camping cot vs air mattress

Camping cot vs air mattress is an age-old dilemma for camping enthusiasts. Experienced campers know that good sleep can mean the difference between an amazing trip and a nightmarish one. From hammocks to sleeping bags, there’s a variety of sleeping gear available to make the most out of your adventure. 

However, all this gear falls short when it comes to the two most worthy opponents: air mattress vs cot. Both these solutions have their benefits and pitfalls depending on your unique situation. These two not only differ in comfort level but also in ease of use, portability, and many other factors. 

Looking for the right sleeping solution for your next adventure? Read on to determine which option is the winner for you. Cot or air mattress, you be the judge!

What are Camping Cots?

Camping cots have a long and prestigious history behind them. These cots have been used for centuries by soldiers drafted at war. Today, campers use them to create an elevated sleeping area. The cot itself is made up of a sturdy steel or aluminum frame. For comfort, the Çsleeping area is made of thick polyester or canvas. The material stretches over the frame to create a camping cot.

Most camping cots are meant for single campers as they emulate a single bed. However, there are larger options that can accommodate two people as well. Camping cots are quite heavy due to their solid steel frame and build. They’re usually preferred for car camping at established campsites like the Yosemite national park. But if you’re headed on a remote adventure, you can also choose a lightweight variety.

What are Air Mattresses?

Air mattresses promise the comfort of your bed at your favorite camping spots. These inflatable mattresses are typically large and super comfy. To set them up, you need an air pump to inflate the bed, to cater to a diverse range of camping enthusiasts, air beds come in a large number of sizes.

You can get everything from king-sized beds to standard twin beds. They shouldn’t be confused with inflatable sleeping pads which are much lighter and suitable for backpacking. Air beds are preferred by car campers who value comfort above all else.

Cot or Air Mattress for Camping: Which One is Right for You?

  • Ease of Use and Set-Up Process

Both air mattresses and sleeping cots are made to be super easy to use and set up. However, there are a few differences worth noting. When it comes to air mattresses, the setup process involves a pump for inflating the mattress. The important part is that most pumps need electricity to work. This may be a problem if your campsite is devoid of electricity.

On the other hand, camping cots are super simplistic in their design. They can easily be folded open without the need for any external devices or electrical sources. Some cots may require assembly due to their lightweight design but it only takes a few minutes of your time.

  • Comfortability Level

Since comfort is subjective, people might have different opinions depending on their definition of comfort. Despite that, a lot of campers unanimously agree that air mattresses are more comfortable to sleep on. These inflatable mattresses closely mimic the comfy bed you left back at home. With air beds, you also have control over how firm or soft the mattress will be.

As compared to mattresses, cots don’t provide the best sleeping experience. Many people end up putting a sleeping pad on the cot to make it more comfortable. Air mattresses are also commonly big enough for two people. Campers traveling with a partner will definitely prefer the mattress due to its large surface area. While twin-sized cots are available, they’re not the norm.

  • Insulation for Colder Climates

Winter camping isn’t for the faint of heart. This is why you need to make sure you’re prepared. Apart from packing heated clothing, your sleeping space also needs to retain warmth. The first step to ensure that is to be as far away from the cold, hard ground as possible.

While cots do manage to keep you elevated, their insulation mechanisms are not enough to ensure warmth. In fact, the freezing air under your cot results in heat loss that can make you feel even colder. To combat this pitfall, many campers choose to pair the cot with sleeping pads. You can also just go for the good old air mattress which does a great job of shielding you from the cold. If you are preparing for winter camping, we also recommend reading our article on how to keep a tent warm.

  • Portability

Air mattresses and camping cots have a lot of variations when it comes to sizes and weight. However, most air beds feature more portability than their nemesis, the camping cot. The reason for that is their ability to deflate into a much smaller size. While the mattress can deflate into a compact package, it may still be heavier than the lightweight folded cot.

In short, if you’re looking to save some space and don’t mind the extra weight, an air mattress is the way to go. But if you prefer a more lightweight solution that doesn’t promise a compact stature, camping cots might be your thing.

  • Durability

Camping cot vs air mattress, which one is more durable? The answer may depend on the quality of the product. However, some structural elements may make air beds less durable. A common air mattress is made with tough, siliconized fabrics that are designed to resist wear and tear. However, this is never a fool proof solution. 

If you have an inflatable air mattress, punctures and leaks are always a possibility. On the opposite end, camping cots are made with sturdy aluminium or steel frames. These cots can commonly take up to 227 kg of weight without breaking down. This is a pretty solid guarantee that your camping cots will stand the test of time. They were used in wars after all!

The Final Verdict

Both camping cots and air mattresses are amazing sleeping solutions with their own virtues. The one you choose depends on your priorities. If you’re a solo camper who wants a simple, elevated, and lightweight sleeping area, camping cots will be your savior. On the other hand, if you share your camp with a partner, value comfort, and need some warmth, air mattresses would be ideal for you.

If you want the best of both worlds, ditch the camping cot vs air mattress debate and try both together instead. Use our comprehensive comparison to weigh the pros & cons and don’t forget to catch a good night’s sleep while camping!


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