Unfortunately, for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, our camping season is definitely over. However, in preparation for next year, you may already be looking for casual sleeping solutions, either for camping outdoors or camping indoors, in case a relative pays you an impromptu visit. Fear not, we, at Sleepreporter.com, have investigated the issue and have looked into the best sleeping solutions for you.
In this piece, we’ve decided to take a deeper dive into camping cots. While they’re mostly reserved for sleeping outdoors, they can actually make for a great spare bed if you need one. Below is our guide on how to sleep on a camping cot, our review of the best camping cots, their advantages and disadvantages, a quick list of the best ones you can find on Amazon and any alternatives that you may want to consider.
What are camping cots?
Camping cots essentially sit somewhere between a fold-out bed and a hammock. They have foldable legs, the height of a proper bed and consist of an aluminum frame, with fabric stretched across. The fabric becomes taut once the cot is folded out. While they can be a bit heavy and bulky, many people prefer them to other comparable alternatives such as air mattresses because they are generally more durable and comfortable.
So, why pick a camping cot to sleep on?
For outdoor use, a camping cot is advantageous for a number of reasons. First, it is elevated. This means that it is easier to get in and out of it, as it has the height of a normal bed. Camping cots also keep you insulated from the cold or from the heat emanating from the floor. Lastly, they keep you away from any crawling insects or snakes that might otherwise find their way to you. Opting for a camping cot will give you an incredible peace of mind when it comes to outdoor sleeping, thanks to the unique nature of the cot itself.
Additionally, camping cots are easy to fold out and fold up the moment you decide to settle down for the night, or leave your location, wherever that may be. This means that you will not have to spend a considerable amount of time tidying up and picking a spot to lay down, as you probably would with an air mattress or a sleeping bag. You can just fold out the camping cot wherever you see fit. Additionally, when leaving your location, there is no need to spend half an hour deflating an air mattress to try and fit it in your bag. You can just fold up the cot and be on your way.
Camping cots also tend to be more durable than air mattresses or sleeping bags. Indeed, both of these can very easily get damaged by different types of hazards. Indeed, a simple shard of glass on the ground may permanently damage an air mattress (rendering it completely unusable), or seriously impair the insolation of a sleeping bag. Obviously, this will not happen with a cot, not only because it will be elevated but also because its solid, aluminum frames will preserve it from such damage.
For indoor use, while it is true that this is not the primary purpose of a camping cot, they can actually act as the perfect spare bed for visits from friends and family. This, especially if you are short on space. As explained above, camping cots are easily foldable which also makes them easy to store, even in the tiniest of apartments. Plus, they’re actually quite comfortable. They don’t risk deflating during the night (like an air mattress would) and offer quite good back and head support. Some models actually feature cushions for more comfort, which may be something that you want to consider if you are planning to use it as a spare bed for your home.
Lastly, both indoors and outdoors, as cots are elevated, they get you plenty of storage underneath. In your house, a guest will be able to lay a bag or even a suitcase underneath, minimizing the space used, in a perhaps already cramped room. Outdoors, you may also store your valuables under the cot, as well as anything that you may need to be easily accessible during the night.
Things you should however be aware of before settling for a camping cot
If you’re exploring options for temporary sleeping solutions, there are still elements you should keep in mind before choosing to go with a camping cot.
Camping cots can be quite bulky. While they’re easily foldable and definitely suited for indoor use, if you’re going camping and plan to move around a lot without a car, a camping cot may not be for you. Indeed, these are quite bulky, weigh quite a few pounds and typically would not fit in a backpack, the way an air mattress or a sleeping bag might. If light weight and transportability are elements that matter to you, camping cots may not be the ideal sleeping solution.
This is especially true if you’re in need of a sleeping solution for multiple people. Indeed, while camping cots for couples do exist, most cots are actually exclusively designed to host a single sleeper, so getting three or four for one trip (especially if you want to cater to children) may not be ideal. As they are quite bulky, they also occupy more space in a tent than a simple sleeping bag would.
So, what are the best camping cots available?
According to users of Amazon UK, the current highest rating camping cot in terms of customer reviews is the Coleman ComfortSmart Cot, with an average rating of 4.6/5 stars. This camping cot seems particularly well suited if you’re looking for something that will double as a spare bed. Indeed, it comes with a thick foam mattress and features that definitely resemble those that you would find on a very rudimentary fold-out bed. This cot is available from different sellers but generally priced around £100.
With the same rating of 4.6/5 stars, the Osage River Folding Camp Cot is also a winner, although a much more pricey one, at £302.21. Designed with carbon steel legs, it is not only incredibly durable but also very stable, almost a guarantee of a good night’s sleep. It also comes with a little carry bag at its side, in which you can store your most precious belongings. This being said, it does weigh around thirteen pounds, which may not be suitable if you’re looking for something you can carry around with you all day.
For a cheaper but comparable option, you may want to look at Redcamp’s Folding Camping Bed, which presents the advantage of being suited to anyone, including tall adults or small children. It is a little bit heavier than the previous cot (fifteen pounds) but set the much more reasonable price of £64.99. This cot requires close to no assembly and folds away in its own supplied bag.
Alternatives to Sleeping Cots
If the above hasn’t convinced you in favor of camping cots, here are some alternatives for you.
Both indoors and outdoors, air mattresses are a classic. They are quite compact, easily storable, and can be quite comfortable once they are pumped up. Some directly come with a portable air pump but for others, you may need to buy one separately. If so, always make sure the pump is compatible with the mattress itself, or else you might end up having to blow it up using your own lungs.
Air mattresses (unlike sleeping cots) may be a good solution for children as they come in different shapes and sizes, which you may use to sleep more than one child. Obviously, they can also be very easily used as spare beds and placed anywhere around the house, especially in busy periods like Christmas or New Year’s.
However, be aware that certain types of air mattresses are specifically designed for certain purposes. For instance, the plastic of some of them can be quite thin, making these only really fit for indoor use (or else, run the risk of them getting pierced quite quickly). For sleeping outside or in a tent, prefer a thicker kind of mattress. You may also want to consider getting a mattress with gripping material on the side or underneath as this should keep it from slipping and sliding against the tent’s floor.
A little more rudimentary than air mattresses, foam pads are also available for camping. You may find two types of pads. Either the so-called “closed-cell” pads, which are very popular amongst backpackers due to their lightweight and foldability, or “open-celled” foam pads. These often come inside a sleeve of nylon or polyester and are generally self-inflatable. A little like air mattresses, you will need to compress them to get the air out when you leave your camping site.
While this is definitely not ideal, you may consider, on a warm summer night, simply going with laying your sleeping bag down on the floor. If the weather is hot enough and you’re not that afraid of crawler insects (or if you’re in an area when they’re not dangerous), this may be the way to go, especially if your tent is tiny. You may not then have enough space to set up air mattresses for everyone.