Unless your a true outdoorsy person, you're going to want to take some creature comforts with you when you go on a camping trip for the first few times. Most of all you'll want your bed, well good luck bringing that, you'll need to settle for a affordable cot when doing your camping.
If you're going to make this investment, you're going to want to make sure you get the most for your money, right? In our experience, sleep is the most powerful supplement you can take on an outdoors trip, so let's make sure you're able to get your winks in!
Outside or Inside
Whether your camping trip takes you to a nice camp grounds or leaves you roughing it in the bush for a few nights makes a huge difference in which camping cot you get. So let's go over the different situations and why some cots are better indoors or outdoors.
Congratulations! If you're sleeping outside on your camping trip, you've chosen not to be too much of a panzie. Sleeping outdoors with a cot means you're probably having to pack in to the place you'll be sleeping. So you'll want to look at some ultralight options for these situations, but the ultralights present their own problems, like your proximity to the ground. If you're using an ultralight cot, you'd better be in a situation that doesn't require you to be 12" off the ground. Most ultralight cots have about at 2-3" ground clearance. (source)
So if you're camping outside in an area that has critters moving under you, you might want something a bit more than an ultralight cot.
If you're camping indoors your main focus needs to be on conservation of space. Whether indoors means in a large family tent, or in a rickity cabin, having some breathing room is a luxury you don't know you have until it's gone.
Double stacked cots for couples are a great resource for tight quarters, because they can sleep two people in the footprint of just one cot!
The season you choose to go camping has a pretty big impact on which cot you should use. We're going to revert back to some basic high school laws of energy, like conduction, to go over why the difference in types of cots makes a difference depending on the season. However, we're going to keep the seasons discussed limited to summer and winter, because these are the only "extreme" conditions that would require this much thought preparation.
Simple science time! If you're camping outdoors or indoors in a very warm climate, you know that air movement and little insulation are going to be your best friends when it comes to staying cool.
So the cot that you need to bring on these trips needs to put you in a position where you have air flow above you and underneath you, but keeps you as close to the ground as possible. At the same time it needs to be a breathable thin layer of material that doesn't trap the heat coming off of your body.
Now let's work in the opposite direction. If staying elevated on a thin piece of breathable material is what kept you warm, it seems probable that getting closer to the ground with some insulation might keep you warmer, right? BINGO! So during the winter you're looking for a thicker cot that sits on, or very close to, the ground. (source)
Are you camping 200 yards from where you parked your car, or are you about to journey deep into the bush for a few days? This is a great distinction when it comes to choosing the best camping cot for the money!
Close Short Camping Trips
If you're going to Yellowstone, where you can get out of your car and get to your camp grounds in about 30 mins, you're in a pretty good spot. This means you can think more of comfort than of practicality!
A few more cushions, pillows, and blankets aren't going to matter that much in the overall duration of this trip.
The cot you'd want to bring on this type of trip can be a bit bulkier in weight or dimensions if you'd like to not have to sacrifice too much comfort. This is personal preference, but personally I would bring every creature comfort I could on a trek this short.
Long and Far Camping Trips
When your adventures take you on a long trek into the wilderness, the last thing you want to do is make it anymore difficult than you know it's going to be. So on the trips where you know you'll be packing in more than a mile and a half, it makes sense to travel as light as possible.
That's where the ultralight cots can really come in handy! Unless you're a side sleeper...
Granted, like we talked about earlier, they're not for the rainforest adventures or situations where you'd want to avoid having critters crawl in bed with you. However, in our experience, when you're packing in 3 miles to go on an elk hunt, and you've already got your hunting gear, the last thing you want is to bring a 15lb metal frame camping cot.
Our Top 2 Choices
In a hurry? Here's a snapshot of what's below:
Review of the Best Camping Cots
Here's our complete review of this year's best camping cots for the money:
Coleman 765353 Trailhead II Military Style Camping Cot
Let's start with the beginners model of what you might need. This cot is about as basic as it gets, and can be used in most situations successfully. If you're going somewhere warm, the breathable material will allow for easy air flow, and since it's roughly 17" off the ground you won't have to worry about bugs crawling in bed with you.
It's certainly not the most compact sleeping tool you could take on a trip, so this one falls into the "short distance" camp that we talked about earlier. The folded dimensions of this cot are 40.2 in. x 7.9 in. x 3.9 in, which means it's a bit bulky to carry around even when folded, also not a good reason to take it on longer treks.
However it can support someone up to 6ft and 300 lbs with ease, so the weight limit should be helpful, the height, not so much.
Like we discussed earlier, and in our personal experience here at survive the wild, the ultralight cot is the premium in longer than normal camping trips, but not taller than normal people. The Moon Lence brand is pretty new to the camping scene, but they're doing something very right with this model!
Not many of these specialty cots can support up to 350 lbs, and still be folded to fit in a 15" x 6" cylinder that weighs less than 5 lbs.
The material is waterproof, which is great for those summer showers, but the material could stand to be a bit more breathable. It's not unbearable, but it's not a summer cot for sure! All in all it certainly deserves an above average rating.
Considered the "universal sleeper", this affordable camping cot meets the needs of most situations. Longer than a twin bed, able to support 400 lbs, and a lifetime warranty makes the Teton Sports Camping cot one of the best on the market!
Even though it's a traditional model that sits 14" above the ground, it's a reliable piece of equipment that will last you many a camping trip, and will weather some of the harshest situations with ease. The only real issue is that it folds up to 42.5" x 8.5" x 5.5" and weighs 24 lbs, which is like carrying a folded outdoors chair. So you don't want to take this on a trip longer than a mile or so.