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Camping Comfort: Cot vs Air Mattress, Which is Best For You?

If you are planning your next family vacation, a camping trip is a great way to disconnect from modern technology and reconnect with your loved ones. After you have figured out where you want to go, your next steps are figuring out sleeping arrangements.

How should you choose whether to sleep on a cot vs an air mattress?

Keep reading to learn all about a camping cot vs air mattress to see which bed is best for your camping comfort!

Two camping cots set up in a tent. Cot vs air mattress: which one is right for you?

All About Camping Cots

What is a Camping Cot?

A camping cot, also known as a camp bed, is a small, lightweight portable bed. These cots are generally composed of foldable frames that can be made from metal or wood and a canvas-type material cover made from nylon, polyester, or linen.

The ideal camping cot should be lightweight, rust-resistant, and easy to fold and unfold.


  • Cots are much faster and easier to set up and take down than air mattresses, which need to be inflated.
  • Cots are more durable than air mattresses.
  • Allows for more storage space underneath the cot.
  • Great for all climates and conditions


  • Cots are most expensive than air mattresses.
  • Very little sleeping space.
  • Cots are not suitable for side and stomach sleepers because they are too firm.
  • You may need a sleeping pad for comfort and warmth when sleeping on a cot.
A foldable camping cot.

All About Air Mattresses

What is an Air Mattress?

An air mattress, also known as an airbed or blowup bed, is an inflatable mattress typically made of PVC, but can also be made from rubber. A portable air compressor or pump is necessary to inflate your airbed. These beds can be deflated and folded for convenient storage.

The ideal air mattress should be lightweight, easy to inflate and deflate, and made from sturdy PVC or rubber materials.


  • More comfortable because the firmness is adjustable.
  • Typically cheaper than cots.
  • Larger sleeping space than a cot.
  • Provides more insulation for warmth.


  • Harder to set up and requires more set-up time than a cot.
  • Air mattresses are easily punctured, and less durable than a cot.
  • May sleep too hot for campers in the summer.
A tent with two air mattresses inside.

Cots vs Air Mattresses: What to Consider


Your comfort is one of the most important factors when choosing between a cot vs an air mattress for a good night’s sleep on your camping trip.


Camping cots are elevated off the ground, which helps you control your sleeping temperature better and protects you from pesky bugs. During the summer the thin material of the cot will keep you cool, but in the winter you may need extra protection, such as a sleeping bag to place on top of the cot material

A cot’s elevation provides more storage space than an air mattress because it is elevated which leaves space underneath your bed for your gear and supplies.

Being close to the ground like you will be on an airbed can compromise your heat retention if you are camping in cold temperatures. If it’s cold outside, chances are the ground is even colder, so sleeping on an air mattress close to the ground probably won’t be very warm or comfortable.

A camping cot with gear on it.

If you prefer an air mattress vs a cot you can always use a foam pad, or any other insulating material to place on top of your mattress. Doing so will help protect you from the cold ground when you sleep.


Camping cots are generally built for one-person use, so they may not be a good fit if you are sharing with another person. However, if you have adequate tent space there are multi-person camping cots available.

Air mattresses are usually the best bet for sharing a bed with another person while camping. This is because they are available in many sizes from twin to king, and provide enough space for two or more people to sleep comfortably.

Sleeping Style

Whether you should choose a cot vs an air mattress depends on how you like to sleep.

A camping cot vs an air mattress is the best option for a back sleeper because the fabric is pulled taut when weight is applied to it. The best camping cot is characterized by the taut material that provides the best level of support for a back sleeper.

Side sleepers and stomach sleepers may be more comfortable on an air mattress because it is easy to adjust firmness.

An air mattress with medium firmness is perfect for conforming to your body and providing support where needed, so it’s the best choice for a side sleeper.

An air mattress vs a cot is best for a stomach sleeper as well, because of the strain that is placed on the spine and muscles when you sleep on your stomach. The best air mattress for a stomach sleeper has a memory foam topper and leaves room for the foam to conform to the body for ultimate comfort.

Ease of Use

A tent set up with two twin-sized air mattress beds.

Setup and Breakdown

Foldable camping cots are the quickest and easiest to set up and break down when camping. All you need to do to set up a cot is unfold the frame and lock it in place and you are ready for bed!

An air mattress must be unrolled and inflated before you can use it, which can be time-consuming. Some air mattresses have built-in internal pumps for inflating and deflating, which makes it much more convenient to set up quickly and easily.

Cots are designed very much like regular beds, so they are easy to climb in and out of, as opposed to a sleeping bag on the tent floor or something similar. Air mattresses sit directly on the tent floor, which makes it more difficult to get up and down from the bed.


A camping cot may take up a large amount of space inside your tent, but luckily you have room for storage underneath your bed. This space is perfect for camping gear and whatever supplies you brought that you may not want to leave outside your tent.

These cots take up a good bit of space even when they are folded, so they may not be the best choice for campers who intend to hike to their ideal site.

Air mattresses don’t provide under-the-bed storage like cots do, unfortunately. However, they are usually lightweight and easy to store, so if you plan to do some hiking, an air mattress vs a cot may be best for you.


A woman relaxing on a camping cot in a tent.

Camping cots are generally more durable than air mattresses. When it comes to camping, cots are the most durable and reliable sleeping systems on the market. That’s because they are made with strong aluminum or steel frames that are covered with quality fabric.

Air mattresses aren’t as durable as cots because they are made of material that can easily be poked by a stick or cut through by other sharp objects.

Temperature Control

Warm Weather

In sweltering temperatures, airflow is an important factor when choosing between a camping cot vs an air mattress.

The storage space beneath a cot also provides more airflow and prevents heat buildup, which keeps you cooler while you sleep. If you’re camping during the summertime and looking for a bed with adequate airflow, a cot might be the best fit for you.

An air mattress retains heat much better than a cot does because they don’t have enough airflow to dissipate the heat radiating from your body while you sleep. This usually results in a sweaty night’s sleep during the summer. A camping fan goes a long way toward combatting heat retention on an airbed.

A large air mattress bed in a tent.

Cold Weather

It can be difficult to decide between a camping cot vs an air mattress because they each have their own advantages and disadvantages.

A camping cot is elevated from the ground, so it will have more airflow and you might find that it sleeps too cold during the winter.

If you prefer a cot vs an air mattress you can use a thick comforter that touches the ground on all sides to prevent the cold draft from seeping in.

Since an air mattress will be placed directly on the cold ground, separated by the thin fabric of the tent floor, you will need to combat the cold air seeping through.

If you prefer the adjustability of an air mattress vs a cot’s firmness, you can keep warm by using an insulated sleeping bag, an insulated sleeping pad, and/or a camping blanket.

Wrapping Up Cot vs Air Mattress

A camping bed and pillows in a tent.

Whether you’re planning for the entire family or just as a lone camper, there is a camping bed that fits your needs. Since your preference will largely depend on your sleeping style and available space, choosing a cot vs air mattress is a decision only you can make!

There’s lots more to know about what you need for maximum comfort while camping. Check out our Camping Gear page for product recommendations for your camping trip.