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Camping Cot or Air Mattress: Which Should You Choose?

Posted by Raine Vergara on

Camping Cot or Air Mattress: Which Should You Choose?

Having a good night’s sleep outdoors is an important factor in keeping your camping trip enjoyable. That’s why choosing the right sleeping gear is paramount.

Important gear that you should invest in include a cot/bed, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillows, blankets and a hammock. Depending on your camping style, sleeping style and personal preference, you should carefully choose the suitable camping sleeping system for you.

One of the most common questions that new campers ask is: Should I buy a camping cot/bed or an air mattress?

To find out which one is right for you, let’s look into both and break down the pros and cons of each!


Camping Bed or Cot

What is a camping cot? It’s a small, light and portable bed designed specifically for outdoor trips or emergencies. It usually has a foldable metal or wood frame with a covering for lying down. The covering is usually made out of canvas, linen, nylon or polyester.

For better comfort, especially on longer trips, campers usually put a foam mattress on top of it and a comfortable camping pillow.

Factors to consider when buying a camping bed:

  • Comfort and easy maintenance – While canvas is durable, it’s quite difficult to clean. Go for lighter options like nylon or polyester.
  • Durable frame – Choose a cot that has a durable frame. Ideally, it should also be lightweight, easy to fold and rust-resistant.


  • Easy set up and use – just unfold the frames and lock them in place and you’re good to go!
  • Off the ground sleeping - this means more protection from the cold or heat of the ground, more ideal for rainy conditions (as water may pool under the tent)
  • Can withstand all weather conditions
  • Provides a storage space underneath
  • Also doubles as a chair/space to lounge and relax on


  • More expensive than air mattresses
  • Not ideal for hikers and light packers, as it can be quite bulky to carry and store


Photo from The Tent Hub

Camping Air Mattress

What is an air mattress? Also referred to as an air bed or blow-up bed, it is a mattress that you can inflate with either a hand-held pump or a portable air compressor. It comes in many different sizes and designs and is usually made out of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or rubber.

There are models specifically designed for tent camping, car camping and even RV and home use.

Depending on the model you choose, air mattresses are notorious for being slippery and noisy (think skin or sheets on rubber). For better comfort, wrap it in bedding, add a mattress topper, cozy sheets and comfy pillows!

Factors to consider when buying an air mattress:

  • Size – Think about the right size for you. How big is your tent? Will you be sleeping on it alone or sharing it with someone? Will you have the space to store it when deflated?
  • Durability – A thick, durable mattress made out of high-quality materials is the one to go for. You don’t want to be in the middle of your camping trip, accidentally puncture your mattress and be left without a bed!
  • Comfort – While most air beds have that “slippery feel”, newer models come with a soft velvet-like finish for a more comfortable sleep. They also have a better “grip” so you, your pillow or your blanket don’t slip out of the bed!


  • Lighter, more portable and easier to store
  • Offers a more “bed-like comfort”
  • Firmness can be adjusted, depending on your preference
  • Found to offer relief from back pain as it is more accommodating to carious body shapes, weights, sizes and sleeping positions


  • Takes more work to set up and use
  • Occupies more space in tents, small rooms, etc.
  • Risk of damage (punctures and tears) and overnight air leakage

So which one should you choose?

It all boils down to your personal choice. Each has its own set of pros and cons that you could look into to help you determine which will suit your needs the most.

Photo from Woods Canada

If you’re a frequent camper with no space or weight restrictions with your gear, a camping bed might be ideal for you. If you have a large tent or mostly camp with family, go for an air bed.

Are you team #campingbed or team #airmattress? Let us know in the comments which of these two you use and why!

Speaking of comfortable sleeping, our Camping Pillow makes a great gift for friends and family who love camping and the outdoors. It's compressible and fully adjustable to meet your comfort when sleeping inside a tent! Treat yourself to one, too! Shop here now! 

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