Product Review-Thermarest Backpacking Pillow

For my first several backpacking trips, I tried to save weight with ultra-light pillow options. I tried using my jacket. I tried shoving my clothes in one of those pillow case stuff stack things. I tried an inflatable stuff sack wrapped in fleece.  For me, at least, all of those options were total and complete failures.

Thankfully, my lovely parents bought me one of these bad boys last year.  The weight and bulk are completely worth it to me for a good night’s sleep. I have the small one. It weighs a hefty 7 oz, and I just don’t care. No more waking up with a stiff neck and headache, which happened every morning before I bought this thing. My pillow is the shit.

Weight: 7 oz (small) 9 oz (large)

Small pillow compressed, Nalgene for scale

Small pillow compressed, Nalgene for scale

Medium pillow compressed
Medium pillow compressed


  • Very comfortable. I sleep as well on this pillow as I do at home.
  • Machine washable
  • Available in S, M, L, and XL
  • No need to worry about a leak, as you would with inflatable pillows


  • Weight-7 oz for the small, 9 oz for the medium. To me, it’s absolutely worth it.
  • Somewhat bulky when compressed. I never could get mine back to it’s nerf-football size.
Small backpacking pillow expanded
Small backpacking pillow expanded

Medium backpacking pillow expanded

Medium pillow expanded

Underside of backpacking pillow
Underside of backpacking pillow

The pillow is filled with foam scraps leftover from making sleeping pads. When you first unroll the pillow, the case will be very loose as the foam bits are still compressed, but they expand fairly quickly. I usually unroll my pillow right after unpacking my tent, so by the time I am ready for bed it is plenty firm.  There have been a few times when I’ve forgotten, and the pillow is still pretty comfy pre-expansion.

The orange material feels kind of like suede, while the grey side feels like a well-worn bed sheet. So far it has been through about ten trips and as many washings with no sign of wear.  While this piece of gear probably counts as a luxury, it’s a luxury I don’t see myself going without.

Misadventures in the Black Elk Wilderness, South Dakota

Backpacking is hard work. It’s dirty. There are bugs. The pack can feel heavy. It can be hot. Your legs will hurt. There may be blisters. I know all of this, and I love it. It is my absolute favorite thing, and usually when I’m out there–buggy, hot, dirty, and tired at an almost molecular level–I’m also planning the NEXT time I get to go.

Continue reading Misadventures in the Black Elk Wilderness, South Dakota