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Have you been balling up your puffer jacket and calling that your “camping pillow”? Well, I’ve got news: It’s time to upgrade. You can get one of the best night’s sleep of your life while camping in the great outdoors, but it’s not gonna happen if you’re making do by shoving a bunch of clothes into an empty stuff sack and using that to support your head. Of course, the classic camping pillow is just your regular pillow (ain’t nothing wrong with that), but if you’re looking at limited space in your setup, then you’ll want something that compresses down for travel without sacrificing comfort at night. To help you choose the right option for your sleep style, space requirements, and budget, I checked out options from Therm-a-Rest, Hest, Nemo, Sierra Designs, Exped, and more. 

How I Tested the Best Camping Pillows

While I’ve tested plenty of the best backpacking pillows over the years, when it came to camping pillows, I was admittedly a little skeptical. I’ve been car camping my whole life and I’ve always just brought the pillow straight off my bed. But could a pillow designed for camping improve the experience, and save some space in my overloaded SUV in the process? To find out I called in some of the top options from HEST, Sierra Designs, Exped, NEMO, Therm-a-Rest, Wise Owl, and MEC. 

Camping Pillow Price Weight  Type Height Size Packed Size Ease of Use Skin Feel Comfort
Hest Pillow $89 2 pounds, 8.8 ounces Foam only 7 inches 20 x 15 inches 1/2 actual Fair Good Excellent
MEC Deluxe Pillow $40 4.2 ounces Air and foam 5 inches 14 x 10 inches 1/3 actual Fair Great Good
Nemo Fillo King $75 14.3 ounces  Air and foam 7 inches 17 x 14
1/3 actual Difficult  Good Fair
Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow $40 6 ounces Down and foam  4 inches 13 x 9 inches 1/2 actual Fair Great Poor
Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow Cinch $47 14.5 ounces Foam only 7 inches 20 x 14 inches 2/3 actual Easy Great Great
Wise Owl Camping Pillow $28 10.4 ounces Foam only 4 inches 15 x 11 inches Same size Easy Fair Fair
My home pillow N/A 2 pounds, 9.3 ounces Foam only 4.5 inches 22 x 15 inches Same size Easy Fair Great

In addition to assessing their comfort, I also looked at the tangible feel of each pillow, including when the pillow was cold. I measured the weight, actual size, and packed size to check against manufacturer specifications. While checking these specs, I considered the pros and cons of bringing one of these pillows on a camping trip compared with simply grabbing the one off my bed on the way out the door and planning to swap out my pillow case when I got home again. Finally, I took price into consideration. 

Best Camping Pillows: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow Cinch

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: Small, regular, large
  • Compresses to 2/3 the actual size
  • Contains foam


  • As comfortable as my home pillow
  • Adjustable height and density


  • Doesn’t pack down as well as other options I looked at

The Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow Cinch hits the sweet spot for camping pillows. It’s about as comfortable as the average memory foam pillow, while compressing down to a smaller overall packed size. It’s lightweight enough to consider for a casual backpacking trip but still affordable enough to make it feasible for most budgets. I also like that it comes in a variety of sizes — I tested the largest.

A unique feature of the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow Cinch is that it is an all-foam pillow that you can adjust the firmness and height of. The insulation inside — cut-up pieces from Therm-a-Rest’s best backpacking sleeping pads — can be scrunched together using the cinch cord, creating a taller, firmer pillow, or a shorter, softer pillow, depending on your preference. 

Best Upgrade: Hest Pillow

Hest Pillow

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: Small, medium, large
  • Compresses to half its size
  • Contains foam


  • Extremely comfortable
  • Packs down surprisingly small


Hest makes a number of excellent products that will take your truck build from meh to four-star hotel (I’m especially enamored with their down comforter), so it was no surprise that the Hest Pillow was the most comfortable in my test, even more comfortable than the pillow I use at home. It has just the right height for back sleepers and side sleepers alike, and is just firm enough to support your neck while not causing any kinks in the middle of the night. And, unlike your pillow at home, it compressed down to about the size of a football, making it easy to travel with. 

Read Next: Best Air Mattresses for Camping

The biggest catch here is the price: This was the most expensive camping pillow I looked at. It also has a slightly less appealing skin feel when cold compared to other options I looked at. That’s easily solved with a pillowcase, but something to keep in mind before crawling into bed in the van for the first time. 

Smallest Packed Size: MEC Deluxe Pillow

MEC Deluxe Pillow

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: Medium, large
  • Compresses to one third its size
  • Contains foam and air


  • Very small packed size
  • Light enough to take backpacking


  • Air fill may be too firm for some people
  • A little difficult to get into its stuff sack

While I was initially suspicious of this air-filled pillow, there are enough positives about the MEC Deluxe Pillow to make it a great choice for a car camping setup with limited space. First off, it’s 5 inches thick — taller than any of the best backpacking pillows I’ve used — making it a great choice for side sleepers. The touch of foam on top of the pillow adds some comfort as well as warmth. But the real stand-out here was the fabric. Putting your cheek against a chilly pillow can be like throwing cold water over your head right as you’re about to close your eyes for the night, but with the MEC Deluxe I barely registered it at all before the pillow warmed right up. 

The downside to this pillow is that most of the “pillow” is air, meaning it’s not at the same level, comfort-wise, as the Hest Pillow or the Therm-a-Rest Compressive Cinch. But it’s miles more comfortable than your average backpacking pillow, while still coming in at a similar price point, weight, and packed size. 

Read Next: Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads

If you’re unfamiliar with MEC, this is basically the REI of Canada. Keep them in mind the next time you’re looking for a great value on brand name gear — like REI, their stuff is high quality and typically quite affordable. 

Best Firm: Nemo Fillo King

Nemo Fillo King

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: One size only
  • Compresses to a third its actual size
  • Contains air and foam


  • Small packed size
  • Ability to adjust the height of the pillow
  • Firm feel works well for some people


  • Difficult to get it into its stuff sack
  • Somewhat expensive

This is the oversized version of the regular Nemo Fillo backpacking pillow, which I reviewed as part of my overview of the best backpacking pillows. During that test, opinions were mixed. Some of my testers thought this was the most comfortable pillow of the lot; I ended up with neck kinks that woke me up multiple times the first night I tried it. I found that by only partially inflating it, I had a better experience, but the firmness of this pillow still felt odd to this side-sleeping gear reviewer. But if you know you like a firm pillow, or are apt to stack multiple pillows on top of one another when getting comfortable at night, the 7 inches of firm height on the Nemo Fillo King is one worth considering. 

Best Budget: Wise Owl Camping Pillow

Wise Owl Camping Pillow

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Key Features

  • Available Sizes: Small, medium
  • Doesn’t compress
  • Contains foam


  • Least expensive camping pillow I looked at
  • OK choice for back sleepers


  • Doesn’t compress
  • Not enough height for side sleepers

This is a bit of a misnomer: The best budget camping pillow is your home pillow. That one is free; maybe purchase a second pillowcase for it if you don’t already have one for some reason. But if you must have a dedicated camping pillow and you are on a budget, this Amazon-only pillow is fine. It’s reasonably comfortable for back sleepers and it’s got a small packed size. It felt OK to my cheek when cold. It doesn’t compress at all, but it’s also not all that big, so it won’t take up much space. It’s fine. 

The Rest of the Field

I wanted to like the Sierra Designs DriDown Pillow, which has down on top of foam, to maximize both cushion and warmth; indeed, it had one of the most pleasant skin feels of anything I looked at, despite not having a fabric cover. But its lack of height made it uncomfortable both as a back sleeper and side sleeper. While the pillow does have a pocket in the back so that you can stash some clothes into it and increase the height, this has always resulted in a lumpy pillow for me. Also the whole point of a dedicated camping pillow is to not have to fold up your extra clothes underneath your head. I wish this pillow spent another ounce to add in an air valve so that you could increase the height, or add many more ounces to get enough foam to get the height above 5 inches — it’s already got some elements of luxury and that would make it a truly luxurious camping pillow.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Camping Pillow


The whole point of a great camping pillow is to help you get a great night’s sleep. While there are plenty of instances where I think that choosing a less expensive product is just as well as a more expensive one (like a camping plate), a great camping pillow can be the difference between enjoying your time off in the woods and tossing and turning in the middle of the night, dreaming of home. 

Packed Size

The only real problem with having your home pillow play double-duty is its size. Four family members’ pillows can add up quickly, taking up an inordinate amount of space in your adventure vehicle. Dedicated camping pillows are typically designed to shrink down to half their usable size, sometimes even less. 


Camping pillows can vary wildly in price, from less than $10 to well over $100. As with everything, you get what you pay for. The least expensive camping pillows are little more than bags of nylon, filled with either air or thin strips of foam, while the most expensive camping pillows will rival what you have at home. 


Q: Are camping pillows necessary? 

Honestly, no, camping pillows are not necessary. There is no reason to not just bring your personal pillow camping. Just plan to change the pillowcase at the end of your trip. 

Q: Should I get a camping pillow with a removable cover?

It is not necessary to get a camping pillow with a removable cover, so long as the pillow itself is machine washable. 

Q: Can you use a regular pillow for camping?

Yes, you can use a regular pillow for camping. Just plan to change out your pillowcase when you get home. 

Q: Are memory foam pillows good for camping?

Memory foam pillows are great for camping, but do take up a lot of space in packed cars. 

Q: What pillow should I get for camping if I am a side sleeper?

If you are a side sleeper, make sure you get a pillow with enough height to support your head on your side. If you aren’t sure, take a second to measure your home pillow and check it against the above height specifications for each pillow. I recommend at least 5 inches of height, more if you have especially broad shoulders. 

Final Thoughts

I’m going to level with you: You don’t really need to purchase a camping pillow. Most people just use their existing pillows and swap out the pillow cases when they get home. If you’re going to spend extra on a dedicated camping pillow, make sure it’s delivering some real bang for your buck. The Hest pillow is a great option for anyone with a kitted-out sprinter van looking to save some space when they are in go mode, while the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow Cinch has a similar comfort level to standard memory foam pillows while squashing down to a better packed size. 

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