Camping cots and air mattresses are great for taking on various hiking and camping adventures. They are way more convenient (and comfy) sleeping options than the cold, unforgiving ground, but how do you choose between camping cots vs air mattresses?

However, given their different areas of expertise, choosing between them can be difficult. There are a variety of factors that can influence your choice. Be it in terms of comfort, affordability, or ease of setup, there is much to consider.

Today, we will look closely at these sleeping solutions and compare them side-by-side. That way, you will get to see where they shine and where they fall behind. Let’s dive in, shall we?

What Is a Camping Cot?

The best camping cot is a simple, lightweight, narrow bed with an elevated, folded frame. It’s made from a tightly pulled sheet of robust material on top of the frame that keeps you elevated off the ground and serves as the bedding. It resembles a sun lounger you lie on at the beach!

Features of a Camping Cot

The most distinctive feature of a camping cot is its foldable structure. These camp beds are made from either metal or aluminum and have a sheet of nylon, polyester, or linen on its top. They help keep you off the ground, protecting you from pests, dirt, and rainwater.

As far as portability is concerned, camping cots come in a variety of shapes and sizes. You can choose between a U or X-shaped foldable design, both quick to pack and easy to carry.

Usually, these sleeping systems support only one person at a time. Still, you can invest in larger cots, depending on the number of sleepers. But remember, the greater the cot size is, the more difficult it will be to store and transport.

However, camp beds lack comfort, especially when used for extended periods. Since the sheets are quite taut and sag in the middle, rolling over on the bed is difficult, especially if you are a stomach sleeper.

But with the addition of a camping pillow, foam mattress, and breathable fabric, camping cots make an incredible addition to camps and outdoor hikes. And if you are searching for the perfect cot, the Coleman camping cot is a great option.


  • Off the ground sleeping
  • Suitable for all weather conditions
  • Easy setup and disassembly
  • Provide storage space for camping gear


  • Relatively expensive
  • Prone to heat loss
  • Not ideal for stomach sleepers

Best Camping Cots for Camping on a Cloud of Comfort

1. Helinox Lite Cot OneBest for Lightweight Adventurers

Helinox Lite Cot Black

The Helinox Lite Cot One is the stuff of backcountry dreams. Compact, lightweight, and strong enough to hold 265 lbs, it redefines comfort on the go. At 2.5lbsThe revolutionary lever-locking system ensures a firm, taut sleep surface that cradles you to sleep after a long day of exploring.

Get your Helinox Lite Cot on Helinox and Amazon from $299.95

2. Mountain Summit Gear Horizon CotBest for Car Campers and Outdoor Loungers

Mountain Summit Gear Horizon camping Cot on Camping Cots vs Air Mattresses

Lounging in the great outdoors has never been this comfortable with the Mountain Summit Gear Horizon Cot. Its strength lies in its versatility. Specifically, it converts easily from a sleeping surface to a camp chair, meaning you can go from snoozing to stargazing without moving an inch. Both durable and practical, it’s the outdoor lounger’s dream come true.

Get your Mountain Summit Gear Horizon Cot from REI or Amazon from: $99.95

3. REI Kingdom Cot 3Best for Luxury Seekers

REI kingdom camping cot 3 on Camping Cots vs Air Mattresses

If you’re the sort of camper who won’t compromise on comfort, then the REI Kingdom Cot 3 is your royal throne in the wilderness. Its luxurious padded sleeping surface and adjustable backrest ensure you sleep like royalty, regardless of the terrain. Sturdy, roomy, and adjustable, it’s an investment in outdoor comfort that truly pays off.

Get your REI Kingdom Cot 3 from REI for $199.00 (at the time of publishing)

4. Coleman Trailhead II Camping Cot- Best for the Budget-Savvy Sleeper

Coleman Trailhead II Camping Cot

Meet the Coleman Trailhead II Cot, your new best friend for a budget-friendly night under the stars. You don’t need to break the bank for a good night’s sleep! Let’s delve into its standout features and specs:

Get your Coleman Trailhead II Cot from REI or Amazon from: $54.99

What Is an Air Mattress?

An air mattress or an airbed is an inflatable mattress usually made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It is straightforward to inflate and deflate after use and, therefore, a popular choice for all Rovers and campers.

Features of an Air Mattress

Air mattresses, with their utmost comfort and softness, feel like home when used in outdoor settings. The most prominent feature of airbeds is their adjustable level of air which lets you decide how firm or soft you want the mattress to be, depending on your personal preference. If you dream of sleeping on a cloud, then an air mattress will fit the bill.

There are two ways of filling up the airbed. Generally, you can do it manually or use any air compressor, battery-powered pump, or inflator. Alternatively, you can invest in a self-inflating mattress, which offers better insulation and durability than the regular air pad.

Another option to air mattresses is sleeping pads, which share features, but are usually more portable.

Carry Weight and Storage

Another major characteristic of inflatable mattresses is their ease of carrying and storage. They are super lightweight, compact, and sold in different sizes without being too harsh on your pocket. An air mattress when deflated, is compact and light, ideal for the backpacking minimalist.

Pump and Repair Kit

At the same time, certain shortcomings are still associated with a camping air mattress. First of all, you need to have a proper pump and repair kit with you at all times. This is important because air mattresses are prone to ruptures, tears, and overnight air leaks caused by sharp objects.

Moreover, since these camping mattresses are placed directly on the ground, they offer little protection against crawling creatures and severe weather conditions.

In conclusion, while these inflating mattresses are time-consuming and complicated to set up, with extra care and effort, you can get the most out of them and enjoy the comfort of sleeping on a bed-like surface. Get this queen-size Kush camping air mattress to ensure a quality sleep experience in the great outdoors.


  • Provide adjustable firmness levels
  • Lightweight, portable, and easy to store
  • Budget-friendly
  • Suitable for side sleepers


  • Need proper repair kit and pumping tool
  • Greater risk of ruptures and valve leakage
  • Less protection during harsh weather conditions

Best Air Mattresses to Elevate Your Outdoor Slumbers

1. Coleman QuickBed Single-High Inflatable Air MattressBest for the No-Fuss Nomad

Coleman QuickBed Single-High Inflatable Air...

The Coleman QuickBed Single-High Air Mattress is as straightforward as it gets. To begin with, it offers a durable, comfortable, and effortless sleep solution for those who want to keep it simple. Couple with that its puncture-resistant material and plush top provide a sleep environment that mimics your bed at home.

Affordable camping mattress that comes in a twin, full, and queen size that doesn’t break the bank.

Here’s why you should consider floating off to sleep on this air mattress:

Get Coleman QuickBed Single High Air Mattress on Amazon for: $36.56

2. NEMO Roamer Sleeping Pad, XL Wide- Best for the Roomy Relaxer

NEMO Roamer Sleeping Pad, XL Wide

If you like a little extra elbow room, then the NEMO Roamer Sleeping Pad – XL Wide is your go-to. It provides an extra-large sleeping surface without sacrificing portability. The self-inflating design and 4 inches of luxurious thickness make this sleeping pad a dream come true for campers who crave space and comfort.

Here’s why you might just fall in love with this camping gear gem:

Get NEMO Roamer Sleeping Pad, XL Wide on REI and Amazon for: $249.95

3. HEST Sleep System Sleeping Pad – Wide – Best for the Ground-Loving Glamper

Hest sleep system sleeping Camping Cots vs Air Mattresses

Glamour meets ground camping with the HEST Sleep System Sleeping Pad – Wide. Its foam topper and inflatable base combine to deliver a sleeping surface that rivals your mattress at home. With its 30 inches-wide sleeping surface, this pad has received a thumbs-up from all types of sleepers.

Designed for maximum comfort and insulation, it’s the perfect choice for those seeking luxury in the great outdoors. Insulated for maximum warmth, this sleeping pad gives Jack Frost a run for his money. Even on cold nights, you’ll be as snug as a bug in a sleeping bag.

Let me show you the special features that make this the luxury liner of the camping world:

Get a touch of glam with HEST Sleep System from REI and Amazon for: $499.00

4. Hikenture Double Sleeping Pad for Camping – Best for the Cozy Couple

Two is better than one with the Hikenture Double Sleeping Pad. Designed to comfortably fit two, it offers a shared sleeping experience that doesn’t compromise on comfort. It’s the perfect choice for couples who enjoy snuggling under the stars.

Buckle up, because this isn’t just a sleeping pad – it’s a luxurious night’s sleep, wrapped up in a packable piece of kit. Here’s why your camping adventures might just get a whole lot more comfortable:

Get Hikenture Double Sleeping Pad from Amazon for:

Camping Cots vs Air Mattresses: Which Is Better for You?

Camping CotsAir Mattresses
ComfortMediumHigh (with a good model and properly inflated)
Ease of Set UpMediumEasy (if pump is available), harder (if manually inflated)
DurabilityExcellentMedium (prone to punctures)
Sleep Surface SizeVaries by model, generally smaller than air mattressesVaries by model, generally larger than cots
CharacteristicsElevated off-ground, sturdy construction, may include a mattress or require additional paddingClose to ground, prone to deflating, comfortable with sufficient padding
PortabilityBulkier and heavier, not ideal for backpacking, better for car campingLightweight and compact when deflated, suitable for backpacking
SeasonsBest for 3-season camping can be used in winter with sufficient insulationSuitable for all seasons with proper insulation underneath
The choice between camping cots vs air mattresses largely depends on your camping style, personal comfort preferences, and budget. Camping cots may be better suited to car camping or base camps, although air mattresses can be a good choice for backpacking or minimalist camping. Always ensure you have appropriate insulation for the weather conditions, regardless of your sleeping system choice.

When you ask the right questions, deciding between getting a camping cot or an air mattress is easy. Below are some primary features that can help you decide which of these two camping beds is better.

Ease of Setup

After a fun and tiring day of camping, the last thing you want is to spend hours setting up your sleep system. Therefore, its assembly and use should be as simple as possible. Camping cots are easy – unfold it, layer it with a sleeping bag, and it’s ready for use. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for air mattresses.

Their setup requires more time and effort as they must be inflated before use. Of course, the use of electric pumps has made the process simpler. Still, there can be irritating difficulties, from lack of electricity to dead batteries or faulty valves, that can cause occasional problems. So, camping cots bag the top spot in this round.


Air mattresses take the lead in terms of comfort vs Camping cots can be pretty uncomfortable. Especially if you are sleeping on them for the first time. The fabric is relatively thin, and the frame can be stiff and unforgiving. They are also generally cold and provide less heat insulation.

However, you can always place an inflatable sleeping pad or a lightweight foam on top to improve comfort. You can find a good number of sleeping pads on Nemo Equipment.

On the other hand, air mattresses are much thicker, softer, and more comfortable to sleep on. They also often have built-in blankets and pillows, adding extra comfort. And their insulated foam will keep you warm all night, especially on those cold, rainy camping nights.


Camping cots are the clear winner when talking about portability. They are lightweight and easy to fold, which makes them super convenient to transport from one place to another.

In contrast, air mattresses are often heavy and bulky, making transportation difficult. This doesn’t mean that they are completely impractical regarding portability. There are also some lightweight and smaller varieties on the market. But overall, camping cots are far more travel-friendly than them.


When selecting camping beds or any camping gear, it’s essential to ask: how long will it last?

You want a sleeping system that not only serves you for one night but also for your future camping trips.

In this respect, camping cots are way above their air mattress cousins. They boast strong, durable frames with sturdy fabrics for enhanced durability and longevity.

Air mattresses are comparatively less durable and more prone to punctures and leakages. But if you still wish to use them, make sure to go for ones with a thicker PVC layer, as they can keep occasional tears, seam splits, and air leakages at bay.

Sleep Surface Size

This one is solely a personal preference factor. If you are camping with friends and family, then an air mattress might be the right choice. Simply put, they are designed for shared sleeping and come in many sizes, including twin, queen, and king.

Conversely, cots generally serve one individual at a time. Though there are larger varieties, like the double camping cots that can accommodate a few people, they will turn out to be much costlier than an air mattress.


Budget is another crucial factor when deciding which camping bed to get. It’s hard to say which sleeping system is on the pricier side and which is on the cheaper because the cost of both can vary significantly depending upon their quality and features. Therefore, you can easily find a product that fits your budget in both categories.

When to Choose a Sleeping Pad or Camping Cot

Sure, floating on an air mattress can make you feel like a wilderness aristocrat, but sometimes a sturdy camping cot takes the crown. As your trusted outdoors guide, let me lead you through the wilderness of decision-making. When should you choose a camping cot over an air mattress for camping?

Recommended reading: Hammock vs Tent: Battle for the Best Night’s Sleep, How to Fix Heel Slippage in Boots

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is more portable: a camping cot or an air mattress?

If portability’s your game, then air mattress is your name. Deflated, they pack down small enough to leave room for those extra marshmallows. Cots, on the other hand, are bulkier – perfect if your car’s doing the heavy lifting.

Which is better for my wallet: a camping cot or air mattress?

If you’re on a budget tighter than a bear hug, then an air mattress could be your best bet. But remember, you get what you pay for – a cot might be pricier but can be a longer-lasting investment.

Which is more durable: a camping cot or an air mattress?

Cots tend to be the tortoises in the race, outlasting many an air mattress hare. With no worries about punctures, hence, they’re a solid bet for longevity.

Which is easier to set up: a camping cot or an air mattress?

If you’re armed with a pump, an air mattress inflates faster than you can roast a marshmallow. Setting up a cot can be more of a camping workout, but hey, who needs a gym membership when you’re a nature lover?

Is a camping cot or air mattress more comfortable?

Both can provide cloud-like comfort! It depends on your preference. Love the idea of sleeping elevated off the ground? Then a cot could be your cozy haven. Prefer to sleep closer to nature? An air mattress can mimic your home bed experience in the wild.

Conclusion- Camping Cots vs Air Mattresses

Selecting the ideal type of camping mattress may seem like a daunting task at first glance. But with the correct information, you can confidently pick the right option.

Air mattresses are unbeatable in terms of comfort and should be your priority for a quality sleeping experience. However, if you wish for a longer lifespan and higher durability, you should consider camping cots instead.

The final choice is ultimately yours to make. Keep in mind the benefits and drawbacks of each type before picking between a camping cot or air mattress for your next adventure.

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Last update on 2024-04-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API