If you know you're going to a place that's hotter than you're used to, or if you're old bones might be asking for a break from sleeping on the ground, then it might be time to get a cot for camping. We're here to show you the best options for sleeping outdoors on a cot.
We'll go over the reasons why you might need one, whether your cot should get you up high off the ground or keep you lower, and a few tips and tricks to turn a mediocre cot into a dream machine! We've done all the research for you so that you can make the best buying decision that will affect many a camping night.
When Do You Need a Cot?
The best time to use a cot is when you're camping during the summer/warmer times of the year in wet climates, because a cot is meant to get you up off the ground. By raising your self off the ground you're creating airflow around the spot where most of your body heat is lost, under you.
So being up off the ground is going to help you stay cooler and dryer with a cot.
Also, if you're a bit more aged than others, going camping as a couple, or someone who's a dedicated side sleeper, a cot is a great way to still be able to go camping overnight comfortably. Once you hit a certain age those old bones start to protest sleeping on the ground for more than one night. So it's best to preserve yourself when you can.
Up High or Down Low?
There are different heights when choosing a cot, you don't have to be 18 inches off the ground all the time. Sometimes all it really takes to get comfortable is 2-3 inches to allow for cushion.
The standard cot that's higher off the ground is an x-frame cot. These are better if you're in a wet environment and not sure it your sleeping bag will become a water bag or not overnight. However the x frame style is a lot more rigid and tends to make considerably more noise than the next style of sleeping cot.
A new style in cot design, the bow with mesh lining, offers the same ability to raise you up off the ground to improve air flow, but also uses struts that are bowed and will offer a comfortable amount of cushion. The mesh fabric allows heat put out from your body to escape easier from underneath you, which makes this a great option for summer camping or hot situations.
The bowed struts make it so that you don't feel like you're sleeping on scaffolding all night.
Tips to Make a Good Cot the Best
The number one complaint about cots is that they're so dang uncomfortable! So to ease that woe in a relatively cheap way you can purchase a relatively thin layer of memory foam (2"-3"), and throw that on the cot to add some cushion. You'll lose a bit of air flow which will make things hotter, but you'll certainly be more comfortable! These camping cot mattresses come in many variations.
When it comes to staying warm while raising yourself off the ground with a cot, it makes all the difference to add a solid gel pad between you and the cot. Otherwise you'll find yourself shivering in sleeping bags that are certified for -10 f in only 32 degree weather. That happens just because heat it primarily lost under your body, so having a solid pad to trap that heat will make all the difference in the world.
Our Top 3 Choices
In a hurry? Here's a snapshot of what's below:
Review of the Best Camping Cots
Below is our complete round-up review of the best camping cots of the year:
Coleman ComfortSmart Cot
Here it is, the starter cot for most campers and outdoorsy folks, the Coleman ComfortSmart Cot. This cot will forever go down in history as one of the most popular and easy to use cots on the market. It's got a lot of positive and negative aspects about it that have made it so famous. First of all being able to support 275 lbs makes this a very sturdy camping cot!
Secondly, when folded and packaged, this cot is 34.3 in. 25.4 in. 5.5 in. Which makes it great for traveling with a vehicle.
However the weight of this cot is pretty hefty at 18 lbs. If you're doing any sort of long distance travel with this cot, that 18 lbs will get pretty heavy after a while. But the sturdiness of this cot is hard to beat due to the heavy materials used to make it. You'll feel like you're sleeping on a thinner version of a bed.
Kamp-Rite Oversize Kwik Cot
If you're a bigger guy or gal then this is the cot for you. The Kwik Cot means it when they say "oversize", because this cot can fit someone who's 7 ft tall comfortably on the 84" x 33" sleeping surface. And the set up/break down time for this cot is mind blowing with an average of 2 minutes to completely assemble the cot!
A small feature that would likely go un noticed by those who don't appreciate the simple luxuries is the side pocket. When you're camping this side pocket is the equivalent of a sturdy night stand. One of those things you don't miss until you don't have it.
However, what makes this cot one of the best is also what makes is hard to handle, which is the size of it. If you're using it inside a tent, you'll want to make sure the dimensions work before you buy this. And the extra room on the cot means extra weight to carry, so if you're looking for a cot that you would bring with you then this might not be the one.
If you want a spare room bed, or you're just a bigger person though, this would be the best option for you.
This cot is the in between for a larger cot that is also a little lighter weight. The Coleman Trailhead II is able to comfortably sleep someone who's 6'2" and 300 lbs. That makes this cot great for someone who's on the taller side, who also enjoys the outdoors.
The Coleman is another cot that isn't exactly trail friendly, meaning if you're going to be carrying this cot for a long period of time, the 19.8 lbs that it weighs could get considerably heavy. And when folded to it's "compact" size of 40.2 in. x 7.9 in. x 3.9 in., it's not exactly something you can put in your hunting pack.
But all in all it's a great value for someone who needs a bigger tent that doesn't weigh as much as the original Coleman Cot.
The future of cots has arrived! The ultralight bow frame cot from Therm-a-rest is changing the game quickly. At a carry weight of less than 4 lbs, and sleeping comfort that is unmatched by a frame cot of any kind, the luxury lite cot is a clear winner!
Also, with an assembly time of less than 5 minutes, this cot makes camping or enjoying the outdoors overnight look easy.
However, this should be used as an in-tent cot, as you don't want those round edges sinking into the ground overnight. There have also been some complaints about just how slick the material is for this cot. Some have said that your pillow will act like a puck on ice, so if you have the option to get the pillow keeper from therm-a-rest it's recommended.