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Camping Cots vs. Air Beds

Camping Cots vs. Air Beds

You're ready to take your first overnight camping trip but have no idea where you'll sleep. Camping adventures in the great outdoors can be exciting, but without a good night's sleep, you might wish you had stayed home. Cots and airbeds both add a lot of comfort and make it much easier to get good rest when camping. Deciding whether to purchase a camping cot or air bed is often a matter of simple preference, so consider these important factors to help you make a decision.

About Cots and Airbeds:

Sleeping Size

Made to sleep a single person, a camping cot is comparable in size to a twin air-bed. There are also extra-long cots made to sleep tall people and extra-wide cots to accommodate people up to 450 pounds. Unlike camping cots, air beds can come in a variety of larger sizes — such as double, queen, and king — that can sleep more than one person in a single bed.

Sleeping Position

Once a camping cot is set up for sleeping, the fabric that stretches across the frame becomes taut. While this firm surface might be comfortable for people who sleep on their backs, side sleepers might prefer the flexibility and softer surface of an air bed. Air beds distribute weight more evenly across a sleeping area, so side sleepers may be less likely to develop painful pressure on their shoulders.

On or Off the Ground

One of the greatest advantages of sleeping in a camping cot is being elevated off the ground. Rainy conditions can make sleeping in an air bed on the ground, even with a tarp to cover it, a miserable, slippery experience. An elevated cot keeps you away from direct contact with the cold, hard ground in the chilly winter climate. Cots also allow air to more readily circulate around the bed to keep you cool in the summer.

Storage Space

Camping cots are impractical for use in small tents or for backpacking camping trips because their large frames take up too much space, even when folded. Cots are also more difficult to store in closets and other small storage areas due to their rigid frames. Pliable, deflated air beds can be manipulated into different sizes and shapes, allowing them to fit in tighter spaces. Camping cots can, however, possess an advantage when set up in larger tents: Other camping gear can be stored under the elevated bed.


Although air beds are made to be durable, they can puncture on sharp objects. Faulty side valves can occasionally cause air beds to leak and deflate during the night. Aluminum frames and rugged fabrics give camping cots a longer lasting advantage in durability and strength.