Camping Cot vs Air Mattress: Ultimate Comfort Test

I am sure that anyone who goes camping wants to make it an enjoyable time. As much as you want to be roughing it in the wilderness, you still want to have a comfortable bed to lay down your exhausted body after a full day of fishing, hiking, and enjoying the other activities that you love to do on your camping trips. With so many new options available that replace the need for a sleeping pad, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what kind of bedding you will want to have when you sleep.

Both the camping cot and the air mattress are good options for elevating comfort while camping. Advantages of having a camping cot include greater stability and a more lightweight packaging. Advantages of having an air mattress include a larger surface area and an automatic setup.

I have slept on both of these options and I cannot say that I have a preference. Whether or not you have a preference when it comes to having a camping cot or an air mattress, this article seeks to point out the different pros and cons of both options so you can make a more educated decision when choosing which one to take with you on a camping trip.

Pros of the Camping Cot

Camp-cot isolated on white with Clipping Path

The camping cot is designed to be a sturdy sort of mattress that elevates the body off the ground as one sleeps. Essentially, it is like a hammock, only flat and less fun. Yes, I said it. Regardless, this article is not about the hammock, so let us get back to its flatter and less swaying sibling.

The camping cot typically provides a firm surface for those looking for a more stable sleep. It also protects the body from the commonly uncomfortable and unforgiving ground that a sleeping pad would only slightly soften when placed between the sleeping bag and the earth. Another advantage to the elevation is the avoidance of any insects that might be crawling on the ground. You would not have any of those crawling on your face while you sleep, would you?

Another factor that makes the camping cot a favorite amongst campers is the more portable nature of its packaging. All camping cots tend to be just the right weight for carrying on your back if you plan to go backpacking or hiking to get to your camping destination. The metals they are composed of are meant to be strong enough to support the typical human body and yet light enough to carry alongside your sleeping bag and other articles.

The components that make up the cot also take up very little space when not completely set up. There really is little difference between how you set up a camping cot and how you set up a tent. Of course, any cot is guaranteed to fit any tent you have. Be sure to check the dimensions, though.

As for pricing, the camping cot tends to be a very financially friendly option. When you look on Amazon for their best-selling camping cot, the price of the Coleman Trailhead II Cot comes in at around forty-seven dollars. This cot supports up to three hundred pounds and has dimensions measuring in at seventy-three by thirty-five by seventeen inches.

The package itself weighs around twenty pounds and has an alloy steel furniture finish. You can order this item on the Amazon website or visit a Coleman store if one happens to be nearby. Just be sure to order the cot a few weeks before you plan to go camping.

Pros of the Air Mattress

air sofa isolated on a white background

The air mattress is commonly used for any camping trip that requires less movement from one camping area to another and takes up a decent amount of space depending on what size it is. Generally, you can find an air mattress that is the same size as any regular bed.

Some are even big enough for two people to sleep on. The feel of an air mattress also tends to be either as soft or as firm as the user would like. There is often a way to adjust just how much air is in the mattress to fit whatever sleeping needs the user may have. Just be sure to have enough that supports your body weight, though. This thing is meant to separate you from the ground as you sleep.

Something that is often useful when setting up these kinds of mattresses is the ability to blow them up using an air machine or pump. This is useful because the machine will be doing most of the work instead of having someone blowing up the mattress with their own mouth and lungs.

Doing this for too long and with a limited lung capacity can cause the person to go light-headed and unable to do the rest of the work setting up camp and generally enjoying themselves. By having the air mattress and a machine that blows it up for you, you can get busy setting everything else up and taking in the sights around you. Just make sure that the mattress you buy has a machine that comes with it and that it has the power source required.

When looking up the best-selling air mattress on the Amazon website, you will find that the Intex Dura-Beam Deluxe Comfort Plush Air Mattress Series with Internal Pump comes in at the number one placement. The price comes in at around fifty-three dollars for twin-sized, fifty-six dollars for full-sized, and sixty dollars for a queen-sized mattress.

No matter what size you choose, it will come with a pump machine built into the interior of the mattress that you only need to activate upon unpacking and unfolding to fill it up with air. Not all air mattresses on the market come with that sort of luxury.

Cons of the Camping Cot

Camp bed isolated on white

The camping cot may not be the most suitable choice for you if you prefer softer bedding for your back. The cot is generally not uncomfortable to the point of ruining a good night’s sleep, but it provides little room for adjusting the body to a different sleeping position if desired.

If you tend to toss and turn and end up sleeping in a position entirely separate from where you first fell asleep, then the camping cot might not be for you. Essentially, anything you buy that is meant to assist you in getting a healthy sleep should have the assurance that it will help you and your specific sleeping type. To do that, you will first need to find out exactly what kind of a sleeper you are and make an educated decision.

Another disadvantage to having a camping cot as your bedding is the work that goes into setting it up. Generally, when you arrive at a campground after a long few hours of traveling, you will want to set up camp as quickly as possible so you can get relaxing as soon as possible.

Having a cot to sleep on and set up manually takes a good amount of time to properly put together and find space for after you set up your tent. Also, even though the cot provides a perfectly flat surface to lie down on, it does not guarantee that you will have a perfectly level setup. The ground you find yourself camping upon will ultimately determine just how much your body will tip to the side while you catch those Z’s.

Cons of the Air Mattress

Air mattress isolated on white

The air mattress is a very heavy thing to carry regardless of being filled up with air when in use. Like I said earlier, the air mattress is primarily used during camping trips where you are staying in one area. This is because the air mattress takes a lot of time to set up and take down.

Also, the overall volume that the mattress takes up when full of air might be a bit unpractical when it comes to taking up the least amount of space possible in your tent. If you are hiking from one camping area to another during this particular camping trip, then I would not recommend taking an air mattress with you because of how much extra weight it will add to your pack.

Now, a more obvious fault of the air mattress would be just how fragile it is. Think about it: if you so much as cut the side of the bed or puncture it against a rock, the entire mattress is ruined. Whether or not the damage is accidental, you will likely not be able to use that mattress again during the entire trip — unless you happen to bring along a roll of duct tape, I suppose.

Even then, that will not guarantee that your mattress will remain blown up completely throughout the night. If you choose to bring an air mattress with you (preferably on a more stagnant camping trip like I mentioned before), you will have to be more cautious about what objects both natural and artificial are near or come in contact with the mattress.

What Kind of Camping Are You Doing?

A backpacker enjoying panorama views of the mountain ranges on day 2 of the Routeburn Track, South Island.

Ultimately, it all comes down to what kind of camping trip you are planning to go on. If you plan to go hiking while carrying all of your camping articles with you to each site where you will be sleeping, then you will likely want to go for the camping cot. I have been on a good number of backpacking trips with my friends in the past and I was always jealous of just how comfortable the cots of the other campers were compared to my little foam sleeping mat.

The funny thing is that the cots were likely the same weight or maybe even lighter than the sleeping pad I always brought. Generally, the sleeping cot supports a good amount of weight, so if you are of average build, then you should be good. Just be sure to check the weight limit anyway, just to be sure.

Now, if the camping trip you are going on is meant to be somewhat more leisurely and generally supposed to be in one certain location, then maybe you could go with the air mattress option. When you get to the camping site, you only need to blow up the mattress and you should be good just leaving it there for the rest of your stay.

Of course, if it happens to deflate slightly over the course of the time you spend there, you can always pump it up with more air to keep it to the firmness of your liking. This option will also be suitable for you if you are going camping along with another person — someone that you are comfortable sharing the same bed with, of course.

But if you are not Camping?

Although these options are mainly considered for camping trips, there are some people who use them in their everyday households. They can either be readily waiting in storage for a visitor to spend the night or really just be the typical way a person sleeps on any given night.

Generally, for this sort of use in the home, most people go with the air mattress option because of its size and adjustability. Their general levels of comfort and common capability to hold more than one person also contribute to the decision.

Other Options

Now, both of these options are good for specific kinds of camping, but maybe this article just leaves you indecisive. Thanks to the creative minds of today, you do not have to choose between one or the other! There are actually cots that you can buy online or at outdoor retailers that have an air mattress built into them.

By finding and purchasing one of these, you can have the advantages of both the camping cot and the air mattress. Of course, you still may not want to take one of these with you when you are hiking because the added weight of the mattress portion may not benefit you in the long run.

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