Camping Cot Vs. Air Mattress: Which Is Better?

Rilor Staff
Update: April 12, 2021
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Camping cot vs. air mattress: which is better?

When it comes to outdoor sleeping amenities, camping cots and air mattresses are two common options. They are highly opted by enthusiasts due to the convenience and ergonomics they bring. 

One can say that having either of these items will enable you to have a good time in the wild. They can let you sleep, relax, and enjoy your trip. 

But between the two, which should you choose? Read on first before you make a decision. 

Camping Cot Vs. Air Mattress: Which Is Better?

Before making our verdict, we have to make sure that we know the specific differences between air mattresses and camping cots. In this way, we can address the strong points, drawbacks, and ideal uses. 

Camping Cots

Camping cots have been around for a long time. They were initially designed to be used by soldiers in wars and by medical workers in disaster zones. They have since become popular amongst people who enjoy camping and outdoor activities. Camping cots are a great way to add some extra space to your tent. With a cot, you can sleep comfortably even if the ground is hard or uneven.

Camping cots are known to be heavier and bulkier than sleeping bags. Aside from the sleeping platform, cots also have frames made of either steel or aluminum. Their weight makes them not suitable for backpacking and lightweight applications. But certainly, they are great for tailgate parties, RV camping, and backyard retreats. 

One of the notable aspects of camping cots is their elevated design. Basically, the cot is lifted from the ground by its frame and legs. Because of this, sleepers can feel more comfortable, as they have to deal with uneven and rough surfaces. Camping cots also keep them away from the elements, such as groundwater, moisture, and insects. 

With the added elevation, air circulation is optimized. It adds to the coolness you feel during summer and warm conditions. During the cold season, the height in these camping cots reduces the probability of heat loss. 

Camping cots are more compact than air mattresses. Hence, you can fit it inside a tent, especially if your outdoor shelter has big entry points. Some camping cots come with adjustment points, which allow you to recline them for better ergonomics and comfort. 

Some camping cots have padded platforms. Usually, the top is made from lightweight materials such as nylon and polyester. But in some cases, the fabric is replaced by plush and cotton pads. They are generally heavier than the standard cots, but they are downright comfortable. 

In a nutshell, we can surmise camping cots with the following advantages and disadvantages:


  • Comfortable 
  • Can be adjusted or reclined
  • Can fit inside tents
  • Provides decent ground elevation
  • Aids in temperature regulation


  • Bulky and heavy
  • Not suitable for backpacking applications

Air Mattresses

Air mattresses, otherwise known as inflatable mattresses, were first invented in the late 1950s by NASA. Nowadays, they're used in all sorts of applications, from camping to hospitals. Although air mattresses come in a number of sizes and can be found in a variety of materials, they all have one thing in common: they're designed to be filled with air.

Most commercial air mattresses in the market today are constructed in PVC, while others are using rubber. Regardless of the build, air mattresses are extremely popular for both indoor and outdoor use. They are used in sleepovers, tents, and motorhomes. 

Unlike camping cots, air mattresses don't provide any elevation. They don't have built-in standing frames. Hence, just like sleeping bags, you have to place them directly from the ground. 

The only plus side here is that these air mattresses are thicker than ordinary sleeping pads. Therefore, they can still separate you from the soil and other ground dirt. But of course, you can expect that they will not be able to shield you from ground moisture. 

Filling the mattress with an air mattress can be done through the use of pumps or air compressors. Once deflated, you can fold and pack these air mattresses so that you can bring them anywhere you want. Some air mattresses do come with repair kits so that you can deal with small punctures. 


  • Offers portability
  • Highly comfortable
  • Firmness can be adjusted


  • Susceptible to holes and punctures
  • Requires inflation before you can use them
  • Not compact options; will occupy room space
  • Ground elevation is not as significant as camping cots

Camping Cot Vs. Air Mattress: Which One Should You Choose?

As you can see, both camping cots and air mattresses have their own benefits and disadvantages. It is proof that you should pick them based on your needs and preferences.

Air mattresses are definitely great for recreational activities, especially in areas where you can access them easily. You can lie on them comfortably, which makes them great for stargazing and evening relaxation. Air mattresses can float on water. Your kids would certainly love them. 

Air mattresses also offer enough space for two or more people. 

But at the same time, it is not recommended that you use these air mattresses on rugged applications. After all, their construction is not fully impervious to damages, even though they are made from durable materials. Over time, the fabric of these mattresses will deteriorate. When that time comes, they will be prone to punctures caused by rocks and branches.

Furthermore, keep in mind that you can't use the air mattresses right away. You still have to inflate them. If you got a manual pump, it would take you minutes before you can fill the mattress's interior with air. 

On the flipside, camping cots offer better sleeping convenience than sleeping bags and pads. They are a great option for those people who feel discomfort when sleeping on the ground. The elevation that these cots provide also promotes ample air circulation and a "cleaner" sleeping experience. 

However, they are difficult to carry, even for backpacking and backcountry adventure. Even though they are available in foldable designs, they are still heavy due to their metal frames. 

Moreover, you have to remember that these camping cots have limited space. They only allow single sleepers. It is difficult to find outdoor cots that are spacious enough to handle two or more people. 


At this point, one could say that both camping cots and air mattresses have their respective strong points. Both of these items are usable in camping applications, but I don't suggest that you use them on backpacking or other rigorous adventures that require weight management. They are great for leisure outdoor uses or applications where your camping site is quite accessible. 

I hope that you find this guide helpful. If you have questions, feel free to ask me in the comment section below.

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