Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite camping pillow review: inflatable head rests don’t come much better

Available in two sizes, the funky Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite is an inflatable noggin cushion that’s comfortable, lightweight and packs down tiny

Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite camping pillow review main image size
(Image: © Pat Kinsella)

Advnture Verdict

An excellent, super-comfortable, ultralight and ridiculously packable inflatable pillow that even the most wickedly weight-conscious trail wanderer and pedantic gram-counting bikepacker will find room for. Equipped with an advanced valve, and suitable for all kinds of outdoor adventures and travelling experiences, the Air Head pillow will make you feel at home wherever you lay your lowly head.


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    Super packable

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    Excellent valve

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    Comparatively comfortable


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    No recycled material

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    One color only

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Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite: first impressions

This “Air Head” is no dummy. The Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite makes the answer to the question should I take a pillow with me camping? a complete no brainer: yes, you should – so long as it’s this one. It’s quickly proven itself to be one of the best camping pillows on the market.


• List price: $60 (US) / £53 (UK)
Materials: Polyester (100%)
• Weight: Regular: 58g / 2oz; large: 80g / 2.8oz
Dimensions: Regular: 28cm x 39cm x 10cm / 11in x 15.5in x 4in; Large: 32cm x 46cm x 10cm / 12.5in x 18in x 4in
• Color: Deep Pacific (blue)
• Extras: Small stuff sack
Compatibility: Excellent for overnight hikes, backpacking, bikepacking and fastpacking

Therm-a-Rest are a brand best known for establishing a very high bar with their game-changing and still category-leading sleeping pads. Now they’ve launched this preposterously packable BYO-puff pillow, which weighs next to nothing and takes up far less room in your pack than a pair of socks, a packet of chips or a deck of playing cards.

Once inflated, though, this pillow – made with lightweight but robust stretch knit fabric – offers 4in / 10cm of cushioning to rest your tired head on. The top material is soft to the touch and comfortable next to your face when you’re lying on it, for both back and side sleepers.

Easy to inflate and deflate, thanks to its excellent valve, the Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite comes with a tiny stuff sack that the pillow can be tidily stowed away in before it goes in your pack, or back into your gear locker at home during the off season.

Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite: in the field

Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite camping pillow in tent on sleeping pad

A Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite camping pillow paired with a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT Sleeping Pad (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

I’ve been using the Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite for a range of overnight outdoor escapades for the last few months, and I can confidently say that if you’ve ever wondered whether it’s really worth taking a pillow along on a multi-day adventure – when you’re hiking, biking, paddling or even running, rather than using a vehicle – then this pillow makes all the arguments against doing so completely redundant. 

Obviously, it is during backpacking, bikepacking and fastpacking forays that this lightweight headrest really comes into its own: simply pop it in your backpack and forget about it until bedtime, when you can then produce a proper pillow and treat yourself to a genuinely decent night’s sleep – a massively valuable luxury when you’ve spent a big day on the trails and have another to come when you wake up in the morning.

Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite camping pillow in carry bag

Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite camping pillow in its stuff sack (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

But the Air Head is so comfortable that I’ve found myself making use of it on occasions when I could have easily grabbed a “normal” pillow from home, such as garden campouts and festival and car camping scenarios when there were no space or weight restraints.

The pillow fits inside the hood of virtually all good sleeping bags, which means it stays in place, where you need it, and it works well regardless of whether you’re propping yourself up and reading with a headlamp, or laying on your side and going straight to sleep.

But what really makes this pillow far superior to most of its fellow inflatables is the valve. It’s similar to those found on sleeping mats, and makes it very easy to both blow the product up and – more importantly – quickly and easily expel all the air in the morning, so you can stash it back in your pack and hit the trails.

Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite camping pillow in sleeping bag

The Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite camping pillow sits snugly in the hood of a sleeping bag (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
Pat Kinsella

Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing stories involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon and Dorset, and once wrote a whole book about Toilets for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades on Strava here and Instagram here.