Is A Camping Cot Worth It? (Explained)

You like to tent camp and you no doubt have tried to figure out how to get the best night’s sleep. Maybe you’ve tried a camping mat. Or you tried an air mattress. Now you’re considering whether sleeping on a camping cot is worth it. 

Sleeping on a camping cot is worth it if you consider the downsides and upsides and determine the best cot for your needs. Choose a cot that will fit you and your tent. Then make room to haul it with your other camping gear. Finally, setting it up properly will ensure you get a good night of sleep.

Camping is the best when you get a good nights sleep

What are the upsides of using a cot?

A quality camping cot can offer a comfortable night of sleep if set up properly and a few details I mention here are considered. 

A cot can also give you a place to sit when getting dressed in the morning or changing into a swimming suit during the day or putting on your socks and shoes.

One great benefit that many people don’t think of until they start using it is the extra room for gear underneath if you choose a cot that’s up off the ground at least six inches or so.

Sleeping on a cot when camping can also be warmer in cooler weather because you are up off and removed from the ground by several inches. 

A cot can also be cooler in warmer weather. You can have the comfort of a level and cushy sleeping surface and have a bit more airflow that keeps you a bit cooler in summer with your tent windows unzipped a bit for airflow. I just love a gentle breeze when falling asleep in a tent while camping.

A cot used properly can lead to a great night of sleep while camping

What are the downsides of using a camping cot?

A good cot can be a bit more expensive. Just know that comfort can come at a steeper price. If you are a bigger guy like I am you may need a larger, sturdier cot. These can also be a bit more expensive.

But in the long run, if you consider the many years you gain from owning a quality constructed cot it’s likely worth it to pay a bit extra now so that your sleep will be great for many camping trips to come. 

Sometimes it can be a challenge to get a cot level so you’re not sliding off in the night, fighting gravity. Follow our guide on leveling your cot and this won’t be a problem.

The weight of a cot can be an issue too. The bigger and heavier a cot is the more comfortable it usually is. If you opt for this kind of cot you’re likely going to want to camp in campgrounds where your car isn’t far from your campsite. Having to hike a heavy cot very far is not an option. 

There are smaller, lighter camping cots for backpackers and that may be something you want to consider if you need to do some hiking with your gear. 

Just know that this is likely not the kind of cot you want for the best night’s sleep and the size and the weight of your gear isn’t too big an issue. 

As you consider the size and weight of your gear a cot for camping can add bulk to your load when traveling. If you are strategic about how you load your vehicle this problem can often be minimized but it is something to consider. 

I’ll always opt for the most comfortable night of sleep I can get. For me, that means bringing a good cot even if that also means I have to choose to leave something else at home. So to make sure there’s room for the cot I’ll pack a frisbee instead of the corn hole game. 

Another downside can be whether it fits properly in your tent. I have a longer cot since I’m tall and this is something I’ve had to consider over the years as we’ve upgraded to better tents. You don’t want your cot or anything else hanging from your cot touching the sides of your tent. This can cause leaks when it rains. 

A cot can also cause damage to your tent floor, but that won’t be a problem if you follow our tips here.

You might try a hammock or an air mattress but a good cot is usually the better choice

There are other options

A sleeping pad is a different option. An inexpensive sleeping pad is often made of dense foam, is about half an inch thick, and rolls up for transport and storage.

More expensive versions of sleeping pads have ridges formed into the pad with a waffle-like pattern. This reduces the weight of the pad. This doesn’t give more padding but may help keep you a little cooler in the summer because the ridges allow air to circulate.

Some people think that sleeping on one of these pads will make bumpy ground more comfortable. But this isn’t true. They do very little to ease the discomfort of laying on the ground.

Other sleeping pads have an air outer skin that can be easily inflated. These give slightly more comfort when laying on the ground. But it’s not much of a difference. 

The main reason to choose a sleeping pad is for the thermal comfort, or warmth you will gain. 

A sleeping pad insulates you from the ground. The ground can be cold and can sap away your body temperature. So the sleeping pad helps minimize the loss of body heat between you, your sleeping bag, and the ground. 

An air mattress is the next option many people consider. An air mattress may not take up as much room as a camping cot once it is deflated, but it has its downsides. Sometimes literally. 

I’ve yet to find an air mattress that will hold air over multiple camping trips. The mattress might start out holding air on the first trip, but eventually, every air mattress I’ve used develops leaks. 

It’s no fun trying to keep an air mattress like that inflated. Too often will you wake up in the morning in a cocoon that is your half-deflated air mattress and you’re probably on the ground. 

One more problem with an air mattress is that you lose all the floor space that it takes up. With most cots, you have space underneath to store gear and shoes and such. 

A Hammock is one more sleeping option. But unless you have a hammock with a frame you won’t be using one inside of a tent. Most camping hammocks are intended to be hung from trees. 

A hammock can be a good option if you don’t mind hanging out in the trees at night. A hammock has several challenges that prevent many people from choosing it as a method for sleeping on an extended camping trip.

With these other options considered, let’s face it. Nothing beats the joy of camping and the near comfort of home. So a comfortable bet for a great night of sleep while camping goes to the top of the list. 

That’s where a good camping cot comes in.

In my experience of over thirty years of camping with my family, a good cot is worth it for camping in a tent every time, especially when the other options are a sleeping pad, air mattress, or hammock. 

For me, there’s nothing that matches the utility and comfort of a quality camping cot.

If you’re interested in whether a backpacking cot is worth considering, we explain that here.

  • 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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