  • @Amine Thanks, I'll take a look at that. slybloty - I would do, and do when car-camping - but that takes up a heck of a lot of space (and weight) when backpacking!
    – berry120
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 13:10

5 Answers 5


Here's a few, some are mentioned in comments but I figure I would elaborate.

  • Clothes This was mentioned and you noted it wasn't particularly worthwhile on a shorter trip because you don't have many clothes. I typically go ultralight, so my spare clothes are close to nothing but I always have some sort of insulation (unless it's going to be 70+ degrees the whole time). A nice puffy down/syntetic jacket can make for a decent pillow but it doesn't work when you need to wear it at night, which I often do during the winter months. This is my preferred method for most trips.
  • Inflatable Pillow These aren't particularly great but I have used an Exped Air Pillow from time to time. It's not thick enough to be easily used in conjunction with thicker pads like the Neo Air or Exped Downmat unless you stack it on top of your pad, and even then isn't particularly thick. My pillow weighs in around 3oz. which can be worthwhile if you really need a better night sleep. It can also be coupled with the jacket pillow for extra comfort.
  • Compactable Pillow Many years ago I had a pillow made by Slumberjack that was maybe 1/4 the size of a standard pillow, but was fairly thick and comfortable. I couldn't find the specific pillow in a quick search, but it appears that the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow may be similar. This is the heaviest option, weighing 7-12oz and being a "single-purpose" item as opposed to something like a stuff sak serving multiple purposes on your trip.

I am very biased towards the clothing option. Even prior to going ultralight this is what I did most of the time. My winter weight down hooded jacket has about 2" of loft weighs a mere 12.6oz and does a lot more for me than just give my head a place to rest. Inflatables are decent bang for your pack volume buck but don't have the same levels of comfort as a nice puffy jacket or standard pillow will.


I use a down sweater in a stuff sack. It means one less thing to carry, and the down has more loft/comfort than using clothing in a stuff sack. A lot of sleeping bag liner carriers also work as pillow cases by having fleece on one side.


I have always had this trouble and I find using spare clothes in my sleeping-bags compression sack works the best. Whoever, since I bought a Hammock I sleep comfortably without the need for a pillow.


Go ultralight and use quart size freezer bags stuffed inside a stuff sack. Not the best, but cheap and light weight. I like the clothes stuffing method, but sometimes they can get damp.


I use my hiking boots in combination with clothing. This may sound uncomfortable, and that may be quite subjective, but I sleep fine like this.

I stuck my shoes in a plastic back to keep the dirt contained. Open side away from my body and not covered by clothing so that the shoes can still ventilate and dry. Then I usually put the clothing that I wear during the day on top of the plastic bag, not covering the top of the shoes.

I find that using my shoes gives me more lift and structure than using just cloths alone. And this doesn't require more space or weight to my backback.

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