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Sleep Well: Camp With a Real Pillow

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You can skimp on a good pillow when car camping. But don’t. A real pillow is one of the easiest ways to make your night in camp restful. Your neck will thank you.

Camping with real pillows

Since the dawn of humanity, we’ve worked hard to maintain the comforts of home. At its most extreme, this creates cubicle-based, human veal. But sometimes we work too hard to rough it – especially in the outdoors. And often the first cushy accouterment on the camping chopping block is a real, fluffy pillow.

Sure, we’ve all rested our weary heads on a rolled-up jacket or the butt-end of a backpack. And most of us have tried to sleep through the squeak of an inflatable, or the undeniable disappointment of a miniature, poly-filled pouf.

If you’re counting ounces, those will do in a pinch. And yes, when backpacking, we too give up the coziness of a pillow and jam clothes into a stuff sack to make do.

But real rest requires more than passable padding. Good sleep requires a good pillow. And if you have a whole car full of gear parked at your campsite, one thing in the kit should be a pillow.

Real Pillow = Camp Pillow

Nautica Standard Pillow

My personal favorite is Nautica’s Pillow. It costs $20, but you can get a two-pack from TJ Maxx for $12. And no, Nautica isn’t an outdoor brand. Far from it! It does, however, make some very good pillows.

Using a 200-plus-thread-count, 100-percent-cotton outer and an overstuffed polyester fill, these beauties are the best single-purpose gear I’ve ever bought.

They’re not waterproof. They only come in white, the color spectrum’s most stain-prone hue. And they’ll tear if you catch them on anything at all.

But, much like PF Flyers, they’re guaranteed to make an adult hike farther and climb higher. They’ll put a smile on your face and remove the kink in your neck. And they sport a sweet climate-control feature: They have both a warm and a cool side.

Of course, pretty much any real pillow will do. Pick one up from the dollar store. Get a wild design in pink. It’ll be your camping pillow. Embrace the wood-smoke smell at home. It’ll remind you of great times in the outdoors.

I know what you’re thinking: “But Josh, why would we take some domestic nicety like that into the woods?”

Well, we carry sleeping bags and camp pads, collapsible chairs and collapsible shelters, cookware, stoves, and cutlery into the outdoors. Your entire collection – nay, the world’s entire collection – of outdoor gear is designed to make the wilds of the world a little more domestic.

Pack a pillow because you’re over 30 and those long, pillowless nights outside in your 20s are starting to catch up with you. Pack a pillow because you’re working on a difficult project tomorrow. Heck, pack a pillow because the top of your backpack is a little floppy and it’ll look stupid on Instagram.

Whatever your reason, there’s no more important use of space than a pillow when you head out on your next adventure. Whether flying, driving, hiking, climbing, or paddling, your head and neck will thank you.

Then you’ll thank me for the awesome advice. I dig that.

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