No longer is your only outdoor sleeping option a squeaky, ill-fitting air mattress. The camp cot has come a long way from the days of military surplus wood-and-canvas behemoths fit only for barracks and forest service cabins. In recent years a number of brands have been innovating in the space, designing lightweight air pad alternatives engineered to help weary outdoor enthusiasts get a better night sleep.
But don't be deceived, not all cot options are equal. A quick search for the best backpacking cot or lightweight cots for camping will likely deliver of host of inexpensive Amazon-only options, and though we haven't personally tested each, we'd warn against trusting these knockoff designs. As they say—if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
That said, we vouch for the following five camp cot options, each with a unique, proven system of suspension designed to elevate above uneven ground, offer better back support, and allow more air flow underneath the body for a cooler, more comfortable sleep during warmer months.
Pair with a down quilt and rethink your entire camping experience altogether.
It doesn’t get much more OG than Seattle-based Therm-a-Rest. For decades the Cascade Designs brand has been outfitting record breaking expeditions and car campers alike with the absolute highest quality sleep solutions. The UltraLite Cot is the latest, and likely the lightest and smallest packing cot available. It breaks down easily, can be set up without tools, and features reflective materials to help retain body heat.
At its lightest packable weight, the cot becomes backpacking friendly at around 2 lbs 10 oz (and that’s without leaving support poles at home, which would further lighten the load). While the standard packable weight lands around 3 lbs. This puppy has been our go-to for car camping for years, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. (For backpacking, the 12 oz NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad is hard to beat.)
Packed Dimensions: 16 x 4 in
Minimum Trail Weight: 2 lbs 10 oz
Weight Capacity: 325 lbs
Price: $200 SHOP NOW
The South Korean maker of our favorite camping chairs has been making cots for a few years now too. The look is quite a bit different from Therm-a-Rest, but the tech specs come damn close to matching. The Helinox Lite Cot packs down to 2 lbs 13 oz, with only a slightly larger packed footprint. Though we wouldn’t recommend it for extended thru hiking, this cot could be used for mellow backpacking and is ideal for hike-in campsites.
And for those less concerned with backpacking-friendly weight and more interested in style and comfort, check out the recent Helinox x Filson collaboration, which features a cool camo camp cot.
Packed Dimensions: 21 x 5 in
Minimum Trail Weight: 2 lbs 13 oz
Weight Capacity: 265 lbs
Price: $250 SHOP NOW
At 4 lbs 13 oz the Ready Lite Cot from Alps Mountaineering is best suited for car camping or mellow hike-in sites. Designed for maximum comfort, the aluminum frame and abrasion resistant ripstop fabric provide a sturdy platform for sleeping, while the zippered carrying bag makes packing easy as can be.
Packed Dimensions: 17 x 7 in
Minimum Trail Weight: 4 lbs 13 oz
Weight Capacity: 300 lbs
Price: $190 SHOP NOW
Weighing in at 4 lbs and 14 oz, and only $100(!) the Desert Walker Cot is our top pick for the budget-constrained car camper. Although we aren't super familiar with this brand, with its fast and easy setup, this cot seems equally fit for camping and overnight guests at home as well. We can't recommend it for thru-hiking, but it seems a solid option for the weekend warriors among us.
Packed Dimensions: 19.5 x 5.5 in
Minimum Trail Weight: 4 lbs 14 oz
Price: $100 SHOP NOW
With a weight similar to your college dorm microwave, this cot is by no means a backpacking-friendly option, BUT, with Kelty's price and reputation, it simply can't be beat for the car-campers and house-guest-havers out there. With its maximum capacity of 350 pounds and light padding, it's the sturdiest and most comfortable option on this list.
Packed Dimensions: 17.5 x 9.5 x 5 in
Minimum Trail Weight: 12 lbs. 5 oz.
Weight Capacity: 350 lbs
Price: $80 SHOP NOW