Which backpacking cots are best?
A backpacking cot is an essential item when trekking, especially if you plan to spend several days on the trail. Not only are they generally more comfortable and supportive than camping mats, but they add a space between you and the cold earth that regulates the temperature and aids a good night’s sleep.
The best backpacking cots are lightweight, eminently portable and easy to assemble and pack down. One such option is the Therm-a-Rest Ultralight Cot, which ticks all these boxes and is highly durable.
What to know before you buy a backpacking cot
Backpacking cot portability
One of the defining features of a backpacking cot, as compared to a camping cot, is its collapsibility and some fold into articulated sections, while others disassemble into pieces. A cot’s portability is determined by its size and weight when packed down, and those used for backpacking should be no bigger than a one-person tent when collapsed and weigh no more than four pounds.
The compromise with lightweight models is they can be less durable and less comfortable than heavier models. They are also usually lower to the ground and offer less support than their more robust counterparts.
Backpacking cot assembly
A cot used for backpacking should be quick and easy to assemble and pack down, as you don’t want to waste too much time setting up camp. This is especially true if weather conditions are poor, after the sun has set or there are other pressing things to take care of, such as food and shelter. The best backpacking cots usually require some assembly, as their design is focused on being lightweight, not ease of use. Some modern models use pole and shock cord designs that are similar in construction to dome tents, with sprung cross braces to provide tension.
Supportive qualities and weight capacity
A backpacking cot is generally much more comfortable than your average roll mat or a thin air mattress. A good backpacking cot can also help to prevent back and joint pain, which is all the more important if you are on the trail and far from the nearest pharmacy or medical center. Lightweight models usually have a weight capacity of around 300 pounds, with some sturdier models supporting up to 500 pounds. However, these are often heavier to carry.
What to look for in a quality backpacking cot
Backpacker cots vary in size, but most are around 75 inches long and 25 inches wide when assembled. Most adults should have no problem sleeping on a cot of this size, but there are larger options available with some models. These can be as large as 40 inches wide, but of course, you must accept a compromise as far as weight and portability are concerned.
As most of a backpacking cot’s construction is fabric, this must be especially strong and lightweight. The best material for backpacking cots is high-Denier ripstop nylon as not only is this strong, light and durable, but it also has good water-resistant properties. Cotton provides more comfort and warmth than nylon, but it is notably heavier, doesn’t repel water and is difficult to clean.
The support structure of the cot determines its efficacy, and it must have a high strength-to-weight ratio to be carried over long distances before use. The best backpacking cots are slightly flexible and rely on clever design to create a rigid frame from delicate components. The legs should not be able to puncture a tarp or tent floor, but coasters or end-caps can be used if this is a concern.
How much you can expect to spend on backpacking cot
Good quality backpacking cots start at around the $50 mark, with midrange models costing between $70-$100. A high-quality model that is ultra-lightweight, durable and comfortable costs upwards of this amount, with some reaching $170.
Backpacking cot FAQ
Are backpacking cots worth the effort?
A. The answer to this depends on your priorities. When engaging in tough, enduring hikes, any extra weight poses a real burden on the body and weight must be kept to an absolute minimum. However, comfort and a good night’s sleep in between exertions can prove just as important for physical health and mental wellbeing.
Can I use an air mattress with my backpacking cot?
A. A slim air mattress or foam roll mat is highly effective when used on top of a cot as it adds an insulating layer that is both comfortable and cozy. Bear in mind that either will add considerable bulk and weight to your carried items while on the trail.
What’s the best backpacking cot to buy?
Top backpacking cot
What you need to know: One of the lightest models currently available, this high-end model is well-designed, durable and above all, comfortable.
What you’ll love: The Therm-a-Rest Ultralight packs down very small and has two options for regular and lightweight setups. It assembles quickly with no tools required and is made with special “ThermaCapture” nylon material that has excellent insulating properties.
What you should consider: This cot has a shorter elevation than some models and parts of your body may touch the ground at certain points.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top backpacking cot for the money
What you need to know: It’s hard to fault this light and well-thought-out model that is worthy of the most die-hard backpacker, despite its modest price tag.
What you’ll love: At just 4.8 pounds the Marchway Ultralight lives up to its name and packs down into a neat 17-inch sack. Its aluminum rod with shock-cord construction means it snaps together quickly and easily and supports up to 275 pounds in weight.
What you should consider: Care should be taken to ensure it is as level as possible to avoid breakage.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This comfortable bed fits together quickly and easily and packs down into a 14-inch zippered case that slips easily inside a backpack.
What you’ll love: This clever design by KingCamp uses levers to tension the bed springs and releases to fold flat for storage. Its 420D Oxford cloth is durable and water-resistant and it supports up to 265 pounds in weight.
What you should consider: This model requires some pressure to assemble and some may require assistance when fitting the bed springs.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Luke Mitchell writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them a lot of time and money.
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