hammock camper in need of a pillow

Do You Need a Pillow When Hammock Camping?

It’s easy to forget about a pillow when you are going out to camp in a hammock. There are all kinds of gear to get your head around, so thinking about where your head will be resting at night might be the last thing you think about. That raises the question, do you need a pillow when hammock camping?

If you need a pillow to sleep at night in your bed, then you probably need a pillow when you are hammock camping. If you can sleep fine without a pillow, then no, you don’t need a pillow for camping in a hammock. It’s a luxury product that can elevate your sleeping experience when camping out in nature. That being said, you can also cook up some homemade pillow solutions to make yourself more comfortable.

Check out: Hammock Camping 101: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

Why Do You Need a Pillow When Hammock Camping?

The reason why you need a pillow for hammock camping is first and foremost to increase your comfort. A pillow can help you align your neck, lie straight and adjust your head position as needed – making you as comfortable as you can be when out in the wilderness. 

Comfort is important, and when I hear people wondering if it is ok to sleep in a hammock while camping, I think it’s important to know that hammock camping can be a very comfortable and enjoyable sleeping experience. Although it might take some trial and error, and possibly adding items like a camping pillow to make your experience even better.

For side sleepers curious about whether you can sleep on your side in a camping hammock, a camping pillow might be even more important for tweaking their sleeping position. A leg pillow might be handy as well if you are a side sleeper.

Some people love pillows, and some hate them. It’s the same when using a pillow for camping out in your hammock. I like to have some support under my head, and the possibility to adjust where my head is at. When it comes to pillows for hammock camping, opinion and preference rules high. And not all pillows fit equally for every person.

According to this article from the Sleep Foundation, most sleepers are likely to have a negative effect on their sleep posture by omitting a pillow. If you are a side sleeper, however, going pillowless might be the best option to lower the strain on your neck.

I think we all can agree that when we are more comfortable during our sleep, we wake up energized and ready to go for our hiking, backpacking, or camping adventure. And that is ultimately the reason why you would want a camping pillow. A good night’s sleep and better rest, so the rest of your adventure isn’t ruined.

Pillow Types for Hammock Camping

There are multiple pillow types you can choose for your next camping adventure. 

  • Rolled up clothes
  • Stuff sack filled with clothes
  • Airport pillow
  • Compressible camping pillow
  • Inflatable camping pillow
  • Hybrid camping pillow
  • Regular pillow

Rolled-up clothes – pillow

I started out camping in a hammock without a pillow. It felt weird. It didn’t even cross my mind until I was in my sleeping bag, looking up at the stars. So I rolled up my sweater and used it as an impromptu pillow. And I mean, it worked, but it rolls around, the fabric can feel a bit weird, and suddenly you wake up sometime after falling asleep, and it’s all over the place. 

But you CAN definitely use your clothes as a pillow, in a pickle. If all you have is a wet, sweaty, used sweater for the night, it won’t be a great experience, that’s for sure.

Stuff sack pillow

If you’re trying to shave off as much weight as possible, using the combination of your clothes in a stuff sack can be a nice compromise for a hammock pillow. 

Travel pillow

An airplane/airport-style travel pillow can be a good start if you want to bring an actual pillow with you. You can get these lots of places, so they are easy to acquire and shouldn’t break the bank. Some campers swear to these as their go-to pillow.

Compressible camping pillow

Compressible pillows are up the alley of the traditional pillow, but with the ability to compress down to a smaller, more packable size. Still takes up more space than inflatable pillows, usually, and is, therefore, best suited for camping types when pack volume isn’t an issue. Like car camping, RV camping, and so forth. Some come with down filling and some are filled with synthetic materials. 

Inflatable camping pillow

Inflatable camping pillows are generally lighter and more packable than compressible camping pillows, with the primary drawback being that it’s less comfortable than a compressible pillow. 

Hybrid camping pillow

You can also get your hands, or head rather, on a hybrid camping pillow. These pillows combine elements from the compressible pillow and the inflatable pillow. 

Usually, it is a thin line of filling and/or a comfortable material on your contact surface, combined with inflating the pillow with air to give it more volume.

Regular pillow

We can’t forget about the regular pillow. While all of the listed types of pillows are great choices out in the wilderness, they simply can’t compete with the regular bedroom pillow when it comes to comfort.

If you spend the night camping in a hammock next to your car, out in your backyard, boat camping, or any other camping where pack size and weight isn’t really an issue – your best option is probably your regular pillow.

What Kind of Pillow to Use for Under the Legs for Hammock Camping?

Some happy hammock campers like to use a pillow under or between their legs when they sleep, and especially in a hammock – it can help stabilize your body for better sleep. 

I’d say it depends on what you have available and what your situation is. When I’m backpacking I think a regular inflatable pillow is a good option. It’s lighter, more packable, and where it’s normally not too comfortable for your head, using it as leg support is more than fine.

What to Use as a Pillow While Camping?

If you are sporting a down jacket on your hammock adventures, it can easily double as a hammock pillow when night falls. You can stuff it in on itself or put it as filling in a stuff sack. 

If you don’t have that, a thicker sweater, or any sweater, is a good runner-up. 

Whatever you have available can make do as a makeshift pillow for a night or two. Do you need a pillow when hammock camping? That depends on your preferences and individual needs as you get more into hammock camping. Seeing as a camping pillow is an upgrade item designed to make your hammock sleep more enjoyable, it is therefore not an essential item.

If you are anything like me though, you will probably want to upgrade your Zzzz experience after a hammock hang or two.

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