Sleeping on the ground isn’t always the most comfortable, even with a great sleeping pad. You may want the extra elevation a cot gives. Maybe your back complains bitterly when it nestles against rocks. Or maybe you just enjoy sleeping in cots more.
But even many of the best camping cots are pretty heavy, so any comfort you gain while asleep, you could most definitely lose when on the move! The best backpacking cots are at least as comfortable as your standard car camping cot but are also really lightweight (like in the 2lb to 5lb range).
Because most backpackers tend not to use cots, there aren’t that many companies that make them for this market. We believe choices are limited to just four main products:
- On the ultralight side you’ve got the Helinox Cot Lite and the Thermarest Ultralite Cot both weighing in at less than 3lbs. Choosing between these two is tough because there are pros and cons to each (you can read about it here in the Thermarest Ultralite Cot vs Helinox Cot section).
- On the heavier side, you’ve got the ALPS Mountaineering Ready Lite and the Kingcamp Ultralight Cot both of which weigh close to 5lbs. However, they tend to be be somewhat lighter on the wallet than the previous two.
Best Backpacking Cots
The Helinox Lite Cot and Thermarest Ultralight Cot go head to head when it comes to choosing the best backpacking cot.
Helinox Cot Lite Review
The Helinox Cot Lite weighs 2 pounds 12 ounces. It’s 6’ 6”long, 2′ wide and sits 5” off the ground. It has a packed size of just 5” x 21”. It has an aluminum frame and legs, and can hold 265 pounds.
The cover and carry bag are both made from polyester and come in either sand or black, all of which is covered by the five-year warranty. ($$$$)
The Helinox Cot is compact, lightweight and you can store it in or strap it to your backpack. Once you’ve reached your destination, you’ll find setting it up easy as the frame has extendable poles that slide into the sides of the canvas. Then, just click the four legs into place on the cot.
Also, the cot’s comfortable to sleep on even without a sleeping pad, as it has a ground clearance of 5”, which is also great if you’re a side sleeper. The length will be comfortable for a 6’ person. It’s also sturdy enough to support a weight of 265 pounds, which should hold most campers comfortably.
Due to its design, you can set the cot up on any floor and won’t have to worry about it sinking, as the bars in the middle prevent it from sagging, and the plastic feet don’t sink into the ground. You can also use the space underneath the cot to keep your hiking poles, shoes or backpack out of the way.
You should be able to pick up a Helinox Cot Lite in the following stores:
Helinox Cot really is one of the best backpacking cots out there, perhaps one of the best camping cots period. If you’re the type of person who only goes backpacking and is conscious of weight and space, you’ll find this to be a great addition to your camping gear. After a day of hiking, you’ll sleep comfortably and get a better night’s rest.
Helinox Cot One vs Lite
|Helinox Lite||Cot One Convertible|
|Length||6′ 6″||6′ 10″|
|Height Off Ground||5″||6.5″|
|Packed Size||21″ x 5″||23″ x 6.5″|
If you’re slightly bigger and want a cot with a larger capacity, have a look at the Helinox Cot One Convertible.
It’s obviously considerably heavier than the Helinox Lite but it’s also considerably longer, a touch wider and rated for heavier builds.
Furthermore, the additional height can be very attractive for some people (you can even purchase leg extensions that will give you an extra 10” of height). This will also make it easier to get on and off.
The Cot One is more expensive but if you’re a bigger backpacker (and you don’t mind the extra 3lb of weight) then this could be a good backpacking cot to go for. You should be able to buy one in the following stores:
Thermarest Ultralite Cot Review
This cot comes in two sizes: regular and large (see specs in the table below). Both versions feature an anodized aluminum frame, several poles, nylon cot feet and a carry bag.
The cot cover is made from polyester laminate, which has a reflective ThermaCapture™ coating. Green is the only available color. These cots all come with a lifetime warranty.
|Weight||2lb 10oz||2lb 15oz|
|Height Off Ground||4.5″||4.5″|
|Packed Size||16″ x 4″||16″ x 4″|
There’s no need to worry about weight with the Therm-a-Rest Ultralite Cot, as it’s one of the lightest camping cots on the market. When you first see how compact the cot is, you may think that you won’t fit on it. However, even if you’re 6’, you’ll fit comfortably on the bed with some headroom.
Some might find that the bed’s width is too narrow for hips and shoulders, but if you’re a side sleeper, this cot should still be comfortable.
You may want to practice setting up the cot before you go on your trip, as you’ll have to make the single bow and the double twist bow for the legs of the cot. It requires two single bows on each end of the cot, with the double-twist bow in the middle. Once you’re familiar with this leg set up, you’ll find it quick and easy.
The ThermaCapture™ reflective coating helps keep you warm on cold nights as it insulates and retains your body heat.
You should be able to pick up a Thermarest Ultralite at the following stores:
- Check prices at Campsaver.com >>
- Check prices on Amazon >>
- Check prices at Als.com >>
- Check prices at Bob Ward’s >>
When looking for the best backpacking cots, the Therm-a-Rest Ultralite is worth a mention. With its lightweight and compact design, you’ll be able to take this cot with you when you’re backpacking in the backcountry, on fishing trips, kayaking, hiking and camping.
If you do find yourself wanting a bit more room so that you can roll over more comfortably, consider getting the larger cot.
If you’re looking for an ultralight cot for the middle of summer that will keep you cooler, check out the Therm-a-Rest Mesh cot. It’s heavier than the Ultralite, at 3 pounds 9 ounces, and is 6’ x 2’ x 4.5”, and is rated for 325 pounds.
It has a breathable mesh canvas that helps the air to circulate better, keeping you cooler on hot nights. The setup is quicker and easier as the carry bag allows you to store the bows and cot feet assembled.
There are three versions of this cot—regular, large and extra-large—for you to choose from; however, they’re only available in blue.
Note that the large cot weighs 3 pounds 15 ounces, rated for 350 pounds and is 6’ 4” x 2’ 2” x 4.5”.
If you’re still looking for a bit more room, the extra-large is 6’ 5” x 2’ 6” x 4.5” and weighs 4 pounds 7 ounces, rated for 350 pounds.
If you move around a lot or use a tarp or bivy tent, make sure that your camping cot weighs between 2 and 3 pounds, as the weight won’t be too big of an issue while on the move.
Thermarest Ultralite Cot vs Helinox Cot Lite
You can probably see above that the two cots are pretty similar. So when it comes to the Helinox Lite Cot vs Thermarest Ultralite, which should you choose?
There’s no two ways about it, the Thermarest is consistently cheaper than the Helinox cot. If you’re on the fence and budget is important to you, go with the Thermarest >>
If you’re much shorter than 6′ then you definitely don’t need the Helinox at 6′ 6″. (You may want it, but the regular size Thermarest should fit you better). The larger Thermarest also has an extra 2″ of width, so if you’re worried the Helinox is too narrow, then again, Thermarest may be your better bet.
Weight & Packed Size
The Helinox is lighter by a few inches but the Thermarest is more compact when packed down. It’s starting to look like Thermarest is winning out because I’d prefer a few inches less bulk than a few ounces less weight (you may disagree!).
The Helinox Lite is by far the easier cot to assemble. All the poles are pre-attached. It’s just a case of joining the pieces and snapping them into position. The Thermarest is fine, but you probably want to watch the setup videos and practice before you leave for your trip.
The Thermarest Ultralite Cot edges it. I love Helinox products, but despite a less user-friendly design, the fact is the Thermarest is cheaper, more compact, has a larger weight capacity and has a reflective cot cover. It’s a bit heavier and harder to assemble but overall better value. Buy one here >>
Best Budget Backpacking Cots
While the Helinox Cot and the Thermarest Cot are definitely superior backpacking cots on account of their weight, they are quite pricey. So if you are looking for something a bit less expensive, check out the Ready Lite Cot and Kingcamp Ultralight Cot below.
ALPS Mountaineering Ready Lite Cot Review
The Ready Lite Cot weighs 5 pounds and is 6’ 6” x 2’ 4” x 6”, and has a packed size of 7” x 17”. It also features an aluminum frame and W-legs with a capacity of 300 pounds.
The cot cover and storage bag are both made from polyester, and color options are either gray or blue. ($$)
With a mere 7” x 17” pack size, you can take the ALPS Mountaineering Ready Litet with you virtually anywhere. It won’t even take up much storage space in your backpack or car—the carry bag has a nifty shoulder strap. And, at only 5 pounds, you’ll find it light enough to carry with you on your backpacking trips.
Setting up this cot is effortless, as the frame has two corded poles that slip into the sides of the canvas. All you need to do then is attach the W-shaped legs to the poles, and you can place it on any surface.
There are no end bars on this cot, which means you have plenty of space to stretch out as you get the full 6’ 5” of length. It’s also wide—at 2’ 4”—which means you have a bit more room to roll over, even if you’re a side sleeper.
In the summer, the 6” of space between the cot and the ground will help keep you cool as the air can circulate. The height will also let you sleep better as you know that no creepy critters will crawl into bed with you.
It’s possibly more of a lightweight camping cot rather than a dedicated backpacking cot. But if you’re a backpacker who tends not to walk long distance or if you aren’t too worried about weight, then the Ready Lite Cot may be for you. This is particularly true if you are on a budget as it’s sometimes possible to find one for less than 200 bucks.
Hikers may find the Ready Lite Cot to be a bit heavy, but you can also use this cot if you’re car or bicycle camping or out at a music festival. Its ease of setup and its compact pack-down size means it can go anywhere with you.
The ALPS Lightweight Cot makes for an OK alternative for very short trips, especially if you’re looking for a bit more width (it’s 6’ 1” x 2’ x 7.5”).
This wouldn’t be a good fit for someone who is over 6’, though, or if you’re worried about carrying weight—it’s 9 pounds 5 ounces. Because of this, you should only really consider it as a camping cot — it’s too heavy to be a really portable cot.
And while it is less expensive than the Ready Lite Cot, it only has a capacity of 250 pounds. You may find that the ALPS Ready Lite Cot has more value for money due to this.
KingCamp Ultralight Cot Review
The KingCamp Ultralight Cot weighs 4 pounds 9 ounces and is 6’ 3” x 2’ 1” x 4.7”, which packs down to 22” x 5.5”.
It also features an aluminum alloy frame and legs with a capacity of 265 pounds.
Note that it includes a pillow, a cover (which comes in various colors—green, orange, blue, gray or black) and a storage bag.
If you’re going on a solo backpack trip with a bivy shelter, the KingCamp Ultralight Cot bed would fit in comfortably, at a height of only 4.7”. You’d still have enough space underneath the cot to store your boots, trekking poles or other gear.
Even if you’re 6’, you’ll still have somehead room for the pillow, although some may find the cot narrow at only 2’ 1”. It also has a sturdy frame that can support a weight capacity of 265 pounds—good for almost all backpackers.
The cot is lightweight and compact in its pack-down size of 21.6” x 5.5”, making it easy to attach to a backpack or strap to the back of a motorcycle. On top of this, it’s easy to set up, with minimal effort required to attach the legs to the frame.
This is my best backpacking cot for those on a budget since it has comparable features to its competitors but at a better price.
While it may be a bit heavy for a hiking trip, you’ll find it’s fantastic for a road trip, hunting or kayaking trip, and backpacking. Also, if you’re looking for a sleeping cot that’s low enough to use in a bivy tent or under a tarp for the ultimate backpacking experience, this would be perfect for you.
It’s also compact enough that you’ll be able to store it in your car or in any cupboard at home. After all, you never know when you could have unexpected guests that arrive and may need to sleep on the cot.
If you’re looking for a light-ish cot that offers a bit more comfort, you can always look at the KingCamp Lightweight Camping Cot with the Sleeping Pad surface. If you’re worried about weight, this will allow you to leave your sleep pad at home. All you have to do is inflate the pad on the cot.
Should you find yourself camping in an area that’s damp or the temperature drops suddenly, the inflatable pad can offer more protection by insulating body heat more effectively.
It has a 2-in-1 nozzle to inflate and deflate the pad. This cot is slightly heavier at 5 pounds 8 ounces, is also 6’ 3” x 2’ 1” x 4.7” in size, and costs a bit more. You can use it for backpacking, road trips and camping.
How to Choose the Best Backpacking Cot
When shopping for the best backpacking cots there aren’t too many trade offs to worry about (unlike with lots of other gear). There really aren’t very many camping cots on the market that are light enough to be considered backpacking cots. And so your choices are automatically fairly small.
In fact, your biggest constraint is likely to be your wallet, because the best backpacking cots do tend to be the most expensive.
That said, do consider the following things before reaching for your wallet:
- Weight: almost certainly be most important factor for backpacking cots
- Packed Size: almost as important as weight
- Weight Capacity: the last thing you want is for it to collapse…
- Size & Comfort: check you’ll fit as well as any other features to look out for
- Assembly: no messing around please!
Choose a Lightweight Cot
Camping cots can weigh up to 40lbs! Obviously that’s a complete non-starter for backpacking. For backpacking cots you really want to cap the weight at around 5lbs, but the lighter the better.
The best ultralight cot is either the Helinox Cot Lite or the Thermarest Ultralite Cot. They weigh 2lb 8oz and 2lb 10oz respectively. That’s not a bad weight penalty for keeping you off the cold ground! But of course, they are both high end products with high end price tags.
The Kingcamp Ultralite Cot and ALPS Mountaineering Ready Lite Cot are both about twice the weight (4lbs 9oz and 5lbs respectively) but can also be about half the price if you snag a bargain.
Obviously it is entirely down to personal preference, but if you are dead set against sleeping on the ground then it probably makes sense to spring for one of the lighter cots and eat the extra cost.
While weight can destroy your back and slow you down, the size of your pack is also a really important consideration. For one thing, you actually need enough space to fit all your gear. And for another you really want a balanced pack that’s as compact as possible to prevent unnecessary stresses and strains.
Actually backpacking cots (because they tend to be long, narrow cylinders when packed down into their storage bag) are relatively easy to strap onto the outside of your pack. So that means you don’t necessarily have to worry too much about space on the inside.
But the fact they are quite long can make them awkward. This is actually one of the areas the Thermarest Ultralite Cot excels at. At 16″ x 4″, it is by far the most compact of all the camping cots on this list. And so although the Helinox cot is a couple of ounces lighter, the Thermarest is a massive 5″ shorter and 1″ narrower. I know which one I’d prefer to have in my pack!
Of the two value backpacking cots, the ALPS Mountaineering Ready Lite is surprisingly compact, despite it’s weight. It’s just 17″ long compared to Kingcamp’s 22″. Again, strangely, the heavier cot is also the more compact. And again, I’d happily carry a couple extra ounces and claw back the extra space.
Weight Rating for Camping Cots
Most backpacking cots will have a capacity of between 265lbs and 325lbs. That’s fairly standard for a portable cot bed. Obviously that’s not ideal for everyone (in which case check out some heavy duty camping cots). Thankfully there’s relatively few parts that can break; the feet, poles can bend or snap and the fabric could rip.
Obviously having your camping cot fail on a backpacking trip is likely to completely ruin your night’s sleep (and possibly the whole trip). So it’s probably worth erring on the safe side and choosing the cot with the highest rating you can. And, on top of that, treat it very delicately when using it.
Size & Comfort
Most backpacking cots seem to range between 6′ and 6’5″ in length. While this works for most people, if you are a tall person, you may have to give up on the idea of an ultralight camping cot and settle for an extra long sleeping pad instead.
Width is quite a big issue for some folks. You may have a larger body type or you may shift in your sleep a lot. Either way, a lightweight camping cot typically tries to shave the ounces when it comes to width. You’ll typically be looking at 2′ width as standard. Unlike the Helinox Lite Cot, the Thermarest Ultralight Cot will give you an extra 2″ in the large version. And the ALPS Mountaineering Ready Lite stretches to a whopping 2′ 4″.
While this may not sound like much, it still offers more room than a standard sleeping pad. In fact, you will be able to fit a standard sleeping pad on all of the backpacking cots mentioned here.
Which leads me to my next point. It’s all very well getting up off the cold ground, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be warm! A camping cot is only part of your sleep system and if you’re looking for a good night’s sleep, it’s definitely worth investing in a sleeping pad (or lightweight air mattress) and a sleeping bag on top of your camping cot.
One of the nice things about the Thermarest Ultralite Cot is that it has a reflective coating (they call it ThermaCapture technology). This makes the Thermarest a touch warmer than, say, the Helinox Lite Cot which just has a basic nylon cover. Even still, it’s a little known fact that sleeping bags tend not to distribute insulation evenly, and the underside often has very limited insulation. (This is because when you lie on your sleeping bag, your compress the insulation, rendering it fairly ineffective).
In short, your camping cot is for comfort, while your sleeping bag and sleeping pad provide the warmth and insulation you need.
Lastly, when you’re lying on your camping cot after a long day of hiking, the last thing you want to feel is the frame of the cot pressing into you. Luckily, every camping cot on this list has been designed to prevent that.
Camping Cot Assembly
All the best collapsible cots are easy to assemble. And when it comes to a backpacking cot you really want something that takes no more than two to three minutes to set up.
Fortunately, almost every camp cot on this list has a super easy design for putting up and taking down. You’ve got the material that you sleep on. You slide a pole down each side of the material. Then you clip the feet on. It’s that simple.
The exception is the Thermarest Ultralite Cot which is probably the trickiest to set up. For example, with the Helinox Lite Cot, the struts and legs are pre-attached with shock cords, so you just connect the poles and clip on the feet. With the Thermarest you need to choose whether you want to use a single strut or two struts, connect several poles together, connect the feet, then apply pressure to bow them while you clip in. It’s definitely a process you get used to but it’s a bit finicky and you may worry that you’ll break the entire cot.
But if you find yourself looking at other cots, be sure to check out how to assemble them before you buy. The last thing you want at the end of a long day (and particularly if the weather is being unkind) is to mess around getting your bed set up.