A good pillow can make a night in a tent or a long ride in an airplane or car pass much more peacefully. Camping pillows have been around for a long time, and the traditional models filled with foam or synthetic materials also work great while traveling. Newer inflatable pillows take up even less space. When you’re ready to rest outdoors, here are three things to keep in mind while you shop for a place to lay your head.


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For years, camping and travel pillows were nearly all stuffed with foam or some sort of polyester filling. Today there’s a growing number of inflatable pillows made with ergonomic indentations for your head, which can add comfort, and you can vary the air pressure for a customized touch.


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Some pillows compress down to the size of a soda can, while others stuff down to a smaller size than the original pillow. If you’re backpacking or otherwise need a compact pillow, definitely check the “packed size” dimensions before you buy to make sure it will fit where you stash it.

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One knock against inflatable pillows is the cover membrane has to be airtight, which means no comfortable cotton or flannel coverings. Manufacturers are doing a better job of covering inflatables with great-feeling materials, but traditional synthetic-filled pillows are softer on skin.