Sleeping on the ground isn’t for everyone, and even the most hardy campers can appreciate being off the ground at night. Here’s a look at 7 slumber-inducing cots for every budget and camp style.
In my wilder days, camping meant throwing together a few haphazard supplies, grabbing Derek from Moonrise Standard and finding a random spot in the woods or desert — as dispersed and low-key as it gets.
Today, in my mid-30s with a wife and two young’uns, camping is less slapdash and more prep-work and comfort. While I don’t mind hitting the ground while backpacking — the right lightweight sleeping pad and sleeping bag combo helps — car camping is a different story.
Now we haul four camping cots, a pile of bedding and a two-room tent named Jasper. Getting off the ground and onto a cot makes a noticeable difference in the quality of sleep we get, and the kids’ cots are particularly useful for traveling in general.
Here’s a rundown of 7 top-rated camping cots and who they’re best for, from the seasoned (grizzled?) family camper to the ultralight adventurist looking to keep things streamlined, even when car camping.
Most Comfortable: REI Kingdom Cot 3
“This is the one bulky, luxury item worth hauling,” says one reviewer of the Kingdom Cot 3.
With its quilted polyester top and multiple positions, the Kingdom Cot 3 is one of the most comfortable ways to sleep outdoors. It’s not for everyone, but campers requiring extra support and padding will appreciate its plush, bed-like surface.
At 20 pounds, it’s a car camping treat that’s great for those who sleep primarily on their backs. It holds up to 300 pounds, folds up relatively compact and uses a unique steel tubing to maximize stability on uneven ground.
There are a few design flaws that users have pointed out over the years, but these generally don’t interfere with the cot’s over-the-top coziness.Check REI Price
Upgrade Pick: Helinox Cot One Convertible
We’ve owned a handful of Helinox backpacking chairs and can attest to the brand’s ability to deliver stable, lightweight products. The Cot One Convertible is made with their hallmark design, using a unique, lightweight aluminum frame and a ripstop nylon body.
At just over 5 pounds, the Cot One isn’t the lightest cot on the market (see below), but it’s a massive upgrade over the bulky, 20-pound cots that dominate the market. It’s low to the ground, but an optional leg extension kit offers more clearance if needed.
Its price point, 320-pound weight capacity and ease of use make it our upgrade pick — it’s not necessary to spend this much on a cot, but it’s easy to see why people do.Check Amazon Price Check REI Price
Best ultralight option: Therm-a-Rest UltraLite Cot
Therm-a-Rest is an old-school brand from the early ‘70s that’s managed to stay relevant and popular nearly 50 years later. They make all types of quality sleep products — sleeping pads, bags, mattresses, pillows, blankets — and the UltraLite Cot is, in their words, the “lightest, most packable cot on the market.”
The regular size is a meager 2 pounds, 10 ounces, and the larger version comes in at 3 pounds. No cot can match the same comfort-to-weight ratio as the UltraLite, and the ripstop polyester framed by aluminum poles offers a relaxed, sturdy platform with just enough give to get comfortable.
Its 325-pound capacity means it’ll still work for most campers, and its minimal size makes it ideal for bikepacking, motorcycle tours and other trips where space and weight are factors. Folks even take it backpacking, though it’s still considerably heavier and bigger than our recommended backcountry sleeping pads.Check Amazon Price Check Backcountry Price
Best Budget Pick: Coleman ComfortSmart Cot
The ComfortSmart abandons the classic nylon spread for a coil suspension and mattress combo that feels more like a small pull-out bed than a cot. At 21.5 pounds, it weighs about the same as a traditional cot, but some campers may find this setup more comfortable.
A basic steel frame provides plenty of stability, and its 80” length is one of the longest on our list. You can usually find the cot for sale under $75 on Amazon, and it’s a bestseller for a reason. Coleman may not be revolutionizing the camp cot, but they know how to roll out a good value that’ll work well for the casual weekend camper.Check Amazon Price
Most Heavy Duty: TETON Sports Outfitter XXL Camp Cot
The first cots we invested in were a couple of Coleman Trailhead IIs. They’re not bad, but securing the last corner and crossbar is a beast, and never got easier with practice.
The Outfitter eliminates that issue with a pivot arm that makes snapping the final corner into place a breeze. It’s also one of the most durable, heavy duty cots you’ll find, with a 600-pound capacity that’s double that of your typical cot.
It’s wide, sturdy and comfortable, and all that extra toughness doesn’t add up to much: the whole cot’s just a hair over 25 pounds.Check Amazon Price
Best for Warm Weather: Therm-a-Rest LuxuryLite Mesh Cot
Living in Phoenix, we’ve done our fair share of warm-weather camping in places like the Superstitions, Joshua Tree, and Havasupai. Just like cold weather, high temps can negatively affect your sleeping, and Therm-a-Rest has the ideal solution for these trips.
Their LuxuryLite Mesh Cot‘s made from a lightweight, breathable 500D mesh that performs better than nylon or polyester in warmer environments. But that doesn’t make it flimsy or cheap: the USA-made cot holds up to 325 pounds and comes in three sizes up to 77″ for taller campers.
Therm-a-Rest’s BowFrame™ design takes an outside-the-box approach to the traditional cot frame, using a more intuitive construction that eliminates hard crossbars on your back. The largest size clocks in under 5 pounds, making it one of the lighter options on the market.Check Amazon Price Check Backcountry Price
Best for Toddlers: Regalo My Cot
This may be a weird flex, but I’m more familiar with this cot than any other on our list. For the last few years, my twin toddlers have used these cots for camping trips, road trips, cabin weekends and more.
They’re built to withstand all the abuse that comes standard with toddlers, from the sturdy steel frame to the tough, washable nylon body. We’ve put these things through the ringer and they still look new, fold easily and best of all, our girls know when the cots are out, it’s time to go somewhere fun.
My Cot is built for kids up to five and offers plenty of give in the middle, making it feel more like a normal toddler bed than a stiff camping cot. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t tried to take a nap on one, but the manufacturer recommends a load of 75 pounds or less.Check Amazon Price
Best Bunk Beds: Disc-O-Bed X-Large Cot
Does your tent need more room for activities? Boy do we have the cot for you!
The Disc-O-Bed X-Large is as fun as it sounds and more importantly, isn’t just a gimmick. The bunk beds assemble easily without any tools or strenuous effort, and when they’re both not in use, the top bunk folds down to make a daybed.
Leg extensions provide plenty of clearance off the ground, and each cot has a 500-pound capacity, so it works just as well for adults as kids. Its folding disc system makes setup easier than you’d think, and it packs down into a (relatively) small package when not in use. If you’re camping with kids or large families, this one’s the way to go.Check Amazon Price
How to Sleep Better Outdoors
Even with the best gear and bedding, sleeping isn’t always easy outdoors. Here are a few ways to adjust to your new settings quickly and avoid restless nights outside.
Make it Feel Like Home
“Routines trigger a feeling of normalcy to your otherwise new surroundings,” says REI, and carrying over small habits and rituals from home is a good way to normalize sleeping outside.
I typically bring a book or magazine to read right before bed, just as I would at home. My body’s used to the routine and it’s second nature for me to lay down, read a few pages and pass out. This may or may not include dropping said book on my face within ten minutes.
You can also take steps to make your bed feel as familiar as possible by bringing things like pillows or blankets you normally use at home.
In cold weather, you may be tempted to overdress at night, but that can backfire by preventing your sleeping bag from effectively capturing body heat.
“If it’s cool out at night, you’ll want to sleep in at least some lightweight base layers and a thick pair of socks,” says Outside’s Bryan Rogala. Any more than that and you may be too restless or uncomfortable to get a good night’s sleep.
Drink Hot Tea Before Bed
Sure, it may seem cool to drink whiskey or crack open a cold one with the boys around the campfire, but you know what’s really cool? SLEEPING.
Hot tea won’t guarantee anything, but alcohol can lead to decreased sleep quality, while the calming effects of hot tea – shoutout to my boy Sleepytime tea – can better prepare your body for sleep (pair with our fave enamel camp mugs for a relaxing nightcap).
Add Extra Padding
Unless you go with a padded cot like the Kingdom Cot 3 or Coleman ComfortSmart, you’ll be on a very flat, firm surface. For a better night’s rest, combine your cot and sleeping bag with a lightweight sleeping pad for a few extra inches of comfort.
Get Blacked Out
No, we’re not backpedaling on the alcohol. If the late sunset or early sunrise affects your sleep, get an eye mask to keep things dark. If you’re camping with kids, check out tents with dark room technology that block up to 90% of sunlight and keep interiors cooler than normal tents.