Camping Cot vs Air Mattress | Which is The Best For Camping?

Are you confused about the choice between a camping cot vs air mattress? If so, then read on as we have highlighted the pros and cons of each below.

When you on a camping trip, one of the most important factors to consider is your sleep. Several sleeping systems suffice for a camping trip but two stand out. Camping cots and air mattresses.

Truth be told, the question between camping cots and air mattresses will always exist, and it’s important to choose the right one if you want to get a good night’s rest.

Several factors determine whether you should go with a camping cot or air mattress. In this post, you will see these factors and the benefits of each over the other.

Whether you’ve got a smaller tent and need to accommodate for smaller space or want to stay off the ground at night, there are simply so many different factors that can help you to reach a decision – and we want to help you come to the right conclusion.

After reading this, you should be able to make up your mind which you prefer. So, without further ado, let’s give you a hand in picking the ideal sleeping system for you!

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What is a camping cot?

An example of a camping cot to highlight the differences when comparing a Camping Cot vs Air Mattress

While we prepare the way for our debate, let’s shed more light on what a camping cot is. A camping cot is a light small bed that can be used in place of regular beds. These are portable and easily foldable thus they can be moved easily from one place to another.

Camping cots are popular around army camps. Leisure camps, and where there are lots of emergencies. If you will be staying at a camp for long, then you may want to add a camping pillow and invest in a good quality sleeping pad. This will ensure that you enjoy more comfort.

For a camping cot to be described as ideal it must possess certain characteristics. Some of these include:

  • It should have a foldable frame.
  • It should be covered with fabric that is comfortable and easy to wash. The fabric may be nylon, linen, or polyester, however, many people still prefer canvas.
  • The frames should be durable and rust-resistant.
  • It should have a sleeping pad (or allow you to fasten your own sleeping pads onto the frame)

Advantages of Camping Cots

To consider camping cots over air mattresses, it is important to check out a few benefits that they present. Here are some of the positive notes:

  1. They provide storage space underneath the cot.
  2. There is a provision for sitting and dressing up.
  3. Camping cots are designed to be more rugged, allowing them to withstand adverse weather conditions.
  4. Camping cots are suspended so you don’t have to sleep on the ground.

Disadvantages of Camping Cots

As much as we like camping cots, they have a few disadvantages which include:

  1. Quite pricey when compared to air mattresses.
  2. Due to the fact that they allow for rapid heat loss, they’re not great at conserving body heat.
  3. When compared to air mattresses, they’re certainly the more heavy and bulky option, which means that they’re not the ideal choice to store and transport (even when folded).

What is an Air Mattress?

An inflated air mattress

In the build-up to establishing the winner of the camping cot vs. air mattress battle, we should know about air mattresses. An air mattress is also referred to as an airbed or blow-up bed. It is simply an inflatable mattress usually made with polyvinyl chloride. In some cases, the airbed is made of rubber.

These mattresses are affordable which is probably why they are so popular. There are several designs that you can use in your tent, home, and RV.

Before using an air mattress, you have to inflate it. To do this, you need a pump or air compressor, both of which should be portable for camp use. When you want to put away an air mattress, you simply need to deflate it, fold it, and store it for your next use.

They can come with a few accessories such as an air pump, chair sling (optional), and a repair kit.

Advantages of air mattresses

Here are a few benefits an air mattress has over a camping cot:

  1. The firmness of an airbed is adjustable.
  2. It provides comfort that is very similar to a regular bed experience.
  3. Portable and very easy to store.

Disadvantages of air mattresses

In the same, vein, there are a few things we don’t like about air mattresses:

  1. Require inflation before use.
  2. Take up too much space in the camping tent.
  3. Risk of damage resulting from punctures and tears.
  4. Possible air leakage overnight.

Comparing Camping Cot to Air Mattress

A couple looking up at the sky while lying down in a tent

In this section, we will consider a few factors that will influence your decision on camping cot or air mattress.

Ease of use and set up

Both sleeping materials are easy to use and setup but camping cots seem to be easier. All you have to do is unfold your cot’s frames and then ensure you lock them in place. After this, you can lay down and enjoy a good night’s sleep.

An air mattress needs to be pumped up before use. If there are any faulty valves or you left your pump at home, the mattress becomes useless.

These days, we even have air mattresses that are self-inflating. They make use of an internal pump that uses electric power to inflate and deflate the mattress. The only challenge with this is that it makes a loud noise like a hairdryer or vacuum cleaner. You don’t want to hear this noise all the time.

Storage and portability

Both camping cots and air mattresses are likely to take up space. Air mattresses take up a little more space in your tent. The advantage a camping cot has, in this case, is that there is space beneath the cot to store belongings.

However, when you are in transit, it is easier to transport air mattresses. All you need to do is deflate the mattresses, fold them, and put them in their bags. If the mattress comes with an internal pump, it is even easier.

Camping cots, on the other hand, comes with a rigid frame. This frame takes up a lot of trunk space even though it is folded. Due to the metal frame, the cot is also heavier and bulkier than an average air mattress.

Anyone who’s going car camping or just using a car to travel to their destination should certainly consider how much space they have.

Sleeping position

Different individuals have different sleeping styles. The sleeping system you choose should provide comfort regardless of your sleeping style.

However, it’s worth mentioning that air mattresses are better for side sleepers, where camping cots are often better for a camper who sleeps on their back. If you tend sleep on your stomach, then you should consider an air mattress. Either way, if you invest in a quality cot or mattress, you should enjoy a comfortable rest.


This is a factor that can vary wildly from one product to another with both cots and mattresses. Aluminum frames are often a good choice for a cot, and a good quality polyester fabric can certainly improve your experience. Camping cots may come with a small foam mattress, but for the most comfort it might be worth taking a sleeping bag.

When it comes to airbeds, you’ll often have a choice between polyvinyl chloride and rubber. Polyvinyl chloride is the more common choice, but it mostly comes down to personal preference.

A couple sleeping in a tent in the countryside

Sleeping surface

While related to material, it’s worth considering the sleeping surface as an individual factor if you want to get optimum rest on our camping trips.

For example, it could be a great idea to invest in a camp bed with a memory foam top layer, or a surface that offers heat retention if your outdoors in a cold environment. Cushioning, thickness and warmth are all good points to consider if you’re planning on sleeping outside.

Cushioning (especially memory foam for remembering body shapes) can be even more important for those who have spine problems or general back pains, which any camping enthusiasts, backpackers or people going hiking should keep in mind.

Size options

When it comes to choosing between a queen and king size bed (and any other kind for that matter), you’ll find that there are a variety of size options both in airbed and cot form. Whether you’re sharing or you want something suitable for one person with room for body movement, you’ll find that there’s something for you.

It is important to note that you’ll need to make sure that your tent is big enough to hold a larger camping bed/air mattress!


Planning on camping outdoors? if so, it might be best to prepare for a variety of factors, like climate and animals. To avoid the cold, an air mattress and warm blankets might be best. Taking a look at wildlife in the area you’re going could be useful too – if there are a lot of creepy crawlies, you might want to be further up from the ground.


This is the final factor we will consider in this post. Generally, camping cots have proven to be more durable than air mattresses. If you are in search of a durable sleeping system, then you should stick to a camp bed. There are some great airbeds that have a thicker material though, so you may find that there are a few options that offer exceptional durability from both types of beds.

Quick rundown of things to consider

A child in a tent sleeping on an air mattress

Planning on camping in a tent?

If you have a smaller tent, you may find that an airbed won’t fit. If you have enough room on the tent floor, an air mattress can be a great choice. On the other hand, a cot does offer more storage space due to the fact that its elevated off the ground, which might be worth keeping in mind if you have a lot of camping gear to store in your tent.

Going car camping?

If you’re not taking a tent on your trip and are instead planning on camping in your car, you might be wondering which kind of bed will be best for your need. If you don’t want to be close to the ground while you sleep, a cot may be best – but if you don’t have enough room, an inflatable bed shouldn’t be an issue.

Camping in hot or cold weather?

More often than not, cots can help to keep you cool thanks to more air circulation, where air mattresses are often better for camping in cooler weather to maintain body heat.

Are you a side sleeper?

your usual sleeping positions might be worth considering when buying. For a face-down or side sleeper, an inflatable bed is often a good choice. For face-up sleepers, it might be worth looking into getting a cot.

On or off the ground?

Unlike sleeping bags, both cots and air mattresses offer higher elevation off the ground – but if you’re looking to be as high up as possible, a cot may be the better choice.

Can you buy second hand?

There are likely to be a number of options for buying a pre-owned camping bed. However, if you want to avoid any surprise issues like small holes in an air mattress (which could cause air leakages) or seam splits in a cot (which can generally be uncomfortable), it may be best to buy something new.

Camping Cot vs Air Mattress -Wrapping up

By now, you will agree that the winner of the camping cots or air mattresses debate is a matter of choice. We have shown you the pros and cons of each and compared them side by side. It’s safe to say that both are better than sleeping on the ground or even a tent floor, and if you have the storage space they’re well worth taking along with you on your trip.

Which sleeping system do you prefer? Share your opinion with us in the comments section.

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