Choosing between a camping cot vs air mattress comes down to pure preference! But how do you know which is right for you? In all honesty you won’t until you try them both! With that being said, we’ve put together a comprehensive comparison between the two in order to help you make a more informed buying decision.
Whether you are a seasoned camper or you are just about to go out for your first camping trip, investing in an air mattress or a camping cot can help give you a good night’s sleep, making your camping experience that much more enjoyable.
What Are Camping Cots
A camping cot is simply a type of collapsible camping bed typically designed to enhance your overall comfort. Also known as a camping bed, camping cots usually look strikingly similar to the US army gurney. Of course, they are intended to be used when regular beds are either not suitable or available. And this implies that they are mainly used during emergencies, leisure outdoor camping, and army camps.
A great camping cot should be compact, highly lightweight for easy portability, and of course, reasonably comfortable so that you may start your day feeling rested and free from pain. A camping cot will always feature a foldable metal, or wooden frame with polyester, nylon, canvas, or linen covering for comfort.
A good number of camping cots are constructed from an aluminum frame with fabric stretching across the frame that becomes taut once assembled. And you are going for a prolonged camping escapade, you may want to carry along a foam mattress as well as camping pillow for optimal comfort.
When it comes to choosing the best camping cot, look for one that features a fabric that is highly comfortable and easy to wash. In this regard, both nylon and polyester get the nod. On the other hand, the canvas is more durable though it’s extremely difficult to clean.
As we previously mentioned, most cots feature aluminum frames done in either X or U-shaped designs. This is because aluminum is not only rust-resistant but equally easily foldable, durable and somewhat lightweight.
Advantages of Camping Cots
- They come equipped with extra storage pockets to allow you to store important accessories such as hiking boots, flashlights, and other few personal items.
- Thanks to their rugged design, camping cots are designed to tackle nearly all types of weather conditions.
- Cots give you the benefit of enjoying your sleep higher above the ground with reduced possibilities of you coming into contact with bugs and other annoying creatures.
- Today’s camping cots are very strong, compact and lightweight.
- They offer a place to sit on and dress up.
- Camping cots usually take up less floor space and can collapse into a small space as well.
- No pump or further assembling accessories needed except for maybe a sleeping pad.
Disadvantages of Camping Cots
- Relatively More Expensive
- They are not recommended for cold weather because they do not offer any insulation.
- They can be quite heavy and bulky. Of course, not all so make sure you correctly check the dimensions as well as the actual carry weight.
What Are Air Mattresses
Also referred to as a blow-up bed or airbed, an air mattress is simply an inflatable mattress made of PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) or textile-reinforced urethane rubber or plastic. When in deflated form, air mattresses can be compacted, stored or carried in a small form.
They have become popular among backpackers, campers as well as homeowners thanks to their affordability and a broad range of applications.
An air mattress can be used for camping, temporary or full-time home application, and can also be optimized to accommodate several uses, for example, guest and camping use.
A portable air compressor or a hand-held pump is usually used to inflate the airbeds for use. It is also imperative to note that others are automatically inflated when the valve is opened, up to a certain pressure but additional inflation may be needed either manually or by a pump.
Advantages of an Air Mattress
- Offer the much-needed bed-like comfort:
- They are extremely portability and easy to store.
- With an air mattress, you have complete control over how soft or firm you would want your sleeping surface to be.
- An air mattress is the most cost-effective option.
Disadvantages of Air Mattresses
- You must inflate them before use and this can be a daunting task. It also means that a pump is one extra accessory to tag along for your camping trip.
- They are prone to physical damage through punctures and tears.
- They occupy too much space in your camping tent.
- The overnight air leakage might not be a good thing to experience.
- Cheaper plastic-made air mattresses are known to produce a squeaky noise anytime one moves around and this is equally annoying.
Detailed Comparison: Camping Cot vs Air Mattress
Now that you have enough information regarding these two amazing camping sleeping systems, let us delve much deeper into cot vs air mattress discussion. In this section, we are going to carry out a detailed side-by-side comparison of the two based on many factors.
Ease of Setup and Handling
A camping cot should be very easy to set up and dismantle. Assemblage shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes at the maximum.
Camping cots featuring foldable designs are the easiest to set up. You only have to unfold the frames and secure them in place and you are ready to go. On the other hand, you will have to unroll and inflate your air mattress before you can use it.
The huge disadvantage of this is that if in any case, you forgot to bring your air pump along, or you have damaged valves, you are likely to have a long night.
You have the option to purchase the self-inflating air mattresses equipped with an internal electric pump to automatically deflate and inflate the air mattress. However, one downside of these self-deflating mattresses is that their built-in pumps produce lots of noise and this may not bode well with most campers.
There are three main types of sleeping positions including stomach, back, and side, with variables for each. Regardless of your preferred sleeping position, your camping sleeping system should provide optimal support and comfort ideal for a good night’s sleep. What’s more, it should guarantee the anticipated long-term health benefits.
Globally, nearly 70% of adults sleep on their sides. For many, myself included, there is no better sleeping position than side sleeping. Whether you would like to fully extend your legs, revert to the famous fetal position, or keep one of your legs straight, curling up on one side is a comforting way to get enough rest.
If you are a side sleeper, your sleeping system should feature a surface with medium firmness. This will provide better conformity to your body shape without putting excess pressure on your hips and shoulders.
In this regard, you will likely go for an air mattress because it allows you to choose the level of firmness that can offer the desired comfort and support for a side sleeper.
In our camping cot vs air mattress argument, camping cots may not be great for side sleepers. This is primarily because the fabric used in camping cots results in a taut surface when you lie on it.
If we were to rank sleeping positions, lying on your stomach will likely feature at the bottom of the list. While it can be a great position for snoring or sleep apnea, the anticipated benefits don’t extend much further!
Sleeping on your back not only causes back and neck pain, but also puts lots of unnecessary strain to your joints, spine, and muscles. As such, it is imperative to choose the right sleeping kit to help alleviate all these issues.
In this regard, an air mattress featuring a memory foam top layer is highly recommended because the foam easily conforms to your body without compromising the level of comfort.
Though not the most popular sleeping position, it’s arguably the best position. By far the healthiest option, sleeping on your back allows your head, spine, and neck to rest in a neutral position. This implies that there is no excess pressure on these areas, so you are less likely to suffer from pain.
If you are a back sleeper, you will need a relatively firm sleeping surface as well as a low-profile pillow for proper spine alignment. A camping cot is best suited for this role and this is a great sleeping system for back sleepers.
You also need to take into account the amount of space your sleeping system will require when you store it at home between camping trips.
In terms of storage and transportation, air mattresses get the node, simply because they are relatively easier and equally most convenient. You only need to deflate, fold it and place it in its storage bag. And if you have a self-inflatable camping cot at your disposal, the process will even be more effortless because the built-in electric pumps will help with the deflation. Air mattresses also occupy very little trunk and storage space.
Thanks to their increased thickness, air mattresses are known to occupy lots of storage space. Their camping cot counterparts may take up just as much space but give themselves an edge by offering an under-the-bed storage space. What’s more, some camping cots come equipped with storage spaces which you can use to store your camping valuables.
It is also imperative to note that camping cots feature robust but rigid frames that occupy lots of trunk space even when folded. Cots are completely out of consideration in regards to hiking or backpacking. They are simply too bulky and heavy to lug around. Camping cots are best suited for camping and RV purposes.
When it comes to settling the camping vs air mattress debate, the longevity of these two sleeping systems is a critical point to take into account.
You want a sleeping system that does not only serve you for an extended period, but one which will equally remain structurally sound during use, transportation, and storage.
In this respect, camping cots are head and shoulders above their air mattress cousins. They are not only the sturdiest but the most durable as well. As we previously mentioned, they boast robust and durable aluminum frames covered with sturdy fabrics for enhanced strength and longevity.
You also have the option to purchase one featuring a steel frame that guarantees extra durability and sturdiness.
An air mattress is comparatively less durable and is usually highly susceptible to punctures inflicted by sticks and other sharp objects. What’s more, they are prone to losing air during the night. It is highly advisable to go for an air mattress featuring a somewhat thicker PVC layer as this can help keep general air leakages, seam splits, and occasional tears at bay.
Some air mattress models use a built-in coil system that not only helps stabilize the mattress, but enhance lumbar support, and prevent unnecessary sagging. This feature may also extend the lifespan of your airbed.
Size Does Matter
While this solely a personal preference factor, it does form part of our camping cot vs air mattress discussion as well.
If you will be going camping as a family or a group, then an air mattress might be your best bet toward having a good night’s sleep. Simply put, they are designed for a shared sleeping system. They are available in a broad range of sizes, including twin, queen, and king sizes.
Though there are double camping cots on the market, cots are mainly designed to serve one individual. But, if the space of your tent is large enough, there are relatively bigger cots that can accommodate a few people.
Elevation off the Ground
An adequately inflated air mattress will feel like you are almost in your home bed but with a view of the night sky! This comfort, however, can easily be overshadowed by rainy conditions that can make sleeping on the ground a terrible experience.
What’s more, being too close to the floor negatively impacts on heat retention and air circulation. And this is the primary reason why sleeping pads aren’t good camping sleeping systems. However, you can use an insulating material such as a foam strip for double protection against the harsh cold weather.
A self-insulated air mattress might offer some resistance against the chilly weather. However, this doesn’t entirely imply that you won’t feel cold.
On the other hand, camping cots have a varying height of between 4 and 22 inches, which offers a great level of elevation from the ground. This elevation enhances the free circulation of air, especially during the summer. What’s more, it ensures that you are raised off the ground, ensuring that you won’t get affected by the rainwater. However, the downside of this is that it enhances heat loss during cold conditions.
And if you are suffering from back pain, which currently affects nearly 80% of adults during their lifetime, you will find a camping cot to be a valuable addition to your camping arsenal. Camping cots are known to reduce the strain involved while standing up from the ground as compared to their airbed or sleeping pad counterparts.
Heat Retention/Loss Capacity
When camping during the winter, it’s important to stay warm, especially when you are sleeping. If you are in contact with the ground, it will likely pull away from your body’s heat. This will, in turn, interfere with your sleep at best, and potentially cause hypothermia at worst. This implies that an air mattress may not be what you need during the cold weather.
In hot conditions, an adequate flow of air is needed to keep you cool during the night. Again, air mattresses do offer much help in this regard. Air mattresses are well suited for dry weather free from precipitation. For increased insulation and cushioning, you can consider placing a pad featuring a high R-value on top of your airbed.
Comparatively, the space left in camping cots supports airflow, which aids in heat loss during the hot weather. Unfortunately, users may have to contend with the draft generated by the underside of the tent during cold conditions. However, you can easily mitigate this issue by using a bed cover that goes all the way to the ground to keep the cold air at bay.
In general, with little adjustments, camping cots offer arguably the best sleeping system for all types of weather conditions. With either a sleeping bag or a foam mattress at your disposal, you’ll enjoy your sleep while camping.
Other Features Worth Noting
Research has proven that airbeds offer some sort of relief from back pain. After all, you can easily adjust their level of firmness to accommodate a range of body sizes, weights, sleeping positions as well as body shapes.
Airbeds made from materials that don’t feature VOC compounds reduce allergy risks.
Most airbeds have plastic materials that not only tend to slide around with even the slightest body movement but also produce lots of annoying sounds.
Camping cots, on the other hand, are relatively more stable hence doesn’t allow for any movement.
Camping cots, thanks to their construction design, allow you to sit on and dress upon them with minimal fuss.
Camping cots come equipped with pockets that you can use for storage purposes.
Some camping cots are highly versatile enough to convert themselves into benches for additional applications.
For camping enthusiasts, you already know how essential it is to have a good night’s rest. And this is why it is highly advisable to equip yourself with a high-quality sleeping system. In the camping sleeping system arena, the battle is mostly between the camping cot vs air mattress.
As experts in the industry, we have provided you with a comprehensive comparison article between these two valuable camping essentials. While the choice of the best sleeping system is always down to individual preference, you would agree with me that camping cots have a bit of an edge over their air mattress counterparts.