kids sleeping in a tent


I discovered how to carry your campsite on your back and camp using the bare minimum when I was hitchhiking around a while ago. I was camping every night and the amount I could carry was incredibly limited. Everything I needed was crammed into a 70-litre backpack. Needless to say, there was no space for a pillow. I am definitely a side sleeper and need my head elevated, so every night I would find something suitable to use as a pillow substitute.


This is the most common one. I´m sure everyone has had to do this at least once. Roll up all your clothes into a ball and use it as a pillow. If you have a fleece jacket you can improve on this by stuffing the fleece jacket full of clothes and making sure the zip is on the side facing the floor. You have an instant pillow with a warm and soft exterior.

You can also do this if you use a waterproof stuff sack. Many of these have fleece linings on the inside. If you turn them inside out and fill the sack with clothes, you can create a fairly comfortable pillow.


I seemed to have goon sacks on hand more often than I had clothes to spare for my head. The sacks are pretty indestructible and if it is full of wine it can be pretty comfortable. If you get thirsty in the night you are merely inches away from suckling at a nozzle filled with wine. For some reason mine never seem to have any wine left in so I just opened the nozzle and inflate them. Inflating it also allows you to adjust the firmness.

Similarly, if you haven’t kept the goon sack, an inflated ziplock bag stuffed into a mesh fruit and vegetable bag can provide a similar sleeping experience. This can also be done with a platypus or camelback bladder. Anything which can hold water can be turned into an inflated, ready-to-use pillow.


When the nights were cold and I had to sleep in my clothes and the goon had run dry, I would have to use my backpack. Usually, the only item of clothing I could spare was my waterproof jacket. A backpack wrapped in a waterproof jacket is not ideal, but with nothing else to hand it does the trick.


Or, you can use your shoes. Again, this is not my first-choice solution, and I would have to accept at this point that a decent night’s sleep would be a challenge. I put the shoes under the groundsheet so there is a raised section of the ground. It isn´t going to provide a lot of comfort but it is better than nothing.


If none of these is doing it for you, then lie on your front without a pillow. I personally can’t do this and would likely sleep better on a felled cactus than sleep on my front, but when there is little choice, sleeping on your front is the last option.


Do you have any left-field ideas that really work? Let everyone know through the comments section below.

Jackson Williams
Jackson Williams

Jackson Williams has been fishing around Australia for 20 years and loves his home region of far north Queensland.