Camping gets intriguing when you replace that big tent bag with a small hammock the size of your fist and a tarp with stakes and cordage. Suddenly, what you need to camp can fit in a much smaller pack and there are huge benefits to that.
However, laying in your hammock you might find yourself wondering, ‘Do I need a pillow for my hammock?’ There is an art to sleeping well in a hammock, so we are going to look at that question in this article.
Why use a pillow in a hammock?
There are a couple of reasons that you could bring and use a pillow in a hammock. Funny enough, it is hardly all about just propping your head. Not everyone reports great sleep in hammocks and much of that has to do with how their bodies work.
A pillow in your hammock can be used traditionally but it can also be stuffed under the small of your back or under your knees to provide you with support in areas where it can be hard to find support in a hammock.
A pillow can also be used to help you, more comfortably, sleep on your side. One of the biggest complaints about hammocks is that most side sleepers can never find comfort on their backs.
The carrying of a pillow, depending on the type of pillow, is just another THING to remember and put in a bag. If you are very keen on the minimalist camping idea and enjoying being able to get out and camp fast with minimal effort, well, a pillow is one of these comfort items that seems to be unnecessary.
We have used a number of things to emulate a pillow, too. Stuff a shirt with some clothes, stuff a hat or hammock with clothing or even leaves and you will get a soft little hump that you can place under your head and neck.
What types of pillow are most suitable?
You may be surprised to find out how many different types of pillows there are for your hammock camping adventure. Some of these types of pillows are due use and you might even own them already. Let’s look at your options and help you answer the question, ‘Do I need a pillow for my hammock?”
The compressed pillow is often a memory foam based pillow that can pressed down into a small bag that drops into your pack. These are often the size of a big fist or two, depending on the type of pillow it is. Compressed pillows are going to hold heat a lot better than your inflatable pillow.
Memory foam itself is something of a love/hate material so, you should mull that over in your head. If you are considering a compressed pillow you should determine how you feel about memory foam. Not all compressed pillows are memory foam, but many are, and the more affordable ones are, too.
The world of camping has changed so much since we started blowing air into tents, pillows, and sleeping pads. Inflatable pillows are great because they fold down to nothing and they weigh next to nothing. So, your minimalist kit will not suffer from the addition of an inflatable pillow.
The air inside an inflatable pillow stays cold. So, on cold nights you are going to have a cold thing against your head most of the night. Some lose air and that can be a pain in the neck, literally. So, the inflatable pillow is hardly perfect, but they can be useful.
Down pillows are those that are filled with either real feathers or synthetic ones. The down pillow you experience most is something you might sleep on in your bed at night. This would not be a great option for a pillow.
The good news is there are entire markets for camping down pillows that are ready to take into the woods. Some are designed to be more waterproof and others do a bit of compressing, too!
Down pillows are extraordinarily comfortable and if you can find the right one, it could be the perfect answer for you and your hammock camping needs.
All that said, these pillows, especially if they are water protective n the outside, are going to slide in the hammock. There is no shaking that issue.
The travel pillow is an interesting consideration as a pillow for your hammock. These are the ‘neck pillows’ or the type that people travel with clipped around their neck. You can see them on long car rides, on planes or trains.
The travel pillow is amazingly effective for finding comfort in less than ideal spaces. The travel pillow is great at providing comfort on a number of different levels for the average user.
Travel pillows do not compress into a nice, easy to store shape. This means that it could take up much more space or you might even be forced to clip the pillow on the outside of your pack. This is the way they are often carried through airports.
In the woods you would likely get snagged by thorns and take on a healthy helping of ticks or other bugs that would cling onto your pillow.
Using a travel pillow is less than idea for minimalist hammock camp, though it could offer some great comfort at night.
The idea of bringing a real pillow out into the woods for hammock camping seems wrong on so many levels. These pillows are big and bulky. They would hardly be convenient to carry or pack. These pillows are also very absorbent, and the pillowcases are, too.
A regular sleeping pillow seems like an awful idea for the average person to bring into the woods for any reason, let alone a hammock camping pillow.
In hammocks your pillows will also experience some level of slide. The hammock material is such that you will move in your hammock overnight and so will your pillow. A large pillow from your home is going to slip REALLY good!
What is the best size?
The idea of lugging a body pillow into the hammock is not a logical one but We’re sure it would solve a lot of problems for the average hammock camper. The size and shape would offer a solution to side sleeping and would lessen the effects of slipping in the hammock.
Of course, the process of getting that body pillow to your campsite would be ridiculous and thus the idea is not explored.
The more manageable the pillow the more effective it is as a hammock pillow. It might seem like a nice big pillow is what you’re after, but we have had the best nights rest with a little nub of a pillow that we can hold onto and press into to keep from sliding.
Something about twice the size of your head is going to be your best bet. Any smaller and you are going to miss the point of having a pillow. Any larger and you are going to play slip and slide!
How do you make a hammock pillow?
Making a hammock pillow is pretty easy depending on the types of things you have in your pack and the environment that you are in. There is one sure fire method that works time and time again to create a hammock pillow out of the gear you already have on hand.
We have used this method for lounging and sleeping. If your typical hammock camping setup includes a tarp, there is a good chance that tarp has a bag with a pull cord to close it. That is effectively your pillowcase.
The next step is to simply decide what your pillow’s filler will be. There are a bunch of things that you can fill a bag like this with.
- Small Blanket
- Layers of Clothing
Really it comes down to how creative you want to be. We have seen a guy fill his stuff sack with his Mountain House and sleep on that!
You can also fold up a shirt, coat or blanket and use that as a pillow.
The question of whether you need a pillow for your hammock, or not, is a very personal one. Some people are in love with the hammock experience and slip soundly to sleep without as much as a blanket. For these types of campers, the necessity of a pillow for their hammock doesn’t exist.
If you do want a pillow for your hammock you can attack this problem one of two ways. The first is to buy yourself a pillow designed for hammock camping. Something like a blow up pillow, compression pillow or a stuff sack pillow will do you well to start.
Its not a necessity to use a pillow with your hammock but you should value quality sleep as part of your camping experience. With the variety and the quality that is out there, you should give one a try.