Camping Cot Vs. Air Mattress? – The Best For Camping

All campers know that you need great equipment and a good night's sleep to have an enjoyable camping trip! Sleep makes all the difference when you are out and about in the great outdoors. Whether you are glamping or camping, a good mattress can be the difference between a forgettable trip or a memorable one.

A camping cot and an air mattress are both intended to perform the same function – provide comfortable sleeping space for campers or overnight guests. The best choice for you will be determined by your sleeping arrangement needs and portability requirements for camping.

Sleeping on the bare floor is not an option for many of us, so what exactly can you use to make sure that you sleep like a baby during your camping trip? Many experienced campers will choose a hammock or a sleeping mat, especially if they are sleeping in a tent or hiking through the woods. This article will discuss the more luxurious sleeping equipment, a camping cot and an air mattress, so that you can decide what you need for a good night's rest the next time you go camping!

What Is A Camping Cot?

A camping cot is just that – a cot or bed to sleep on while you are out camping. Generally, a cot, otherwise referred to as a camping cot, is a bed made from a lightweight frame with a piece of fabric sewn around the frame to resemble a bed.

A camping cot is above the floor and not on top of the ground. A camping cot is designed to keep you safe from creepy crawlies and even from those sharp stones that tend to make themselves known in the middle of the night when you are sleeping on the floor!

The beauty of a camping cot is that it is portable and can be easily transported, folded up, and packed away when not in use. So even though this portable bed is referred to as a camping cot and is usually used when camping, it can double up as a spare bed at home for those unexpected guests or for your child's next sleepover party.

Camping cots are made from various materials.

  • The cot frame can be manufactured from aluminum steel, metal, plastic, or wood. Most frames are lightweight, but make sure that the frame you choose is durable, rust-resistant, and can fold easily. The structure designs range from U and X frame styles to clip-together legs of various techniques.

  • The fabric cover is generally made from washable fabric like canvas, linen, nylon, or polyester. Nylon, cotton, and polyester are easier to clean, but the canvas is definitely more durable and is an excellent choice if you are looking for a longer-lasting camping cot. Some camping cots have built-in foam pillows for extra padding.

Styles Of Camping Cots

Whether you are camping out in style or simply need an extra bed at home, a camping cot is available to suit your needs and requirements. Always consider what you will use the camping cot for before you buy.

The following is a shortlist of our favourite, tried and tested camping cots:

  • The basic camping cot. A folding camping cot, generally used by hikers and the military. No frills, no fuss, a good basic, solid, above the ground, portable bed. 

  • Lightweight camping cots. A portable, comfortable cot weighing around 3 pounds (450 gms), this narrower camping cot is ideal for backpackers as it folds neatly into a pack that can be attached to a backpack. 

  • Heavy-duty camping cots are designed for XXL and can hold weights of up to 600 lbs (272 kgs). This cot is ideal for the camper looking for extra space and a more comfortable night's sleep.

  • Double wide camping cots. Designed for two people, easy to set up, and compact when packed away. Most double cots have two padded head sections with extra storage mesh pockets underneath. You need space for this cot, so only consider buying one if you have a large tent or enough space to accommodate your overnight guests.

  • Bunk bed camping cots. This clever design allows you to maximize your space comfortably! This system can be used as bunk beds or two individual single beds. Fully collapsible and portable, this cot system will fit inside a tent or your spare bedroom. 2 sizes are available to fit adults or children. The most well-known brand of camping bunk beds is the Disc – O brand.

  • Camping cots with mattresses. Some camping cots offer the best of both worlds – a bed off the floor, but still small and compact enough to carry in your backpack, or big enough to use as a permanent bed for a few days! Some camping cots offer an integrated blow-up mattress already attached to the camping cot, while others have self-inflatable mattresses on top of the frame.

What Is An Air Mattress?

An air mattress is used as a more comfortable alternative to sleeping on the floor! You simply unroll the bed over the floor and inflate it with an air pump. An air mattress is generally made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC)  or a similarly strong material. Most air mattresses are durable, but they can pop if overinflated or if sharp items are stuck into them.

Even though an air mattress is generally used for sleeping on the floor while camping, it does not mean that you will be lying on top of the ground, worried about creepy crawlies attacking you in the middle of the night!

Modern air mattresses are well made with quality materials. They are generally quite high off the ground once inflated and can be as firm or soft as you choose! A properly inflated air mattress protects you from the cold on the ground while providing a comfortable bed!

An air mattress is as handy as a camping cot in that it is lightweight and portable and can be used at home as a spare bed. Once you have finished using it, simply deflate, roll up and pack away until the next time!

Styles Of Air Mattresses

Air mattresses are pretty simple: they are portable, foldable beds that can be inflated whenever needed. Air mattresses only really come in 2 particular styles:

  • Built-in pumps to self-inflate the air mattress

  • Manually inflated air mattress with external pumps

Considerations When Choosing An Air Mattress

Air mattresses are used by different people for various reasons, so before you buy an air mattress, consider these factors first:

  • What are you using the air mattress for – overnight guests or camping, or both?

  • How will you inflate the air mattress, and how long will it take to inflate?

  • What size air mattress do you need? Consider your storage space, the size of the people likely to sleep on the mattress, and how much available tent space you have while camping or room space for overnight guests.

  • What type of material should your air mattress be made from?

Camping Cots Vs. Air Mattress – Do They Compare?

Whether you are going on weekend a camping trip for the first time, are a seasoned camper, or simply need extra beds at home, choosing a camping cot, or an air mattress should be an informed decision. We have compared and listed the advantages and disadvantages of owning either of these portable beds:

What We Like About Camping Cots

If you are considering buying a camping cot to ensure a better nights sleep while camping, or simply as a spare bed at home, these are the reasons why you should:

  • Camping cots are easy to use. Simply remove from the bag, snap the frame together, cover with the fabric, and you are good to go! They can be assembled very easily and very quickly.

  • Camping cots are comfortable! For many of us, camping is fun, and the experience shouldn't be ruined by sleeping on rocks and sticks on the ground! Sleeping above the ground is so much easier, and you will get a better night's sleep, especially when the weather is cold! No more laying blankets on the floor for your sleepover guests.

  • Camping cots will protect you from creepy crawlies! Not only bugs but small critters tend to creep into your tent at night when all is quiet – if you are off the ground, chances are you won't know they are there and will not creep over you!

  • Camping cots provide storage space! If you are overnighting or spending a few nights in the same camping area, storage for your cell, torch, and car keys is a must! Some camping cots have built-in pockets, just the right size for storing small items. You can stow away the rest of your gear under the camping cot and out of sight.

  • Camping cots double as benches. At the end of a long day, set up your camping cot outside your tent and relax while watching the stars and reminiscing about your day! Great for using at an outdoor BBQ as extra seating space.

  • Camping cots don't take up too much space. With frames that are easy to fold and storage bags, each camping cot can be stored away in a safe space when not in use. They are easy enough to carry from place to place if you are out hiking in the outdoors.

  • Camping cots are durable and made to last! When you buy a camping cot, it is generally intended for long-term use and shouldn't fall apart easily. Modern designs and materials ensure the cot will last, but you do need to look after it correctly!

What We Like About Air Mattresses

Everyone should have an air mattress rolled up and tucked away somewhere, ready to be used on a camping trip or simply for when your friends decided to stay the night! These are a few good reasons why you should invest in an air mattress:

  • Air mattresses are so easy to use! Simply unroll the mattress, plug in the pump and switch it on! The beauty of inflating an air mattress is that you can have the mattress as firm or as soft as you like!

  • Air mattresses are so comfortable! Some air mattresses have added padding and cushioning to provide extra comfort! An air mattress can be shared by two people comfortably.

  • Air mattresses are available in many different shapes, sizes, and styles, so you can find one to suit your needs, no matter your size. An air mattress will allow you to sleep comfortably in any position.

  • Air mattresses are easy to fold and store. Each air mattress can be folded up and packed away out of sight in its own storage bag when not in use. Transporting an air mattress is easy as it takes up very little trunk space.

  • Air mattresses don't weigh much – even with a built-in pump, they will only weigh about 26 lbs (12 kgs), so they are easy enough to carry in a backpack or stash in your camping gear.

  • Air mattresses are easy to maintain. Wash and wear. Leaks and punctures can be repaired with patches. If you plan to use your air mattress over rougher terrain, make sure that you buy a thicker, heavy-duty mattress.

What We Don't Like About Camping Cots

Sadly, there can be a few drawbacks to owning a camping cot that you should be aware of:

  • Some camping cots can be heavy, cumbersome, and hard to fold, making the assembly and disassembly process harder.

  • If your camping cot has a rigid frame, it could be difficult to transport and store.

  • If you are camping in a tent, beware of the legs of the camping cot! Some materials used to make the frame can damage the tent floor. Before using the camping cot, rubberize the bottom of the legs or wind tape around them to protect the tent floor.

  • Some camping cots are narrower than others, making it hard to find your natural sleeping position.

  • A camping cot can be bulky if you are tenting and might not fit inside the tent.

What We Don't Like About Air Mattresses

Unfortunately, air mattresses are not loved by everyone, here's why:

  • Air mattresses and not very durable and can develop slow leaks or puncture easily. You could wake up in the middle of the night sleeping on the cold, hard ground.

  • Air mattresses are generally inflated on the ground. Sleeping so close to the bare ground leaves you open to the elements.

  • Sleeping at ground level can increase strain on the neck and back muscles, causing back pain.

  • An air mattress can move around on the ground as you move during your sleep. 

  • An air mattress can take up a lot of space in your tent or spare bedroom and doesn't allow any under-the-bed storage or side storage pockets.


Deciding on whether to buy and sleep on a cot or an air mattress is really a matter of personal choice and depends on your needs and requirements. Any sized camping cot or air mattress is handy to own, especially when you need an extra bed in a hurry. 

While there are good arguments both for and against owning a camping cot vs. an air mattress, do your own research before buying and always buy according to your needs, budget, and available storage space.