Award-winning travel writer Will McGough posed the question, “what happens when one ultralight purist forgoes his burrito-size sleeping pad for a cot?”.
Friends made fun of him, but he was undeterred because he was sick of sleeping on pads that proved “either too hard or too soft, never in the sweet spot between.”
McGough’s cot research unearthed news of a dramatic evolution in camping cot design and fabrication over time, morphing from bulky, heavy, granite-hard camp beds to lightweight, portable gear. Today’s camping cot is light years ahead of your grandfather’s hard-as-nails version.
While he doesn’t recommend cots to couples intent upon wild sex, McGough says he finally sleeps like a baby after finding the folding cot that was perfect for his body and wallet. Ready to take the plunge, too? We stand ready to help you find one that’s the envy of your fellow campers.
Coleman Camping Cot with Side Table – Our Pick!
This Coleman cot with side table and a cup holder gets so many rave reviews; it’s a wonder retailers can keep them in stock. Manufactured by one of the most respected U.S. camping gear companies, this 80(L)-x 44(W)- x 32(H)-inch folding cot suits folks up to 6-feet; 6-inches tall, so if your feet hang off the bottom of every cot you’ve tried, this one could solve your dilemma.
A durable steel frame supports this cot. It’s been tested and found accommodating to campers who weigh up to 300 pounds. A 1-year limited warranty comes with this product, so if you find it’s not everything you sought, save the receipt, so you have recourse.
Since this cot is adjustable, you don’t have to limit yourself to snoozing during your camping adventures. Pull it up to the fire to read a book or just recline it to spend time fixated on the beauty of starry night skies. A carry bag gets your 20.7-pound cot to and from locations, so no worries about finding a way to transport it.
KingCamp Folding Camping Cot – Also Great!
A bit pricier, this KingCamp folding cot comes in two shades of green, one of which is an upgraded version that includes a carry bag. Fabricated of high-strength steel tubes for a firm and even weight distribution and stability, the 600D double oxford cloth is tightly woven for durability.
At 74.8(L)-×26.8(W)-×18.9(H)-inches and with a weight capacity of 265 pounds, this KingCamp gear accommodates people weighing less than the Coleman, but since this cot weighs nearly 5 pounds less, the trade-off could be worthwhile. Seeking a cot that weighs only 15.9-pounds, comes with an anti-slip plastic mat and features a clever lock-system that ensures against middle-of-the-night collapses? This is it.
Stash this cot in a car trunk and open it up fast at your destination. Since no tools are needed, folding and unfolding takes seconds and requires only a light push in four directions to assemble it. A 3-in-1 pocket attached to the cot holds drinks, phones, magazines, and anything else you care to bring along on your camping trip.
You’ll pay almost twice as much for this folding cot as you would if you decide upon the Coleman. Still, if the price doesn’t factor into your buying decision, this single-person collapsing “bed in a bag with a pillow” is even recommended for indoor use if unexpected guests drop in for the night.
Designed to sleep folks weighing up to 440-pounds comfortably, this army green pop-up bed requires no mattress pad, sheets, or camping pillows because it’s engineered for comfort and back support. Weighing 18 pounds, transport and storage is a breeze, and given its roomy expanse, this cot is big enough to accommodate two small youngsters.
Manufactured of water-resistant, easy-to-clean polyester twill fabric, heavy-duty, flat steel tubes are easily engaged when setting up and taking the cot down in just seconds. Extras include a large pocket organizer to stow everything from toys and water bottles to phones and keys. Get a matching pillow and carry bag, both of which could justify spending a little more on this cot.
Don’t let the price tag scare you off before reading more about this Helinox Lit cot that costs five times as much as that Coleman! What are you paying for? A cot that weighs less than a pair of hiking boots says the manufacturer, so if you can’t deal with toting a heavy cot into the woods, the trade-off might be to your liking.
This cot weighs less than 3 pounds and folds down to a tidy 5- x 21-inches. The reason this product weighs so little has to do with the proprietary aluminum alloy legs and frame, yet when tested, sleepers weighing up to 265-pounds are perfectly comfortable. Pressure-fit legs help distribute that weight uniformly.
Fast setup is accomplished by pulling a single bungee cord mechanism that unfolds the cot in seconds, and when you’re ready to pack up, it comes down just as fast to be tucked into a 600-weave ripstop polyester carry case that’s zippered to make packing effortless.
This Desert Walker cot offers shoppers the same trade-off as the Helinox mentioned above cot: In return for spending twice as much as you would for the Coleman cot in this review, this camping bed weighs less than 3 pounds and comes with a handy, free storage bag, too.
Are you tired of looking at green cots? This one comes in grey, white, black, and green, and for the price of a fast-food lunch, you can order the one in a camouflage pattern. The fabric is a unique oxford blend that’s both sturdy and comfortable. The ultralight nature of this Desert Walker product is also due to robust and beefy 7001 aviation-grade aluminum construction and accommodates campers weighing up to 440 pounds.
Easy to remove from its carry bag and quick to erect, the sleeping surface on this cot measures 72.8(L)-x23.6(W)-x5.9(H)-inches, so it’s comparable in size to other cots in this review that are designed to be close to the ground.
When you first lay eyes on this affordable, stylish product the price tag may come as a surprise, but it explains why Coleman is a leader in the camping gear industry and an innovator, too. Marketed to campers who have not been able to find a cot that is truly comfortable, this one is attracting plenty of notice.
Available in either black or grey, the ComfortSmart features a thick foam sleeping pad that differentiates itself from the standard camper cot “look.” Yes, you will compromise carry weight in favor of a super sleeping experience, but this affordable cot has a durable steel frame that’s built to support campers who weigh up to 300-pounds and are up to 6-feet, 6-inches tall.
Given many benefits, you might be happy to carry this to your camping spot despite its weight. At 80(L)- x 30(W)- x 15(H)- inches, this 21-pound cot folds down to fit most car trunks and comes with a 1-year limited warranty.
This cot is the first choice of mountaineers who confer 5-star ratings on it because it’s comfortable and beautifully engineered. Crafted of powder-coated aluminum frame and 600D Polyester fabric, this cot design’s angled end legs are explicitly designed to prevent body rocking and movements disturbing one’s sleep.
Proprietary sidebar support and a unique telescoping center configuration add both strengths and contribute to stability. The side organizational pocket gives you quick access to everything you need during the night, like your phone, flashlight, or bear repellent.
Measuring 80(L)-x 31( W)- x 20(H)-inches, this roomy gray or sage green cot weighs nearly 20 pounds, but if you’ve had problems with cot movement in the past and weigh less than 325-pounds, this product may have your name written all over it.
Folks living in Maine know a thing or two about staying warm and comfortable when temperatures drop, and when you factor in Swedish engineering, you could find this cot irresistible. Priced at the high end of other products in this review, you get plenty of value and comfort if it tops your shortlist.
Best compared to the Coleman ComfortSmart model, this cot also accommodates sleepers weighing up to 300 pounds, and when fully opened, 3-inches of memory foam mattress can mean the difference between a great night’s sleep and one that doesn’t cut it.
This cot with steel framing and locking legs folds down to 37(L)-x32(W)-inches for storage, and it weighs a hefty 30-pounds, so this isn’t the best choice if you’re trekking miles to your campsite. But if you’re willing to suffer for a 7-inch mattress and a removable, washable cover, we can’t blame you for making this choice.
This self-proclaimed cozy cot offers an elevated resting place for campers weighing up to 400 pounds, but don’t let the manufacturer hear you calling it a cot. It’s a “heavy-duty portable collapsible sleeping bed,” dude.
This gear is manufactured with a steel frame, but it outdoes oxford cotton textiles used to make other products in this review. Eltow’s oxford cloth is a hefty1680D, beating out the 600D fabrics used by competitors. Steel pipe frame construction and quick setup allow campers to get bunks ready for sleep in just seconds, and at 14 pounds, this cot is lighter and easier to carry.
Measuring 74(L)- x 26(W)- x 14.5(H)-inches assembled, it folds down to 41(L)- x 12(W)- x 6(H)-inches to fit the free carry case. An attached pocket for essentials – bug spray, sunscreen, phone – holds small items for fast access. The unique feature of this camping cot is the fact that the mattress isn’t sewn to the frame.
Costing more than eight times the amount you would pay for the Coleman topping this list if you don’t sleep alone and hate carrying heavy gear, this purchase could be an act of love rather than an expenditure that eats up a year’s camping supply budget.
Weighing 13 pounds, this beige tension cot won’t show dirt, and if you are fastidious about cot height because you’ve had one too many close-to-the-ground bad experiences, the 12-inch height profile could win you over. Assemble it outside or in your tent, as long as that tent is roomy enough to accommodate this baby.
While it folds down to 31(L)- x 11(W)- x 11(H)-inches when set up, this cot gives you 67-inches of length, so for tall people or those who just crave more legroom, the price tag may be no big deal. According to Snow Peak, “The X-Leg design not only allows for smart folding for stowing, but also creates a tension that responds to the weight of the person lying on the cot (the more weight, the more tension).”
How to choose the best folding cot for camping
Whether you’re a newbie and only want the basics because you just want to get your butt off the ground or you’ve been camping for so many years, you can tell whether a product will work for you just by looking at it, there’s a website you may wish to consult if you are looking for the motherlode of data on the topic of folding cots.
Researchers working for this lab pride themselves on detail and minutia, so if you’ve lots of time on your hands, we recommend reading every word of this report. That said, we cover the basics so you can make a proper buying decision. Of course, you probably already know that the more research you conduct, the fewer chances of lying on your cot, looking up at the stars, and mumbling aloud, “I can’t believe I chose this cot!”
Which is better: a folding cot or inflatable mattress?
Personal preference should always be the deciding factor, but you’re more likely to make a better choice if you use the following criteria.
Opt for a cot if you:
- Require underneath storage spaces and places
- Plan to use your cot as a bed by night and a chair or task seat by day
- The weather you encounter is probably going to be crappy
- You’ve had your fill of creatures having direct access to your bed
- Love being elevated for myriad reasons
- Don’t want to have to pack a pump just in case
- Have a history of rips, tears and air leakage ruining camping trips
- Want an easy setup process
- You tend to sleep best on your back and want to avoid back strain
- Seek longevity and durability for the long haul
- You are bothered by the squeaks and noises delivered by airbeds.
Choose an inflatable mattress if you:
- Hate carrying and setting up heavy gear
- The only cot you can afford weighs a ton
- You’ve got nowhere to store or transport a cot
- You like being able to get the firmness you crave
- Cots make you feel like the Hunchback of Notre Dame upon awakening
- Don’t have room in your tent for a cot of any size
- Haven’t enough trunk space to accommodate a cot
- Need the most amount of support and comfort
- Sleep on your side or your stomach.
How important is “ease of setup” to you?
This question doesn’t require a lot of research to deliver a proper answer: Given the limited amount of time you have in the great outdoors, why ever would you want to drag a cot that was difficult to set up?
You want to be able to get to your site, take the cot out of its carry bag, and make it fully operational with just a few moves involving pulling down legs and stretching out the sleeping platform until it is taut.
If someone with a degree in engineering created the description or an instruction sheet that comes with the cot you are interested in looks like it, you might not want to go there. On the other hand, reviews emphasizing quick setup can help you make your buying decision – especially if the manufacturer insists that tests prove it takes just seconds to do the job.
Make your decision based on portability
If you’re a history buff, you must see the folding cot George Washington slept on back in 1775. It is currently on display at the “With Liberty and Justice for All” exhibit in Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
Talk about portability. This bed folded down to fit into a trunk that was transported by horse and carriage from one battle site to another.
You don’t have a horse-drawn rig capable of transporting your folding camping cot, but you do have a car trunk and a back seat, so factor both in when you consider products.
It’s a good idea to take the measure of the cot in its folded position and then do the same to your trunk to make sure it fits. If you like to trek far distances to find solitude, those 3-pound cots could be worth the extra money you’ll spend.
Get plenty of comfort and ergonomic benefits
Plenty of people who would love to go camping take a pass because in the past, they suffered back and body discomfort as a result of sleeping on unforgiving canvas surfaces. Still, ergonomic science has become part of the camping cot design process, and many of these products are both collapsible, and they maintain spine health.
The cot that supports more than your weight and doesn’t sag when you test it out doesn’t strain your back, side or stomach, and also has a solid framework that isolates noise and doesn’t transfer motion is likely to be the most comfortable choice for you. Add points for the cot that has superior, thick padding.
How much will you spend on your camping cot?
The sky’s the limit, so your job is to get the most value, comfort, and transportability for your dollar. Expect to spend at least $50 for a decent product, and if you can find a pricier cot that’s been marked down because new styles are being introduced, that’s the art of the deal.
The more complicated design plus size can quickly boost your purchase price to $500, especially if you fall in love with one that’s tricked out to do everything but light your campfire. If you’re rolling in cash, bid on the folding cot King Tutankhamun slept on more than 3,300 years ago. If not, just follow our recommendations.
Bells and whistles
Even the simplest camp cot can be accessorized with innovative new products on the market that can be purchased separately, so the least expensive cot can be turned into a hub. Here’s a taste:
- This Teton Sports Cot Organizer is awesome and inexpensive.
- Camping sheets help keep you warm in winter and cool in summer, not to mention adding plenty of comfort.
- Pair your cot with a Powerlix sleeping pad that has so many separate air compartments; you can sleep soundly without worrying about punctures.
- Keep things safe and dry by putting them into an under-cot storage bag that’s fully waterproof.