Learn How to DIY A Camping Pillow for your Next Adventure

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Camping is a thrilling activity that necessitates proper gear to ensure a comfortable experience. Getting a good night’s sleep is particularly vital for a positive camping experience, and this is where camping pillows come in handy.

These pillows play a significant role in enhancing your sleep system without adding much weight or taking up too much space in your pack. They are smaller in size and come with insulation to keep your head warm, making them perfect for chilly conditions.

However, making your own camping pillow can be a great option as it has numerous benefits. It is customizable to your preferences and significantly less expensive than purchasing one from a store.

There are various DIY techniques available, including air-filled pillows, memory foam cushions, or basic small pillows made from regular pillows. This allows you to choose the type of pillow that suits you best and guarantees you a good night’s sleep under the stars.

Best Camping and Backpacking Pillows

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3 Types of Camping Pillows

Camping pillows come in three primary varieties:

  • Inflatable
  • Self-inflating
  • Non-inflatable

Inflatable Pillows

Inflatable camping pillows are an excellent option for lightweight campers and backpackers due to their compact size and portability. They can be inflated to provide support and deflated to a small portion of their original size, making them easy to pack and carry.

They can fit in the top of your sleeping bag or take up any available space in your pack, making them a practical choice for those with limited space.

However, there are a few drawbacks to consider. Inflatable pillows can make a crunching sound when you move on them, and they may offer minimal insulation from the ground.

Additionally, if you camp for an extended period, your pillow may become punctured. Sharp objects such as thorns, shattered glass, sticks, or rocks can damage your pillow.

Despite these drawbacks, inflatable camping pillows are still a great option for camping and backpacking expeditions where weight and volume are critical factors. With their portability and small size, they can significantly improve your sleeping experience without weighing down your pack.

Self-Inflating Pillows

Self-inflating pillows are a great alternative to inflatable pillows, as they offer more comfort and support. They are designed to inflate themselves, which makes them easy to use – all you have to do is open the valve and let the air in.

Deflating them is just as effortless, and takes no time at all. These pillows also offer better insulation, making them the ideal choice for campers who want a soft and comfortable pillow to rest their head on.

However, there are some downsides to self-inflating pillows. They are heavier and thicker than air pillows, which means they take up more space in your backpack.

Despite this disadvantage, if you’re looking for a comfortable and supportive pillow for your camping trip, a self-inflating pillow may be the perfect choice for you.

Non-Inflatable Pillows

Non-inflatable pillows are a great option for camping as they can be filled with clothes or foam, making them an excellent choice for car camping.

These pillows provide a cozy alternative to inflatable ones and are especially suitable for those who value comfort, as they are lighter and more resilient than traditional camping pillows.

However, it’s important to note that they may not offer the same level of comfort as other camping pillows, which could be seen as a drawback.

How to Make Inflatable Camping Pillows from Scratch in 7 Steps

Materials Required

  • Valve for inflation
  • Ironing board and iron
  • Air Pump (if using a TPU bladder)
  • Cloth (ideally a soft and breathable material) 
  • Sewing machine (alternative: needle and thread)
  • Scissors

Inflatable air pillows are typically manufactured using at least 95% post-industrial recycled materials. Each pillow is made from reusable low-density polyethylene.

The materials used to construct the majority of inflatable camping pillows are typically lightweight and strong, such as nylon, polyester, or TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane). The interior bladder of the pillow is typically made of PVC or TPU and can be inflated manually.

The valve used to inflate and deflate the pillow is usually made of rubber or plastic. Some inflatable camping pillows may also include foam or down to provide additional comfort and support.

Estimated Cost

  • Clothing: $5 to $15 (depending on the quality and amount of fabric)
  • A yard of nylon or polyester cloth: $5 to $10
  • Per yard of TPU film: $10 to $15
  • Polypropylene or rubber valves: $1 to $5 each
  • PVC or TPU bladders: $5 to $10 per piece
  • Air compressor: $5 to $20 (manual pump) or $20 to $50 (battery-powered or electric pump)
  • A spool of sewing thread: $2 to $5

Total estimated total cost: $18 to $85

When estimating the cost of making a simple inflatable camping pillow, it’s important to note that the price of certain common household items like scissors, an ironing board, and a sewing machine is not included in the cost breakdown.

Additionally, keep in mind that the estimates provided are rough and the final cost will depend on the specific materials you choose. To make a basic inflatable camping pillow, you can expect to spend anywhere from $18 to $85 or more on necessary supplies.

It’s worth noting that the price will increase if you choose to incorporate additional materials such as foam or down. So, budget accordingly and consider your specific needs when determining the cost of building your own inflatable camping pillow.

Time Required

The project should be finished in one to two hours. However depending on your sewing expertise and experience, producing an inflatable camping pillow may take a different amount of time.

Steps to Follow

Here is a step-by-step tutorial for making your own inflatable camping pillow:

Step 1: Trim the Nylon, Polyester, or TPU Film Off the Fabric

To create the required size and shape for your cushion, cut two pieces of fabric and one piece of nylon or polyester fabric/TPU film using scissors. The fabric portions need to be a little bigger than the TPU film or nylon or polyester fabric.

Step 2: Connect the Fabric Components by Sewing Them Together

With the right sides of the two fabric pieces facing each other, join them together and sew around the edges, leaving a small hole. 

Step 3: Iron the Nylon, Polyester, or TPU Film

For the greatest outcomes, Iron the nylon, polyester, or TPU film off the fabric.after turning it over to reveal the reverse side. Pressure is necessary in addition to heat. After you withdraw your iron, apply pressure with a silicone roller on the hot weld (or find something else to press on)

Step 4: Connect the Valve

Cut a tiny hole in the nylon or polyester fabric/TPU film’s center with the scissors. Put the valve through the opening and firmly fasten it to the TPU film or nylon or polyester fabric.

Step 5: Sew the Nylon, Polyester, or TPU Film to the Fabric

With the valve facing up, adhere the nylon, polyester, or TPU film to one side of the fabric cover. To secure the Nylon or Polyester fabric/TPU film to the fabric cover, pin the edges of the material to the fabric and stitch all the way around.

Step 6: Pump Up the Pillow

To inflate the cushion to the desired hardness while using a PVC bladder, blow into the valve. Use an air pump to blow up the cushion to the required hardness if a TPU bladder is being used.

Step 7: Close the Valve

Seal the valve tightly when the cushion has been fully inflated to stop any air leakage. Having created a basic inflatable camping pillow from scratch, congrats! Remember that you may modify this pattern to make a pillow that is ideal for your camping needs by changing the size, form, and materials used.

How to Make Self-Inflating Camping Pillows from Scratch in 4 Steps

Materials Required

  • Polyester or nylon fabric
  • Sewing machine (alternative: needle and thread)
  • Scissors
  • Valves that self-inflate
  • Seam grip or adhesive to fasten the valve
  • Optional insert with adjustable stiffness
  • Optional foam with open cells for the filling

Self-inflating camping pillows are a popular choice for campers, as they provide a comfortable sleeping surface without the need for an external air source. These pillows are typically made from foam and air, which work together to create a plush cushion.

The foam interior of the pillow expands to provide support, while the valve allows air to flow in for additional comfort. One of the benefits of self-inflating camping pillows is their portability.

When the valve is closed, the open-cell foam compresses, allowing the pillow to be easily packed and transported. The outer covering of the pillow is typically made from a strong and lightweight fabric, such as nylon or polyester, which is resistant to water and stains.

In addition to their convenience and comfort, some self-inflating camping pillows also offer programmable firmness levels. This feature allows users to adjust the amount of support provided by the pillow, ensuring a personalized sleeping experience.

Estimated Cost

  • A yard of nylon or polyester cloth: $5 to $10
  • Valve: $2 to $5 per piece 
  • Adhesive: $5 to $10 (to attach valve)
  • Foam with open cells: $10 to $20
  • Insert with optional firmness adjustment: $5 to $15
  • A spool of sewing thread: $2 to $5.

Total estimated total cost: $29 to $65

Please note that the breakdown of costs for the DIY self-inflating camping cushion project does not include the price of common household items such as the sewing machine and scissors.

It’s important to keep in mind that the estimated costs provided are only approximate and the final expenses may vary depending on the specific materials chosen and the store where they are purchased.

When considering the materials for the project, the quality and features of the products can impact the final cost. A reasonable budget for this project would be between $29 to $65 or even higher.

Time Required

The speed and skill with which you can sew will have an impact on the time it takes to finish making a self-inflating camping pillow. Typically, this project should take between one to two hours to complete.

Steps to Follow

Here is a step-by-step tutorial for making your own self-inflating camping pillow:

Step 1: Trim the Fabric and Foam

For your pillow, cut the foam to the appropriate size and form. Your pillow’s interior will look like this. To create a seam allowance, leave a few extra inches of fabric around the edges after cutting your fabric to the same dimensions as the foam.

Step 2: Sew the Fabric and the Foam Together

Put the fabric on a level surface right side up. Next, position the foam in the center of the fabric. Use pins or scissors to secure the edges of the fabric, folding the extra material around the foam.

Once you have the fabric securely in place, stitch the edges of the fabric together, being sure to leave a small opening for the self-inflating valve to be inserted. By following these steps, you can create a comfortable and convenient inflatable cushion for all of your needs.

Step 3: Put the Self-Inflating Valve in Place

To affix the self-inflating valve to the cloth, start by inserting it through the opening. Next, use a seam grip or another adhesive to securely attach it.

It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to properly dry the glue after application. This will ensure the valve is firmly attached to the cloth and ready for use.

Step 4: Pump Up the Pillow

To inflate the cushion, simply open the valve and allow air to enter. As the foam expands, a comfortable sleeping surface will be created. If you desire to adjust the level of support, an adjustable firmness insert can be placed inside the cushion through the valve.

Once you have achieved your desired level of support, simply close the valve to keep the air inside and finish making your self-inflating camping cushion.

How to Make Non-Inflatable Camping Pillows from Scratch in 6 Steps

Materials Required

  • Cotton, flannel, fleece, nylon, polyester, or other waterproof textiles to be used as the fabric cover
  • Foam, memory foam, cotton, down, polyester, or other synthetic materials to be used as filler
  • Sewing machine (alternative: needle and thread)
  • Scissors
  • The cover’s zipper, velcro, or other fasteners
  • Measurement ruler or tape
  • Embellishments such as paint, patches, or embroidery thread (optional)

Non-inflatable camping pillows come in various shapes and sizes but typically consist of two main components – a cloth cover and a filling. The filling can vary and may be made of materials such as foam, memory foam, cotton, and Down, or synthetic fibers like polyester.

Meanwhile, the cover may be made from materials such as cotton, flannel, fleece, or even waterproof materials like nylon or polyester. The cover can either be zippered or sewn shut and holds the filling inside. Manufacturers offer a wide range of sizes and shapes of non-inflatable camping pillows.

Estimate Cost

  • Clothing: $5 to $20 (depending on the quality and amount of fabric)
  • Fleece, cotton, and flannel: $5 to $10 per yard
  • Waterproof nylon or polyester cloth: $10 to $20 per yard
  • Filler cost: $5 to $50 (depending on the quality and amount of material)
  • Cotton or synthetic materials: $5 to $10 
  • Down, foam, and memory foam: $15 to $50
  • Velcro or a zipper (optional): $1 to $5
  • A spool of sewing thread costs $2 to $5
  • Decorative elements: $1 to $20
  • Embroidery thread: $1 to $2 per spool
  • Paint and patches: $5 to $20

Total estimated cost: $14 to $95

Please note that the cost breakdown provided does not include the price of common household items such as scissors, a sewing machine, a measuring tape, and a ruler.

Also, keep in mind that these are only rough estimates, and the actual cost of your DIY non-inflatable camping cushion project will depend on the specific materials you choose and where you purchase them.

The total cost of such a project can range from $14 to $95 or more, depending on the quality and features of the materials you use.

Time Required

Depending on your level of sewing expertise, making a non-inflatable camping pillow can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.

Steps to Follow

Here is a step-by-step tutorial for making your own non-inflatable camping pillow:

Step 1: Choose a Pillow Size, then Cut the Fabric

To ensure you have the perfect non-inflatable camping pillow, the first step is selecting the right size. Once you’ve determined the desired dimensions, it’s time to measure and cut the fabric cover material accordingly.

It’s important to allow for a seam allowance of approximately 1/2 inch on all sides for a neat finish. To ensure accuracy and consistency, use a measuring tape or ruler when cutting the material.

Step 2: Pinn and Sew the Fabric Pieces

After cutting the fabric, pin the pieces together so that the right sides are facing each other and a little gap is left for the filler material to be placed.

The gap should be around three inches wide. After that, stitch the fabric’s edge while leaving the tiny gap unfinished. Stitch along the edges of the pinned pieces with a sewing machine or a needle and thread.

Step 3: Turn the Pillow Right Side Out

After sewing all the way around the pillow, it’s time to turn it right side out. This way, the stitching will be on the inside of the pillow, leaving the outside with a smooth finish. Next, insert the filling material through the small opening in the cover. Fill the pillow to your desired thickness or firmness.

Step 4: Close the Pillow with a Stitch

After adding the filling material, the next step is to close the opening of the pillow. This can be done using a sewing machine or a needle and thread.

To prevent the filling from spilling out, make sure that the stitches are tight and secure. This will ensure that your pillow stays filled and in good shape for a long time.

Step 5: Attach a Closure

To prevent the filler material from spilling out, add a zipper or other closure to one end of the pillow. You can either follow the manufacturer’s instructions or use your own preferred method of installation.

Step 6: Decorate the Pillow (Optional)

If you want to add a unique touch to your non-inflatable camping cushion, consider decorating it with embroidery thread, patches, or other decorations. However, if you prefer a simpler look, you can skip this step altogether, as it is optional.

Once your cushion is decorated (or not!), you’re ready to enjoy it on your upcoming outdoor excursion. If you don’t have access to a sewing machine, don’t worry – you can simply hand-sew the fabric pieces together.

Finally, feel free to make any additional modifications to your cushion to suit your personal style. Whether you prefer a different style of closure or additional embellishments, the possibilities are endless!

How to Customize your Camping Pillow – Tips and Tricks

If you’re looking to personalize your camping pillow, here are some tips and tricks to help you make it your own.

  • Add a zipper or velcro opening to make removing and washing the pillow cover easy.
  • Experiment with different filler materials to find the one that suits you best (e.g., foam, memory foam, down, cotton).
  • Ensure the pillow is compact enough to fit in the top of your sleeping bag or take up minimal space in your pack.
  • Add a hood or pillowcase for extra comfort and support.
  • Consider the size and shape of your pillow to suit your camping needs (e.g., larger pillow for vehicle camping, smaller pillow for backpacking).
  • Add pockets to your camping pillow for added functionality (e.g., phone, flashlight storage).
  • Use different fabrics to create a unique look and feel for the removable pillow cover (e.g., fleece or flannel cloth for cooler camping trips).
  • Modify your camping pillow to suit your preferred sleeping position (e.g., smaller cushion for stomach sleepers, larger pillow for side sleepers).
  • Add embellishments like embroidery, patches, or painting motifs to make your pillow more visually appealing and personal.

Why is a Camping Pillow Important?

Outdoor activities such as camping and backpacking offer a great opportunity to unwind and reconnect with nature, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. However, while preparing for such activities, people often overlook a vital accessory – the camping pillow.

A good quality camping cushion can greatly enhance the quality of your sleep, and in turn, enhance your overall experience. Apart from providing support to your neck and head, it can help alleviate stiffness and pain.

Therefore, it’s crucial to remember to pack a camping pillow before embarking on such trips. Not only will it ensure a good night’s sleep, but it will also enable you to fully enjoy and appreciate the beauty of the outdoors without being hindered by discomfort or fatigue.

Why Make Your Own Backpacking Pillow?

Backpacking pillows vary greatly in terms of quality and design, which is why making your own can be a great option. There are several advantages to crafting your own pillow. For one, it can be much more cost-effective than buying one from a store.

Additionally, you have complete control over the materials and fabrics used, allowing you to create a pillow that meets your specific needs and preferences. Best of all, you get the satisfaction of creating something with your own two hands.

Buy, If you Can’t DIY

If making your own camping pillow seems challenging, don’t worry, there are plenty of options available for purchase online. Choose a pillow that suits your specific needs to avoid the hassle of testing and potentially wasting time and money. Take your time to research and select the best camping pillow for your upcoming trip.

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