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 most 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).
As far as I’m concerned, there’s only a handful of contenders:
- Helinox Cot Lite - Hands down the best backpacking cot. Less than 3lbs and extremely comfy. But pricey.
- ALPS Mountaineering Ready Lite - Probably the best value backpacking cot. A bit heavy at 5lbs nothing like as expensive as the Helinox.
- KingCamp Ultralight Compact Folding Cot - The best budget backpacking cot. Limited weight capacity and doesn't fold down as neatly as the others. But ery affordable.
Hands down the best backpacking cot. Expensive, yes. But weighs less than 3lbs and very comfortable!
Slightly heavy at 5lbs but if you don't mind the weight and can't afford the Helinox Lite, this is tremendous value!
A great budget buy. The bulkiest of the options and a lower weight capacity but also the cheapest...
The Helinox Cot Lite weighs 2 pounds 8 ounces with a packed weight of 2 pounds 12 ounces. It’s also 6’ 6” x 1’ 11.5” x 5” in size, which packs down to 5” x 21”. It has an aluminum alloy frame and legs, with a weight capacity of 265 pounds.
The cot cover and carry case 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.
I’ve selected the Helinox Cot as my best backpacking cot. 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.
If you’re over 6’, then you may want to look at the alternative, as this cot is only 6’ in length—you may find your feet hanging over the edge.
Alternatives to the Cot Lite
If you’re slightly bigger than 6’ or want a cot with a larger weight capacity, have a look at the Helinox Cot One Convertible. This cot is 6’ 10.5” x 2’ 5.5” x 6.5”, with a weight capacity of 320 pounds, and weighs 6.3 pounds.
If you want more ground clearance, you can purchase leg extenders that will give you an additional 10” off the ground. This will also make it easier to get on and off.
Note that the leg extensions are only available with the Cot One series, and you have to buy them separately. For additional comfort, you can also purchase the insulated pad. This is also only available for the Helinox Cot One Convertible.
The Ready Lite Cot weighs 5 pounds and is 6’ 6” x 2’ 4” x 6”, which packs down to 7” x 17”. It also features an aluminum frame and W-legs with a weight capacity of 300 pounds.
The cot cover and carry case 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 Ready Lite Cot 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.
If you’re a backpacker who doesn’t travel far on foot or isn’t too worried about weight, then the Ready Lite Cot is for you. It’s my best value lightweight cot since the versatility means you can use it anywhere.
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 excellent alternative, especially if you're looking for a bit more width, as 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. Due to this, consider the Lightweight Cot if you’re only going camping—it’s too heavy for hiking or backpacking.
While the Lightweight Cot is less expensive than the Ready Lite, it only has a weight capacity of 250 pounds. You may find that the ALPS Ready Lite Cot has more value for money due to this.
KingCamp Ultralight Cot - Best Budget Backpacking Cot
The KingCamp Ultralight Cot weighs 4 pounds 9 ounces and is 6’ 3” x 2’ 1” x 4.7”, which packs down to 21.6” x 5.5”.
It also features an aluminum frame and legs with a weight capacity of 265 pounds.
Note that there are an included pillow and a cot cover, which comes in various colors—green, orange, blue, gray or black. ($)
If you’re going on a solo backpack trip with a bivy shelter, the KingCamp Ultralight Cot 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 cot that’s low enough to use in a bivy tent or under a tarp to keep you off the ground, 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 lightweight 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.
Therm-a-Rest Ultralite Cot - Worth a Mention
The Therm-a-Rest Ultralight Regular Cot weighs 2 pounds 10 ounces and is 6’ x 2’ x 4.5”, which packs down to 16” x 4”. It features an anodized aluminum frame, poles and nylon cot feet with a weight capacity of 325 pounds 3 ounces.
The cot cover is well-made from polyester laminate, which has a reflective ThermaCapture™ coating and is green. It has a lifetime warranty. ($$$)
Note: This cot is also available in large, which is 6’ 5” x 2’ 2” x 4.5”. It weighs 3 pounds 6 ounces, with a weight capacity of 325 pounds 3 ounces.
There’s no need to worry about weight with the Therm-a-Rest Ultralite Cot, as it’s one of the lightest 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.
When looking for the best backpacking cot, 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 a lightweight 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”, with a weight capacity of 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, with a weight capacity of 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 with a weight capacity of 350 pounds.
Buying Debates & Guide
When shopping for the best backpacking cot, there are a few things you should take into account. They’re all made for outdoor use, but features vary, and you should look for something that will suit you.
Here’s a quick list of features you should assess before deciding on the best backpacking cot for you.
Depending on where you plan on backpacking and the distance it would take to get there, you’d want your cot to be as light as possible.
You’ll also have to consider if it will be warm and comfortable enough without a sleeping pad, as if you take one with you, it’ll make your pack heavier.
Cots that weigh up to 5 pounds are normally designed for backcountry backpacking, while the cots made with steel frames and weigh between 14 and 40 pounds are normally used for car or RV camping.
If you move around a lot or use a tarp or bivy tent, make sure that your cot weighs between 2 and 3 pounds, as the weight won't be too big of an issue while on the move.
Size is everything when you need to pack essentials into your backpack.
If you have a compact cot that you can strap to your backpack, this will help free up your hands so that you can use your trekking poles.
A compact cot also means that you don’t have to leave anything behind or give up the cot’s comfort.
Put Up & Take Down
You want a cot that’s easy to put together and doesn’t take more than two to three minutes to set up.
If you’re caught in an unexpected storm, you’d want to assemble and disassemble the cot quickly and easily without having to fight with poles.
When you’re lying on your cot after a long day of hiking, the last thing you want to feel is the frame of the cot pressing into you.
If you have a cot that’s 6’ 3” x 2’ 4” x 5.5”, this would be comfortable for the average man or woman. It will allow you to lie flat on your back or roll onto your sides comfortably with enough head and foot room.