A camping cot can keep you warm, elevated, and comfortable outdoors. Here are the best camping cots currently on the market.
For many people, a good night’s sleep in the outdoors is an elusive goal. Sleeping on the ground, even with the help of inflatable or foam sleeping pads, is still sleeping on the ground.
A cot is a great alternative to sleeping on the ground. Being suspended on a frame above the hard dirt floor goes a long way toward mimicking an actual bed. Cots are a great option for car campers but are often too bulky and heavy to be carted out into the woods.
Fortunately, innovative design and lightweight materials have made it possible to bring cots into the backcountry. In recent years, we’ve seen collapsible cots that fit inside our packs and are light enough to haul for days on end.
We put in the hard zzz’s to test a variety of these cots to find the best camping cots on the market. Read on if you’re looking for a great night’s sleep in the woods.
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The Best Camping Cots of 2021
Best Overall: REI Co-op Camp Folding Cot
When it comes to comfort, it’s hard to beat the Camp Folding Cot from REI ($80). This full-size cot has a 300-pound capacity, thanks to its steel frame.
The ripstop polyester has a slight give but remains taut and supportive from head to toe. Setup takes minutes — just take it out of the bag, unfold it, and tighten the Cordura straps, and you’re done.
Its wide base prevents the cot from rocking as you toss and turn. The ripstop material holds your sleeping bag in place, so you won’t slide off in the middle of the night.
Its 75-inch length accommodates sleepers over 6 feet tall, and the 25.5-inch width is roomy enough for most people to sleep without feeling confined.
At 17 pounds, this is definitely a car camping cot. It packs into its own carrying bag with a carrying strap. It folds down relatively small, but it’s too big to fit into a backpack. You can easily bring several in the car for family camping without taking up too much space.
While its weight limits it to car camping, it is by far the most comfortable cot we’ve tried and at a great price. For car campers who want the best possible night’s sleep for a great price, this is your best bet.
- Weight: 17 lbs.
- Weight limit: 300 lbs.
- Large packing size
Runner-Up: Coleman Trailhead II Cot
The Trailhead II Cot from Coleman ($31) is a strong contender for our best overall spot. Its spacious size fits sleepers over 6 feet tall and keeps them over a foot off the ground. The attached side pockets add a great touch of organization, holding your glasses, headlamp, and other smaller items.
The rails are slightly elevated to add security and prevent sleepers from rolling off. The canvas is firm and supportive, and the frame is sturdy enough to survive you and your tentmates fighting over who gets to sleep in it.
The steel X-shaped frame and double stitching add durability. This cot will give you years of use before it breaks down. It folds up and stores in the included carry case, so it’s easy to store and pack in the car.
And the car is definitely where you’ll pack it because, at a whopping 21 pounds, there’s no way you’ll want to carry that bad boy in your backpack. It outweighs the REI cot above by about 4 pounds.
The biggest dig we’ve found with the Trailhead II is the assembly. We’ve had reports that the end braces are difficult to attach to the frame. You’ll likely have to use some leverage to attach the second brace.
- Weight: 21 lbs.
- Weight limit: 300 lbs.
- Side pockets
- Large packing size
- Assembly requires some muscle
Best King-Size Cot: Teton Sports Outfitter XXL Camp Cot
If you want the roomiest cot available, the Outfitter XXL Camp Cot ($138) is the best bang for your buck. With a whopping 81 inches from head to toe and a 41-inch width, you could fit the average sasquatch in it for a good night’s sleep.
If you don’t know any bigfoots (bigfeet?), it’s also great for larger folks or people who toss and turn in their sleep. Smaller couples who are fond of cuddling will also appreciate this beast.
The S-leg design is the first we’ve seen of its kind. The unique shape of these steel legs provides sturdiness and support. Plus, the brushed canvas is comfortable if you want to plop down on it for a midday nap.
We love the lever-arm set up as well. Many sleeping cots are notorious for how hard it is to pull the last corner of canvas over the frame. The integrated lever uses added leverage to make it easy for one person to set it up and break it down.
It also pairs with Teton’s Outfitter XXL Camp Pad. This 2.5-inch-thick closed-cell foam sleeping pad makes the mattress feel even more like a king-size bed.
- Bonus: With a capacity of up to 600 pounds, it can easily accommodate two to three sleepers.
- Weight: 26 lbs.
- Weight limit: 600 lbs.
- Huge sleep space
- Easy assembly
- Pairs with Outfitter XXL Camp Pad
- Large packing size
- Doesn’t fit in smaller tents
Most Comfortable: REI Kingdom Cot 3
If you’re looking for the best night’s sleep under the stars, get ready to pony up some dough for the Kingdom Cot 3 from REI ($160). One look at this bad boy and you’ll see the difference.
The cushioning throughout the length of the pad just screams comfort. The quilted padding raises up on the edges with extra padding to create a snug feel. It also helps to prevent you from rolling off the cot in your sleep.
A roller knob lets you raise the head support so you can sleep in a slightly inclined position. And the middle section can fit an additional sleeping pad for even more cushioning.
Its weight and bulkiness make it a poor choice for backpacking, and it may even be a bit much for hike-in campsites. But if you plan on camping near your car, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more comfortable night’s sleep. A great choice for people who have trouble sleeping in the outdoors.
- Weight: 20 lbs.
- Weight limit: 300 lbs.
- Extremely cushy
- Adjustable settings
- Quick-drying fabric
- Packed size takes up a lot of trunk space
- Long footprint may not fit in smaller tents
Runner-Up Most Comfortable Cot: Coleman ComfortSmart Cot
The ComfortSmart Cot from Coleman ($72) is the most comfort you can get per dollar spent. The thick foam sleeping pad acts as a mattress for bed-like cushioning. The coil suspension system imitates a box spring as well, giving you a closer approximation to your bed at home. The strong steel frame adds durability, and the simple folding design means you can set it up in minutes.
The length will fit sleepers up to 6’6″ tall and can hold up to 275 pounds, so it can handle everyone from NFL tight ends and smaller. We love the simplicity and comfort — you’re basically getting a portable bed with this cot.
One thing to consider with the ComfortSmart is its huge packed size. It’s built for camping right next to your car. It folds down into a quarter of its full length, which gives it a square profile that is very cumbersome to carry. It takes up a lot of space in the car as well. If you’re not traveling in an SUV or wagon, it’s going to take over a lot of real estate in your trunk.
- Weight: 20 lbs.
- Weight limit: 275 lbs.
- Soft mattress
- Easy to set up
Best Lightweight Camping Cot: Helinox One Convertible
Most of the cots you’ll see here are ideal for car camping. But due to their weight and packed size, they’re not practical for hike-in spots or backpacking. The Helinox Cot One Convertible ($300) is an exception to this rule.
Weighing in at a relatively svelte 5 pounds and packing to roughly the size of a closed-cell foam pad, this cot can fit easily in a backpack or can be strapped to the outside. And it will provide more comfort per ounce than almost any other sleeping system on the market.
The DAC aluminum frame will hold up to 320 pounds, which is more than many car camping cots. The polyester material is taut yet forgiving.
In addition to the light weight, one of the most interesting features of the Helinox One is the ability to customize it. It rests about 6.5 inches off the ground, which is great for smaller tents.
If you want more space, you can purchase leg extensions that raise it to 15 inches above the ground. This works in taller tents and is useful for storing gear under the cot.
You can also purchase an insulated sleeping pad designed specifically to fit the cot. The insulated pad replaces the original bed fabric to add cushioning and insulation for cold-weather camping.
If you need more sleeping space, the Helinox One Max Convertible ($430) adds 8 inches of length and 3 inches of width.
- Weight: 5 lbs.
- Weight limit: 320 lbs.
- Complicated setup
Best Cot Tent Combo: Therm-a-Rest Cot Tent & UltraLite Cot
Another great option for backpackers, Therm-a-Rest’s Cot Tent ($260) is a lightweight tent designed for use with the company’s UltraLite cot ($220).
This three-season tent sports a nylon mesh body and floor to keep bugs out, while the fly keeps you dry while you sleep. The setup is ideal for minimalist backpackers who want to keep their packs as light as possible without sacrificing comfort. It also works well for campers who want to sleep under the stars but want to be prepared in case of rain or excessive bugs.
The whole setup packs down well and weighs just 5 pounds, so it will fit in your pack without taking up much space or adding too much weight.
There is a bit of a learning curve when setting up the cot, and the multiple tension points require a bit of patience. After the first setup or two, we had it dialed down and were able to assemble it in minutes.
The tent also lacks a vestibule, So, if it does start raining, you’ll have to stow your extra gear in your pack and pray that you didn’t leave your pack’s rainfly at home.
- Total Weight: 5 lbs.
- Weight limit: 325 lbs.
- Tent included
- No vestibule
- Complicated setup
Best Bunk Bed Cot: Disc-O-Bed
One of the most unique designs we’ve come across is the Disc-O-Bed ($300 with organizers). This comes as a set of two full-size cots that can be configured in multiple ways. You can arrange the set as two separate cots, a large bench, or as a bunk bed set.
The camp beds sport an impressive 500-pound capacity per bed, which means you can even cram two people per bed if you’re in a pinch. The sturdy steel frames seem bombproof. They can easily handle adults climbing up to the top bunk.
The cots are large, so you’ll need a large dome tent to fit them. The frames are sturdy enough to support the material without any crossbeams, which creates hammock-like support. This eliminates the need for any sleeping pads or mats.
This sturdiness comes at a cost, as the cots weights 36 pounds each, and the combination weighs 72 pounds total (36 pounds per bag). So, make sure your campsite isn’t far from the car.
Also of note are the accessories that are available for the Disc-O-Bed. You can purchase organizers, cabinets, and sleeping pads. There’s even a mosquito pad and frame so you can sleep under the stars undisturbed.
- Total weight: 72 lbs. (36 lbs. per bed)
- Weight limit: 1,000 lbs. (500 lbs. per cot)
- Comfortable and sturdy
- Bunk style saves floor space
- Heaviest cots on this list
- Only works in larger dome-style tents
Best Storage: Coleman Camping Cot With Side Table
Coleman’s Camping Cot with Side Table ($60) adds a bit of organization to the company’s highly regarded camping cot. Easy to set up and break down, the cot provides plenty of support up to 300 pounds.
It’s not light enough for backpacking, but it’s easy enough for car camping to taking to a hike-in campsite. And the lack of crossbars at the head and feet keep you from whacking your head or feet in the middle of the night.
It’s important to note that the cot does not lock into position, so it can collapse if you don’t have the legs fully extended. Just make sure that you double-check that the legs are fully spread before you lie on it.
What makes this cot stand out from the others is the attached end table. The table is useful for keeping items close at hand while you sleep. It’s great for stashing your glasses, headlamp, a book, and a bottle of water next to you while you sleep.
- Total weight: 20 lbs.
- Weight limit: 300 lbs.
- Small pack size
- Attached table and cupholder
- Too firm for some users
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Camping Cot
Ease of Setup
Any piece of gear is useless if you can’t set it up. The bed of a cot is generally composed of a material that is stretched tight over a frame that supports your body.
Pulling the material tight enough to support your weight requires a good amount of tension. Many people find it challenging to pull the last section of material over the frame, often requiring help from another person to pull with enough strength.
In our experience testing, we’ve found that the smaller a cot packs down, the more complicated it is to set up. There are more pieces to put together, and there are more parts that have to be secured to create and maintain tension. Also, there are often snap-together or folding sections that can pinch your fingers if you’re not careful.
We’ve even had a tester make the mistake of trying to assemble a backpacking cot with his down sleeping bag lying on top of it. In the process, he snapped two pieces together over the sleeping bag material, causing a small tear in the bag.
The result was clouds of fine down puffing out and filling the air in the tent every time the bag moved. It led to searching in the dark for a piece of duct tape to patch the hole (and a lot of swearing).
As is often the case when it comes to gear, there is a tradeoff when it comes to how easy a camping cot is to setup. The trend is that the bigger and bulkier a cot is, the easier it is to set up.
Smaller cots require more pieces to be broken down, but they weigh less and pack smaller. Larger cots are harder to carry around, but they usually require one or two steps to set up. Decide whether you prefer convenience or mobility, and choose the best cot for your needs.
Again, there’s a tradeoff here. Larger camp cots with plenty of space and padding are universally more comfortable. However, they’re all but impossible to pack with you on a long hike or backpacking trip. Although smaller camp cots are a lot more mobile, they lack the frills and creature comforts of a larger cot.
If you’re going backpacking, comfort is secondary to ease of transport. So, you’re going to want to go with a cot that is lightweight and packs down small. If you’re camping next to your car, comfort is a priority, so consider the following details.
The first thing to check is to ensure that the cot is big enough for you to sleep on without resting on the frame. Most cots are long enough to fit people as tall as 6 feet and run just over 2 feet wide.
If you’re on the taller or wider side, many cots offer XL or XXL versions. These cots are generally longer and wider to accommodate larger people.
If you’re not sure whether a cot will fit you, look for the specifications online. The specs page will show the cot’s dimensions, so you’ll be able to see whether it’s a good fit for you.
Most cots don’t have cushioning — the sleeping area is a piece of material like polyester fabric stretched tight to provide support. Many campers find these cots to be too firm, so they’ll add a sleeping pad of some kind to give cushioning.
If you’d prefer to sleep on something that feels like your bed at home, look for a cot that comes with cushioning attached or offers a proprietary sleeping pad add-on. We profile several in the list above.
Weight & Packed Size
Most of the camping cots on the market are designed for car camping, where pack size and weight are less of an issue. Camping cots tend to be on the larger side. They can weigh anywhere from 5 pounds on the lower end to around 30 pounds on the higher end.
If you plan on camping next to your car, the only thing to consider is how much space you have in your car, and whether you’ll have enough room for your cots and the rest of your gear. If this is the case for you, comfort is your first priority.
Choose the biggest, cushiest cot you can find and don’t worry about the weight. Just make sure you have enough room in your car for it.
People who camp in spots that require a short hike from the car have additional considerations. If you have to hike to your campsite, make sure that your camping cot is light enough to carry to the site. Also, ensure that the cot isn’t too bulky to carry.
Look for a camping cot that is stowed in a bag, preferably one with handles or a shoulder strap. You’ll be thankful for details like this when it’s time to schlep your gear from your car to the campsite.
Backpackers will be hauling their cots (along with the rest of their gear) for miles on end. These campers should look for the lightest, smallest cots possible.
While lacking the amenities and easy setup that comes with larger cots, backpacking cots are small enough to store in a backpack. Cots designed for backpacking can weigh 2 pounds or less and can be stowed either in a backpack or strapped to the outside.
When shopping for a camping cot, consider how you plan to use it. Look at the above options; plan for the lightest option that you’ll need.
For instance, if you always camp next to your car, go for the heavier option. If you occasionally hike into your campsite, it’s worth considering a lighter cot that packs into a bag with handles. You can always use a lighter cot for sleeping next to your car, but it will be a pain to drag a heavy, unwieldy cot to your hike-in campsite.
If backpacking is your primary style of camping, consider one of the lightweight cots we profile above. They’re light enough to take into the backcountry, but still comfortable enough to sleep on if you occasionally go car camping.
Durability varies widely with camping cots. We’ve found that there’s a proportionate relationship between weight and durability with this type of gear. Generally, the heavier a cot is, the tougher it is.
Heavy car camping cots are made up of sturdy frames composed of steel or steel alloys. These heavier metals give the cot an exceptionally durable build. This makes them more resistant to drops, exhausted campers flopping down on them, roughhousing kids, and whatever other vigorous activity that a bed might face.
Lighter cots have frames that are built with aluminum or some other lightweight material. The lighter weight is great for trekking it into the woods, but it’s much more fragile.
Backpacking cot frames are sturdy enough to support campers’ weight while they sleep but must be treated with more respect. In our testing, we’ve found that these lighter weight cots are best eased into when it’s time for bed.
If you’re camping next to your car and weight is no issue, you can opt for a heavier cot and rough it up a bit. If a lighter, more packable cot better suits you, make sure that you’re more careful with it than you’d be with a 30-pound behemoth.
The camping cots that we profile here represent an accurate sampling of the prices you’ll see when shopping for a cot. They vary in price from $20-30 for simple, and no-frills cots can reach $300 and above at the higher end. When shopping for a camping cot, weigh the options that you need against how much money you have to spend.
If you want a simple cot to keep you off the ground when you sleep next to your car, start with the lowest end cot and think about what you’d like to add to it. A simple car camping cot consists of a folding frame with material stretched over it and should cost somewhere south of $100.
Want added cushioning or organization options? Be prepared to spend a little bit more on an upgraded option, somewhere in the range of $150 to $250.
Going backpacking and don’t want to sleep on the ground? These cots will cost a little bit more because of the lightweight materials and design that goes into making them small and light enough to fit into a backpack. These generally cost around $200-250 and can reach $300 and above with add-ons like rainflies or integrated tents.
Camping Cots FAQ
Camping Cots vs. Sleeping Pads: Which Is Right for Me?
The question of camping cots versus sleeping pads depends on how you plan to travel. Consider how you plan to use your sleeping system and look at the options below.
Camping cots elevate you off the ground, providing a softer night’s sleep. They also help to prevent the cold ground from chilling you as you sleep.
They also provide a much larger sleeping space. This makes it less likely that you’ll roll off of it in the middle of the night. However, cots tend to be heavy, and they’re much bulkier than sleeping pads. This makes the majority of them less than ideal for portable use.
For people who only sleep a short distance from their cars, camping cots are a great choice. Since they won’t be hauling their cots far, the added weight and bulk aren’t as much of an issue.
In this case, comfort and ease of setup are generally the biggest concerns. Because camping cots are generally a closer approximation to the average bed, they are usually more comfortable than sleeping pads.
Sleeping pads are much lighter and more compressible than cots. They are also generally softer than cots that don’t have integrated cushioning.
However, they do require you to sleep on the ground. This exposes you to the ground’s hardness and can let cold transfer from the ground into your sleeping bag.
Because backpackers have to carry all of their gear with them while they hike, weight and packed size are huge considerations. Many backpackers are willing to sacrifice the added comfort of a camping cot for the lighter and more packable sleeping pads.
Many pads are also designed to add some of the amenities that cots provide. Insulated pads are built for cold-weather camping. The insulation within the pad absorbs some of the cold coming from the ground, preventing it from sapping heat from your sleeping bag.
Inflatable sleeping pads keep you off the ground and allow you to sleep on a cushion. These are softer than noncushioned camping cots but are usually louder. This is because the lightweight material can make a crunching sound when you move on it. The most common description is that it’s like sleeping on a bag of chips.
Camping Cots & Sleeping Pads
If luxury is the goal and weight isn’t an option, a camping cot plus a sleeping pad is the way to go. A camping cot paired with a foam sleeping pad provides the best of both worlds.
The cot will elevate you off the ground and give you a bigger space to sleep on, while the pad adds a good amount of softness. It’s similar to the function of the box springs and mattress of your bed at home.
If you want to combine a cot and a pad, check to see if the cot you’re looking at has an add-on pad. Some companies offer pads designed specifically to work with certain cots. This ensures that your pad will fit perfectly with your cot. Some also have securing systems to attach the pad to the cot, which prevents it from moving around or sliding off while you sleep.
What Is the Most Comfortable Camping Cot?
Comfortable is a subjective term. It can depend on many things, such as how firm or soft you prefer your sleeping space, as well as whether you sleep on your back or side.
The most common complaint about camping outside is how firm sleeping systems are, so a cot with some cushioning is ideal. Our choice for the most comfortable is the REI Kingdom Cot 3 for its soft cushioning, contouring, and adjustable incline settings.
Are Cots Good for Camping?
Because they closely mimic the feel of sleeping in your bed at home, cots are an extremely comfortable option for car camping. In general, traditional camping cots are too heavy and bulky for backpacking, however. There are ultralight backpacking cots, but many backpackers choose sleeping pads because they are lighter and more packable.
Is a Cot More Comfortable Than an Air Mattress?
A good full-size air mattress is the closest you can get to sleeping on your bed at home. However, they are bulky, and they usually require an external power source to fully inflate. They are also difficult to clean after a camping trip.
Camping cots are often less comfortable than an air mattress but are more durable, easier to transport, and easier to set up. A high-quality cushioned camping cot can come close to, or even surpass, the comfort of an air mattress, plus it takes much less time to set up.
How Wide Is a Camping Cot?
Many of the camping cots that we have tested are generally around 25 inches in width. This is wide enough for most campers. If you need a wider cot, many cots offer larger versions for bigger sleepers. These can range from 30 inches to over 40 inches in width.
Have a favorite camping cot we missed? Let us know in the comments below for future updates to this article.