Cot vs. Air Mattress: Which One You Should Pick?

As a camper, you can be curious whether what’s the best choice between a cot vs. air mattress. Worry no more because this article will guide you.

What Is a Cot?


The camping cot is a collapsible camping bed made to improve your overall comfort. You can use it as a sleeping surface during your camping adventure. 

It is also ideal to use in army camps and during emergencies. An excellent quality camping cot is lightweight, compact, and portable. 

It can help you get a restful sleep allowing you to feel free from pain and energized in the morning. Usually, it comes with a wooden frame or foldable metal with nylon, polyester, linen, or canvas covering for additional comfort. 

You should choose a cot that has a comfortable and easy-to-wash fabric. Most cots have aluminum frames with U or X-shaped designs. Aluminum is rust-resistant, durable, lightweight, and easily foldable. 

What Is an Air Mattress?

What is an air mattress

An Air mattress is also called an airbed or blow-up bed. It was an inflatable mattress manufactured from textile-reinforced urethane plastic or rubber or PVC ( polyvinyl chloride).

The air mattress could be stored, compacted, or carried in a small form if it was in deflated form. It is versatile and more affordable. 

You can use a hand-held pump or air compressor to inflate your air mattress.

Related: Are Air Mattresses Bad for Your Back?

Cot vs. Air Mattress Comparison 

Let us now discuss the difference between an air mattress and a cot based on various factors. 

1. Staying Cool

If you use an air mattress, you may require a thin blanket or sheet between you and its plastic. If you sleep on the mattress with your bare skin, you may get hot and feel uncomfortable. 

On the other hand, cots come with airflow underneath, allowing you to cool yourself off during hot weather. 

2. Staying Warm 

Whether you use cots or air mattresses, you need to stay warm during cold weather. If you sleep on a cot, you may feel cold if there’s no insulation under your body. 

Open air under the cot can result in a mini bridge effect. So, it is better to place a sleeping pad or blanket on your cot. It helps to avoid airflow under the cot as you sleep.

The air inside the air mattress can be cold. It is better to place insulation on the top of your mattress and under you to stay warm and comfortable as you sleep on it. 

3. Storage 

When it comes to transportation and storage, you can get a compact air mattress, but some are bulky. So, you should deflate your air mattress before placing it in the storage bag. It is better to choose models with a built-in pump for easy deflation. 

A camping cot comes with rigid but tough frames, which may take up space in your trunk even when it is folded. These may not be ideal for backpacking or hiking. 

4. Durability 

If you love camping, you always want a long-lasting mattress that can provide you with restful sleep. Well, camping cots are durable. They are usually made with aluminum frames covered with tough fabrics to increase longevity and strength. 

Meanwhile, some campers complain that the cot is prone to breaking with prolonged use. You need to be careful with lightweight camping cots since they may be damaged or bend. You can choose a cot with a steel frame for additional sturdiness and durability. 

Air mattresses come with a built-in coil system that stabilizes the mattress. It avoids sagging and improves lumbar support. It is also helpful to extend the longevity of your mattress. 

Your air mattress can be less durable since it can leak due to punctures and other sharp objects. The mattress also has a big chance of losing air at night. 

You should prefer an air mattress with thicker PVC later for better durability. These mattresses can keep air leakages, occasional tears, and seam splits. 

5. Sleeping Position

Camping cots are not ideal for side sleepers. The fabrics can make a taut surface as you sleep on them. Side sleepers should use a mattress with medium firmness. 

An air mattress can be ideal for back sleepers. You should choose an air mattress with a memory foam top layer since it easily conforms to your body without reducing comfort. 

6. Handling and setup

The cot is easy to assemble and dismantle. It may take about 10 minutes when set up your cot. 

On the other side, an air mattress can be hard to set up. It requires you to bring an electric pump or manual pump to inflate it. So, if you forgot to bring an air pump, you may have an uncomfortable night. 

7. Size 

If you camp with a group, you can opt for a bigger air mattress. A camping cot can be ideal for single campers. 

Air mattresses and cots both have features that enhance your sleeping experience while camping. However, you should buy a quality model that can meet your needs. 

8. Cost 

Air mattresses and cots are available at different costs. So, it is better to get the best one that will suit your needs, standards, and budget. 

What Is Better, an Air Mattress or a Cot?

There’s no exact answer to this question. Keep in mind that both cots and air mattresses have specific advantages and disadvantages. 

You can choose between the two based on your individual needs. You can consider your sleeping position, storage, durability, etc. when choosing between these two sleeping equipment. 


Generally, both a cot and air mattress can provide comfort and support as you sleep on them. You should buy quality models to make the best sleeping experience with your air mattress or cot. 

Camping can be more fun if you have a comfortable sleeping surface to help you feel relaxed and energized. So, you can make the most of your camping. 

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