The last thing you’ll want to end up with on your upcoming camping trip is a terrible night’s sleep. So whether you’re packing light or have room for more camping gear, you’ll want to find a sleeping solution that ticks all the boxes. Choosing between a camping cot and a sleeping pad for your camping trip can make or break your camping trip, especially if you’re a camping newbie.
A camping cot is a portable, folding cot elevated above the ground and used by campers to sleep on. In contrast, a sleeping pad is placed directly on the ground, primarily for hikers, backpackers, and campers. Campers have a preference for one over the other when choosing sleeping gear.
Waking up with a sore body after a very uncomfortable night in your tent can zap the joy right out of your camping trip. So, what do you need to get a good night’s sleep when camping? A camping cot or a sleeping pad?
Is a Camping Cot Better Than A Sleeping Pad?
In the timeless question of camping cot vs sleeping pad, it’s essential to consider your needs, budget, and what you’ll be using it for. Camping cots are not necessarily better than sleeping pads. Choosing one option over the other comes down to personal preference.
To decide whether a camping cot or sleeping pad is better for you, we’ll need to look at the benefits of each and their features.
Why Should You Choose Camping Cots Over Sleeping Pads?
Camping cots are small portable beds used mostly for camping. These generally come in a standard size, but some brands may offer slightly larger or smaller-sized camping cots. Camping cots are most beneficial because you aren’t sleeping directly on the rugged and rocky ground.
Some camping cots come with a pillow and a built-in side table with a drink holder for your morning coffee. Camping cots also double up as a comfortable place to sit while you’re getting dressed. Besides these benefits, they don’t take up more space than a regular air mattress.
Camping Cot Features
- Easy to use
- It can be fairly priced
- Easy to fold and pack away
The Best Camping Cots for a great night’s sleep
1. Coleman Pack-Away Camping Cot
The Coleman 80×32 Pack-Away Camping Cot is an excellent camping cot to start camping with. It’s got all the basics you’re looking for in a camping cot, plus a little more. This trusted brand will also ensure that the camping cot lasts several years.
Best for new campers, those who are looking for comfort, and campers who don’t mind a heavier camp cot.
- Removable side table
- Wider than most camping cots
- Has a weight limit of 300 pounds
2. Redcamp Folding Camping Cot
Redcamp Folding Camping Cot is for campers looking for extra comfort. This ultra-comfortable camp cot can hold an impressive 500 pounds and is lined with double Oxford fabric.
Best for campers who want a camping cot with a comfortable fabric support structure.
- One of the most comfortable camping cots
- Heavy-duty frame
- Easy to set up and fold down
- Comes with a carrier bag
3. Earth Ultimate Extra Strong Military Camping Cot
The Earth Ultimate Extra Strong Military camping cot has everything you could imagine in a camping cot. It is multifunctional with a collection of zipping and utility pockets. This camping cot is perfect for the avid outdoorsman.
Best for outdoor enthusiasts who prefer camping cots with additional storage options.
- Strong build
- Comes with utility pockets
Why You Should Choose Sleeping Pads Over cots
The biggest reason why campers choose a sleeping pad over a camping cot is that sleeping pads are insulated. Sleeping pads are also much warmer to sleep on, even though you are sleeping directly on the ground.
Sleeping pads are light, compact, and easy to take along. If you’re camping, they won’t take up much space, and if you’re hiking or backpacking, they can easily fit in your backpack.
Sleeping pads can also cost a lot less than camping cots. Although inflating them can take a few minutes depending on your brand, it’s a convenient way to sleep when camping.
Sleeping Pad Features
- Easy to pack
- Fairly priced
The Best Sleeping Pads To Purchase
1. Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xlite Sleeping Pad
The Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xlite is one of the most popular sleeping pads for backpackers due to its complete offering of comfort, lightweight feel, and warmth.
Best for backpackers, hikers, campers, and those who need a lightweight and compact sleeping pad for the outdoors.
- Quick inflation
2. Sea To Summit Ether Light
The Sea To Summit Ether Light sleeping pad is a 3 season sleeping pad offering insulated comfort with air sprung cells.
Best for those who hike and camp most of the year and are looking for a comfortable sleeping pad.
- Available in different sizes
- Cell construction mimicking a spring mattress
- Fast inflation
3. Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm
The Therm-A-Rest Neoair Xtherm is the perfect sleeping pad for cold weather. It was designed to have the ideal warmth to weight ratio and stay insulated throughout the night.
Best for those who are hiking and camping in extreme weather conditions.
- Rugged design and durability for extreme weather conditions
- Fitted with a layer of thermal foam
- Quick inflation and deflation
How To Choose Between A Camping Cot And A Sleeping Pad?
Deciding between a camping cot and a sleeping pad can be difficult.
Sleeping cots are comfortable but can be bulky to pack and carry around. On the other hand, sleeping pads are lightweight and easy to pack but might not offer as much support. Sleeping pads may also not be ideal for those with back or joint problems.
If you don’t mind roughing it and are a minimalist camper, the best option is to buy a sleeping pad. It will be easy to carry during the day while hiking and won’t take up much space in your backpack.
If you are a sucker for comfort and prefer to be slightly above the ground when camping and have a place to sit in your tent, you may consider a camping cot.
Most campers who use a camping cot add a mattress and even a sleeping bag for extra comfort. And those that use a sleeping pad will often use sleeping bags too.
If you’re indecisive and not sure which will better suit your needs, you could always opt to use a camping cot with a sleeping pad. Some campers are fond of this combination, especially when camping in the winter. It increases the insulation, keeping you warmer.
How Comfortable are Camping Cots compared to Sleeping Pads?
There are two types of campers, one that enjoys camping comfortably and others that don’t mind roughing it.
Camping cots are not the most comfortable portable beds, but they lift you off the ground and help prevent those aches and pains you may get from sleeping on the ground. In addition, most modern camp cots are fitted with a mattress for extra comfort.
Despite the bulkiness and sometimes heavy nature of camping cots, they are an excellent option for comfort when camping.
The sleeping pad is minimalistic and does not offer much cushioning from the hard ground.
If you are looking at purchasing a sleeping pad, the thickness and insulation factors are essential. An excellently designed sleeping pad will be durable and offer as much comfort as a sleeping pad can offer.
Some modern sleeping pads have unique cell technology that helps keep you warm and acts as a mattress with springs for extra comfort.
Camping Cot Vs Sleeping Pad For Camping In Different Seasons
The camping cot is a great item for camping in most seasons. A camping cot keeps you cool in the summer but does not keep you warm in the winter due to the cold air rising under the cot.
While this can be combatted with a mattress, sleeping bag, and other bedding, it is not the ideal item for winter camping.
Sleeping pads are designed for specific seasons. Most sleeping pads are suitable for two seasons, while others can be used in all seasons. The all-seasons sleeping pads are equipped with a foam layer to help you keep warm in very cold conditions.
You may think that because sleeping pads are placed closer to the ground, they don’t keep you warm. This can be true for some cheap sleeping pads, but most are designed to keep you warm and prevent you from feeling the coldness of the ground.
Sleeping pads are generally made from a non-organic material, which may make you hot in the summer. There are wide varieties of sleeping pads, but the best all-weather sleeping pads are not foam-based but are inflatable pads. These are more modern and suitable for all kinds of weather conditions.
Both camping cots and sleeping pads offer some comfort for seasonal camping. To be more comfortable when seasonal camping, you can add sleeping bags, blankets, and even sheets to help you stay comfortable.
Rounding up our comparison of cots v sleeping pads
When it comes to choosing between sleeping pads or cots, it really does depend on the circumstances. Those with back problems or wanting to prioritise comfort should use a camping cot (often with a sleeping pad on top), while backpackers may find cots too heavy to carry.