Best Backpacking Pillow for ultralight hiking

Finding a sub-3-oz stuff sack-style or inflatable ultralight pillow for backpacking

Ditch that lumpy, improvised headrest for an intentionally designed ultralight backpacking pillow. It may just be the difference between high quality recovery sleep and a fitful night of tossing and turning. What’s more, an ultralight pillow needn’t weigh more than three ounces, and will take up virtually no space in your pack. The average backpacking pillow in this guide weighs just 2.2 ounces.

Our recommendations are grounded in a mixture of backcountry experience, stat/feature analysis, and meta-study. While some personal biases have been injected, we try to avoid subjective perceptions of comfort, since everyone sleeps differently and all bodies are unique. To qualify for this guide, our chosen pillows had to approximately meet the following criteria:

  • Weigh 3 oz or less (to stay ultralight)
  • 4″ tall or higher (for baseline side sleeping neck support)
  • 4 stars or greater average user review (to assure performance)

Jump ahead to read our pro tips for choosing and using an ultralight backpacking pillow. And while you’re here, don’t miss our adjacent guides to ultralight sleeping pads, ultralight sleeping bags, and ultralight quilts.

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Best Backpacking Pillow Quick Picks

Ultralight Pillow Comparison Table

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Pillow Price ($) Weight (oz) Length x Width (in) Height (in) Type Face fabric
Average User Rating
Zpacks Inflatable 35 1.4 14×10 3.5 Inflate Poly 4.0
Big Agnes Rapide SL 50 1.6 16×10 4.0 Inflate Nylon 4.3
Zpacks M+ Stuff Sack 55 1.7 20×11 Flat Stuff Fleece 4.6
HMG Stuff Sack 59 1.7 17×12 Flat Stuff Fleece 4.8
Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite 42 2.0 15×11 4.0 Inflate Poly 3.9
S2S Aeros Ultralight 45 2.1 14×10 4.7 Inflate Poly 4.4
S2S Aeros Down 65 2.5 13×9 4.7 Inf+Down Nylon 4.2
Outdoor Vitals UL NS EL 28 2.6 16×10 4.3 Inflate Nylon 4.1
S2S Aeros Premium 55 2.7 13×9 4.3 Inflate Brushed 4.4
Decathalon Inflatable 7 3.4 15×11 4.0 Inflate Poly 4.0

Ultralight Backpacking Pillow Reviews

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Backpacking Pillow

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Pillow

  • Price: $59
  • Weight: 1.7 oz
  • Type: DCF Stuff Sack, ~7.0L Capacity
  • Length x Width: 17×12″ (measured flat)
  • Height: Depends on stuffing
  • Face Fabric: DCF, invertible microfleece liner
  • Average User Rating: 4.8 stars (226 review)
  • Pros: Incredibly highly rated by users. Ultralight. Dual-purpose. Comfy surface.
  • Cons: Expensive. A bit small. Only works if you don’t need to wear all of your layers to bed.
Zpacks Medium Plus Ultralight Pillow

Zpacks Medium Plus Stuff Sack Pillow

  • Price: $55
  • Weight: 1.7 oz
  • Type: Stuff Sack, 8.2L Capacity
  • Length x Width: 20×11 (measured flat)
  • Height: depends on stuffing
  • Face Fabric: DCF bag, invertible microfleece liner
  • Average User Rating: 4.6 stars (49 reviews)
  • Pros: Ultralight. Dual-purpose. Comfy surface. Slightly larger and less expensive than HMG model and with better dry bag functionality.
  • Cons: Expensive. Only works if you don’t need to wear all of your layers to bed.
Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight backpacking pillow

Sea To Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow, Regular

  • Price: $45
  • Weight: 2.1 oz
  • Type: Inflatable
  • Length x Width: 14×10
  • Height: 4.7″
  • Face Fabric: Polyester
  • Average User Rating: 4.4 stars (264 reviews)
  • Pros: Ultralight. Tall. Mass user-approval. Good valve. PillowLock. Shoulder notch.
  • Cons: Slippery without PillowLock. Top surface is not particularly soft.
Sea To Summit Aeros Premium backpacking pillow

Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow, Regular

  • Price: $55
  • Weight: 2.7 oz
  • Type: Inflatable
  • Length x Width: 13×9
  • Height: 4.3″
  • Face Fabric: Brushed Polyester
  • Average User Rating: 4.4 stars (358 review)
  • Pros: Ultralight. Mass user-approval. Good valve. PillowLock. Shoulder notch. Soft and comfy top surface.
  • Cons: Heavy end of ultralight. Slippery without PillowLock.
Sea to Summit Aeros Down backpacking pillow

Sea To Summit Aeros Down Insulated Pillow, Regular

  • Price: $65
  • Weight: 2.5 oz
  • Type: Inflatable with down baffles
  • Length x Width: 13×9″
  • Height: 4.7″
  • Face Fabric: nylon
  • Average User Rating: 4.2 stars (105 reviews)
  • Pros: Ultralight. Warm. Tall. Good valve. PillowLock.
  • Cons: No shoulder notch. Top surface isn’t soft against skin. Heavy end of ultralight. Slippery without PillowLock.
Zpacks Inflatable ultralight Pillow

Zpacks Inflatable Pillow

  • Price: $35
  • Weight: 1.4 oz
  • Type: Inflatable
  • Length x Width: 14×10″
  • Height: 3.5″
  • Face Fabric: Polyester
  • Average User Rating: 4.0 stars (20 reviews)
  • Pros: Lightest weight inflatable. Optional attachment cord. Shoulder notch.
  • Cons: Short, may not offer enough neck support for side sleepers. Top surface isn’t soft against skin. Slippery without attachment.
Outdoor Vitals Ultralight Non Slip Stretch Elevated

Outdoor Vitals Non-Slip Stretch Pillow, Elevated

  • Price: $28
  • Weight: 2.6 oz
  • Type: Inflatable
  • Length x Width: 16×10
  • Height: 4.3
  • Face Fabric: Polyester
  • Average User Rating: 4.1 stars (42 reviews)
  • Pros: Ultralight. Grippy underside texture. Strap attachment points. Good price. Shoulder notch.
  • Cons: Heavy end of ultralight. Top surface is not particularly soft.
Decathalon Inflatable Camping PIllow Air Basic

Decathalon Inflatable Camp Pillow Air Basic

  • Price: $7
  • Weight: 3.5 oz
  • Type: Inflatable
  • Length x Width: 15×11
  • Height: 4.0″
  • Face Fabric: Polyester
  • Average User Rating: 4.2 stars (5283 reviews on
  • Pros: Very inexpensive. Statistically significant user review approval.
  • Cons: Light-not-ultralight. Minimal shoulder notch. Slippery. Top surface is not particularly soft.
Big Agnes Rapide SL

Big Agnes Rapide SL Pillow

  • Price: $50
  • Weight: 1.6 oz
  • Type: Inflatable
  • Length x Width: 16×10″
  • Height: 4.0″
  • Face Fabric: Nylon
  • Average User Rating: 4.3 (12 reviews)
  • Pros: Very ultralight. Shoulder notch.
  • Cons: Too few user reviews for statistically significant durability/comfort endorsement. Expensive. Unusual baffling. Slippery. Top surface is not particularly soft.
Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lightweight

Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite Pillow, Regular

  • Price: $42
  • Weight: 2.0
  • Type: Inflatable
  • Length x Width: 15×11
  • Height: 4.0″
  • Face Fabric: Polyester
  • Average User Rating: 3.9 stars (34 reviews on
  • Pros: Ultralight. Shoulder notch.
  • Cons: Slightly outcompeted on most axes by S2S Aeros Ultralight. Slippery. Top surface is not particularly soft.

Ultralight Pillow Pro Tips & Expanded Criteria

Expanded Criteria for the Best Backpacking Pillow

Weigh 3 oz or less: While there is no universal definition for how light a backpacking pillow should be, we feel three ounces or less is all the weight most people need carry to score a great ultralight pillow that improves the quality of their sleep. Because so many comfortable options exist at or below the three ounce line, there is simply no reason to go with anything heavier unless strictly necessary.

4″ tall or higher: The average inflatable backpacking pillow is 3.5″ high when fully inflated. However, side sleeper will also prefer slightly more volume for proper neck support, which is why our guide focuses on models that are at least 4″ or higher. If you find the extra height to be uncomfortable, you can still use it, only slightly deflated.

4 stars or greater average user review: A backpacking pillow is such a simple object that aggregating mass-user reviews will tell a better story of how good the product is than expert commentary. Thousands of everyday testers writing reviews will be more likely to catch manufacturing error trends and allow shoppers to see the trees for the forest. Because higher ratings correlate with higher durability and comfort, we feel that vetting average user reviews scores is an important check to assuring you have a good backpacking pillow.

How to Choose an Ultralight Backpacking Pillow

Once you understand the above criteria, choosing an ultralight backpacking pillow can be something of a decisions tree.

  1. First try out a stuff sack style pillow like the ones made by Hyperlite Mountain Gear and Zpacks. This is the only style that serves dual purposes – pillow and dry bag, which makes them almost weight-neutral, since you will likely be bringing stuff sacks anyway and they can also fill that role, zeroing out the weight of a stuff sack that you would have already packed instead.
  2. If you don’t find stuff sack style pillows to be comfortable, or may require the ability to wear your puffy jacket to bed, your next step should be a size regular inflatable pillow. Any of the ones on this list are a good option, it just depends on what benefits you prioritize.
  3. If you don’t find a size regular inflatable ultralight pillow to be comfortable, your next step is to diagnose the problem.
    1. If you have trouble with your ultralight inflatable pillow sliding around during the night, next time, choose a model with a strap system.
    2. Is it because your pillow is too small? Next time, try a size large
    3. Is it because the surface isn’t comfortable on your skin? See our tips on the next section for a comfier skin-on-pillow experience.
  4. If you still aren’t getting good sleep and have tried all of the above, you may not be able to use an ultralight pillow after all. In that case, your next choice will be foam-based designs, or foam-inflatable hybrids. These typically weight 6-12 oz, which is anti-ultralight, but may be worthwhile if it’s necessary for good sleep. That being said, we do think an overwhelming majority of people can be be quite comfortable with something that’s three ounces or less, whether inflatable or stuff sack style.

Ultralight Pillow Pro Tips For Comfier Skin Contact

These tips are for strategically using gear that you are already likely to be bringing, in order to enhance the surface comfort of your backpacking pillow. Put another way, these tips allow any pillow to do a good impression of the heralded brushed surface of our comfort award winner, Sea to Summit Aeros Premium.

  • Sleep with a sun hoody on, hood up. This creates an additional thin fabric layer to prevent your cheek from resting directly on the flat plastic-y nylon or polyester surface, which can get sweaty. You may of course supplement with a midlayer hoodie in cold weather, but a sun hoodie is the baseline for most nights.
  • Sandwich your pillow inside a fleece or spare shirt to create a more comfortable sleeping surface on which to rest your cheek, without having to wear your hood.

Ultralight Backpacking Pillow Conclusion

Thank you for reading this buyer’s guide, where we hope you found the best backpacking pillow for your ultralight needs. The reason we will always recommend an ultralight pillow over a plush camp pillow is that they can be nearly as comfy while weighing anywhere from one half to one eighth as much. You needn’t compromise on sleep quality, nor carry excess weight. Happy hiking and sweet dreams!

If you have an ultralight pillow recommendation that wasn’t featured, feel free to drop us a line in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.

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