"How about we go camping deep into the wild this weekend, we're thinking 15 miles, you down?" At first you think "heck yea!", then you pick up your pack and realize after walking it to your vehicle that this thing is going to get HEAVY after a few miles. Come to find out, most of the weight is in that foldable old cot. Time to go ultralight!
When it comes to getting the right ultralight cot for you, it requires getting a few things right. You need to have the right support, the right frame, and the right material to make sure you don't freeze or over heat while sleeping on this thing. So let's get into this business!
Aspects to Consider Before Buying
Below are the key things to keep in mind while shopping:
There are generally two options for ultralight camping cot frames. One uses metal bars on either side of the mat that are supported by highly durable plastic rings. The other is the same layout, metal bars on either side of the mat, except they're supported by metal bars that cross the mat every 8 inches or so.
These aren't as ridiculous as something like a Kamp-Rite Cot, which is basically an RV.
If you have the luxury of finding a spot to bed down that is level, then the plastic circle options are easily the winner since they're the lightest. However, if you have to bed down in an area that has relatively uneven ground cover (which is most of the outdoors), then the metal crossbars won't leave you sleeping at a tall angle. And if one leg is above the ground, just go find a rock to level it out folks.
Let's say you're someone who's done any amount of over-night camping or backpacking before, you probably have a firm grip on how important a great night's sleep is. It helps if you're not the walking dead the next morning. The primary culprit of loss of sleep, especially for side sleepers, on these trips is lack of support from your cot.
With an ultralight camping cot there's not much margin for error. If the lack of support has you sagging an inch or two below the frame, then you're basically half way on the ground. In our experience, to remedy this, you want a solid frame like we discussed before, and a HIGH support weight.
We're talking double what you weigh, at the LEAST.
Portability for Backpacking
You're not looking at this compact and light outdoor bed because you just enjoy minimalist life, right? This piece of equipment is meant to serve a specific purpose, to get you off the ground just enough to sleep, easily pack up, and start walking again. It works great if you're into stuff like truck camping.
So the portability of your bed is the main priority. You can bring an inflatable camping mattress if you absolutely need it, but it's not recommended. So that means you want a cot option that weighs as little as possible, and can either fit in your pack or clip on to it.
If if weighs more than 8 lbs, or can't fit in the bag, don't use it! Especially if you're going camping as a couple. 10 miles into your hike is a bad time to realize you should have packed lighter.
Our Top 3 Choices
In a hurry? Here's a snapshot of the best ultralight camping cots:
Review of the Best Ultralight Camping Cots
Here are the top ultralight models of the year. Let's see what makes each model unique so you can find the perfect option for your next outing.
KingCamp Compact Cot
By a very narrow margin, this bed from King Camp is the lightest cot out there at barely 4 lbs when it's packed away! With a packed away size of 14 × 5.1 × 5.1 inches, this bad boy is one of the most convenient options out there.
It does come with a pillow, which you can get rid of to make more room and lighten the load, but if you have a few inches to spare in your pack, why not be comfortable. The material is a little bit too thick for our liking. The last thing you want on a trek is to wake up in a pool of your own sweat when you're trying to sleep, so that's something to keep in mind if you're going on an adventure in the summer.
This is, however, the most reasonably priced option out there for what you're going to get. The frame of this cot is a mostly rigid aluminum build, but very sturdy. Certainly worth the money if you're going to use it more than once a year.
Therm-a-Rest LuxuryLite Mesh Cot
Here we have the Cadillac of space efficient cots! At less than 5 lbs (bag included) the Therma-Rest holds the title for our favorite in convenience and portability. It's a perfect blend of two different frame styles as well. It has the plastic circles to save space when packed, but also has collapsible metal bars for added support!
Something this nice is well worth the money, and will out last a cheaper knock off.
The mesh sleeping surface makes it a great option for those warm treks into the wilderness. If things get a bit too cool though, you can throw a thick blanket under yourself, and you're good to go cool weather camping or backpacking!
This is the bare bones model of a minimalist outdoor bed, and is great if you're wanting to stay within a narrow budget. The Mountain Trails Basecamp Cot is as basic as it gets, and toes the line of what would be a good option for a light camping bed.
At just above 8lbs, this sleeping tool is over the line of what we consider a "reasonable weight" to carry for longer trips. However, if cost is the primary issue, this is the sleeper for you!
The frame is also a bare bones situation. With non foldable support bars along the bottom, even when it's packed up it's not exactly a efficient use of space. If you're looking for the bargain though, this one is the winner!