Whether you are a new or experienced camper, investing in an air mattress or camping cot is an absolute must. It will help you get a good night’s sleep so that you are rested for the next day of activities.

However, the question remains, should you get a camping cot or air mattress.

Today I will look at the pros and cons of a camping cot vs air mattress so that you have all the information you need to make an informed decision.

What is a camping cot?

Those of you that have not used a camping cot before might not know exactly what it is. You probably have a general idea, but I want to delve into specifics.

A camping cot is a type of collapsible camping bed that is designed to enhance your overall comfort. It looks like an army gurney, and it is meant to be used when a traditional bed is not available.

Ideally, a camping cot should be compact, lightweight, and easily portable. This is obviously important while hiking to your campsite because you do not want to be carrying anything overly heavy.

It should also be reasonably comfortable so that you can get a good night’s sleep and be rested for the next day.

Most camping cots are constructed with an aluminum frame with fabric stretching across the frame once it is assembled. The best camping cots use comfortable fabric and are easy to wash. So, nylon and polyester camping cots are usually the best options.

Pros of camping cots

One of the most appealing factors of camping cots is their extra storage. Most of them come equipped with several extra storage pockets that enable you to store all of your important accessories such as hiking boots and flashlights.

Additionally, camping cots have a rugged design that makes them useful in nearly all types of weather. They are suitable in many climates, and you can even use them when it is raining.

Perhaps the greatest thing about camping cots is that they elevate you from the ground. This reduces the possibility that you will come in contact with bugs and other annoying creatures in the night.

Furthermore, camping cots are strong, compact, and lightweight. They take up less floor space than other camping beds, and they are collapsible. You also do not need a pump to set it up.

Cons of camping cots

Everything that I mentioned above might make camping cots sound perfect for sleeping in the woods, but that is not the case. There are some notable drawbacks, starting with their price. Camping cots can be very expensive, especially when compared to air mattresses.

Furthermore, they are not great options in the cold because they do not provide any insulation. You also need to be careful as to which one you purchase because their weights can vary drastically.

Modern camping cots are usually lightweight, but if you purchase an older version, you might find that it is heavy and bulky.

What is an air mattress?

Most of you are probably more familiar with air mattresses than camping cots. Many of you have probably even used one at some point in your life.

For those of you that do not know, they are inflatable mattresses made of polyvinyl chloride or textile reinforced urethane rubber. When deflated, they are very compact and can be easily stored.

Air mattresses have become very popular amongst campers because of their affordability and broad range of applications. They can even be used as a temporary bed at home if you need to accommodate a guest.

To inflate an air mattress, you will need an air compressor or handheld pump.

Pros of air mattresses

The biggest benefit to using an air mattress on your camping trip is that it will provide you with the closest feeling to sleeping in an actual bed.

The only exception is if you are traveling with an RV or a small travel trailer. In that case, you can have a real bed put into your trailer to sleep in at your campsite.

However, in the absence of a trailer, it does not get much better than an air mattress.

Furthermore, these mattresses are very portable and easy to store. You also have complete control over how soft or firm you want your sleeping surface to be. Finally, the most appealing reason to purchase an air mattress is the fact that they are very cost effective.

Cons of air mattresses

The most annoying aspect of using an air mattress is the fact that you need to inflate it before each use. This can take a while depending on the tool you use to inflate it, and that also means that the pump you bring is another accessory you need to carry with you.

It is also very common for air mattresses to get punctures and tears. As a result, you need to be very careful when packing it and traveling. You should bring duct tape with you so that you can provide makeshift fixes for your air mattress if damage occurs.

An often overlooked downside to using an air mattress is that air leakage can occur overnight. When this happens, you will notice that you sink into the middle of your bed, which can be very uncomfortable.

Comparing camping cots and air mattresses directly

Now that you have a good idea of what the pros and cons are of each bed, I want to compare the two directly.

Ease of setup

When it comes to setup, camping cots are certainly the better option. Setting a camping cot up should take no more than 15 minutes. They have foldable designs that make them easy to set up.

Conversely, air mattresses need to be unrolled and then inflated. Not only can this take a while, but it can be exhausting if you are using a manual pump. Manual labor is not exactly something you will look forward to at the end of the day.

Sleeping position

When you are sleeping, you have three choices in terms of position, stomach, back, and side. 70% of adults spend most of their time sleeping on their side.

If that is the case, you are better off with an air mattress because its firmness offers extra comfort and support that is needed for side sleepers.

Regardless of the position you like to sleep in, air mattresses provide you with most versatility, and as a result, you cannot go wrong with them in this area.


When it comes to storage, air mattresses can be very easily compressed. You just need to deflate them and fold them into their storage bags. They also have no hard and sharp edges that can make travel uncomfortable.

Conversely, camping cots feature some robust and rigid frames that take a lot of space. As a result, they are not practical options for hikes. They can be compressed a decent amount, but they do not come close to what you can do with air mattresses.


Durability is an area that camping cots exceed in compared to air mattresses. They are incredibly sturdy and durable as they are made with aluminum frames and covered with sturdy fabrics.

Conversely, air mattresses are made with less durable materials that are susceptible to punctures from sticks and other sharp objects. As a result, it is important that you safely pack your air mattress to avoid any rips or tears.

Which should you choose?

Air mattresses and camping cots are both effective options for sleeping out in the woods. While they each have their pros and cons, which is better comes down to personal preference.

That being said, if you are going hiking, you should stick with air mattresses because they are more practical to store in a large hiking backpack.