cot vs airmatress for camping

Cot vs. Air mattress – Our Expert Pick for Camping (2023)

Best camping cots and air mattresses have been the subject of previous reviews. To demonstrate to you the benefits of either over the other as well as the drawbacks, we decided it would be wise to compare the two in this article.

The good news is that both camping cost & air mattresses are generally a big upgrade vs. sleeping bags, sleeping pads and even hammocks (but hammocks are still awesome). If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to what you should look for in each (cuz there are some important factors) then this is the guide for you.

…As you’ll see, it comes down to preference more than anything. For example, How do you like to camp? What kind of sleeper are you? Do you sleep on your side or your back? What are your individual tastes?..etc…etc

so..without any further ado read below to get into the good stuff…

….buuuuuuuuuuut, if you want to skip straight to the top picks then look no further:

Best Air Mattresses

SaleBestseller No. 1
INTEX 64757E Dura-Beam Standard Downy Air Mattress: Fiber-Tech – Twin Size – 10in Bed Height –…
  • ✔ FIBER-TECH BEAM CONSTRUCTION – Comprised of thousands of high-strength polyester fibers that provide enhanced comfort, stability and support;…
  • ✔ DURABILITY – Unlike traditional air beds that tend to sink or dip over time, our 10″ raised Dura-Beam Air Mattresse is designed to withstand the…
SaleBestseller No. 2
Queen Air Mattress with Built-in Pump,18” Self Inflatable Mattress with Cordless Removable Lithium…
  • 【Top flocked material and Eco-friendly PVC 】The top part of the air mattress is finished with premier silky soft flocking microfiber material to…
  • 【Rechargeable&Detachable Lithium Battery Pump】:2000 mAh lithium battery pump features inflate /deflate buttons,Pump has been placed in the pump…
Bestseller No. 3
HiiPeak Sleeping Pad for Camping- Ultralight Inflatable Sleeping Mat with Built-in Foot Pump &…
  • 🏕【Extra Wide & 3.5 – 4″ Thick Sleep Support】HiiPeak New Desgin creative hexagon shape air cells with pillow is made special with ergonomics….
  • 🗺【Outdoor Grade Material Different From the Market】The back of the air mat is 50D nylon polyester + multi-layer TPU , so it won’t tear even if…

Best Camping Cots

SaleBestseller No. 1
Coleman Trailhead II Camping Cot, Easy-to-Assemble Folding Cot Supports Campers up to 6ft 2in or 300lbs, Great for Camping, Lounging, & Elevated Sleeping
  • ELEVATED COMFORT: Eliminates the discomfort of sleeping on rough or cold ground.ELEVATED COMFORT: Eliminates the discomfort of sleeping on rough or…
  • BUILT TO LAST: Strong cross-bar steel frame
SaleBestseller No. 2
Suteck Camping Cot, Folding Camping Cot Bed for Adults Sleeping 1200D Double Layer Oxford Portable Folding Outdoor Cots for Camping W/Soft Pad Carry Bag for Home Office Nap Beach Travel, 500LBS,Grey
  • 【TIPS】Our oversized pad is vacuum-packed, and it will be naturally fluffy within 1-3 hours after unpacking. To unfold the cot to lay flat, please…
  • 【Removable Skin-Friendly Pad】 Suteck camping bed cot for adults has a soft and removable pad, the upgraded 3.5 lbs (1.6kg) pad makes you more…
Bestseller No. 3
Slendor Folding Camping Cot with Mattress Black,Max Load 800lbs Cots for Sleeping Camp Cots for Adults Kids Teenage Portable Travel Camp Cot Pad for Home Office Beach Garden Fishing
  • ✅【Folding Camping Cot】The folding cot for adults measures 74″x28″x15″ when open, pack size 41″x9″x7″. Cot weights 13.7 pounds,can be easily…
  • ✅【Heavy Duty Cot Bed】Camping cot is designed with tubular iron legs,Upgrade with 10 legs,25mm thickened oblate square tubes that adds the travel…

What is a Camping Cot and What should you Look for?

A compact, lightweight bed that is used when standard beds are not accessible or appropriate is known as a camping cot or camp bed. It consists of a collapsible wood or metal frame with a canvas, nylon, polyester, or linen cover to lie on.

Camping cots are frequently used for outdoor camping excursions as well as in military camps and emergency situations. For added comfort during extended camping trips, consider bringing a foam mattress and a camping pillow.

A polyester or nylon fabric that is both soft and easily washable would make the perfect camping cot. Although canvas material is typically quite difficult to clean, it may be more durable. The cot’s frames should be portable, rust-proof, strong, and simple to fold. Most cots feature metal frames that are fashioned in U or X shapes.

Benefits of using a camping cot over an air mattress

  • A spot to sit and get dressed should be provided, along with underground storage.

  • Dependable in all weather conditions

  • Sleeping off the ground

Drawbacks of camping cots vs Airmatresses

  • Large and heavy to store and move

  • Permits heat loss

  • Costlier

What is an Air Mattress and What should you Look for?

An air mattress is an inflated mattress that is often composed of polyvinyl chloride. It is sometimes referred to as a blow-up bed or an airbed (PVC). Some are constructed of rubber. Air mattresses are relatively common, reasonably priced, and available in a variety of styles for use in tents, RVs, and homes.

The airbeds are inflated before use using a handheld pump or a portable air compressor. For simple storage, air mattresses can be deflated and folded into a smaller size or shape. Having a repair kit, an air pump, and an optional chair sling are additional practical airbed accessories.

Benefits of inflatable mattresses vs. camping cots

  • Easily transportable and storable
  • coziness like a bed
  • flexible firmness

Drawbacks of air mattresses vs. cots

  • Must be inflated (this can obviously be a pain)
  • Can tear easily (yes you can patch but this is another vulnerability – esp. when camping)
  • Tend to take up a lot of space (especially in a tent)
  • Can drain overnight or in cold weather.

Camping Cots vs. Air Mattresses: Comprehensive Comparison

Easy Installation and Use

The simplest camping cots to set up are those that fold up. You only need to unfold the frames and lock them in place to be ready. On the other hand, air mattresses must be unrolled and filled before use. This implies that you are in for an unpleasant night if your valves are defective or, even worse, if you forget the air pump.

Self-inflating air mattresses are available on the market; these mattresses are inflated/deflated using an internal electric pump. It is not advisable for the pumps to be as noisy as a vacuum cleaner or even a hair drier.


Air mattresses are heavy and can sometimes occupy the entire tent, taking up too much room. Although they may take up the same amount of room, camping cots make up for it by offering under-the-bed storage for your camping supplies, such as hiking boots.

Air mattresses are the simplest and most practical to store or carry. Put them into their storage bags after simply folding and deflating them. When you have internal electric pumps to assist with the deflation, the process is even simpler. Air mattresses don’t take up much room in a trunk or storage.

Even when folded, camping cots have rigid frames that take up a lot of trunk room. Since they are heavy and large, they might not be suitable for hiking or backpacking (with the exception of only a few). Most camping cots are best suited for RV and automobile camping in terms of storage and transportation.

Sleeping Patterns

Sleeping postures differ from person to person. In the US, 74% of individuals sleep on their sides, 16% on their stomachs, and 10% on their backs, according to a research by Anna’s Linens. Your sleeping system should provide comfort and support regardless of your favorite sleeping position in order to promote restful sleep and long-term health advantages.

For improved body conformance without placing undue stress on the shoulders and hips, the sleeping surface for side sleepers should be moderately firm. For a side sleeper, a medium firmness air mattress might offer the support and comfort they require.

When you lie down on a camping cot, the fabric provides a rigid surface, which might not be optimal for side sleepers.

Since your neck and head are in a neutral posture and your spine is properly positioned, lying on your back is considered to be the ideal sleeping position. In order to keep this posture, you would need a hard sleeping surface as well as a low-profile pillow. This is where a camping cot thrives and is more suited for back sleepers.

The appropriate sleeping arrangement must be chosen in order to reduce the strain that stomach sleepers place on their muscles and spine. The ideal air mattress has a top layer of memory foam because it quickly adjusts to the body without sacrificing comfort.

Distance off the Ground (more important than you think)

The proper air movement and heat retention are compromised by being too near to the ground. Because of this, sleeping pads don’t make good camping sleeping arrangements.

A sleeping setup that is too near to the ground will cause problems since cold weather will make the ground just as cold or perhaps colder. For added defense against the cold, an insulating substance, such as a foam strip, can be put on top of the air mattress.

Although a self-insulated air mattress can be less cumbersome, in most cases cold air may still seep into the mattress. A 3 to 4 inch elevation from the ground is what airbeds offer. When it rains, water may collect underneath the tent, making an airbed an inadequate barrier against such discomfort.

The heights of camping cots range from 4 to 22 inches, which is a significant distance from the ground. The elevation permits the necessary ventilation, which is particularly helpful for cooling you off in hot weather. It also prevents you from getting wet while it’s raining, but it can make you lose more heat when it’s freezing outside.

Over 80% of adults have back discomfort at some point in their lives. The age group most affected by this issue is 30 to 50. When one overstretches their back muscles, it gets worse. Compared to a sleeping solution like an airbed or sleeping pad, camping cots can help reduce the strain involved with getting up from the ground.


The finest type of mattress for a shared sleeping arrangement is an air mattress. They are offered in numerous sizes, including twin, queen, and king sizes, and they can be elevated or low-profile. On the other hand, as camping cots are typically designed for use by one person, sharing one may not be practical. However, keep in mind that double cots do exist.

However, if the tent space is big enough, cots are available in various sizes and heights i.e. heights from 4 to 22 inches and sizes from Junior (52L × 22W inches) to Jumbo/King (84L × 40W inches). A wider cot can be more suitable if you regularly toss and turn during sleep.


Another important element to take into account is how long the sleeping system will last. Ideally, you would like one that is durable and would maintain its structural integrity while being used, transported, and stored.

In general, air mattresses are not very long-lasting. They can easily get punctured by sticks or sharp objects plus they tend to loss air overnight due to faulty valves among other reasons. An airbed with a thicker PVC layer can help avoid tears, seam splits and general air leakages.

Notably, some air mattresses utilize an inbuilt coil system to stabilize the mattress, improve lumbar support and avoid sagging. The airbed’s lifespan is tended to be slightly extended by this feature.

The strongest and most resilient sleeping arrangement is a camping cot. They are made with aluminum frames covered with rugged fabrics for guaranteed longevity and strength. You can also get a steel-framed one for extra sturdiness and durability. Make sure to lubricate the moving parts of the frame to prevent squeaking.

Heat Retention/Loss

Broadly speaking, air is a poor conductor of heat and works perfectly as a barrier of heat transfer through either radiation or conductive means. Thermal resistance of air mostly depends on the thickness and height of the involved cavities. An increase in either results to an increase in heat transfer especially through convection.

In cold weathers, the airbeds may not transfer too much heat from your body or the other way round. In hot weathers, a proper airflow is needed to keep you cool throughout the night. Air mattresses do little towards this as they don’t allow for adequate heat transfer away from the body.

An air mattress tends to be perfect for dry weather free from precipitation. A pad with a high R value placed on top of the airbed can help provide more insulation and cushioning.

The space left in camping cots allows for airflow, which is important for heat loss during hot weathers. On the downside you may experience the draft from under the tent during cold weathers. To prevent this, simply use a bed cover that goes all the way to the ground to keep the cold air off.

With very minor tweaks, camping cots offer the best all-weather sleeping system. A foam mattress, down sleeping bags and/or wool blankets can help keep you warm.

Camping Sleeping System Mistakes


Other Extras
Airbeds have been found to offer relief from back pain. This is mainly due to the adjustability of their firmness to accommodate various body shapes, weights, sizes and sleeping positions. Additionally, airbeds made with materials free from VOC compounds lower the risks of allergies. Notably, most air mattresses have a plastic odor due to the PVC material, which may be bothersome.

The plastic material in most airbeds becomes very squeaky and annoying with any body movement. The air mattresses also tend to slide around with any body movement unlike cots which have stable support that doesn’t allow such movements.

Camping cots are designed just like regular beds. This means you can get in and out of bed easily, and you can sit on it and even dress up with much more ease. Some camping cots even convert into benches for out-of-the-tent use, which can be very useful. You also get pockets sewed in the cots for organizational purposes.

Even if alternate sleeping arrangements like camping hammocks, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads are worthwhile options, they also have drawbacks when compared to cots or air mattresses.

Hammocks are effective at keeping you off the ground and typically take up minimal room to put up. However, they offer no insulation, so you will need a rainfly to keep you dry. Additionally, because your body will create a valley in the hammock, sleeping in one might cause back pain.

Hammocks are best used in warm weather or simply for afternoon relaxation.

Some campers choose to sleep simply in a sleeping bag that is spread out on the tent floor, which can quickly become very uncomfortable.

In general, sleeping pads are easier to store and transport because they weigh less. To combat the chilly nights, they might need more insulation, though.

A more sturdy pad that is waterproof and PVC-coated can help prevent body heat loss. Open-cell foam sleeping pads excel in increasing insulation and delivering comfort. While the foam cells in the pad retain air for additional cushioning, the foam itself offers a solid surface for lying on.

For cold weather, a sleeping mat with an R-Value (thermal resistance) of at least 5 is highly recommended. The greater R-Value a pad has, the more insulation it provides.

Evidently, neither an air mattress nor a camping cot are even remotely competitive with any of these alternate sleeping arrangements. Therefore, any worthwhile discussion should center on a conflict between cots and airbeds.

A long-running “battle” between campers about the pros and cons of airbeds and cots is frequently stymied by personal preferences rather than objective data. Choosing between the two is clearly difficult because each has advantages and downsides of their own.

As long as you have adequate room, combining an airbed with a camping cot is, however, highly advised.

Chris Chamberlain Administrator
I am an outdoor nut and love researching and testing new gear. For me its about finding that diamond in the rough…not just shelling out $$ for the sake of it. Its tough to decide between the mountains and the ocean so I try and travel alot and bring my Australian Cattle dog where I can (but he does not like boats).

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