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Camping Cot Vs Air Mattress: Which is Best for You?

When camping or traveling, it can be difficult to find a comfortable sleeping solution that is portable and easy to set up. Camping cot and air mattress are the good choice for this situation, Each of them has their benefits and limitations.

 In this post, we will explain the pros and cons, difference between them, and let you know which give you a better sleep.

Table of Contents

What Is Camping Cot?

Camping cot, also called a camp bed, is a small, transportable, and light bed that you can use when you don’t have a regular bed. It typically comes with a foldable wood frame or metal alongside a polyester, nylon, canvas, or linen covering for you to lie on. It’s a portable cot that folds up.

camping cot

A camping bed comprises two distinguished components: a sleep surface and a frame. You will find that in most basic cots, the sleep surface is designed using a piece of fabric that stretches tightly over the bed frame. Since the fabric contains tension, it gives a supportive and firm sleep surface.

Camping cots are most suitable for recreational campers. Also, they are ideal for militaries and hospitals. They are also beneficial during emergencies.


  • Comes with underneath storage space
  • Suitable for all weather conditions
  • You get a place to sit and dress up
  • Enjoy off-the-ground rest


  • Prone to heat loss
  • Bulky and heavy to transport and store.
  • Costlier

What Is Air Mattress?

air mattress for travel

An air mattress, an airbed, or a blow-up bed is an inflatable bed that mainly sits on the ground or floor. Many airbeds are designed from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and rubber. Others are also made from a type of urethane plastic reinforced using a fabric.

Most air mattress come in large sizes and hence cannot be inflated using breath. You can use an electric pump or a hand pump to inflate an air mattress.


  • Adjustable firmness
  • It comes with a bed-like comfort
  • Easy to transport and store


  • Requires to be inflated before use
  • Prone to damage through punctures and tears
  • Occupy extra tent space
  • High risk of overnight air leakage

Camping Cot Vs Air Mattress: Difference Between Them

Below is a side-by-side comparison of camping cots vs air mattresses. Have a look.


If you are looking for a mattress with a shared sleeping system, an air mattress is the best option for you.

Air mattress come in raised styles or low profiles, and you can get them in a variety of sizes, such as queen, twin, or king sizes. The smallest air mattress in the market is twin. It measures 38W by 75L.

On the other hand, camping cots are mainly designed to accommodate only one person. However, you can find double cots which can accommodate two people.

Also, if there is enough tent space, camping cots are usually available in different sizes and heights. The heights range from 4 to 22 inches while sizes from 52L by 22W inches. For those who toss and turn frequently at night, you can get a cot with a bigger width.


An average air mattress and cot may cost approximately $80 and $150, respectively, depending on the design, brand, and features. Other premium models that comprise additional features like extra insulation, ultralight weight, and a compact design may cost around $300.

If you are working on a really tight budget, consider getting an air mattress. A regular airbed price starts around $20-$30. At the same time, entry-level cots cost around $40-$50.

Comfort Consideration

A number of things determine the comfort you can get from an air mattress or cot. They include the firmness of the sleep surface, sleep position, personal preference and the size of the sleep surface.

Most campers like using air mattresses because they are more comfortable than cots. However, your sleep position plays a key role in ensuring you get excellent comfort from these beds. Are you a back, side or stomach sleeper?

  • For Back Sleepers

A firm sleep surface will serve you better. It supports your spine, head and neck. They remain appropriately aligned in a healthy and neutral position whenever you sleep.

For that reason, camping cots are ideal for back sleepers because there is reinforcement on the fabric. This makes the sleep surface firmer. It means your body won’t sink in. It remains on top. You can get a low-profile camping pillow to help put your neck in a proper alignment.

  • For Side Sleeper

A soft to medium base sleep surface is an excellent option. It is because a softer sleeper surface conforms to your curves without enforcing excess pressure on your hips or shoulders. In that regard, air mattresses are ideal for side sleepers when it comes to comfort.

The tight sleep surface of a cot may be too firm for side sleepers and, hence, not comfortable. It may exert pressure on the hip bone and lead to pain.

  • For Stomach Sleepers

They can consider a medium-firm sleep surface. This firmness level helps the body not to hide in the mattress and bend the spine into an uncomfortable and unnatural angle.

The air mattress would be appropriate for a stomach sleeper. The foam may conform to the body and give required support for the spine, hence increasing comfort.


Camping cot can keep you warmer compared to an airbed. Because camping cot is raised off the ground. It implies that you won’t lose your body heat to the cold floor through conduction.

The only downside is that cots may not give insulation from the cold air under the sleep surface. This makes air mattresses good for providing good insulation and keeping you warm.


Camping cots are ideal for all-weather use. During cold weather, you can use a sleeping pad on top of the cot to increase insulation. On the other hand, an air mattress gives excellent insulation during the winter but may become extra hot during summer.

Both of these two beds can be used as guest beds. You can set either of the two in your living room if you require a spare bed for your family and friends.

However, airbeds serve better as guests’ beds than camping cots. It is because they provide a larger and more comfortable sleeping surface.


Air mattresses don’t last that long. They are prone to punctures and holes by sharp objects and sticks. They also can lose air overnight due to damaged or faulty valves. However, if you get an airbed with a thicker PVC layer, it reduces occurrences of seam splits, tears, and other general air leakages.

Camping cots are durable and sturdy. They are built with aluminum frames, which are covered with rugged fabrics for maximum strength and longevity.

Ground Elevation

Most camping cots’ sleep surface measures approximately 16-22 inches high. Air mattresses are lower, measuring roughly 8-12 inches high.

A more raised sleep surface is often ideal. It makes it easier to get out of bed. There is not too much bending when trying to access your bed. Also, when getting out of bed, you won’t have to exert too much effort since you are in the appropriate position.

Since cots are raised off the ground, they are comfortable to sit on. You can use them when getting dressed, cleaning yourself off, and organizing gear, among other activities.


Camping cots can take just as much space but still make up for it by creating under-the-bed storage. You can use such space for your camping gear.

During storage and transportation, the air mattress is the most convenient and easiest. You only have to deflate, fold, and store them in their storage bags. They also take little trunks and storage space.

Camping cots come with rigid frames that use too much space even when folded. They are also heavy and bulky. This makes air beds good during storage.

Ease of Setup

It is so easy to set up a foldable camping cot. You only have to unfold the frames and then lock them in place, and you are good to go. Airbeds must be unrolled and thoroughly inflated before use. It can be challenging if you contain faulty valves, or you don’t have an air pump.

Although you will find self-inflating air mattresses in the market that mostly utilize an internal electric pump to inflate and deflate, the pump can be very loud, which is not desirable.

Factors should I consider when choosing

Here are some factors you need to consider.

  • Sleeping style: Side sleepers may find a cot more comfortable, while back and stomach sleepers may prefer an air mattress.
  • Budget: Consider the price difference between cots and air mattresses.
  • Terrain: If camping on uneven ground, a cot may be preferable for added stability.
  • Personal preference: Ultimately, the best choice comes down to what you find most comfortable and convenient for your camping style.


Are camping cots worth it?

It depends on personal preference and camping style. Camping cots can provide a more comfortable sleeping experience off the ground and offer better insulation in cooler weather. However, they can be bulky and heavy to carry compared to sleeping pads or air mattresses.

Does a camp cot need a mattress?

A camp cot doesn’t necessarily need a mattress, as they are usually designed to be used without one. However, adding a thin sleeping pad or mattress can provide extra comfort and support for a better night’s sleep.

Final Word

Cots and air mattresses are ideal for guests’ beds and car camping. For you to get a better sleep system, consider factors like comfort, insulation ratings, ground elevations, and ease of setup, among others, as discussed above.

Comfort is key whenever you are out on a camping trip. Choose a sleep system that is the most comfortable. You can always test for comfort when purchasing by lying down on different options to locate the best one for your needs.

Author: Jessica

Jessica is a lover of both life and gardening. She loves to share his passion for both on social media. He often posts about his latest gardening projects, as well as tips and tricks for others who might be interested in starting their own gardens. She also frequently posts about the different aspects of his life that he enjoys, from spending time with friends and family to exploring new places.

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