When camping, the most important thing is to have a good sleep! But this isn’t always easy to do. What’s the point of going out there to enjoy nature and the thrill of wilderness if you can’t rest properly?

It takes a lot of effort and knowledge to plan the sleep system properly. Make sure that you sleep comfortably in the wilderness. One of the most important pieces of camping equipment you will need to get right is the sleeping pad you will be using.

This blog post explains the difference between a cot and an air mattress and helps you choose the right option for your camping sleeping system.

What is A camping Cot

what is camping cot

A camping cot is a foldable, portable camping bed with stretched legs to place it over the ground to have a comfortable bed in your tent.

Army militants originally used these types of cots during warfare. The purpose of using cots is to have a temporary bed for staying at a warzone and using as a dispensary for the injured ones.  

The camping cot has several advantages over other types of camping beds option available in the market. The first advantage is that there are raised from the ground. So you don’t have to worry about insects or other ground elements to get into your cot or body while sleeping during camping at night. 

The second main advantage of having a cot for sleeping is that it protects you from the rainwater on the ground if somehow rainwater gets into the tent and floods it. So you will still be protected from the bottom in this situation. 

If the situation gets worse and your rainfly stops functioning, you should place a trap over the tent to reduce the chances of rainwater getting into the tent from the top.

Additionally, the cots keep you warm during cold as the floor gets cooler as the temperature drops. So this is another main plus of cots.

A cot is also very helpful and comfortable for people who sleep on their back as it will keep your back feel relaxed and comfortable. So you will not feel any pain while sleeping on a cot as they have great support for the back. 

On the other hand, there are very comfortable for the people who sleep on their side as cots do not provide the same cushioning as on the back. So for side sleepers, it would not be really enjoyable and relaxing sleeping for them on cots.

Some other drawbacks include heavier and bulky cots. So transporting them from one place to another can be a daunting task. Also, they take up a lot of space inside a tent, so you need a large tent to place them inside quite comfortably.

However, there are many lightweights and compact cots available in the market. If you want something lightweight with profitability, look for a cot with lightweight and size with maximum comfort for sleeping. 

Camping cots are pricier than sleepings pads or other sleeping equipment. They cost you more or the same as the price of the tent. But buying cots is worth investing in as they will last for many years for multiple camping trips.


  • Comfortable for sleepers with back pain
  • Keep you warm from the cold ground
  • Keep you protected from ground elements
  • Very sturdy and durable 
  • Easy to adjust the level of the cot from the ground


  • Very expensive cost you as the price of the tent
  • Set up and break takes time
  • Not suitable for sideway sleepers

What is Air Mattress

what is an air mattress

An air mattress is a bed used to replace a normal bed and can be used indoors and outdoors. It is also known as an airbed, blow-up bed, or futon. Air mattresses can be used anywhere, including sporting events, camping, and at home when you have guests over.

Air mattresses for camping usually have air chambers made of a heavy-duty material called vinyl. There are different air mattresses, with some designed for specific purposes. The most common kind is an inflatable mattress designed for outdoor use. Air mattress comes in different sizes: single air mattress, double, queen size, and king size air mattress.

An air mattress is a bed used to replace a normal bed and can be used indoors and outdoors. It is also known as an airbed, blow-up bed, or futon. Air mattresses can be used anywhere, including sporting events, camping, and at home when you have guests over. 

Air mattresses for camping usually have air chambers made of a heavy-duty material called vinyl. There are different air mattresses, with some being designed for specific purposes. The most common kind is an inflatable mattress designed for indoor use. Air mattress comes in different sizes: single air mattress, double, queen size, and king size air mattress. 

Air mattresses are very comfortable and easy to set up and pack up. You don’t need to put a lot of effort into setting up and taking down air mattresses. Air mattresses can be set up by pumping the air inside as much as possible to make the mattress comfortable for sleeping. 

They will keep you protected from ground elements like ants, beetles, and other crawling insects. After filing the air inside them, they get suitable width from the ground. 

Another advantage of air beds is that they did not take a lot of space to adjust inside the tent. They can also fit into smaller tents, so you don’t need to worry about the space required to place them.

Besides their benefits, air mattresses have some disadvantages as well.

One of the main disadvantages of air mattresses is that they are prone to rupture, just like air balloons. If your air mattress git hit by any sharp edge stone on the ground, it will eventually into floppy pile fabric in a similar way when you prick an air-filled balloon with a pin. So always keep repairing kit to patch up the air mattress if it gets ruptured.

Another disadvantage is that being close to the ground has chances of ground insects getting into your body by crawling on the mattress. This situation can become embarrassing if you get bitten by any insects. 

Being closer to the ground can make your airbed cold when it needs to be warm during winter and make it warmer during summer due to direct contact with the ground. 

Some of the air mattresses are self-inflating means they get themselves self-filed with air when you unpack them due to a sealable valve. The foam expands and sucks air into the mattress when you open the valve. 

Non-self-inflating mattresses require an air pump to fill the air inside them. The air can be filled by hand pump or by an electric pump. With a hand pump, you have to do some arm stretching exercises. 

And if you don’t have any of these pumps, you have to fill the air manually through your mouth, which can be a daunting task. In this process, you may become short of breath until the mattress blows up properly and you become tired.


  • Inexpensive only cost you around a few tens of dollars
  • Easy to set up and pack up 
  • Don’t require a lot of space inside the tent
  • You can fill the air inside the mattress depending upon how much firmness you want
  • Lightweight, compact, and come in a variety of sizes.


  • As air mattresses laid on the ground, they will not provide you with much insulation
  • Not suitable for people with back pain
  • Did not provide full protection from ground insects
  • Prone to ruptures upon getting hit by sharp edge stone
  • It takes time to fill the air with a manual pump

Cot Vs Air Mattress: A Side-By-Side Comparison

Now we have covered what a cot is an air mattress. It’s time to do a side-by-side comparison of cot vs. air mattress to help you understand which performs best and is suitable under what conditions. 

We will compare both on the following points.

  • Comfort Level
  • Durability
  • Insulation
  • Ease of Setup
  • Portability
  • Price 

So let’s start the comparison and see which one stands out from the other in these six key points.

Comfort Level

The first point, comfort level, is of controversy and long debate, and we can’t define what comfort level means. Comfort level is not a metric that can be measured in terms of numeric value. Everyone defines comfort on their experience, and the definition of being a comfort for me does not mean the same for you.

Comfort level in terms of using a cot or mattress varies. Some people feel comfortable sleeping on a cot, while others feel comfortable on an air mattress. People who like to sleep on their back feel more comfortable sleeping on a cot as it has nice cushioning beneath. But based on information gathered through the experience of fellow campers.

People who sleep sideways do not feel comfortable as the cot is too stiff. This is due to the cot canvas that presses into the bones discomforting the sleep. So, both the cot and air pad have their comfort level depending on the sleeping posture of the person.


Camping cots are more durable than an air mattress, and there is no second opinion. Air mattresses are inflatable; they are more prone to rupture deflation and wear after multiple uses. The main advantage cots have over air mattress is that they are sturdy and built with high-quality aluminum canvas.

Cots can withstand any rough and tough conditions outdoors, and they will not lose their durability after multiple times of use and can be used for a year long.

So the winner is camping cot in terms of durability.


Camping cots provide you with more insulation and warmth from the cold during winters than air mattresses. As an air mattress is put on the ground, the cold from the ground and around starts getting into your sleeping system. This will make it harder to maintain the warmth inside the blankets or quilt you have taken over to keep yourself warm inside.

Many people say that cot is more prone to cold when raised from the ground level. Due to this, air circulating the side starts getting beneath the cot. This is true to some extent, but it will not make the cot cold as an air mattress does. 

In summer, the air circulation around you will make the cot cool, and the air flowing underneath the cot will help prevent condensation while sleeping.

So the winner here is a camping cot.


Portability is one of the major issues with camping cots. As camping cots are just like foldable beds, they are heavier, bulky, and require a lot of space to fit inside the tent. They are not much portable as air mattresses are. 

Air mattresses are lightweight and compact and packed in small bags, easy to carry when traveling on foot or hiking. So if you are backpacking, then an air mattress is a great option for you in terms of portability. 

Camping cots come in different sizes and weights that are light enough and compact to carry on your back, but they will make you feel the weight on your back. 

A cot will be the ideal sleeping system for a comfortable and relaxed sleep if you are car camping.

So the winner in terms of portability is an air mattress.

Ease of Setup

The ease of setup is also quite debatable for cots and air mattresses. Someone might find a camping cot easy to set up as you only have to stretch the folded legs and put the ends of the pole inside the fabric casing. But for some people, this setup is daunting as stretching the poles to put them inside the cot’s fabric might take a lot of effort.

On the other hand, if you have an electric pump, setting up an air mattress is a matter of seconds as you need to take the airbed out of the bag and fill the air inside with the help of an electric air pump. If you don’t have an electric pump, filing air inside the tent with a manual pump is time and energy taking.

So in terms of setup, we think camping cot is the winner.


Pricing is another main factor when deciding between a cot vs an air mattress. In this case, air mattresses are more affordable and cheaper than camping cots.

But in our opinion, pricing does not mean a product is cheaper and is affordable. If you are an occasional camper and do camping once a year, then an air mattress is a great choice for you.

But if you are passionate outdoor lovers who love to camp often, then an air mattress is not an affordable option for you. Because air mattresses are prone to deflation, popping up, rupture, and wear out after multiple or single-use.

So instead of buying multiple air mattresses repeatedly, it is best to buy one camping cot that is not prone to wear and tear as an air mattress is long-lasting for several uses and years.


So we end our long debate of camping cot vs. air mattress, concluding that both cot and air mattress offer great advantages and features within their capacity.

If you ask our opinion, we advise you to take both and make a sleeping system combined with an air mattress of the same size as a cot.

This combo will provide maximum sleeping comfort, insulation, and warmth from cold. But this will increase your budget and headache of managing both cot and air mattress.

But if you want to choose one of them, then analyze your sleeping posture, camping season, budget, and how often you camp in a year. Then decide which one comes out to be the best option for you.


Meet our camping blog author, Mark Allen! Mark is an avid outdoors enthusiast who grew up camping and hiking in the Pacific Northwest. He has since explored the wilderness of many different regions across the United States and Canada, and has a deep passion for sharing her experiences and knowledge with others. Mark has been writing about camping and hiking for over five years, and has contributed to a variety of online publications and print magazines. Her writing style is approachable and engaging, and she loves to share tips and advice for beginners just getting started in the outdoors.