Do You Need a Pillow in a Hammock?


The average camper doesn’t have to worry too much about conserving space while on their adventure. However, it’s important to consider how you can be most comfortable in your next hammocking adventure, and deciding on whether not to bring a pillow is a very important step.

Although bringing a pillow in your hammock isn’t necessary, if you have space it can only increase the comfort level in your next hammock session. Pillows can promote a healthier posture for the neck and back as well. Hammock sleeping is an extremely relaxing and healthy activity, and a pillow will only make it more enjoyable! 

Why Use a Pillow in a Hammock?

Whether you are a car camper or a backpacker, the more comfortable you can make your time in the wilderness, the better. On those long road trips to different National Parks around the United States, it is very wise to have a pillow or two for each person in your car. I can’t tell you how many times a pillow on a long road trip has come in handy. So, if you already have a pillow with you in the car it would be worthwhile to try it out in your hammock! 

Reasons You Might Not Want a Pillow in Your Hammock

Admittingly, there are not many reasons not to use a pillow in your hammock. But they can get in the way while you rest, especially if you like to sleep in a very specific way. Most people I have talked to say sleeping with a pillow increases comfort, but this is purely a matter of opinion. You might also have a bit of a smaller hammock, and it might be harder to get a larger pillow in the hammock. If this is the case, I have listed below a few different types of pillows you can use so that size won’t be a problem. 

Using a pillow in your hammock is purely a matter of opinion, but if you choose to sleep in a hammock for a longer period of time, such as longer than a week, or if you have a history of neck or back pain, I would highly suggest trying out a pillow for a more healthy posture. 

Types of Pillows that are Best for Camping

Here I have listed three different types of pillows that you can consider for your next trip, with three points for each of them talking about a few perks and cautions.

Compressible Pillows (best for backpacking)

  • Good Size: These are fairly small pillows, as they are a favorite of backpackers who want some extra comfort with minimum added weight. The size helps for the hammock because usually, you want a smaller pillow to rest in if you have a smaller hammock. If you have a wider hammock one of the other options might be perfect for you. 
  • Easy to pack/Useful on the road: These can be useful for you on the road up to your campsite, providing you with some nice added comfort on your joints while you are driving or helping with directions. On road trips past 5 hours, these are a must! 
  • Extra Cost: Most people do not have these lying around their house, so you will have to find them online. However, there are plenty of sites like Amazon that carry them, and I actually got a great pillow from this site as well, so go ahead and check it out! 

Regular Bedroom Pillow (great for car camping)

  • Bulky: This could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the size of your hammock, the amount of space in your car on the ride up, and if you want to risk getting your house pillows a bit dirty. 
  • Easy to Find/Very Soft: Everyone has one of these at their house, so you really don’t have to make the extra effort to go get new ones. These are also very, very soft; much softer than the compression pillows. So this is a very comfortable option. 
  • No Extra Cost: As listed above, these are all around your house, so no need to add to the cost of your next camping trip. 

DIY Pillows (Sack of clothes, also good for backpacking)

  • Customizable: Now, these are a combination of the two above. All you need is a sack you can put extra clothes in and shape it to the size you want. 
  • Easy to make/Not as Soft: These are not as soft as the regular pillows, but they can be filled or emptied to your own needs, so this option is a favorite of those with more specific needs, such as for more back or neck support. Also, this is a real space saver, because you are using your clothes for two different functions now! 
  • No Extra Cost: And of course, these are made at no extra cost. So these, for that reason alone, are a large choice among other car campers. 

Types of Hammocks That are Best for Car Camping 

Although there are known to be dozens of different types of hammocks (Source), I have narrowed it down to four different hammock types that you are most likely to use on your next adventure. 

  • Brazilian: This type of hammock is made of very thick material and is best suited for a colder climate. They are usually 100% cotton so they need to be carefully selected for drier climates as well. They usually have very vibrant colors as well, making them a fashionable choice for your next adventure. Keep in mind, however, that these take a bit longer to set up, as they are usually meant to stay in one place. 
  • Rope: These are best suited for beaches because they do not retain any warmth and do not block any cold air, as Brazilian hammocks tend to do. These hammocks are much more flexible and pretty wide, so this could be a comfortable choice for couples.
  • Fabric: These are meant to be attached to a frame, so they are not the best for travel, but if this is the only hammock you have access to, then it can still be used. These fabric hammocks are able to offer a good amount of warmth, because of their tight weaving, and also a high amount of comfort. 
  • Camping: These are my favorite and for good reason. Made of synthetic nylon, these kinds of hammocks can be compacted into a tiny ball. They are a favorite of backpackers and car campers alike, as they are lightweight, comfortable, and relativity cheap if you go for smaller brand names. You can attach these hammocks to any tree or structure you can think of; if, of course, it can hold your weight. These can get a bit chilly at night because the fabric is thin, but you can bring extra blankets.

I have used a few different brands of camping hammocks for my car camping adventures, and while there aren’t many differences from brand to brand that I can see, I would suggest getting a “double hammock”. This means that the hammock width is larger than it would be otherwise, which gives you more room for more comfortable sleeping. If you are going to be in a particularly buggy area, I would also suggest getting a mosquito net (trust me, this will keep your starry night from becoming a stingy night).

Lastly, remember to buy straps for your hammock. Many brands sell them together now, but be careful that this is also true for the hammock you choose to buy. A hammock is only as good as the straps it comes with. 

Is it Okay to Sleep in a Hammock Long-Term? 

Hammocks have been used for hundreds of years by dozens of different cultures around the world, so there indeed is much worthwhile in using a hammock to sleep. Dr. Steven Park, who is a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), has claimed that the ideal sleeping posture is “lying on one’s back, with the head slightly elevated, about 10 – 30 percent” (Source). This is nearly exactly the position that your body is shaped in when sleeping in a hammock.

The hammock, therefore, creates an optimal sleeping position for the health of the human body. Some sites have gone so far as to say that you should swap out your bed, which creates an unhealthy sleeping position, for a new hammock (Source). So not only is it healthy to sleep in a hammock long-term; it’s recommended! 

Final Thoughts: Bring a Pillow! 

Given all of these reasons, it is a very smart idea to bring a pillow for not only your hammock but also for the actual ride up to your selected campsite. Take into account how much space you have in your car, what you are willing to spend on a quality pillow of your choosing, and select the options that best suit your needs! 

Peter

Peter is a software developer who loves to take every opportunity to go outside that he can get. Peter grew up going on long backpacking excursions with his family every Summer and now enjoys staying at the beautiful Texas State Parks and swimming in the amazing Texas Rivers.

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