Do Cots Ruin Tents (simple methods to protect the floor)

You’ve decided to take a cot on your next camping adventure but how do you keep from damaging the floor of your expensive tent?

Protecting the floor of a tent from being ruined by the feet of a cot can be achieved with careful thought and planning. Start by clearing debris from the area where you will pitch the tent. Use a ground cloth or tarp under the tent. Inside, using carpet or padding under the legs will keep your cot from damaging the tent floor.

Camping cots can be great for a good nights sleep and they dont have to ruin your tent

Sleeping on a cot while camping can lead to a great night of sleep. But keeping your expensive tent in good shape and lasting for many years to come means that you need to give some thought to protecting the floor of the tent. 

You don’t want holes in the floor that you’ll have to patch later. Keeping the floor of the tent in good shape is also a good means of keeping out moisture. Moisture and a bad night’s sleep can ruin a good camping trip.

If you’re concerned about keeping the floor of your tent away from the cold ground check out our Guide To Insulating The Ground When Camping

Follow these steps to protect the floor of your tent from being ruined. 

Clear The Site For Your Tent

Take a few minutes to remove rocks, sticks, and other loose debris that could damage the floor of your tent from underneath. You may even need to dig up sharp rocks that are on the chosen location for your tent.

Making a smooth surface for your tent will keep sharp items from puncturing the bottom of your tent when you’re walking around inside or from the pressure of your gear or cot. 

Use a Tent Footprint or Ground Tarp

Once the ground is clear of debris you should lay down a tent footprint or a tarp. A tent footprint is a water-resistant material that’s made for your specific tent. Most manufacturers make them available for your specific tent. 

You can also use a tarp which works best if you cut it to size. A side note here is that it’s important that when using a tarp tent footprint you use a size that doesn’t extend past the edges from underneath your tent. If it does it will collect water sending it underneath your tent when it rains. Not good.

Dont let a good camping cot ruin your tent floor

Protect The Floor of The Tent From The Legs of The Cot

Now you’ll want to think about what you’ll use to protect the tent floor from the legs of the cot. 

Interlocking Foam Tiles

One way to protect the floor of your tent from being ruined is to use interlocking foam tiles. These are usually about a half-inch thick and lock together like puzzle pieces. They don’t take up a lot of space when traveling spread them out in your cargo area under or around your gear. 

These interlocking foam tiles not only protect the floor of your tent from damage but also provide a really comfortable surface inside the tent. 

A Section of Carpet

If you want the most comfort while camping and space in your vehicle isn’t too tight, then I suggest bringing a piece of carpet that fits inside your tent and covers the floor.

You’ll not only be protecting the floor of your tent from being ruined by your cot legs, but you’ll also have a nice surface to walk on which is not only comfortable but will also protect every square inch of the tent floor.

If you are tight on cargo space in your car or SUV, you may have room for a piece of indoor-outdoor carpet that’s sized for your tent floor. The benefits of this are that it’s fairly thin, and doesn’t take up as much space as carpet, but it also gives the benefit of being easy to clean. When you get home just hose it off and leave it in the sun to dry for a couple of hours. 

Strips of Carpet

If even using a thin carpet to cover the whole floor takes up too much space when traveling, then cut small squares of carpet to put under your cot feet, or cut strips of carpet for underneath the crossbars if your cot has these instead of feet. 

Strips of Dense Foam

Another option is to use squares or strips of dense foam to put underneath the feet or under the crossbar legs.

If you bring several sections of dense foam (or half-inch thick sections of board as I mention next) this has the added benefit of offering some option for correcting the level of your cot if the ground you’re on isn’t perfectly even. Just double or triple up the foam (or boards) on the end of the cot that needs to be raised. You should also check out our article on how to plan for a level cot when camping.

Thin Boards

If you prefer and want something more sturdy, especially if the legs of your cot are sharp, you could use a thin board such as strips of quarter-inch plywood, pine, or cedar. 

Tennis Balls

You may want to try using tennis balls and protection between the cot feet and tent floor. Carefully, with a sharp knife cut tennis balls with slits large enough to open up and slide onto the legs covering the feet of the cot. The benefit here is that if your cot moves a little the protection of the tennis balls stays with the cot.

Furniture Coasters

If you have limited space and your cot has feet and not crossbars then even simple furniture coasters or cups will work. The downside to these is that they can have rigged edges which could cause damage to the floor of your tent. So these aren’t my first option when tight on gear space. 

Furniture Sliders

Taking a step up from that idea of using furniture coasters is the furniture slider. These are slightly larger and foam-lined on top. They’re about half an inch thick with foam padding on top and semi-rigid plastic on the bottom. You can use the round version of these under cots with feet or the oval-shaped version under cots with crossbars for legs.

Just remember that camping will be most enjoyable when you take what you need to be comfortable and leave at home anything you don’t need. Learn to keep it simple and camping will be a blast.

Camping with cots doesn’t have to damage or ruin your tent. Just think carefully about preparing your site properly. Bring the right protection for your tent floor that matches your needs. Just a little investment and you’ll be on your way to making your expensive tent pay for itself for years to come.

  • Kevin

    About the Author

    Hi, I'm Kevin and I love getting outside. I want my articles to be as helpful as possible so that you can learn to enjoy getting outside more often yourself. So leave a comment if you have a question, find a typo, or think I missed something. I'd love to hear from you.

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