How To Level A Cot While Camping (5 Simple Tips)

There are a few things that can make a great camping trip not so great. One of them is a bad night’s sleep. And one pesky problem that can make for an unrestful night is a cot that’s not level. 

Level a cot on uneven ground by clearing the ground of any debris that will interfere with the cot. Align the cot in the direction of the least slope of the ground. If needed, use dense foam padding or half-inch boards to elevate the unlevel end of the cot.

It’s no fun to find yourself fighting gravity as you roll one way or another or wake up in the night with your feet hanging off the end of the cot. But, having your sleep disturbed when your cot is uneven is preventable. Follow these steps and you’ll be all set up for good sleep on a level camping cot.

Make a plan for a level cot and sleep your best for the best camping ever

Determine The Material For Leveling

Nobody wants an unlevel cot but it’s best to plan like you will have a cot that’s not level. Better to have material with you for leveling your cot and not need it than to need it and not have it. 

As you consider the type of material to use for leaving the cot note the cot’s type of legs.

If your cot has individual legs with feet, then you only need pieces of leveling material large enough to fit under each foot of the cot. 

If your cot has legs connected with crossbars that rest on the ground, then you’ll need sections of material that span the width of the crossbar. If you need to get things perfectly level on one corner you may choose to place the leveling material to lift just one side or corner of the cot. Done this way you may not need leveling material spanning the whole width of the crossbar. 

When picking out the leveling material you should want to try sections of dense foam pads about half an inch thick. This is the kind of foam that interlocking floor padding is made from. Sections can be stacked to get one end or corner of your cot just right. Just be sure these are dense enough to not be flattened out under your weight. Try them out at home first. 

It’s also better to consider bringing a combination of materials for leveling your cot. Bring dense foam, but also bring sections of half-inch thick boards. This way you have a couple of options and combinations of material to experiment with. 

Scout Out The Best Site

This can start before you even leave home. Many campgrounds have photos and descriptions of the campsites that can be reserved. 

You can even call in advance to ask which sites would be most level. 

Another trick we’ve found helpful is that if you’ve reserved a site ahead of time and get there and find the site very uneven you can often go back to the camp office and ask to pick out a different site that’s available for your stay. 

We’ve often done this and have been very glad we took a few extra minutes to switch to a better campsite before we even unload the car. 

Prepare The Site

Now look at the campsite and determine the general location for the tent. Look at the slope of the ground and find the most level spot on the site that’s big enough for the tent and tie-downs.

Now remove any debris from the spot where you think you want your tent. Get rid of rocks and sticks and smooth the surface where you’ll set up the tent. If you find a root sticking out of the ground, decide now if it’s going to be a problem for either your tent floor or for your cot. Move the tent to avoid it if you must.

This is a good time to check out our article on protecting your tent floor from damage when using a cot

Find the most level spot for your tent on the campsite

Choose The Placement of The Tent

Once you have a location for the tent on your site chosen and cleaned up you should prepare the placement of the tent. Which direction the tent will face is important for where your entry door will be but it’s also important to consider where the cot will be in the tent. 

Stand back and look at the slope of the ground. As good as your campsite is it may still have some slope to it and even a cot that’s uneven by an inch or two will be noticed in the middle of the night. 

You should also do your best to get things set up in the daylight and well before bedtime. It’s frustrating fumbling around in the dark trying to get things just right for a good night’s sleep on a cot

Next, if your tent is free-standing, just set it up, but don’t stake it down yet. 

This will give you a chance to put your cot inside to see if the ground is truly level. If it’s not you may be able to live with it if you can make your cot level. Try it out before you stake down the tent. 

You may think at first you’ve chosen level ground but once the cot is in place and you’re laying down, you could be surprised to find yourself feeling the pull of gravity one way or another. It’s better to find that out in the daylight while you can still move your tent. 

Camping will be at its best at night with a little planning and preparation

Select The Proper Placement Of The Cot On Uneven Ground

If your cot still isn’t level consider if changing the angle of your cot inside the tent evens things out. 

If you have enough room to maneuver inside the tent then you may find a more level arrangement by angling your cot in one direction or another. Take your time here, it’s worth it. Experiment. 

One other nice thing about using a cot, at least one that has some room underneath, is that you can move some of your gear under your cot giving you more options for the angle of your cot inside the tent. 

If you still haven’t found totally level ground then it’s time to level your cot. 

Get out the foam padding and the boards. Place a combination of whatever you need under the end of the cot that’s downhill. Once you think you have things level lay down for a few minutes and try it out. It may take a few moments for you to feel a tug in a certain direction if things still aren’t level. 

Once you’ve got it all figured out and the cot is level get your sleeping bag and pillow all set up and ready for a good night of sleep. 

When you get to the end of the day filled with camping fun you’ll be exhausted and so glad you have your cot level and your sleeping bag ready to climb into.

  • 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.

    You can learn more about me and find more of my articles here.

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