Best Backpacking Pillow For Side Sleepers | 3 Elite Options

After doing our last review on ultralight backpacking pillows, I still hadn’t found “the one.”  Several of the ones we tested like the Sea To Summit Aeros Premium and Nemo Fillo Elite are fantastic pillows,  however, in my humble opinion they just weren’t quite the best backpacking pillow for side sleepers.  So we set out to find the best backpacking pillow for side sleepers.  After putting that last review together, we received lots of feedback that many people were also struggling with the same thing, so we kept searching for just the right pillow. 

Finding The Best Backpacking Pillow for Side Sleepers

Through this searching and testing, I believe we found a couple that looked like great options for us side sleepers (and these pillows work great for back and stomach sleepers as well). They were the Exped Mega Pillow, Exped Down Pillow, and the new Sea to Summit Down Pillow.

Complete your backcountry setup by checking out our sleeping pad review as well as our sleeping bag/quilt review. Wonder what all those temperature ratings ACTUALLY mean? Check out the Basics Of Selecting A Sleep System. If you want to finish it off with finding the perfect tent, we’ve tested a BUNCH of them for you. See those reviews here!

Sea to Summit Aeros Down Pillow Review

Sea to Summit Aeros Down

The Sea to Summit Aeros Down pillow is new for 2019 from Sea to Summit.  As you’d expect the build quality is great, and it is compatible with the new Sea to Summit Pillow Lock feature many of the new pads feature.  This is a huge plus that keeps your pillow from getting away from you at night.  If you like sleeping with your arm under your pillow though, you’ll want to leave the pillow lock option off your pad.

Sea to Summit Aeros Down Pillow Specs

Sea to Summit Aeros Down pillow

The Sea to Summit Aeros Down pillow is rectangular in shape and 4.7 inches thick. The under side is super soft just like the Aeros Premium pillow.  The top side of the pillow is constructed of a more slick material that is used to keep the layer of down in place.  While this material isn’t quite as soft as the underside of the pillow, it allows you to have the soft cushion of the down between you and the air chamber. 

The Sea to Summit Down Pillow is the lightest and smallest of the pillows we tested, coming in at a crazy 2.5 ounces (for the regular size) and it packs down to the smallest by a long shot at 3.15 x 2.6 inches and comes with the exclusive Sea to Summit Pillow Lock system. Simply do to its weight and compactness, the Sea to Summit Aeros Down Pillow is one of the best backpacking pillows for side sleepers that we tested. 

If you are looking for the lightest weight pillow that takes up the least amount of space while still being extremely comfortable, snag one of these Sea to Summit Aeros Down pillows. It may or may not be the best backpacking pillow for side sleepers due to it’s thickness, but it’s very comfortable either way, and very very light weight!

If you prefer saving those few ounces and love the ultra soft feel of the Aeros Premium Pillow and are OK with a slightly thinner pillow (4.3 in vs. 4.7 in), stick with the Aeros Premium.  I’d grab either of these pillows if I’m going deep into the backcountry where every ounce matters.

Buy the Aeros Down Pillow

Buy Areos Down Pillow on Amazon

Exped Mega Pillow Review

EXPED Mega Pillow

The Exped Mega Pillow is HUGE for a backpacking pillow!  Featuring the same thickness as the Sea to Summit Aeros Down pillow, you get a larger pillow with the Exped Mega Pillow.  The Mega Pillow (as well as the Exped Down Pillow) is covered in a fleece material that is crazy soft and comfortable. This one was our second best backpacking pillow for side sleepers of the ones we tested. The Exped Mega Pillow also features a couple sewn in loops on each end that you can tie some paracord through and around your mat to keep your pillow in place. You can also remove the fleece cover on the Exped Mega Pillow for washing when needed.

Exped Mega Pillow

Not quite as thick as the Exped Down pillow, the Mega pillow still gives you great thickness and is so comfortable you might just keep using it at home!  If you are exclusively a side sleeper, this one might not QUITE be as thick as you want, but it’s still super comfortable.  The Exped Mega pillow comes in at 6 ounces, and is about 2 times the size of the Sea to Summit Aeros Down pillow.  The Mega Pillow is 20.9 × 12.6 × 4.7 in. Don’t let weight turn you away, because this is one crazy comfortable pillow!

Buy the EXPED Mega Pillow

Exped Down Pillow Review – Best Backpacking Pillow for Side Sleepers

Exped Down Pillow - Best backpacking pillow for side sleepers

The Exped Down Pillow.  Let’s just say that I think I’ve found (for me anyway) the best backpacking pillow for side sleepers.  This one seems to be designed specifically for folks who primarily sleep on their side.  There is a raised ridge in the area where your neck meets the pillow that gives your neck the perfect support, keeping those pesky neck aches away.  You can also flip the Exped Down Pillow over for a flat surface if you are a stomach sleeper. You wouldn’t want that ridge there if you sleep on your stomach. 

Exped Down Pillow -Best backpacking pillow for side sleepers

The Exped Down pillow also has those same attachment loops so you can grab some paracord and loop it around your pad to keep it from getting away from you at night. It’s covered with that same crazy comfortable fleece that the Mega Pillow has, but adds a layer of down to the top side for extra comfort and warmth. Same as the Mega Pillow, you can remove the fleece cover for washing as needed. It’s slightly smaller than the Mega Pillow but also a bit thicker (5.1 in). This is exactly what you want if you are a side sleeper. 

On the downside, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Exped valves, as the Sea to Summit dual valve is much faster to deflate. However, its a minor annoyance I’m willing to put up with, but I would like to see the Exped valves upgraded for easier deflating.

Similar to the Mega Pillow, the Exped Down pillow weighs about twice as much (5.3oz) as the Sea to Summit Aeros Down pillow and is about three times as big when compressed.  Whether that extra size and weight are worth it is up to you. You definitely pay the weight penalty for the extra comfort with both the EXPED down pillow and the Mega pillow. But, you do get a much thicker, softer, and overall more comfortable pillow in our humble opinion.

Buy the EXPED Down Pillow

best backpacking pillow for side sleepers


Exped Down Pillow

Exped Down Pillow - Best backpacking pillow for side sleepers

At the end of the day finding the best backpacking pillow for side sleepers proved to be harder than we thought, but I know I’ve found several that fit the bill for me. How you sleep and whether you are willing to carry some extra weight determines what kind of pillow you will need to use.  For me personally, I’m willing to carry a little extra weight to get a great night’s sleep, and thus we’ve crowned the Exped Down Pillow as our “Backwoods Best Pillow”. 

I totally get it if a few extra ounces isn’t worth it for a comfort item. If I’m needing to shave weight, I’ll be grabbing the Sea to Summit Aeros Down pillow or the Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow. But if those extra ounces are manageable, I found the Exped Down Pillow to be my favorite of all the ones I’ve tested. I hate carrying the extra weight, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make on many occasions.

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7 thoughts on “Best Backpacking Pillow For Side Sleepers | 3 Elite Options”

  1. Sorry, but you missed the best one of all: a regular MyPillow with memory foam shreds. Just stuff it into a compression sack and winch it down to minimum size. Best of all, it fluffs up to a regular size and width pillow that you need for side sleepers. I’ve used it many a backpacking trip and I always sleep better than everyone else. Just find a way to fit it in your pack. Buy a bigger a-frame pack if you have to. It’s just worth it.

      • Actually, the mypillow does compress down really small, especially if you get the standard or queen size instead of king. Compression sacks can get it down to a 4” ball roughly. I’ve seen some other pillows taking up almost the same size so it’s not too much of a downgrade in space saving.


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