DIY Field Pillow

I just got back from REI and spent $439 and lost 3 hours of my life.  Man that store really sucks you in big time, not sure what happened other than I was bouncing around like a 12 year old kid on Red Bull. I walked out with a new tent and DIY survival kit (more on that later).

So I’m a minimalist when it comes to camping or RECCE missions. “Travel light freeze at night”..”I say don’t pack light, pack right!” My advice when heading outdoors is to not waste your money on a camp pillow.  Don’t get me wrong I love a camp pillow and it’s key to a good night’s rest. A good one at REI will set you back $25+ but here’s a recipe for one that’s just as good and uses existing kit.  Everyone has these ingredients if you’re packing for overnight ops.  Save yourself some space in your pack and DIY.  Brandon out.

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DIY Camp Pillow:

Ingredients: Sleeping bag stuff sack and one jacket.


  1. Remove sleeping bag
  2. Insert jacket (goose down a plus but not required)
  3. Camp pillow complete.
  • Jamesvini

    i do the same when hunting, watch out for buckles to the face though.

  • Marmatt

    To ward off errant compression buckles, turn it inside out first, or, better yet, break out the sewing machine and line the inside with fleece or something else soft. Some manufacturers even line their sleeping bag stuff sacks from the factory with fleece. I’ve always found that a stuff sack filled with my down puffy-coat and covered with a merino wool baselayer pillowcase did just fine.

  • Hammer27

    I was also partial to the drybag full of clothes or what not.

  • FormerSFMedic

    I love this post Brandon! I’m huge on outdoor survival/camping gear. Would like to see more on this subject in the future.

    On another note. When it came to overnight ops, the guys on my team used to laugh when I would analyze over and over again what I was bringing along. But, when we were on mission, they weren’t laughing anymore when they were loaded down and tired only to realized they still didn’t have something they needed. I like the “pack right philosophy”. It makes a lot more sense to just do it right by coming up with ways to multitask equipment.

  • FormerSFMedic….agreed on all. We had an Officer who once asked if the guys would pack his bag for a training Op..”it’s all prepped, can you guys please pack the rest and load it up, I have to brief so and so…”. We proceeded to pack it for him and you should have seen him hurting on that 15 click hump….the look on his face was priceless when he unloaded for the LUP and saw a 35lb barbell in his bag. Never asked us to pack for him again….

    • Hammer27

      Wow. Someone missed a few lessons in Leadership 101.

      • reflexivefire

        As per SOP, you always put rocks in the officer’s ruck when he isn’t looking.

        • Hammer27

          Oh very true but its just a d*ck move to ask someone to pack your sh*t. I mean, the last time someone packed my stuff for me was when I was 3 and Mom got the diaper bag ready.

          • reflexivefire

            Absolutely, and the 35lb barbell is unreal. Should have known better.

    • Will

      Its nice to know that even in the SEAL that your have douche bag officers.

      Barbel in people rucksacks is similar to what use to happen on our training exercises. Except that we used stuff from there room so once they realise, they have to make a choice between throwing there stuff away or having to carry it around for the rest of the exercise. HA!

  • Another idea for a field expedient pillow: Blow air into your CamelBak bladder through the tube. Works great.

  • odie

    nemo fillo> all camp pillows

    • Brandon

      Nemo makes good stuff that’s for sure.

  • Panzerhund0311

    The best field pillow that I ever used was my M65 field jacket with liner back in the day. Today I still use the liner for bivouac hanging out etc… The younger troops don’t know about the M65! I use a combo of the liner and a fleece with a pillow case. The fleece or the liner make my face sweat, so a cheap pillow case gives a nice buffer. It all fits snugly with in my sleeping bag.

  • Mike

    I’ve always found that packing for lightness is gona leave me with the shorts when I really need it. Ergo the FIRST overnight gear (assuming we’re not talking about 0-temp weather) would be the ubiquitous poncho AND poncho liner. If you need a pillow, go home and go to bed.

    • Brandon

      Poncho liner=greatness….

  • FormerSFMedic

    Hell yes! I slept on the desert floor with just a poncho liner over my whole body and a ruck sack for pillow more than a few times. The poncho liner is a multitasking classic!

  • HalP

    When I go camping I’ll use my jacket (if its cool weather) as my pillow – You can bring a pillow case along if it’s just a camping trip and if you’re a wuss.

    • Brandon

      or use your stuff sack!

  • Lance

    Nice idea good way to stay comfy in the field.

  • I always used a t-shirt stuffed with other clothes or the stuff-sack itself. It was softer and quieter than laying my head on the stuff-sack.

  • jrexilius

    I actually tote an inflatable pillow as it doubles as a seat for field expedient desk when having to do data duty on laptop for hours.

    Of course that only makes sense when you expect to have to deploy a mobile office ;-)

    • I just haven’t had any luck with inflatable pillows or mattresses…BW

  • Jones

    They have stuff sacks that are lined with fleece, so it’s only a small upgrade in kit. Makes a world of difference.

    • Very nice….I’m still rocking my issued one and didn’t know about this, thanks! -BW

  • I would fold my poncho liner in on each side, so there was a flat open space in the middle. Then I’d roll a towel inside that. It created a decent pillow that allowed my head to sink in the center.

    Here’s another vote for the Nemo Fillo. Could have really saved myself alot of heartache if I knew about something like it years ago.

    And I have the same problem in REI. I love that place.

  • yosh179

    I’d throw in my vote for poncho and poncho liner. Sooooo many uses. I’m seriously tempted to grab the updated versions that 782 Gear puts out.

    Another suggestion from the old school would be the old five quart canteen. Everyone is into their hydration bladders these days (including me), but the old 5 qt could haul the water, act as field pillow, do double duty as flotation assistance, and could be rolled up and stuffed away when not needed.

  • Scout

    This tip and a watch cap at night – something I teach to all my Scouts. Not all follow. Funny how they still bring pillows from home until they have to hike them in..Then the big pillows stay behind. Last trip (it poured) one Scout learned that a pillow doubles as giant sponge too ! I used to shop at REI until I learned about all their support for socialist organizatons and causes.

  • Dumb Grunt

    Brandon- It sounds as if he asked for it. Next time try a couple of 25 lb bags of shot., they’re easier to hide in the pack.

  • Dumb Grunt

    I did the same and it always worked great. The side benefit would be on cold mornings and the jacket would be warm after being in the sleeping bag.

  • JBAR

    Was at REI on the 20th also (Clairemont Mesa). Had the wife and kids waiting in the van for what was supposed to be a quick single item pickup. 25 minutes later…. the ball and chain was chewing my *** for 2 hours straight. I thought that was pretty quick considering. Got a hammock though. Gonna try that out. Not sure if a pillow will be necessary. First time trying it.

  • john

    nice post