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What’s the difference between camping and spending a week in the field? Well, for starters, you can get more than two hours of sleep without being woken up for firewatch. You can cook up bacon and eggs instead of destroying your digestive system with the failed chemical experiment that is MRE cheese. Perhaps most importantly, you can find a comfortable place to sleep without fighting with other people for the most ergonomically supportive patch of dirt to lay on. Camping by foot will limit you to foam or inflatable sleeping pads, but driving to the campsite opens up a world of possibilities. By equipping your tent or cabin with a camping cot, you can sleep better and wake up ready for another day of hiking, hunting, or releasing your inner Henry David Thoreau. 

We found camping cots ranging from classic to contemporary, so dig in and find a better way to sleep outdoors. 

This heavy-duty camping cot from Teton Sports works hard so you can have a sturdy place to sleep. This cot’s frame is built from aluminum and sits on steel legs to create a lightweight but stable design rated up to 600 pounds. The S-shaped leg design is very strong and rubber bushings prevent it from wobbling and creaking every time you move, unlike the rickety cots from your childhood. We also love the oversized sleeping area. With a size of 85.75 inches long and 41 inches wide, you’ll be able to spread out and sleep comfortably. That’s larger than a twin bed. The fabric is very durable, but being stretched so tight creates a very firm surface; you’re best off topping this cot with a sleeping pad.

If you ever went to summer camp as a kid, you probably slept on a cot similar to the Trademark Innovations camping cot. This option shares the same basic design but uses better materials than we got back in the day. Instead of wood that splinters and shakes, the frame of this cot uses extruded aluminum that doesn’t rust or bend. The metal frame and rip-resistant fabric can support up to 260 pounds. You’ll get a sleeping platform that stands 75 inches long, 25 inches wide, and 17 inches high. When it’s time to move out, pack this cot into its travel case for a compact size of 36 inches long, four inches wide, and eight inches high. If you use this cot on wood floors, you’ll appreciate the rubber feet that protect your floors against scratches. It’s hard to go wrong with this classic, no-frills design.

We doubt you’ll get a better night’s sleep than what you’ll have on this Coleman camping cot without a hotel reservation. For starters, it’s more than twice as wide as a traditional cot. A fold-out nightstand on each side provides a place to keep a few items, and even has a built-in cupholder. The best part of this cot is the queen-size air mattress that comes with it. The mattress is leak-tested to make sure it can hold air all night, and the cover is sewn onto the cot so it won’t slide around while you sleep. A battery-powered pump eliminates the huffing and puffing of normal air mattresses. Not only will this be the most comfortable bed at the campsite, it’s good enough to offer to guests as a spare bed in your house. Room service not included.

This Araer camping cot packs in thoughtful features and comes at a price that makes it a fantastic bargain. It starts with a rugged, collapsible frame that supports up to 450 pounds. On top of that is fabric that’s breathable and rip-resistant. Unlike most cots that lay flat, this uses a unique, contoured shape to support your spine. This design accounts for 70 percent of your weight coming from your waist and hips, 20 percent coming from your legs, and 10 percent coming from your head. The head portion is even raised to create a more relaxed neck angle. This results in a more natural sleeping position and fewer aches and pains to wake up to. All this folds up into one of the lightest and most compact packages on our list.

If space is at a premium, look no further than this Marchway camping cot. It will raise you off the ground for a better night’s sleep, but only stands 6.5 inches tall. That height makes it perfect for recreational vehicles or traditional tents where space is tight. The rip-resistant sleeping surface is stretched across a durable aluminum frame that supports up to 275 pounds. When expanded, this compact cot provides a 75-by-27-inch sleeping area. With ten feet instead of four or six, it stands solidly and keeps movement to a minimum as you change positions in your sleep. A small pouch hangs off one end so you can keep things like your phone and keys handy. Since this cot folds up into a bag about the size of a two-liter bottle and weighs less than five pounds, it’s easily the most portable option on this list.

One of the worst things about camping is waking up covered in bug bites, and this cot from Yescom saves the day with an extra layer of protection from critters. This cot measures more than 75 inches long and 30 inches wide and supports up to 265 pounds. Four fold-out legs create a stable platform on floors or the ground. What sets it apart is the water-resistant mini-tent and screen windows built into the sleeping platform. If you find yourself sleeping outside or in a drafty shelter, this additional barrier can keep you dry and safe from mosquitos and other bugs. The mesh windows will still let you see your surroundings and get fresh air. Inside, pouches hang from the top to keep your valuables within arm’s reach but out of the way. This is one of our least compact choices when folded, so you’ll want to reserve some extra space in your camper or vehicle.

Related: Elevate your camping with these 6 cabin tents

Types of camping cots

Camping cots are portable beds that get your sleeping bag up off the ground for a more comfortable night’s sleep. Without rocks and roots stabbing you in the back, you’ll wake up refreshed and ready to go. There are different approaches to this, so feel free to explore your options. Traditional cots are wide enough for one sleeping bag and stand about knee-high, with a canvas panel stretched tight to provide a sleeping surface. Compact options sit lower to the ground to save space and weight, but might not as comfortable. The most accommodating camping cots offer unique features like cupholders, tilting headrests, mosquito netting, and even air mattresses. That might blur the line between camping and glamping, but what’s wrong with that?

Key features of camping cots

  • Size: Camping cots are designed to accommodate one sleeping bag, although there are a few exceptions built for two people. Standard cots are one or two feet high and collapse into a relatively portable carrying case.
  • Weight: While camping cots aren’t meant to be carried in your pack on foot, they’re still designed to be lightweight and fairly compact. Most only weigh a few pounds and can easily be carried and set up by one person. Compact cots weigh as little as four pounds. The most luxurious options weigh around 40 pounds.
  • Portability: Car camping is a perfect opportunity to use a cot. These portable beds are easy to toss in the trunk of a car or bed of a pickup. If you’re hiking to your campsite by foot, though, stick to a foam or inflatable sleeping pad.
  • Cushioning: By design, camping cots are more forgiving than the cold, hard ground. The stretched fabric is an upgrade on its own, but you can use a sleeping pad to get the most out of your camping cot. Larger cots can even accommodate air mattresses.
  • Perks: Side effects of camping cots may include not having a sore back, not being eaten alive by ants, and not setting off your tent mate by saying good morning with an irritated tone. Other perks include fold-out nightstands, pockets for your valuables, and air mattresses. 

Benefits of camping cots

Camping cots work marvels for campers with bad backs and achy joints. If you’ve ever lugged a pack on top of body armor while wearing worn-out combat boots, switching to a camping cot is a fantastic way to make camping feel less like work. You might be surprised by how much of a difference just getting off the ground can make. Camping cots are great for weekend trips or even making room for house guests, but they can also turn your deer camp or fishing camp into an oasis.

Camping cot pricing

If you could measure comfort by the dollar, cots would rank pretty high on the list of ways to improve your camping experience. Entry-level options cost less than $50. For that, you’ll get basic accommodations that beat any night on the ground. Up to $100, you’ll get things like lighter materials, more breathable fabric, and one or two bonus features. Spending up to $200 will get you a camping cot that’s about as close to a portable hotel as you can get. Look for things like mosquito netting and padded sleep surfaces. 

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