Camping Cot Buyer's Guide

In the camping world, the best option for upgrading a night’s sleep is to add a cot to your selection of sleeping gear. If you’re camping near your vehicle, a cot should be high on your priority list. In my opinion, it should be No. 1. With some of the compact, lightweight models, it doesn’t matter how far you are from your vehicle. They’re really not that bad to strap onto a pack. Think about it. You’re going to spend a short time carrying a cot and at least eight hours sleeping on it!

Besides getting your back off of the cold, hard ground and making you much more comfortable, there are other benefits to having a cot in your tent. A cot gets your bedding off the floor and provides more storage room in a tent for things like bags, shoes and other personal items that can clutter your space and make it more difficult to maneuver inside.

When selecting a cot, consider the weight it will have to support and the distance you’ll have to carry it. All cots are rated for a specific maximum weight. As a general rule, a cot’s strength translates into carry weight. Therefore, cots that support more weight will weigh more.

Although some cots use steel frames, good-quality, lightweight cots have strong aluminum frames, better cots use steel inserts for added strength at the joints. Cabela’s XL Outfitter model, with a 600-pound rating, has the sturdiest frame available. In an actual field test, five guys totaling a whopping 1,200 pounds stood on this cot to prove its rugged construction. The Outfitter frame has innovative rubber leg bushings that absorb shock and add firm support to eliminate the sagging and bowing common with other cots.

Better cots use a 600-denier polyester fabric, or heavy-duty polyester oxford fabric. Another option is fabric that has been coated with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The PVC resists stains and will keep your cot looking good for a long time. Any of these grades of fabrics will provide years of rugged service.

Collapsed dimensions are important if you’re limited on space when transporting your gear, but for most the critical issue is the size once a cot is erected. This is of particular interest for those who are restless sleepers. If you tend to toss and turn a lot in your sleep, consider one of the wider models.

Another factor to consider is the type and size of tent you intend to use the cot. Cots create a lot of extra storage space underneath, but they also take up space vertically. For tents with a lot of headroom, the standing height of a cot isn’t an issue, but for other lower profile tents you should evaluate the space requirements closely.

Youth models come in heights as low as 6", and adult cots vary from 9" to 19" from floor to sleeping surface. Cots come in widths of 28", 32" and 40". Most adult cots come in a length of 77", but models are available up to 85" that will accommodate a person who is 6’5" tall.

Bunk bed cots and youth cots
Don’t leave your kids lying on the ground. Youth cots are available in two sizes to accommodate both small and large children well into their teen years. Or you might want to consider bunk bed cots. This ingenious design takes tent organization to the max, providing much more floor space, and they’re also very handy for cabins when additional guests drop in.

Cabela’s is the industry leader in cot accessories. With a few simple additions to your cot you can take advantage of accessories that will further improve organization, and add a little sanity to your temporary housing. The cot-side nightstand is a concept that so unique it’s patented by Cabela’s. Nightstands are an excellent way to further organize the items from reading material to glasses and toiletries that you want to have handy. There’s a drink holder, lined eyeglass pocket, pen and flashlight sleeves, and even a fold-down alarm clock shelf. Organize your toiletries, medication, or your next day’s clothes in one of the multiple storage compartments. With your personal items totally organized and close at hand, when you need them you won’t have to turn the tent upside down to find what you’re looking for.

Cot trees give you a place to hang your rifle, bow, clothes, binoculars and anything else you want to dry out overnight. With multiple hooks and a cross bar you’ll have plenty of options for simplifying your camping experience.

Mosquito nets are another advantage to cots. With two cot trees and a mosquito net, you won’t lose sleep slapping your face or listening to a constant buzz.

Sleeping pads are a major advantage when it comes time to bag a good night’s sleep. With a deluxe cot pad you’ll think you are sleeping in a four star hotel. To learn more about the wide variety of sleeping pads and their many benefits, check out our "Sleeping Pad Buyer’s Guide."

With all of these options for cots and the accessories that go with them, there really isn’t anything that would prevent you from having a camping trip that is so comfortable you can’t wait to go again. Do yourself a favor: Pick a comfortable cot and go camping. Your kids and your back will thank you.