If you use a pillow at home, I recommend taking a camping pillow with you on your backpacking trips. You’ll almost certainly sleep better if you have one because your body is used to having the extra support. I learned this the hard way myself, trying all kinds of ways to reduce my backpacking gear weight by not carrying a pillow, only to discover that I sleep infinitely better when I bring one on my trips.
The most important thing to look for when buying a backpacking pillow is getting one that stays on top of your sleeping pad all night and doesn’t fall off. You’d think that backpacking and camping pillow manufacturers would have figured out this is a must-have attribute, but most don’t include any kind of pad attachment system to keep the pillow under your head all night.
Personally, I swear by the pillow attachment system that comes with Sea-to-Summit sleeping pads and works with Sea-to-Summit Camping Pillows. It includes special (and optional) non-abrasive hook-and-loop patches that adhere to your sleeping pad and stick to the underside of their pillows. I use this pillow attachment system with a 2.5 oz Sea-to-Summit Aeros Down Pillow and a Sea-to-Summit Insulated Etherlight XT Sleeping Pad and sleep like a baby on all my trips. Please note, this pad attachment system only comes with Sea-to-Summit sleeping pads and only works with their pillows.
When I started backpacking, I did not bring a dedicated pillow in order to reduce my gear weight. Instead, I stuffed an insulated jacket into a stuff sack and used that as a pillow, even though it didn’t provide the same support or head height that I preferred when sleeping at home. In hindsight, it was barely adequate and never stayed in place at night.
I tried numerous other pillows after that including the Flex Air Ultralight Pillow, the Hyperlight Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Pillow, the NEMO Fillo Pillow, etc., but none of them stayed in place either. As a result, I concluded that the pillow isn’t as important as the pillow attachment system.
Clearly what’s needed is a pillow attachment system that is sleeping pad and pillow independent. While I haven’t tried it yet, the new Pillow Strap pillow attachment system looks like it should fulfill that need nicely. Of course, you can probably achieve the same result by using a cutoff pair of pantyhose in a much less expensive way.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.