There’s nothing like sleeping in the great outdoors. Whether you are beneath a glimmering bowl of stars or tucked cozily away in your windproof tent, there is a vigor and excitement that comes along with all that fresh air.
Now having a big fat root prodding into your spine? That is not so much fun. Adventurers looking for a good night’s sleep need to consider rising above such issues. The best camping cots not only keep you up off the ground but they provide a firm but flexible support that lets you rest up for whatever adventure comes next.
The rising popularity of camping cots means that it can be difficult to choose one above the others. So we’ve taken the liberty of comparing the 10 best camping cots on the market, breaking it down by weight, comfort, and ease of setup.
Best Cot Pad – Teton Sports UNIVERSAL Camp Pad
The outdoor engineers over at Teton Sports have spent years engineering ways to make your next adventure more comfortable. The UNIVERSAL camp pad represents their most recent effort, and as far as camping pads go, this one is a near-perfect blend of function and affordability.
The UNIVERSAL camp pad is not technically a cot in and of itself, but rather a thick comfortable pad that is designed to roll out on top of your favorite cot. Seeing as how we’re taking a look at the best camping cots on the market, we thought it fitting to start with something like the UNIVERSAL pad, which would be an upgrade to cot.
While the pad is designed to be compacted for travel, it is still too bulky to be useful for long distance backpacking. It’s simply too big for stuff like that. But for car camping it’s absolutely perfect.
The pad has an odd tendency to capture moisture during the night and trap it between the pad and the cot. This could be because the fabric is not entirely breathable. It’s not a huge deal, but you would do well to air this thing out in the sun so your sleeping quarters can dry out a bit.
Best Value Cot – Trademark Innovations Camping Bed
Because Trademark Innovations makes everything from outdoor equipment to home and kitchen supplies, we were unsure how much quality we would find in their camping bed. To our surprise their camping bed turned out to be a remarkably light and durable camping cot that was a snap to setup and breakdown.
Unlike some camping cots on the market, this one skipped that mid-body crossbar that has ruined so many nights of sleep. This makes it one of the most comfortable camping beds in its price range.
The initial setup was difficult, but after a few times it became quick and easy. The trick is to set up the cot the moment you get it and leave it setup for a few days. This will give all the metal and vinyl a chance to stretch and achieve that perfect fit.
Best Weekend Getaway Cot – Vivo Green Camping Cot
Outdoor wholesaler VIVO is back with their own entry level camping cot, one that seeks to provide all the ease and comfort of a camping cot with the super low prices that we’re all looking for.
The cot is as comfortable as you would expect from anything in its class, that is to say, somewhere in between bare ground and your own warm bed.
Vivo’s cot utilizes three steel crossbar stands which look and feel quite sturdy. Indeed the gauge looks thick enough to withstand years of continues use. The weakness however comes in at the crossbar hinges. These are a little flimsy and have a bit too much give for such an important component.
The result is a cot that is functional and comfortable but can wobble some in the night, and for a guy like me who likes to toss and turn, that can be a bit of a hassle.
Strongest Cot – Teton Sports ADVENTURER Camp Cot
The ADVENTURER is one of my very favorites on this list for the amount of features that Teton Sports has brought to the table for the newest model of their flagship camp bed. Not only is this perhaps the strongest cot on our list (it’s rated with a hefty 400lb capacity) but it’s also now one of the easiest to setup.
Here’s what I’m talking about: Teton’s Sports has this new camp bed patent that makes set up and break down easier than ever before. They’re calling it the PIVOT ARM REVOLUTION and it’s here to fix the longstanding problem of not being able to get that final leg corner locked in as bed tension increases. With the pivot arm, this problem is swiftly eliminated.
One drawback is the size and weight of this thing are not what you would expect of a product that calls itself ADVENTURER. That is to say that it’s so heavy (20lbs+) and bulky that it is not super portable. So if you’re setting up camp for an extended period of time you’ll be just fine.
The sheer burliness of this cot makes it a little stiff; consider adding the fitted camping pad to your order and rest even easier.
Best Lightweight Cot – ALPS Mountaineering Lightweight Cot
At only 9 pounds, the ALPS Mountaineering lightweight cot is one of the lightest camping cots that we had the pleasure of taking a look at. Now 9 pounds doesn’t exactly feel like a bag full of feathers, but when you compare it to the 30 and 40 pounds that some full size cots weigh in at, it doesn’t seem so bad.
The result is a cot that has a little more portability without losing the comfort benefits that camping cots provide. They get away with it through the use of a hollow steel frame that is at once durable and light. In addition the 600D fabric weave is a good blend of tightness and flex, making it not only lightweight but just as comfortable, if not more, than most of its competitors.
Sleeping on the ALPS cot is certainly more comfortable than the ground, but there are a few design issues that cause it to be not as comfortable as I would like. For one, there are no fixed crossbars so there is some sag in the middle of the cot. You tend to sink into the middle once you get in. Some people are very comfortable like this, however, I prefer throwing a pad down on top of the cot and then it’s not an issue.
Also, beware when you’re setting this thing up. The one we looked at had some rough machine edges on the framework that were quite sharp. (A quick file job with the old multitool did the trick).
Best Overnighter Cot – Purenity Military
The reason that military style cots have remained so popular throughout the years is because no other product has been able to match them in terms of sturdiness and reliability. Surely that’s why PURENITY got into the camping cot game, and for their first foray into the industry, their military cot really isn’t that bad.
Purenity isn’t trying to reinvent any wheels here. Let’s get this much straight: this is a $40 camping cot and that means that no matter what brand you’re looking at, you are not going to get the ultralight comfort of more professional models. Yet still, these camping cots have evolved to the point where even entry-level models offer surprising levels of comfort and rest.
The biggest flaw with this one is that it can be quite hard to put together, even after a couple of uses. This might disqualify it as a candidate for best backpacking cot, but folks who are using it only occasionally might not have a problem with it.
Also worth mentioning is that the nylon weave here is not as dense as more expensive models, which means that it’s not as durable and can be prone to tearing after repeated use.
Best Ultralight Cot – Yahill ULTRALIGHT Camping Cot
Here’s a cot that will please the long distance traveler. Weighing in at under 4 pounds, the YAHILL ULTRALIGHT is the lightest cot on our list, and packs down small enough to carry along with you on your next adventure.
Made of durable aluminum, the replaceable cot legs are far lighter than their steel counterparts. Of course, they have a lot more flex to them as well, and won’t be as durable. In addition, the aluminum construction means that this cot will not support loads above 220 pounds without causing significant bending.
Here is a feature that we couldn’t find on anyone else’s camping cot: extra holes drilled into the tubes that allow for the utilization of additional support rods. This would allow the user to increase the weight load bit by bit.
If there is any downside to the ULTRALIGHT, it’s that it’s, well, ultra-light. While this is an important feature for anyone looking to do some traveling or backpacking, it leads to some considerable sagging and bending when you’re in the sitting position, meaning your rear end actually touches the ground.
This is perhaps to be expected of an ultralight cot, but anyone even close to 200 pounds should consider getting something sturdier.
Best Backcountry Cot – KingCamp Ultralight Folding Camping Cot
Unlike most of the camping cots on our list, which are constructed in what is known as military style, the KingCamp Ultralight cot has been designed in the style of contemporary folding camping equipment. The result is a cot that is remarkably easy to setup, even after a long day on the trail when energy and patience might be scarce.
At 4.4 pounds this cot certainly qualifies for ultralight status. It’s about the same weight as a small tent, so it’s not too heavy to consider even on long distance hiking trips when a comfortable night’s sleep is of extreme importance.
The KingCamp Ultralight cot is significantly more expensive than some of the other camping cots on our list, but in this cast that cost is certainly for a reason. The construction is quite solid considering the weight and ease of use, and the weight limit is higher than other ultralight cots (~265 pounds).
One significant flaw is that the legs do not seem to lock into place. If you are doing a lot of tossing and turning at night, it is entirely possible that one of the legs will slip out of place.
Best Packable Cot – Marchway Ultralight
If anything can be said about Marchway, it’s that they have certainly blazed their own trail when it comes to camping cots. Their ULTRALIGHT model camping cot utilizes a structure design that is unlike any other that we’ve seen. Specifically, we’re talking about ground level crossbars. While this might seem like a questionable thing to add to an ultralight cot considering the extra ounces, they actually provide a good amount of rigidity in the frame. That means even the restless sleepers won’t be able to get this thing to wobble.
While not the lightest cot in its class, it is certainly one of the most compact when it’s fully broken down. While the packing bag does leave something to be desired, the final result is a cot that is portable enough to fit right beside your tent in the backpack.
The drawback: this thing is loud. All the metal bars and crossbars lead to a significant amount of creaking and clanking.
Best Folding Cot – Alpcour Folding Camping Cot
The ALPCOUR Folding Camping cot gets a medal for being the only cot on our list that is 100% foldable, meaning that you only have to deal with one piece and it sets up about as easily as a camp chair. In terms of car camping and family get togethers, there is no easier way to create a comfy sleeping space out of nowhere.
It gets better: the ALPCOUR cot also features a head incline and attached comfort pillow, two features that we haven’t been able to find anywhere else. However, the pillow isn’t very big and if you are using this rig for car camping or guest sleeping space, you might as well ditch it in favor of your own pillow.
13 pounds is at the heavy end of the cots we reviewed here, but that isn’t particularly surprising considering the complicated (yet effective) construction.
Do I Even Need A Camping Cot?
According to some studies, nearly 65% of Americans suffer from inadequate sleep, which can lead to health issues like hormone imbalance, depression, and poor job performance.
If we’re not getting enough sleep in our own beds, then we certainly aren’t getting enough out in the wilderness.
Camping Cots are a convenient and affordable way to make sure that you are getting all the Z’s you need to get the most out of your vacation or backcountry adventure.
Did You Know?
Military style camping cots aren’t just a good way to get a great night’s sleep, they can double as an effective decorating idea as well.
What goes into a Great Camping Cot?
When it comes to outdoor gear and camping equipment, you shouldn’t make your judgement based on price alone. By looking at the construction materials and methods as well as the overall design, it is possible to find the perfect camping cot for you.
Camping cots frames are generally made from hollow tubes of steel or aluminum. The metal provides rigidity needed to support a sleeping person, and the hollow construction keeps them light enough for easy transport.
• Steel frames are stronger and have less flex, but are heavier than aluminum.
• Aluminum frames are more standard in ultralight models, as it is lighter and has more flex to it. This may mean a reduced weight rating.
There is a tremendous amount in variance in the total weight of camping cots these days. Their unmatched versatility has made them popular for more than just camping and hiking, so new models have evolved to fill the demand.
• Ultralight cots are generally between 3 and 5 pounds, which is light enough for even longer trail adventures.
• Middleweight cots are between 6 and 9 pounds. While not too heavy to haul from campsite to campsite, the increased weight is not worth it for many backpackers.
• Heavyweight cots are anything 10 pounds and above. These cots are generally bulkier and sturdier, and usually more comfortable on account of additional features and higher-quality nylon-weave fabrics.
Just like it is with tents, camping cots can either be a breeze to setup, or a total nightmare. While a lot of it depends on your personal preference, there are pointed differences between how these cots are put together and how easy the whole process it.
- Military Style cots utilize x-shaped metal stands to support a double-rail sleeping surface. Setup may look complicated, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a breeze.
- Tent Style constructions feature the interlocking tube systems most commonly seen on modern tents. While not as common in today’s market, some varieties utilize this style to reduce the overall pack weight.
- Folding Style camping cots are relatively new to the outdoor industry and are designed to be as easy to setup as a camping chair. While this is an incredible feature in the age of over-complicated equipment, it probably means that the cot is going to be both heavier and bulkier.
It is very important to make sure you are getting the right size camping cot, so check the manufacturer’s specifications before purchase. Some cots may be too narrow for your shoulders, while others aren’t long enough and might force you to dangle your feet over the edges.
Also, the length isn’t everything. Just because your tent footprint is 70” long doesn’t mean that it will be able to fit a 70” camping cot. This is because cots are between 6” and 30” off the surface of the ground.
Our recommendation? If you are going to use your camping cot inside of a tent, be sure to test it out before you go out into the wilderness! There would be nothing worse than getting out there only to realize that your cot won’t fit inside your tent!
Camping cot fabrics are designed to be pulled taught to support the weight of a sleeping person for a whole night. For this reason they have to be well engineered and tightly put together.
There might be some exceptions, but most cot beds are made of polyester or nylon.
- Polyester is quite durable and affordable, but as a fabric is far heavier than polyester. It is a very tightly woven fabric, so it tends to hold up very well against the elements and is more tear resistant than nylon.
- Nylon woven cot beds are remarkably light and rely on cross-hatch weaving to achieve a comfortable rigidity without all the added weight that a polyester bed might add to the mix. However because it’s a less dense fabric and less finely woven, it is more susceptible to tears over time.
We’re going to be straight with you: deciding on the best camping cot was a more difficult task than we had previously imagined. We had to take a lot of naps to get the job done (someone had to do it).
My personal pick is the Alpcour Folding Camping Cot. I do a lot of car camping and weekend getaways, so I don’t mind the extra size and weight of this thing. Considering how easy it is to setup and breakdown, I think it’s totally worth it.
However if I was hitting the trail for a longer adventure, I would no doubt have the YAHILL Ultralight on me. 3 pounds is nothing when you think about how much better your sleep is going to be.
Frequently Asked Questions
Camping cots are designed to provide an elevated sleeping surface, not warmth from the elements. While a sleeping bag on the ground may be adequate to get you through the night, nothing beats the added comfort of a camping cot.
The question of ideal cot height is largely a matter of personal preference, though oftentimes construction materials and technique may determine what the final height may be.
For instance, ultralight camping cots generally try to use less metal, so are often lower to the ground, while fold-out cots have a lot of hardware to account for, so can be as high as 30” off the ground.
The setup and breakdown process with camping cots is such a huge issue that we made sure to integrate it into our analyses. One camping cot may setup in seconds, while another may feel like a frustrating puzzle or a stone that won’t budge.
No matter which style of camping cot you choose, make sure to set it up at home before you head out into the wild, because you never know how much energy you are going to have left at the end of the day, and it is no fun trying to solve puzzles in the dark.
The large majority of camping cots on the market are not wide enough to sleep more than one person, not to mention rarely rated to support that kind of weight.
Fortunately, outdoor gear manufacturers have gotten the hint that consumers were looking for wider and stronger camp cots, so many have obliged with extra-wide and extra-sturdy camp cots designed to sleep two people.
I personally do not use a sleeping pad when I am in my camping cot, because, quite simply, I think that the cot is comfortable enough. It’s way more comfortable than the ground anyway.
However all camping cots are different, and some are going to be more comfortable than others. In addition to the added comfort that a camping pad provides, there is also the added insulation from under-flowing air. So if you’re looking to stay both comfortable and warm, a sleeping pad certainly isn’t going to hurt.