Camping is almost always a fun activity where you can take your whole family outside and just enjoy nature. Sleeping on the naked ground, on the other hand, isn’t fun at all. Having the best camping cot will make all the difference for your camping experience and will make your stay in the tent a lot better. Most people prefer cots over any other type of bedding mainly due to their lightweight structure and compact design. If you love sleeping on a bed of pine cones, look away since this buyer’s guide won’t be for you but if you want your back to not stiffen up after a night inside the tent, feel free to join us on our journey to determining which are the 5 most comfortable and unique camping.
Before we dive deeper into the topic of camping cots, let’s check out our top 5 selection for this year’s best models:
Best Camping Cots Comparison Chart
Big Agnes Helinox Cot One V2
Helinox has been known for making some of the best camping gear and their camping cots make no exception to that rule. The Big Agnes features a lightweight design which comes with a quick and easy set up process. That makes it a go-to choice for most campers. Despite being lightweight, its sturdiness surprised us and managed to handle twice the advertised weight on top of it. This camping cot comes in its own carry bag which can easily be attached to your backpack. All in all, the versatility and convenience of this model make it a true 5-star camping accessory which deserves the first place in our chart.
Therm-A-Rest LuxuryLite Mesh Cot
Therm-a-Rest made sure their LuxuryLite camping cot fits its name, and boy did it do exactly that. If you ask any camper what his favorite cot is they will most likely chose this one and there is a single reason for this answer – the cot\s weight. Compared to our other four picks this camping cot is the lightest and that makes it a true asset in the backcountry. Folding down to a really small package it also ensures that it won’t take too much space in your backpack. Even if you attach it
Chinook 29250 Heavy Duty Padded Cot
The 29250 by Chinook really allows camping enthusiasts to enjoy the wilderness in great comfort. What makes this cot unique are its built-in pillow and leg adjustment systems. It also is heavily padded which makes it one of the most comfortable to lay in from all the ones we reviewed. The only downsides of this model is that it weighs a bit too much to be easily carried around with you and it also is slightly bigger than the rest size-wise.
REI Co-op Kingdom Cot 3
REI never disappoints with the quality, nor they making any compromises in any of their products. The Kingdom Cot is a great addition to the Kingdom series. With its aluminum and steel tubing it has an incredible amount of strength in its frame and can hold up to years of continuous use. Furthermore, the quick-drying padding is water resistant and plushy enough for your back to feel comfortable when spending hours on it during nap times. It is fairly easy to carry around as it folds into a compact packaging.
Helinox Cot Max Convertible
We were a bit thorn when reviewing the Helinox Cot. It is priced a bit high in our opinion but is one of the more comfortable cots we’ve tried. It also is super easy to set up and get back in its package form when packing things up. The design is quite unique since it can be lifted higher than normal cots. This will allow you to store more items beneath it. The storage bag included with this model has a zipper closure and handles for easier transportation. Overall, even though this cot is placed last on our list it has all the potential to be your next best friend out in the nature mainly due to its durability and premium stitching used in it.
Camping Cots Buyer’s Guide
First, let’s start with the most important question:
What is a Camping Cot?
Cots have a few different meanings but specifically in camping they are those small and portable beds which are chosen for situations where you cannot bring your own larger bed. They are used as an alternative to inflatable beds mainly due to the little time it takes to deploy them. They are always foldable and almost always super lightweight so that pretty much lays out their two main advantages:
Who Would Use A Camping Cot And Most Importantly – Why?
Campers who travel with a vehicle usually bring cots with them since they got enough trunk space. Backpackers usually stick to sleeping bags since they take pretty much the same space but are warmer during nights. Still, most new cots have a very lightweight structure and offer you the comfort of a bed up in the mountains. The way most cots fold up is also getting more and more practical with each year.
If you are camping in the summer and there are tons of bugs inside and outside the tent, a few extra inches of ground clearance will be a welcomed feature. Furthermore, if the ground beneath you is uneven the cot fixes that. Check out our seasonal camping tips if you want to learn more about what each camping season has to offer you.
If you got space in your backpack (or on it), our advice is to pack a cot too.
As any other camping gear, these beds have their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s check out some of them:
- Unlike air mattresses you will always have the option of packing gear below the camping cot ultimately leading to more floor space inside the tent
- Makes uneven terrains unimportant to your sleep comfort
- Easier to avoid bugs around you
- Easier to get out of them in the morning which is a great plus for some people with knee or joint issues
- Great for cold climates since your body won’t be in direct contact with the ground
- Easier to set up and much easier to take in and out of the tent at any time
- Can be too heavy if you already have packed up your backpack to its limits. Even if there are lightweight versions, hikers still prefer a good ol’ sleeping pad
- If it’s too cold you will have to put a camping mat beneath the cot for extra insulation
- Their comfort isn’t great compared to a high-end air bed
- Whilst there are two-person models, they aren’t nearly as comfortable as an air mattress for two people
So, by this point, you might already be getting the picture. The main thing with cots is their convenience but if you prefer comfort you should go with a mattress.
Types Of Camping Cots
The two main types of cots are:
- X-Shaped End-bar camping cots. They have their legs shaped like the letter “X”. While this gives particular folding benefits, it doesn’t necessarily provide more comfort unlike the second type…
- Rectangular-Pole cots. As the name suggests, the legs here are in a rectangular form. This provides a more natural feeling to the cot and therefore makes it a tad more comfortable than the ones with X-shaped legs. Folding can be a little harder here, though.
Things To Take Into Consideration Before Buying A Camping Cot
As we already mentioned, there are two types of campers – the outdoor enthusiasts who usually set up camps for longer periods of times and go with vehicles and the typical hikers that don’t stay at a single spot for more than a day. The long-term campers will generally want a more comfortable cot, whereas the hikers will require the cot to be lightweight and durable enough to endure the constantly changing conditions its being exposed to.
Still, there are things you should always consider when getting your first cot. Here are what we think the most important aspects of a great camping cot:
If you know for a fact that you will be sleeping in a tent, this aspect isn’t particularly important to you. If you want to sleep out in the open, though, you will need a breathable and waterproof cot. Cots in general are made either from nylon or cotton. Pick cotton if you will be sleeping inside a tent. It still is a breathable material but nowhere near as waterproof as nylon is. Polyester is a good alternative to nylon but it often is a bit more expensive.
Frames And Overall Construction
Aluminum-framed cots are really lightweight and are fairly durable but if you want yours to endure anything you throw at it go with stainless-steel framed cots. If you want the cot’s feeling to get as close as possible to the one of a mattress get a cot with rectangular shaped frames. These provide sturdiness but take a little more place in your backpack and are a bit heavier, so keep that in mind.
This logic can be applied to the next two aspects – Durability and Weight. The stronger the cot is usually the more weight there will be to it. Also, if you plan to set up and break down the cot each day, go for one with really positive reviews on the durability aspect. Things to look out for are the stitching and materials used on the main canvas as well as the thickness of the legs and the frame. Riveted aluminum models are nice and light but you should choose a more of a snap-together type of frame which is specifically made to be used on a regular basis.
As with weight, we already emphasized on that a few times. If you plan to go with just your backpack, either get an air mattress or the most lightweight cot you can find. At first most cots will seem really light to you but after spending hours on your back you will change your mind.
To find out some of the best hiking tips and tricks, go to our dedicated article on the topic.
This aspect once again is entirely up to your personal preferences. Cots can vary from very stretchy ones to firm ones that won’t budge even if you place two people on top. If you usually like sleeping on an air mattress, a cot with a more stretchy fabric will appeal more to you allowing for extra cushioning. Firmer base, on the other hand, means better back support which is essential after long hikes. There are very high priced models which feature a coil system built inside them but those are far harder to carry around.
How Portable The Cot Is
If you want to set up a base camp, then weight and portability won’t be your main priorities, but durability and sturdiness. If you are a hiker, on the other hand, you would want the cot to be as unnoticeable as possible. For hikers, it should offer a quick and easy setup and equally easy packing. When getting your first cot, consider how often will you use it, whether weight will be an issue and how important portability will be for you on your journeys. Always check the weight on the spec sheet. Most cots are at around fifteen to twenty pounds. Extra padding, stainless-steel frames, longer frames all increase the overall weight of the camping cot. There are ultralight cots which are just a few pounds but they are most often intended for smaller people and aren’t particularly sturdy nor durable.
Pro Tip: If you move a lot at night, avoid lightweight cots as they might tip over and that isn’t the best feeling on earth, trust us.
Always check the cot’s dimensions before you purchase it. A cot should be long enough to accommodate your body without any overhang. Most cots are usually equally wide but that doesn’t mean that the width isn’t as equally as important as the height, length, and weight. If your cot is narrow it most likely won’t be ideal for larger people. There are extra-wide cots out there which can be up to 40-50 inches wide. Those cots are made of a heavy stainless-steel frame, unfortunately, which ups their weight quite significantly.
The cot’s height is important for a couple of reasons. First, it determines how much stuff you will be able to put beneath it. This will save floor area in your tent. Secondly, if its cold, you might want to put an insulation material bellow your cot to keep the cold air from flowing freely beneath you.
The Setup Process
Most cots are really easy to set up. All you need to do is unfold it and that is pretty much it. Some cots might have detachable legs or frames which are installed separately when setting up the whole thing. We suggest you avoid these, as a cot is meant to be built for your comfort and convenience and save you time so that you can spend it on building your campfire, for example.
People nowadays aren’t too shy to spend a few bucks extra for the better quality product but the issue is that companies know that which leads to some artificially inflated prices. Before buying a cot check its dimensions, weight, and most importantly – the materials used in it. See if there are any comments on the cot’s quality online and whether they are positive or negative. After all, the goal here is to get something that will last you for at least a few camping seasons, and not something that will break or tear in your hands in a place far out in the nature where you won’t be able to repair it.
A Few Other Things To Consider
There are two things that are rarely mentioned and often make a camping cot feel far more premium than its price-point. The first thing is the cot’s storage options.
Some newer models come absolutely packed on storage compartments which make them far more practical than any standard cot. Just think about it – you get to have a bed in your tent and on top of that you will have enough compartments to stay fully organized during your stay. Those compartments can either be pockets (some can be water resistant) or hanging storage spaces in which you can put phones or other items.
The second thing some nicely designed cots have are accessories such as a nightstand or a cup holder. This kind of adds more to the previous feature for the storage options, but again makes a unique cot which everyone will be wondering where you got it from.
Pro Tip: Try staying far from cots that have a crossbar structural design. In the higher priced models this design can be stable enough for most people but in lower end ones it absolutely wrecks the stability features of a cot. What you will get is a cot that will not prevent you from slowly sinking into it and you really won’t find your spot the whole night. If you already have such a cot and know what we are talking about, we suggest getting a camping pad to put on top of your cot. That will make all the difference in the world to you.