Are camping cots worth it?
Camping cots have been around for as long as people have been sleeping in tents. They’re essentially minimalist beds, with no fancy, newfangled frills like box springs or mattresses. Today’s camping cots are typically manufactured from steel or aluminum, with a canvass or polyester pad for sleeping on.
But just because something exists doesn’t mean you should buy it. Otherwise, you’d be walking around with a bunch of stuff you don’t need.
So are camping cots worth it? Read on, and find out.
Size and Weight
Let’s start with the most obvious drawbacks of using a camping cot: the size and weight. A sturdy, steel-framed cot will tip the scales at 20 pounds or more. Even a more lightweight aluminum-framed cot is going to come in at around 15 pounds. That’s 5 pounds more than a relatively heavy tent, and it’s just a cot!
Needless to say, you won’t want to be carrying anything that heavy on a deep woods excursion or a backpacking trip. The juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.
In terms of size, there’s some variation. Most cots are long enough to support a 6-foot, 6-inch individual, although there are some oversized cots available for extra-tall people. Width varies from around 28 inches to as much as 40 inches, so make sure your tent is roomy enough before you buy one.
And don’t forget to consider a cot’s height, either. Most tents get narrower as you get towards the top, and camping cots range between 12 and 18 inches in height. A cot that’s a narrow fit at ground level may be too big at the top.
Many camping cots are collapsible for transport. Some only fold down, while others collapse like a camping chair and can be carried in a bag. Either way, you’re still looking at a bulky piece of equipment. If you’re only hiking a few miles to your campsite, you can just lash one onto your backpack, but it’s going to be awkward.
Have you ever found the perfect campsite, set up your tent, and bedded down for the night, only to find that there’s a big, hard lump of dirt right in the middle of your back? It’s a miserable experience, but it’s an all too common one if you’re sleeping on a basic mat.
A sleeping cot gets you off the hard ground, and onto a smooth, supportive surface. Many cots even padded, or include a pillow for added comfort. All in all, they’re a significant upgrade over most other options.
Another way that camping cots keep you comfortable is by keeping you cool in warm weather and warm in cold weather. Because they’re elevated off the ground, they won’t obstruct airflow, which will improve circulation when your vents are open. When it’s cold, the frozen ground won’t soak up all your body heat.
Okay, you’re probably thinking. So I’ll be more comfortable. I can get that from an air mattress, and I can take an air mattress backpacking.
You’re not wrong. But there’s another significant benefit to camping cots that you won’t get from an air mattress: storage.
We talked a lot about the size and weight of a typical camping cot. However, once they’re set up, they also save you a significant amount of space. This is because they sit up off the ground, so you can stow your other gear underneath. You won’t need to keep your backpack in the vestibule or leave it to soak in the rain.
Of course, not all camping cots are the same. When you’re making your purchase, you’ll also want to consider a few factors:
- Frame material. Aluminum is lighter than steel. However, steel is stronger and more durable.
- We’ve already touched on this, but make sure your camping cot is long enough to support you. You don’t want to get to your campsite, only to end up with your feet hanging off the end of your cot.
- Weight capacity. While most camping cots are strong enough to support 300 pounds, many are even stronger. And some lightweight cots have lower weight limits that you’ll need to be aware of.
- Bunk options. There are a handful of small, bunk-style camping cots available. These are a great option if you’re camping with kids and need to save space.
Are camping cots worth it? It depends on what you’re doing.
They’re certainly more comfortable than basic sleeping mats. And anything that prevents pressure points and supports your back while you’re camping gets our support. They also improve air circulation and help save space, which are both nice bonuses.
On the other hand, they’re too bulky to be practical for deep woods camping or backpacking. That said, something like this is a solid choice for a hunting camp or multi-day camp where a little extra weight isn’t an issue. If you’re looking for something more lightweight, you’ll want to get one like this.