PackPillow review

A pillow is a luxury for hardcore backpackers, right? Well it doesn’t have to be. Gone are the days of resting your head on a bunched up, down jacket. With inventions like the PackPillow, you can save weight, be efficient about pack space, and still get a good night’s rest. The PackPillow is essentially four pieces of gear in one – a pillow, a stuff sack, a seat, and a summit pack.

We review the PackPillow, a unique, 4-in-one gear system that is a pillow, stuff sack, seat and summit pack. (Photo: Jared Hargrave –

I took a PackPillow on a recent backpacking trip to Henry’s Fork in the Uintas Mountains. So how well does it work? First, the details:

The PackPillow features:

  • 6 liters of internal capacity
  • 30D soft polyester, knitted (pillow side)
  • 70D+21D rip-stop nylon with water resistant coating (stuff sack side)
  • 70D+40D spandex, rip-stop nylon (liner)
  • PackPillow Strap
  • Weighs 4.5 oz

At first I wasn’t sure about the usefulness of the PackPillow. After all, I’m a huge fan of my light weight, inflatable backpacking pillow. My mind was quickly changed when I started packing for my trip. Honestly, I was astounded at how much clothing I could stuff inside it – two pairs of pants, three pairs of underwear, three pairs of socks, two shirts, a stuffed down puffy, and a camp towel. The spandex layer of the pillow allows it to expand a lot. The only bummer is that this is not a compression sack, which I tend to use for that kind of stuff in my backpacking setup.

The PackPillow acts as a stuff sack, and I was able to get a bunch of clothes inside while packing for a trip. (Photo: Jared Hargrave

Still, the PackPillow does fit a ton of soft goods and is compact in my pack, leaving a lot of extra space for my tent, cookware, water filters and other odds and ends. Plus, the pillow/sack itself is light at only 4.5 ounces, so I didn’t scoff over the extra weight.

Once at camp, I was able to use the pillow as a seat. I kept my clothes inside for cushioning and to keep the pillow somewhat elevated above the rock-strewn ground. While I prefer a backpacking chair for extended sessions around the camp fire, the PackPillow is definitely good enough as a clutch seat, or for anyone who doesn’t want an extra chair taking up room in the pack. Overall, it beats sitting on a log.

The PackPillow has a spandex panel (green) that makes it able to hold a lot of soft gear, but also less to make you able to elevate it at just the right height for your head and a comfortable sleep. (Photo: Jared Hargrave –

But sleeping is what really makes the pack pillow stand out. Come nightfall, I took about half my clothes out so the pillow was at a good level for my head. I also turned the sack inside out so the soft, knitted polyester side was exposed. This is a real nice surface to lay my head on and felt very comfortable. Plus, this side of the pillow is padded, which smooths out any bumps and lumps that is always a negative about using bunched-up clothes as a pillow. Overall, I got two nights of good sleep using the PackPillow – better than I would ever expect while roughing it anyway.

The PackPillow can also be used as a summit pack, though this feature largely went untested on this trip. (Photo: Bret Wannacott)

As for using the PackPillow as a summit pack with the included strap, I must admit I didn’t use it on this trip. While they say it has enough space to carry water bottles, food, and extra layers, I simply brought too much camera gear and required a bigger daypack. However, I did wear it around camp to get a feel for it, and I think it would be fine for shorter summit hikes. It even has a hole for a hydration bladder and tube.

The Good: Turns four pieces of gear into one. Light weight. Comfortable as a pillow. Works as a seat. Helps keep backpacks organized.

The Bad: Unsure of its usefulness as a summit pack. I would not take it to summit Kings Peak or mountains requiring class-5 scrambles, for example, but it’s probably fine for shorter outings from camp.

Final Word: The new PackPillow is a cool invention. It absolutely lessens the amount of gear you have to pack, and even organizes your stuff. Plus it’s a comfortable pillow which can be a godsend on backpacking trips. I wouldn’t hesitate to bring it along on my next backpacking venture.


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