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Is a Camping Cot Worth It?

The camping cot has been around for as long as people have been sleeping in tents. They’re essentially beds without the frills. Instead of a box spring or mattress, they typically use a steel or aluminum frame and are equipped with a canvas or polyester pad for sleeping on.  

But when you’re on an outdoor adventure, is the juice worth the squeeze? Just because something exists doesn’t mean you need it. In this article, we’ll consider a variety of different aspects of camping cots. We’ll raise the necessary questions and determine whether or not camping cots are worth it. 

Size and Weight

Most cots are 18 inches wide and long enough to support a person six-and-a-half feet tall, so they’re designed to hold a full-grown adult, but when it comes to camping, that’s not always the issue. 

Compared to a sleeping pad, camping cots are big and heavy. A sturdy, steel-framed cot will tip the scales at 20 pounds or more. An aluminum frame will certainly be lighter, but you’ll still have to lug around 15 pounds. It should go without saying, but you won’t want to carry anything that heavy during a deep woods excursion or a backpacking trip. 

And while many camping cots are collapsible for transport, some only fold down and others collapse like a camping chair. 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.

two sweepy boyz
Two boys sleeping comfortably on a camping cot.

Comfort

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 are 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. Since 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.

Check out our top 10 tips for staying comfortable while camping.

Storage

Okay, you’re probably thinking: 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.

camping cot
Camping cots are great if you plan on staying in one spot for a while.

Are camping cots worth it? 

There are two ways of answering this question. If you have to pack up your campsite and move each morning, camping cots are too bulky to be practical. But if you’re planning on remaining at a campsite for multiple days then camping cots are a solid choice. The extra weight will arguably be worth it. Plus, they’re much more comfortable and supportive than basic sleeping mats. 

Are camping cots worth buying? Check out our roundup of best camping cots.

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