Do I Need a Pillow with a Sleeping Bag?

Pillows are an important component of your sleep system. They provide support to your neck and help maintain a better posture. If your pillow happens to slip under your head during the night or fails to provide proper support, the next day can get painful.

You have a sleeping bag and a pad that make for a comfortable sleeping experience then why do you need a pillow? It is because sleeping bags don’t have pillows in them. The hood of the sleeping bag is to keep your head warm. The hood doesn’t provide any support for your neck and head. If you don’t have a pillow you will most probably end up with stiff and painful muscles in the upper region of your back. A camping or backpacking pillow would save you from the pain.

Why do People Overlook Pillows?

People often overlook pillows because of the following reasons:

Lack of Awareness

Many people simply lack the awareness of the comfort a camping pillow provides just because they haven’t experienced it. People tend to improvise using jackets, clothes, and stuff sacks to support their necks when laying down. Others think that their sleeping bag is enough so they don’t need a pillow.

While such options do work, they don’t provide you the same amount of comfort a pillow can. Many people find out the worth of a camping pillow after they are gifted one from someone close to them. Once they start using a camping pillow, they find out what they were missing and never go back.

They Add Weight and Bulk

Pillows take up some space in your backpack. They have a high volume unless you are using inflatable pillows. Foam and filled pillows are heavy and bulky and can’t be compressed like an inflatable pillow. But inflatable pillows are not as comfortable and they have their own set of problems. With other bulky and heavy gear like sleeping bags and sleeping pads, people drop the pillows.


A filled pillow is made of the same materials as the pillow in your bedroom, just less of them. But there are other types of pillows developed to save weight and space in a backpack. But these pillows are not as comfortable as a bedroom pillow.

If you are using inflatable pillows, they can be noisy. Certain materials like Dyneema and some plastics make a lot of noise as you move your head over them. The noise is not only disturbing for you but others around you as well. An inflatable pillow also tends to be bouncy and slippery making it hard to keep your head on it. Another annoying thing about inflatable pillows is that they take some time and effort before they are ready to be used.

A bedroom pillow is, of course, impractical to bring on a backpacking trip. It weighs a lot and it won’t fit in a normal backpack. Owing to these reasons, many people simply ditch a camping pillow altogether. But filled pillows also take a lot of space in your backpack as mentioned above.


A comfortable filled or hybrid foam pillow is expensive. When you are on a tight budget, $40-50 seems like a lot to spend on a pillow. Cheap inflatable pillows have a plastic-like feeling and they are noisy. A nice, comfortable inflatable pillow will cost you almost around the same as a filled pillow.

Final Thoughts

A camping or backpacking pillow might look small and insignificant but it is an important part of your sleep system. It allows you to keep a correct posture while sleeping by providing support to your neck and upper back. Sleeping bags don’t provide such support. You can argue about the downsides of bringing a camping pillow but the pros outweigh the cons in the long term. You should have a complete sleep system so you can get proper rest and don’t wake up with painful muscles.