Best Backpacking Pillows of 2020

By Chris Woodburn

Over the years of backpacking I’ve come to realize I like comfort when deep in the woods and sometimes that means I have to carry a bit more weight on my back.  An example of this can be seen by my sleeping pad, Exped XP9, is 2 lbs. 9.3 oz.  As you can see that pad has some weight to it, but as I mentioned…I enjoy being comfortable when in the backcountry.  Some backcountry hunters will not even carry a pillow to conserve on weight.  Not my style; again my preference is to be comfy and enjoy the backcountry with solid rest and no more pains than normally affect my aging body.  I wanted to share some information about the pillows I’ve tried when searching for the perfect “Top Shelf” pillow.  My evaluation is based on a few objectives: comfort, adjustability, weight, and durability.

best pillow of 2020

The first pillow up is the Ascend XL pillow, which at 3.2 oz. is one of the lightest on the market.

This is a very basic pillow and one that will work well for the backcountry.  They advertise that “X” marks the spot, but for me the “X” was hard to hit, as the comfort level was very low.  I think it would work well if you can keep it under your sleeping bag, or if you could keep it in the head space of your mummy bag, but it wouldn’t fit in my bag.  It has some adjustability where like many others you decrease the air in the pillow, so that was helpful.  Another area I picked up on was that the outside of this pillow is not soft when inflated, but that can be solved if you can keep it under your bag.  A simple suggestion, if you want it to stay in place under your bag and on top of a sleeping pad get a small strip of double sided tape and put it on the bottom side of the pillow.  For its durability it receives pretty high marks.  This pillow can be used and abused within reason, such as using it as a pillow, taking care of it after your trip and again using it as a pillow.  At about $30, this pillow is a good choice, but misses the mark on being a “Top Shelf” option.  Here’s some extra info; there’s a very similar design by the Klymit brand called the “Pillow X.”  I found the this pillow at Amazon for $24.50.

Comfort: Low

Adjustability: Medium

Weight: 3.2 oz.

Durability: High

Where to buy: I found the lowest price at Cabela’s.



Best Backpacker Pillow

Sea to Summit Pillow – Large

The Sea to Summit was one of my favorite pillows of all time.  I used it for almost every trip into the woods.  It was so trusted that I never tested it prior to the trip.  That bit me in the backside on one specific trip.  My crew and I hiked about 5 miles into the mountains, just south of Jackson Hole Wyoming.  After setting up camp I wanted to get my sleeping space set up.  Well, I ended up blowing up this pillow, then trying to blow it up again…and then one more time.  Come to find out the seal detached and it wouldn’t hold air!  I was a little upset, but it was my fault, as I didn’t check all of my gear before heading out.  After returning from the trip I ended up tossing this thing in the trash!!!  Mistake!  They have a lifetime warranty!   Here’s how this pillow rates.  It’s small, light and fits well in the headspace of the mummy bag.  It has a soft shell, which makes it pretty dang comfortable.  It loses some marks on durability, but in reality there are recommended ways to store this pillow and I didn’t follow those recommendations.  The question is would I buy this again?  Yes, it’s a nice pillow, but places 2nd in my book…

Comfort: Medium

Adjustability: Medium

Weight: 4 oz.

Durability: Medium

Where to buy: You can buy it on Amazon for about $47 bucks.  Here’s a link, just in case you want this pillow:  Sea to Summit Pillow.


Best Pillow of 202

Klymit Lux Pillow

So, I saw this pillow at an Sportsmen’s’ show in Portland, Oregon.  The reason this pillow caught my eye and head was that it looked comfy.  It has a nice quilted top, which offers some real soft landing zone for your head.  Again, as previously stated I backpack in with comfort.  I’m not what you would call an ultralight backpacker.  I like to be comfortable on the mountain, but that also means it’s on the heavy side of pillows sitting at 7 oz.  This pillow was super simple to use and easily adjusts to the right feel.  I’ve used it on a few hunts and each time it worked as expected with no issues.  I would assume that like most pillows this thing will hold up if you use it as intended and take care of it after the trip.  Another positive on this pillow is that the shell can be easily removed and thrown in the wash, which really helps to maintain a clean sleeping surface.  I rank this pillow pretty high, as it’s now my “Top Shelf” pillow.  I found the best price, 27 bucks, on Amazon…  Here’s a link where you can find it: Klymit Lux Pillow

Comfort: High

Adjustability: Medium

Weight: 7 oz.

Durability: Medium

Conclusion:  Klymit Lux is my “Top Shelf” Choice

Each of the 3 pillows reviewed are used by the Eagle Cap Outdoors team and each Staff Pro has provided input on this short and simple review.  To me this choosing the right pillow is pretty personal, as we all have our needs of comfort.  The pillow I ended up labeling as “Top Shelf” is the Klymit Lux Pillow, but the Sea to Summit is right up there.  If you have any questions or comments please let me know.

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