Camping Cot or Air Mattress? A Side by Side Comparison

The most important thing that will make or break your camping trip is sleep. What is the best bed to use in a tent? A Cot or Air mattress? Look at the pro’s and con’s and make an informed decision. Before laying awake in the tent trying to get comfortable.

What is the right decision, Cot or air mattress?

Cot or air mattress? A Cot folds up easily for portability. An air mattress is wider for more sleeping room. An air mattress is firm for sleeping. A cot takes up less room in a tent. The air mattress sits on the ground. The cot is raised up off the ground.

If you ever wondered what is the most comfortable way to sleep in a tent…

How to Improve Your Sleep When Camping

Getting comfortable bedding is going to improve your sleep. Using either a cot of air mattress, or some other form of a sleeping pad. And a good sleeping bag and pillow. All of these things will drastically improve your sleeping comfortably while your camping.

When your camping in a tent. It can get cold, and most of the air can be felt at ground level. An Air mattress is thick so you may think that you would be off the ground so you will be comfortable with an air mattress.

The air in the air mattress takes on the coolness of the air that surrounds the air mattress. So when it is cold outside. The air mattress will also be cold.

Related Article: What to do camping in your back yard.

Pro’s and Con’s of the Air Mattress in a Tent

Con’s of the Air Mattress

An air mattress when rolled up still takes up a lot of space. And you also have to have an air pump to get it blown up. They are also susceptible to tears and leaks. Which you never seem to notice until 2 am when you are suddenly awakened by the cold hard ground. And the other half of your body is still sunk into a partially blown up air mattress.

Another air mattress con is the size. When you are in a tent you need as much room as possible. An air mattress seems to take up a lot of space. Which if the mattress was not sprawled out on the floor you would have room to walk or crouch into the tent.

When using an air mattress you are going to need to pack additional blankets and sheets. They will be used to cover the mattress with additional sheets and blankets to ward off the coldness from the natural causation of cold air inside the mattress.

Air Mattress Pro’s

An air mattress is popular due to the fact that they are very inexpensive. They are made out of a plastic material or rubber material. So they are light weight to carry when camping.

They can be adjusted for comfortability. You can add maximum amount of air to the mattress if you like a firm mattress. And if you like a softer feeling mattress just don’t add as much air. An air mattress might be good for some back problems. And yet other back problems an air mattress may not be conducive. An air mattress is more like a bed at home.

Related Article: Camp Blanket instead of Sleeping bag: Pro’s & Con’s.

Con’s Of the Cot

The camping cot can nip your fingers if you are not careful. When folding and unfolding the cot. It is a little bulky and takes up a lot of room in your vehicle.

Also you can’t snuggle up to your significant other. As the cot primarily accommodates one person.

Camping Cot Pro’s

The cot is more versatile.

When your in the tent you need room. You are able to move around in the tent with a cot.

Using the cot you are off the ground away from the cold air. And since it is off the ground you can use the space under the cot for storage.

Also you can sit on a cot. Some cots are adjustable so you can recline. And of course it is best for sleeping.

Related Article: How to pack for camping in a tent.

Comparing Cot or Air Mattress

If you look at the cot and an air mattress side by side there is a lot less fuss with a cot. With the cot you simply carry it into the tent. Unfold it and set it where your staying in the tent.

The air mattress needs to be unfolded, and rolled out. Then you need to blow it up with an air pump. Then after it is aired up. You will need to cover it with sheets and blankets. To keep the cold away from you when your laying on the mattress.


The Air Mattress takes up to much room in the tent. It is not versatile. Your only going to be able to sleep on it or lay down. Your not going to be sitting up on an air mattress.

When using a Cot you can sit and read a book. Lay down and use it to sleep on. And also there is room under the cot for storage. And the cot leaves plenty of room inside the tent. The cot is also the perfect fit for a sleeping bag. You can also get a bunk bed cot see them in the camping essentials Best Cots & Bedding.

Structure & Ruggedness

What is the Air mattress made of? An air Mattress is made of Polyvinyl Chloride or Textile reinforced Urethane Plastic or some air beds are made of rubber. source

What is the Cot made of? The cot is made of durable steel frame. A steel framed cot can hold up to 300 pounds. The material is made of strong canvas and on some cots have a thick foam pad for maximum comfort.

Related Article: What to bring while camping in a tent.

Air Mattress Facts

An air mattress is also known as an air bed or a blow up bed. They are made of rubber or Textile reinforced Urethane Plastic. The Air Mattress has to be bumped up through a valve on the bottom of the mattress. Either with an electric air pump or a mechanical pump.

There are some air mattress that have an air pump internal and self inflate in about 3 minutes.

The USA Government warn against infants under the age of 8 months sleeping on air mattress. As they are too soft and they could suffocate. source There are air beds that are used in bedrooms as temporary beds.

These beds range from twin to king sizes. An air mattress may also be a healthy way of living. The air mattress can relieve back pain. And can be adjusted to suite all body shapes and sizes. The air mattress can also be used as a raft for floating down the river. (Not recommended)

Related Article: Make your tent camping comfortable as a 5 star hotel.

About a Cot

A camp bed or a cot is a lightweight portable bed. Used in places where a normal size bed cannot be used. Advantages of the cot is the portability, durability, and ease of use.

Camp beds are used in emergency situations and by military. When there is a need to use them for accommodations for victims. Source For making make shift hospitals. Some of the camp beds are made of wood, but more modern day cots are made of steel or aluminum frames that fold and are light weight for portability.


There is no doubt that when you are camping in a tent you need to be off the ground, if you want a comfortable sleep. An air mattress is great for guests in the house. Where there is electricity so that the mattress can be inflated. But it’s not the best for in a tent for the following reasons.

When the Air mattress is blown up it takes up to much space. And the fact that you are still laying on the ground. And surrounded by cold air. The air mattress is not the best bed for sleeping in a tent. The material that the air mattress is susceptible to leaks and tears. It is not an easy set up. For those reasons the air mattress is not the perfect fit for tent camping.

The cot on the other hand. Does take up less room. Is easy to set up. Is rugged and made of steel that can hold up to 300 pounds. Is versatile and can be purchased with a pad attached for maximum comfortability. And is off the cold rough ground. Which leaves additional room for storage.

Gear for Tent Camping

Yes your going to want to get a cot. So that you can get a good night sleep. But in addition to that you will need to get some additional accessories. Like a sleeping bag, camping blanket and pillows. Take a look at the best camping bedding in camping essentials.

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