Is Hiking With A Backpacking Cot Worth It (Helpful Tips)

Is a cot worth carrying on a backpacking trip?

Camping cots will add weight to your pack but they are worth the cost and worth carrying on a backpacking trip if you take seriously your need for uninterrupted sleep at night while on the trail.

Here’s what you need to consider when deciding on whether you’ll take a backpacking cot on your next trek.

Is Hiking With A Backpacking Cot Worth It

You might think of a camping cot as a luxury item, but not if you value good sleep after a long day of rigorous hiking. 

If you have the space in your pack and are willing to carry something that’s not going to provide any nutritional value (unless you plan to weave it into a basket for foraging nuts and berries), then sure, it’s worth it. 

It does make sleeping on the hard ground more comfortable, but it will add weight to your pack. If you’re confident in your ability to sleep just about anywhere, then maybe it’s not worth taking one. But many people will have better sleep on a backpacking cot than just sleeping on the ground.

The advantages of taking a cot

While some backpacking purists would only consider cots as a luxury they would never consider, you and your fellow backpackers will be happier for having them. Here are some of the reasons why.

Cots allow for a better night’s sleep.

The uneven ground of a camping site can cause back pain and make it difficult to fall asleep on the hard ground. 

With a cot, you’ll enjoy more even and softer support for your bones, which will help reduce back and hip pain and will improve the quality of your sleep, so that when you wake up in your tent the next morning you’ll actually feel ready to take on whatever adventures await.

Cots can help keep bugs away.

And not just because they’re off the ground. Some models are also covered by mesh netting that protects against insects, which is helpful if mosquitoes or other pests have been bothering you at previous campsites. 

Check with local resources before your trip about any insect-borne diseases in the area before choosing this type of model to use on your trip, if there aren’t any known cases then it might not be worth spending extra money just because a cot with bug netting offers added protection.

Cots protect against cold temperatures on the ground

Cold temperatures coming from direct contact with hard surfaces like rocks or dirt can be a problem when you have no more insulation underneath than a sleeping pad. 

Backpacking cots will add even more comfort when combined with sleeping pads for additional warmth (especially helpful in winter months!).

If you must sleep on the ground then we have tips to help make that warmer and more comfortable.

Make the best of your backpacking with a great night of sleep on a cot

No back pain from uneven ground (or rocks).

One of the biggest benefits of a backpacking cot is that you won’t have to deal with uneven ground, or even rocks and small sticks. 

Sleeping on the ground without a cot can be made more comfortable if you are willing to gather leaves and such to spread under your sleeping pad, but that’s not always possible. 

Even if you’ve worked hard to build up a padded surface with the available brush and leaves, you can still find significant discomfort while trying to sleep through the night. 

You might find yourself waking up every hour or so because the surface beneath your foam pad is just not as leave and padded as it needs to be. 

A backpacking cot raises you up off the ground and takes those issues away. Instead of contorting yourself around awkward lumps in the dirt, you can set up your backpacking cot and enjoy an uninterrupted night of sleep

Fewer insect bites

Lying on the ground, even in your sleeping bag, can make you more exposed to not only mosquitoes but also for ants, ticks, and other insects.

While your sleeping bag is good protection against insects biting you, having a cot underneath also provides an extra layer of protection. 

Backpacking adventures await Do you need a cot

The disadvantages of taking a cot

Cots add bulk and weight to your backpack

Since cots are bulkier and heavier than a sleeping pad, they don’t pack as effectively. Rolling up a typical compact cot you’ll find could take up important space in your hiking backpack. 

If you’re willing to forgo the comfort of a cot in favor of more space in your pack for other things, then a sleeping pad might be the way to go. You can often secure a sleeping pad to the outside of your pack.

Damage to the floor if you are using a tent

If you are also using a tent you may need to take precautions to keep from damaging the floor of your tent with the feet of your backpacking cot. We give tips here on how to do that.

Your cot may need to be protected from getting wet

Cots can also cause problems on backpacking trips that involve deep river crossings. Trying to keep your cot dry will mean you have to remove it from your pack and carry it over your head, which obviously is an inconvenience. 

If you know that there will be no deep water river cross on your backpacking adventure then this is not a problem.

Less insulation

If you are hiking in warm weather this may not be a problem. 

If you’re hiking in winter and all you use is a sleeping bag and cot then you may find ambient air temperature makes it harder to stay warm as opposed to sleeping on the ground with a pad. 

I recommend using an insulated pad on the cot, but that’s another item to carry. 

If you’re camping during cold weather with other people, you might want to consider sleeping close together to take advantage of body heat as well. 

Consider using a sleeping bag liner to add some insulation as well. An added benefit to having this is that it can be used by itself if it gets too hot at night.

Sleeping on the ground with a sleeping pad is typically more efficient for insulation, as your body heat gets trapped between your sleeping bag and the ground.

But, again, for the best night of sleep, I recommend securing a sleeping pad to the outside of your backpack so that with the cot you have the best camping experience with the comfort of the cot and the warmth of the pad when it is cold.

  • 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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