While you might love the outdoors, literally sleeping next to Mother Nature on the ground isn’t pleasant. A cot allows you to stay suspended comfortably above the ground without having to pack a whole bed, or air mattress. The best camping cot needs to give you a good night’s rest, but what else should it be doing?
The Advantage of a Cot
Unlike a sleeping mat or an air mattress cots can be used on rocky terrain because they elevate you above the ground. This makes a huge difference in comfort, and while they’re also going to work for other terrain too, they can be used just for lazing at the campsite as chairs making them versatile.
The camp cot is suspended so air passes between you and the ground helping you stay cool in summer by allowing air to flow and warmer in winter by keeping you away from the freezing ground.
How a Cot is Designed
Most of a camping cot design is all about the frame. How you are supported will make a lot of difference in comfort and longevity, as well as how easy the cot is to carry.
Steel framed cots are heavy and much more durable which makes them much better for overweight sleepers but they’re difficult to carry far because of this. Aluminum in comparison is still pretty strong but much lighter. Be sure to check the weight rating on any cot you buy and don’t forget to account a little extra for pillow and sleeping bag etc.
There are three common styles of leg – vertical legs, military X and C shape legs. If you are using your cot inside a tent make sure that the feet have rubber caps on the end or you risk tearing the tent material or puncturing a hole in it. The C shape design is by far the least sturdy and is usually only found on the cheapest cots.
After a long day your cot has to be comfortable. What fabric it’s made of will determine the comfort and support that it provides. The simplest cots are a single layer of nylon or polyester material like a tent and can be cleaned with a simple wipe down. Cotton tends to feel softer but it stains and is hard to clean. Mesh fabrics are the coolest because they allow air to flow.
This fabric may simply be drawn and attached across the frame or it may have a spring/tension system to adjust the support provided. Some systems also allow you to adjust the supports and legs to provide additional support. While padding isn’t essential some do also come with a plush pad that’s almost like a recliner but you can also just add a camp pad on top.
What Features to Look For
Avoid camping cots that have cross bars. As your weight rests it will sink onto these cross bars causing them to dig in. This is uncomfortable and can make for a miserable night’s rest.
As with weight restrictions you’ll want to look at the size of your cot. The average camp cot is 25” by 75” and may not be suitable for larger sleepers but they do make extra wide cots with up to 40” of width and extra-long or short youth cots. The extra wide cots tend to be the heavy weight steel models and are usually rated for heavier weights as well.
Most cots will weigh 15-20lb if they are aluminum. This increases if they are steel, larger, have extra padding etc. The ultralight cots re only 2-3lb but are generally very flimsy and only intended for petite sleepers. If you move around a lot you’ll want to avoid the very lightweight cots as they may tip. The weight also determines how easy the cot is to carry.
The smallest cots will pack down to the size of a 1 person tent and only weigh a couple of pounds but tend to sit very low to the ground with a low weight capacity.
Don’t forget to make sure your cot is easy to assemble. While some assembly is expected, some are instant and can just snap into place. Others are much like setting up a tent with shock corded poles. Generally a cot should not be any more complicated to set up than an average tent and should take about the same time to do.
Best Camping Cot in 2018 Reviews
Chinook Heavy Duty Padded Cot
This is by far one of the most comfortable cots and it folds up easily. The reason it’s so comfortable is that it has built in pillowing to provide comfort and add an extra layer of warmth. The backrest is adjustable for better support and it can also be brought upright as a chair. The frame is quite heavy duty but it is welded aluminum so it’s not that heavy.
The fabric is 600D nylon and it comes in forest green. It’s easy to fold and has a straight leg design with x bars in the middle legs and rubber balls on the bottom so it won’t puncture a tent. At 80” it’s pretty long but is still the standard 20” wide, and 33” high. It closes down to 10”x30.5”x34” and weighs 17.45lb.
The upside to this heavy weight is that the cot is very sturdy. This is probably best for car camping as it would be too big and heavy to carry for long with a backpack etc. on a trail even though it has a bag and handle. It is rated for up to 250lb so will work for most adults.
The design is one of the most padded around and it even looks more like a recliner when in chair position than a cot.
- 600D Nylon
- 250lb capacity
- 80” long
- Rubber balls on legs
- Sturdy straight/X leg
- Almost 18lb
- Only 20” wide
- Difficult to adjust
Therm-a-Rest LuxuryLite UltraLite Cot
This is one of the lightest cots by Therm-a-Rest around and it’s perfect for backpacking or camping. It’s probably one of the most packable because it folds up so small. The design is unique in that the frame is actually bow shaped to provide tension. It uses shock corded poles and takes a few minutes to set up.
While the instructions aren’t particularly clear there are YouTube videos which are easier to follow. You customize where you want the poles to go and how much support you need so you can even leave one set of poles behind to cut down your weight even more.
The supports are semi-circular so there’s no “foot” as such which could potentially rip a tent and these are lightweight molded nylon. The downside to this cot is that it is extremely low to the ground and you may feel the cross bars if you don’t place a mat down and heavier users will definitely want to do this or add a pad.
The supports are aluminum and the material is polyester ripstop which is waterproof and will not stretch over time. It packs down to a minimum weight of only 2lb and 16”x5”. When open it is 72” and 24” wide. Despite the slightly more complex design there are no tools needed to put this together.
The cot comes with a stuff sack and while it does say that it is rated for 325lb it would not be comfortable at that size. For maximum comfort the weight limit is approximately 220lb and there is a larger model available. It is also compatible with the Therm-a-Rest tech blanket.
- 325lb rating
- 2lb minimum weight
- Polyester Ripstop
- Nylon/Aluminum frame
- Stuff sack
- Flimsy and not durable
- Ripstop fabric is very noisy
- Very low to the ground
- No insulation and no padding
- Ripstop is slippery
Kamp-Rite Oversize Tent Cot
Many people choose a camp cot so that they can sleep outside without having to pack a tent, this is a camp cot and a tent in one. It’s essentially an elevated cot that has straight legs with a 210D Nylon rainfly and a 420 D nylon tent, though the seams are sealed as well to keep the weather out.
You can also treat it with a water resistant spray for added protection and you’re sure to stay dry. The doors and windows are noseeum mesh to keep bugs out and allow great ventilation with zippered closures. The design is sturdy and can stand up well to cross winds with weighted sandbags.
It’s adjustable and the tent portion is removable so it can be used as a chair and lounger as well. The cot folds up like a deck chair and is one of the easiest to put up because of that, taking only a few seconds. The tent is 90” long so it works for even the tallest sleepers and is 36” high so it’s not really high enough to sit up in but comfortable enough not to feel smothered.
There is an oversize version with 11” more headroom. The tent is quite heavy at 24lb so it’s ideal for car camping, especially if you don’t want to pack a tent as well.
It packs fown to 32”x36”x6”. You’re 11” off the ground so there’s also storage room underneath. It also features 3/8” of foam insulation covered in Cordura nylon to add warmth and comfort. It’s rated for a 300lb weight limit and also comes in several different colors.
- 3/8” foam insulation
- 300lb weight limit
- Integrated tent with rainfly
- 420D nylon
- Adjusts to seat/lounger configuration
- Tent portion is removable
- Noseeum zippered mesh windows and doors.
- One year Warranty.
- No carrying bag or handle
- Fiberglass poles
Teton Sports Outfitter XXL
This is an extra-large cot and it has x shaped supports that are made of a combination of aluminum and steel. It’s made of a durable 600D polyester and canvas blend which can support up to 600lb. The cot weighs 26lb and is 85”x40”x19” so it’s nice and wide as well.
It’s ideal for car camping or for resort camping long-term as this is too bulky to move.
It’s big enough for two smaller campers to share too and quick to put up. It only takes one person to put up and is simple to fold. There’s a carry bag included and it’s an impressive 19” off the ground so you have a lot of storage underneath. It only comes in black but has a lifetime warranty.
The canvas is quite thin so you’ll want a pad in cooler temperatures as insulation or put an air mattress on top (it’s that big!). There’s a matching tent and several compatible Teton products designed to work with the large size of this cot.
- Huge – 85”x40”
- 600lb weight limit
- 600D polyester canvas
- Aluminum/steel frame
- Carry Bag
- Matching/compatible tent
- Huge – almost unnecessarily big for one sleeper unless oversized
- Sinks in the middle
- Bars are aluminum and can still bend with heavier sleepers
- Cumbersome to move
Coleman Pack-Away Cot with Side Table
A clever design by Coleman that has a built in side table in the frame so that you can store your phone, a camp light, water or anything else within easy reach. The side table is also removable if you need to cut down on weight or just don’t want it. There’s also a cup holder built in so you don’t have to worry about spills.
The frame is made of heavy duty steel and is rated to hold up to 300lb on the reinforced polyester sheet. It has a 1 year warranty and is almost as big as the Teton XXL. It’s 80”x32”x17” when opened.
This weighs only 13lb making it one of the lighter cots and while it doesn’t lock into a lounger or chair design it is more convenient to pack down. This has a wider design than a standard cot which makes it more comfortable to sleep on.
The design is folding so it’s easy to open out and holds a maximum of 225lb but it only folds out flat. It has a straight leg design without crossbars with mildew resistant fabric and does not creak when you move on it.
It comes with a carry bag with handles for easy storage and arrives preassembled so all you have to do is unfold it. It will fold down to fit into an airline suitcase too. The fabric is quite taught, unlike a hammock, so you won’t need a pad with this and a thicker sleeping bag is better for cold weather.
- 225lb weight limit
- 80”x32” – wide
- Removable side table with cup holder
- 1 year warranty
- Mildew Resistant
- Carry Bag
- Steel frame
- Does not fold into chair or lounger
The Kamp-Rite Oversize Tent Cot is by far the cleverest and most versatile design. If you want something that saves you weight then this allows you not to have to pack a tent for convenience while still being very sturdy and comfortable.
It has most of the features you want –padding, height, solid frame, and a good weight limit. It has more than the standard width and is extra-long so almost everyone will fit into it.