If you are heading out for a hiking vacation in the woods, you don’t have to give up all the comforts of home just because you have ventured into the wilderness. While backpacking and camping are never going to be quite as welcoming as a fancy hotel or even your own bedroom, you can certainly bring some things along to make your sleep more comfortable. Getting a good night’s sleep is absolutely critical if you’re planning extensive hikes the next day. You don’t want to be trekking through the wilderness on challenging trails unless you can think clearly and feel fresh and well-rested for the adventure.
While some people can sleep in any position, others are a little more particular and can only get comfortable in one. The most popular position is side sleeping. Finding a travel pillow that supports the body during side sleeping is important to getting a good night’s rest. Luckily, pillows are becoming more travel-friendly and are there are options specifically designed for various sleeping positions.
Side Sleeper Pillows
Side sleepers often struggle with aches and pains in their necks, shoulders, and upper backs. This happens when using a regular pillow that doesn’t give you the right kind of support to keep your neck, head, and spine in proper alignment during the night or when you are resting. A side sleeper needs a pillow with an appropriate thickness that fills the space between the shoulders and head when you lie down on your side. The right pillow can prevent stiff necks, sore shoulders, and pinched muscles and keep your back in good shape for backpacking.
When you go backpacking, you can’t just pack up everything on your bed and head out. And would you even want to? The regular pillow that you’ve come to love is won’t work out in the woods. Since you have limited space, you don’t want to carry any extra weight so finding the perfect backpacking pillow is ideal.
Best Backpacking Pillows for Side Sleepers
Now that you know what to look for, you’re better prepared to find a backpacking pillow that works best for you. Remember, choose one that’s comfortable to help you wake refreshed. There are three different types of backpacking and camping pillows to consider when trying to find what suits you best.
Sea to Summit has a great line of camping products, including this premium backpacking and camping pillow. Its newest feature, the pillow lock system, allows the pillow to be fastened to the Sea to Summit sleeping mat. This pillow is easily transported and has a brushed 50D polyester knit cover so it feels soft. So, you don’t have to carry a pillowcase unless you prefer one. The inside is stuffed with a blend of synthetic fill and air so you adjust the firmness to meet the needs of your side sleeping position. Plus, the fill is between the fabric and an internal bladder which allows for good airflow while you sleep.
The great thing about this particular pillow is that it is curved on one side so it fits into the natural contours of your neck, giving you extra support while you sleep. This pillow also doubles as a chair pillow as the curve can also go around the lower back. It’s easy to inflate with only a few puffs of air into its TPU bladder and expands to a 16 x 12x 5” pillow. The multi-use valve allows you to adjust or deflate the pillow quickly and easily as needed. When deflated, it’s the size of a coffee mug and easily tucks away in your backpack. It weighs only 4oz so it doesn’t add much too much weight to your pack. Plus, cleaning it is easy – just hand wash and hang to dry.
Therm-a-Rest is a great choice for hiking. The brushed polyester provides comfort and a soft place to rest your head at the end of the day. This pillow is filled with urethane foam that is the soft and ultralight at only 7 ounces. Not only is this pillow comfortable, but it’s also colorful. Choose from a large array of patterns and colors and four different sizes, too. While this pillow does not inflate, it easily rolls up and packs down into a compact package.
The Therm-a-Rest pillow is one of the best pillows for travel when you have limited space. Simply unroll the pillow and fluff it to get its volume back when ready to make your bed. It expands to 4” thick and is 12 x 16”, offering good support for your head, neck, and shoulders when sleeping on your side. It’s great when you’re struggling to get comfortable. The drawstring bag keeps the pillow compressed when not in use and it’s machine washable for easy cleaning.
This pillow is perfect if you are trying to reduce the weight of your backpack. It is one of the lightest backpacking pillows around, weighing just 4 oz. It comes with its own carrying bag and deflates to a small compact size. Twist the pillow’s safety lock valve and it inflates on its own. Then, add a few puffs of air to adjust the firmness. To deflate, simply release the valve and roll the pillow up towards it to let the air out.
The soft cotton cover wicks away moisture and comes off easily for washing and drying. While this pillow is small, it fits easily under your neck because it is ergonomically designed and contoured in the right places to support both your shoulders, neck, and head when sleeping on your side. The premium foam fill stands up to the tough outdoors and is made to last. It’s 20 x 12 x 5.5 x 6” when fully inflated and only weighs 10.5oz when rolled up and ready for travel.
This pillow has a luxurious brushed organic cotton cover with microfiber softness that both comfortable and eco-friendly. It has a grey non-slip bottom so it won’t shuffle around while you sleep and is tough enough to take out in the backcountry. Comfortlite is perfect for side sleepers as it has 4” of support for when fully inflated. This pillow is easy to deflate and adjust if you want to change your sleeping position. There is no pump and you don’t need to worry about blowing it up because it’s self-inflating. All you have to do it open the twist valve and it quickly fills to 18 x 10 x 4”. It’s adjustable, too, so you can make sure you have the firmness you need for full comfort. This one is a little on the heavy side at 12 ounces so you may not want to carry it on longer backpacking trips. That said, if you are doing a shorter adventure, it might be the perfect choice to make sure you don’t wake up with a stiff neck and sore shoulders. This pillow is washable just by wiping with a damp cloth.
A lot of backpackers and campers know that trekking cross country and through the backwoods is not easy and you need to keep your pack as light as possible. If you are a regular backpacker, you know that you shouldn’t bring along a lot of unessential things. That said, there have been a lot of advancements and improvements to travel accessories so you can start bringing more things along to make your campouts more comfortable.
Backpacks are lighter, sleeping bags weigh less while being warmer, and tents are more compact. So, adding a backpacking pillow to your gear is easier than ever. Choosing the right pillow not only makes your trip a little easier but also makes your sleep a little sounder every night. You’ll wake up in the morning feeling rested and refreshed after a good night’s sleep, ready to head out and enjoy the day.