If you want to be a happy camper when bikepacking, take a camping pillow on your next bike tour. Here's the best pillows for camping when bike touring.
Pillows for Camping
Getting a good night's sleep when bike touring is essential. It helps your body recover from the previous day's ride, and raises your spirits for the day ahead.
It's strange then, that one of the most essential components of a good camping system for bicycle touring is often overlooked. Namely, a camping pillow.
I've always wondered why. Perhaps they are considered non-essential for people looking to cut down on the weight they carry on a bike tour? Perhaps taking a travel pillow for camping isn't considered hardcore enough?
Regardless, if you haven't tried a camp pillow, I'd suggest thinking about it. The moment I got one, a light bulb went on, and I wouldn't bike tour without a small, lightweight pillow again!
Best Bikepacking Pillow
After trying a couple of different types of ultralight pillows, I've finally settled on the Sea To Summit Aeros Premium Pillow. This ultralight pillow weighs in at just 79g, so there's really no excuses not to take one along on a cycling trip!
Not only is it comfortable to rest your head on, its attachment system means it sticks to the Sea To Summit Ether Light XT Insulated sleeping mat (perfect for side sleepers by the way!). I've put a photo below with a pair of sunglasses for scale so you can see its size when inflated.
Personally, I find this to be the ideal sleeping system. If you're looking for an ultralight backpacking pillow, I can't rate the Sea to Summit Aeros highly enough.
Check it out here: Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow.
Top 10 Camping Pillows
Here's a list of my recommendations for the best travel pillows for bike touring and camping. I'll go into more detail on the different types of camping pillow and their pros and cons below.
- Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow
- Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium
- Exped Air Pillow UL Camping Pillow
- Therm-a-Rest Trekker Stuffable Backpacking Pillow Case
- Nemo Fillo Inflatable Travel Pillow
- Columbia On-The-Go Compressible Camping & Travel Pillow
- TREKOLOGY Ultralight Inflatable Camping Travel Pillow
- Klymit Pillow X Inflatable Camping & Travel Pillow
- Coop Home Goods – Adjustable Travel and Camping Pillow
- Snugpak Basecamp Ops Air Pillow
Do you need a pillow for bike touring?
I recently polled the members of a bike touring Facebook group as to if they used a travel pillow for bike touring. At the time of writing this, the responses were evenly split between people who did, and people who didn't.
For those that didn't use a pillow for cycle touring, they had a variety of ways of improvising a pillow. These included putting clothes in the sleeping bag stuff sack, putting clothes on top of shoes and then using the sleeping bag hood, and more.
So the answer is no you don't “need” a pillow for bike touring. But then I bought one, and changed my mind….
My First Camping Pillow
The pillow that I first used when bike touring isn't on this list. The reason is, that I bought it for about three pounds in a sale in the UK, and I don't know if it's still available!
It's a compressible type camping pillow, made by a company called Karrimor. One side is a micro-fibre, and the other a smoother polyester material.
Having spent years cycling without a pillow, using it was a real epiphany. It also made me wonder just why the heck I hadn't tried one before. I never said I was bright!
So, I'd say that if you are looking for ways to upgrade your bike touring gear, and value a comfortable, good night's sleep, it might be time to try out a few travel pillows for camping. And it needn't be expensive.
Types Of Backpacking Pillow
Lightweight travel pillows that are suitable for bike touring can be divided into the following categories:
1. Compressible Pillows
These pillows are typically filled with materials such as foam. They can be packed down small, but can also expand when taken out of their stuff sacks.
The pros to this type of pillow are that they are the most comfortable type. The downside is that they are likely to weigh more, which can be an issue for some cyclists.
Best Compressible Pillows for Camping
Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow – It should come as no surprise that the company best known for their sleeping pads also has a range of travel pillows for camping.
Available in multiple colors and sizes, these camping pillows offer comfort at night, although perhaps not the best choice for side sleepers. Give it a go, and see what you think!
Available via Amazon: Therm-a-rest Travel Pillow
Columbia On-The-Go Compressible Camping & Travel Pillow – This is a chunky little pillow, filled with memory foam. Whilst it might be good to use for the occasional camping trip, it's probably not suitable for long distance bike touring.
One thing to keep in mind, is that this is not machine washable.
Available via Amazon: Columbia On-The-Go Compressible Camping Pillow
Coop Home Goods – Adjustable Travel and Camping Pillow – These pillows may be a little on the bulky side for most cyclists, but if you value sleeping well at night, they are still worth considering.
There's 2 or 3 different types available, and they are water resistant and machine washable.
Available via Amazon: Coop Adjustable Travel and Camping Pillow
2. Inflatable Pillows
The clue is in the name, and these pillow types can be filled by blowing them up if they are not self-inflating. The better ones may have a ‘warm' and ‘cold' side. These are by far the most popular type of camping pillow.
The pros are that they are lightweight, are typically higher than compressible pillows, and may be better for side sleepers. The downsides are that they can lose air, be punctured, are not considered as comfortable as other camping pillow types.
Best Inflatable Camping Pillows
Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium – These came highly recommended from within the Facebook group I mentioned earlier. Cyclists commented that it was tiny when packed away, and very comfortable to use.
The main box it ticks for adding it to your bike touring gear, is that this pillow is extremely lightweight. Questions have been raised for its durability for long periods of uses, but honestly, if you get a year's worth of use from this camp pillow it would be money well spent!
Available via Amazon: Sea to Summit Aero Pillow
Exped Air Pillow UL Camping Pillow – Another sleeping pillow for bike touring that was recommended by a cyclist. They said that they used this to also blow up their Exped Air UL Mattress.
Reviews say that this is suitable for side sleepers, and there's a few useful suggestions to help get the most out of this pillow.
Available via Amazon: Exped Air Pillow UL Camping Pillow
Nemo Fillo Inflatable Travel Pillow – This inflatable backpacking pillow has great reviews, and has converted more than a few hardcore campers into pillow users!
Currently, this comes in 3 different colours. If you want a sound nights sleep in the tent, perhaps this is for you?
Available via Amazon: Nemo Fillo Inflatable Pillow
TREKOLOGY Ultralight Inflatable Camping Travel Pillow – This pillow has over 1600 reviews on Amazon, making it perhaps the most popular camping pillow on the market.
Small in size and big on comfort, it's a good choice for backpacking, camping, hiking, and of course bicycle touring.
Available via Amazon: TREKOLOGY Ultralight Inflatable Camping Travel Pillow
Klymit Pillow X Inflatable Camping & Travel Pillow – Klymit seem to specialize in oddly shaped designs, and their Pillow X is no exception! Does this oddity in design help with getting a good sleep though? Reviewers seem to think so.
Available via Amazon: Klymit Pillow X Camping & Travel Pillow
Snugpak Basecamp Ops Air Pillow – I use a sleeping bag made by Snugpak which I like, so the brand is sound.
Available via Amazon: Snugpak Basecamp Ops Air Pillow
3. Stuffable Camping Pillows
The idea behind these backpacking pillows, is that you stuff them with clothes in order to give them shape. A down jacket might be a good item to put inside of this type of pillow.
The pros are that they are lightweight. The downside being that you need to get your filling just right in order to make having one worthwhile.
Best Stuff Travel Pillows
Therm-a-Rest Trekker Stuffable Backpacking Pillow Case – In addition to their compressible and inflatable pillows for travel, Therm-a-rest also have a stuffable pillow case.
The advantages here are obvious in terms of weight saving, so anyone planning lightweight overnight bikepacking trips might find this appealing. Simply stuff it with a jacket and clothes, and you have a pillow to rest your head on in your tent or bivy!
Avaiable via Amazon: Therm-a-Rest Stuffable Backpacking Pillow Case
4. Hybrid Camping Pillow
The final category of pillow for camping combines the aspects mentioned above. This gives the maximum flexibility, but often times, they end up being more gimmicky than useful.
I've not included any here, as I think that the pillows listed above are far superior.
Bikepacking Pillow FAQ
Readers looking to perfect their sleep system for their bike touring and outdoor adventure activities often ask questions similar to:
What do bikepackers use for a pillow?
Some ultralight cyclists like to take stuff sack pillows, and fill them with spare clothes. A lightweight backpacking pillow gives better quality sleep though, and sleeping comfortably leads to better rest and a more enjoyable day's ride the following day.
Are backpacking pillows worth it?
A comfortable pillow can make all the difference between a restless night camping out and a great night's sleep. Most comfortable backpacking pillows are also reasonably lightweight, making them an essential addition to your camping gear for cycling and backpacking trips.
What is the most comfortable backpacking pillow?
The Therm-a-Rest Compressible is perhaps the most comfortable but is perhaps a little bulky for backpacking or bike touring. The ZPacks Dry Bag Pillow offers perhaps the best compromise between weight, bulk and comfort.
What kind of pillow should I use for camping?
An inflatable pillow is a good starting point as a first one to buy for your camping excursions. After a while, you will get a better idea if a stuff sack pillow, makeshift pillow, or compressible pillow is better for your needs depending on your style of travel and camping.
Should I buy a sleeping bag with a sleeping bag hood?
If you intend on camping in chilly weather, you'll need a hood. If possible, try out your sleeping bag and make sure the hood is pleasant; you want to ensure that it is nice even when drawn tight.
More Bike Touring Gear
You might also be interested in these other bicycle touring gear reviews and guides:
- Saddles for bicycle touring
- Bike touring accessories
- Best panniers for bicycle touring
- Multi-Tools for bike touring
- Best Bike Tool Kit For Home Workshops
- Tips for picking a bicycle touring sleeping bag
- Shoes for bike touring
- Camping captions for Instagram