If you’re a lightweight or ultralight backpacker it can be tempting to leave comforts like a pillow at home. But at the same time you have to be able to at least sleep at night, or else you’re not going to enjoy yourself while out there backpacking. So you need a compromise, and an ultralight backpacking pillow is an excellent compromise. Fortunately, there are more than a couple really great options for those that want a pillow, but don’t want to have to carry a lot of weight.
Ultralight Backpacking Pillow
What to look at when shopping for an ultralight backpacking pillow.
Bulk – Weight is one thing, but you also have to worry about bulk when it comes to backpacking pillows. A foam pillow might not weigh very much, after all, but it will take up quite a bit of room, and will not be a fun piece of gear to have to pack every morning when you’re out there on the trail.
Inflatable – Foam pillows are definitely an option, but if you’re looking for an ultralight backpacking pillow your best choice is likely an inflatable option. They tend to weigh less and also pack down a lot smaller. A light pillow is important, but as alluded to above, so is a small pillow.
Best Ultralight Backpacking Pillow
Some of the best choices for an ultralight backpacking pillow.
Mont Bell U.L. Comfort System Pillow - If you want an ultralight backpacking pillow, this is it. It's a basic, rectangular inflatable pillow that weighs an impressive 2.3 ounces, or 65 grams, which is about as lightweight a backpacking pillow as you are going to find anywhere. But it's more than big enough for your head, and surprisingly comfortable, especially with a sweater or something similar draped over top. And being inflatable, it packs down extremely small, which backpackers will appreciate.
Western Mountaineering Cloudrest Down Pillow - Down pillows get a lot of hate, but if you use them correctly they can be a very useful piece of backpacking gear. By themselves they wont provide much comfort because the down compresses down quite a bit. But placed on top of a few bulky items, a down pillow provides that layer of comfort that you need for a comfortable sleep. And being down, your head will also stay nice and warm at night. Down also packs down extremely small, of course, so it's easy to pack in the morning, and it weighs just 4 ounces, or 113 grams, which is hard to argue with.
Therm-A-Rest Compressible Pillow - If you have your heart set on a traditional foam pillow then this option from Therm-A-Rest is very popular, if more heavy than the other two options above. It comes in three different sizes, the medium weighing 9 ounces, or 255 grams. What's good about this pillow is that it has something like a compression sack built in to the pillowcase, so that you can at least get the whole thing compressed down in to a smaller package when it comes time to pack up in the morning. So not quite as ultralight as some of the other options, but about as good as you're likely to do for a foam pillow.