Among the biggest controversy on cot vs air mattress camping, I will tell you I love both. This will happen whenever you will think about what services you want from them and how capable those camping beds are in these terms. And, to grow this sense, you have to know the difference between them.

Well, I will be going to write about the facts there. Also, let you know the points where a mattress or cot can be good or bad. From there you can easily figure out your side. So let’s start the journey to differentiate outdoor beds.

What Are Camping Air Mattress and Cot?

I know you already know about the basic introduction about those beds. Still, then let’s talk about some presenting words for these two terms.

Air Mattress bed is such type of air bed which is mainly built with polyvinyl chloride and here has the facility of inflating and deflating. And it is designed for a place in different conditions like in outdoor, home or RVs.

Camping cot refers to those lightweight beds where most of them are foldable and easy to transport. And they are made with a combination of metal or frame and polyester, nylon, etc like these.

This cot is especially well known to use for outdoor, emergency, or recreation purposes.

Cot vs Air Mattress for Camping: Depth Comparison

Though they are both outdoor beds, they have some significant gaps that can separate them. So, let’s enter into the differences between this two.

1. Mode of Setup

I think the easiness is ahead far of other qualities. How friendly the thing stays with you or how much a simple operating system it will give is quite an important fact. That’s why I keep this setup variation at the top.

As the cot comes with a folding design, it takes very little time and effort. All you need just fix a place, unfold the frame and install it onto the ground. No hassle, no time waste just will be ready to ride in minutes.

Where air mattress has a pump system that means it will be auto-inflating. Seems smart? Yeah, it is. But some campgrounds show negative with this electric pump. Moreover, in case of the pump fails or forgets to take, the bed won’t work. The noise of this can be a disturbing matter to someone. And yeah, the setting is quick here but not such fast compared to the cot.

So, there are no serious worries with those two in terms of setup, but if you want better than cot will be suggested.

Champion: Cot

Related Read: How to Keep Air Mattress from Deflating Overnight

2. Comfy Based on Sleeping Styles

Sleeping styles can be divided into three categories where side sleep is the most common and, stomach and back sleep are the rest two. And there those beds offer various sleeping positions from which you can identify which one will be comfortable for you.

To sleep on the side the firmness should have in the medium range and have less strain on the hips and shoulders. And if you look towards the mattress then it ensures such requirements. It will super perfect and comfortable bed for more than 70% of side sleepers total.

For stomach sleepers, they need such type of bed which can capable to provide average firmness. And also has a soft design to support the muscles and spine. In there, the foam in the top air mattress can be the desired destination.

Now the rest one is back sleepers. They require a bed that has a low-profile pillow and a quite firm surface. And their cots prove themselves as the best.

So, in the basement of comfortable sleeping types, we can take the mattress at first.

Champion: Air Mattress

Related Read: Benefits of Sleeping on an Air Mattress

3. Sizes of the Bed

Because of a personal preference or common matter, most people skip this point. But I won’t do that and I think it’s one of the crucial ones. Why? Well, let’s be clear.

Air mattress has a variety of sizes like a king, queen, double, or twin. That means you have all possible option to go for it doesn’t matter whether it is a single, couple, or family camping. So, from one to a group, this bed is well known for sharing.

Whether cots hold strong zone as the single or rarely double sleepers. Its design and mechanism are ideal for single. Group camping is quite unfit with that. Nowadays, the cot has king or queen sizes too. But those are so effective like a mattress as well as expensive too.

Summarizing the above discussion on the sizes, I will vote for the air bed like you.

Champion: Air Mattress

Related Read: Best Queen Size Camping Cot (Top 7)

4. Storage and Portable Facility

Though that difference is variable with several sizes, there has a basic talk.

First of all, in the storage sector cot is a bit ahead of the mattress. Because the cot kills less space under the tent than the other. Additionally, the bed will offer you to keep some necessary things under the bed. On opposite air beds are generally large and block more space. And also there has no storage under it.

Now in portability, the image is different. Here mattress wins because of its lightweight and compact design. It takes not so much area on the backpack. So, for the light backpacker, it will be a perfect option to carry easily. And here cot loses its point for a bit of heavy construction. Again the design isn’t ideal to transport on light camping or backpacking. It is mainly okay for car and RV camps.

Champion: Both

5. Durable Quality

How much it is durable or how long it can serve you is an important factor for that outdoor equipment.

Air mattresses are mainly made with rugged or medium fabric which isn’t ideal to call long laster. The design of this bed can go under leakage or puncture. So they aren’t so durable. By the way, some have thick PVC which contributes to strong and tear-resisting service.

On the other hand, the cot is made with a quality aluminum or steel frame. Additionally, the upper also makes the thing soft and sturdy. So, overall it offers a premium on the matter of durability.

But one similar thing is both beds are excellent for maximum weight-bearing limit.

Champion: Cot

6. Insulating and Cooling

The point of weather variation makes a huge difference between mattress and cot. And there has huge controversy too in this term. But I will explain the matter practically and scientifically.

The space in the cot works well as air flowing. And it causes heat loss and which brings a cool feeling. That means in summer this bed will be able to give you advantages. But this design isn’t ideal in cold weather. Cause here the construction gives maximum attention to weight support than insulating.

Now, the airbed is good at heat loss and that indicates it is a good insulator. Thus the cold heat can’t disturb you through transfer. So, it will be beneficial to use this one in cold weather. For better comfort, a thick pad on the upper side can give you extra soft and insulating. And yeah, as it has poor airflow, it has a limitation on hot weather.

So, from the discussion, we showed that both have their point of view to become the best.

Champion: Both

7. Ground Elevation Facts

Though both have an elevation from the land, there have differences too. Mattress touches the ground directly where the cot stands through the legs. And that brings some facts.

Cot has a minimum of 4 and up to 22 inches in height from the surface. Because of this type of design and elevation, the cot has some advantages over the air mattress. Those are-

  • Keeps an excellent and continuous airflow
  • Keep the bed safe from groundwater like rain, snow, or dew drops
  • Gives facilities the people who have back pain
  • Keep the bed free of surface dirt and sharp objects
  • Almost free from bugs or other insects

Champion: Cot

8. Multi-Functionality

How it would be if you can utilize a thing for different purposes? Obviously, it will be desirable.  

Air mattress is well made to use on the tent and car camp mostly. Because of its low weight and excellent portability, it offers a positive response on backpacking too. Along with the outdoor, you can use the bed for an indoor purposes like for guests, relaxing, or else.

In opposite, a cot is an excellent fit in terms of RV and car camping. You can also set it in a tent.  

Champion: Air Mattress

9. Costing Level

Well, now as usual it’s time to talk about the last factor and surely it is the price section. So, which ones offer how much?

It’s a tough conclusion. As both beds have different sizes and quality, naturally there would a variation in the price too.

Generally, for both cases, the cheaper is start from 35 dollars and the higher extends to 400 plus. So, the price mainly depends on the consumer’s preferences.

But if you ask me strictly to choose one based on the cost, then I will go with the mattress. Because sometimes it offers affordable prices than the cot whenever you look for a family or group camping bed.

Champion: Air Mattress

When A Camping Cot Will Be Ideal?

You may ask or already understand from the above discussion “when you should go for cot”. Ok then let’s see what those points are.

A Guy Sits on A Camping Cot
  • In hot weather, when you need to keep yourself away from overheating with a good air-flowing bed
  • When you want to camp single or with friends
  • It will be good in terms of car or RV camping
  • In case of rain or wet surfaces, this one can be a good option
  • Whenever you want to keep your bed less dirty and free from wild insects or pests
  • If you are a sleeper of the back position
  • When you have several items to store in a place like under the bed
  • In case of a sit while you dressed
  • Searching for an easy and quick setup option rather than a pumping system
  • And overall looking for a sturdy bed to use on long days

When A Camping Air Mattress Will Be Ideal?

Like the previous one, this type also has some bullet points to choose it. And those are-

A Couple Is Sleeping on Air Mattress
  • Whenever you decide to camp with your spouse, partner, or family.
  • When the weather is dry and also you need a well-insulating sleeping bed
  • Wants a bed which is available in plenty of sizes or sorts
  • To adjust the firmness as your own, air beds are superb.
  • When you want to utilize it for other intentions too like in-home for guests or yourself
  • In the time to sleep via side or stomach, this one gives the best compared to others
  • In the search for simple and space-saving fold-ability
  • To transport or carry it very easily
  • Overall to expect a quality and most comfortable sleep, using an air mat will be perfect

Related Read: Best Camping Mattress for Bad Back (Updated 9)

Substitutes of Air Mattresses and Cots

We know, it’s usual that there have few people who won’t like both of them. For them, we still have two options to discuss. Who knows maybe it can convince you.

1. Hammocks

Nowadays, a hammock is becoming popular as a form of relaxation on camping, backpacking, or any other outdoor. 

This hanging bed can be a wonderful way to spend the night, especially in summer. No worries about mosquitoes or insects having bug nets. You can stay comfy with the swing. Moreover, those are also useable in a home.

And two biggest advantages are, that hammocks are very lightweight, easy to transport, and most pleasingly very inexpensive.

So, no doubt it can be your good sleeping option.

Related Read: Pros and Cons of Hammock Camping (Major Points)

Related Read: Best Camping Hammock for Big Guys (Top 8)

2. Sleeping Pad

A sleeping pad is another decent way to rest in nature. This thing is simple as you want.

No hassle for carrying because of the light and backpacking design. And most importantly, there is no matter of setup.

This thick pad won’t show a shortage to provide softness and comfort. For a side sleeper, this pad gives extra benefits. In cold, it will offer sufficient warmth.

Also, in there you don’t need to worry about leakage or puncture like others.

So, measuring some angles, won’t be bad as an alternative.

Related Read: Best Sleeping Bag for Tall Man (Top 8)

Final Words

Naturally, in the end, it arises, cot vs air mattress camping: which one wins the race? 

The conclusion is simple as well as complicated too as you understand from the whole writing. Both have enough sides to claim themselves as the winner.

Shortly, a cot is choice-able for easy setup, durable, extra storage, airflow, back support, high from the ground, and for RV or car use. And the air mattress is for super comfort, portability, insulation, different sleeping positions, multi-purpose, and budget-saving.

For me, an air mattress fulfills my most of requirements. But for you, the image can be different. 

Anyways, those are the ultimate comparison of these beds. We hope, you haven’t any confusion in that comparison write. And yeah, don’t go ahead without letting us know if you have any queries or anything we miss in there.

Categories: Camping

Noah Lam

Noah Lam, is passionate about outdoor recreations, bridging the gap between generations, and sharing his passion for hiking and camping. As an outdoor explorer, he has been to more than forty countries and hiked some of the most intangible trails in the world. His goal is to spread the endless benefits of being a camper and hiker, new challenges, always striving for better performance and ways to explore responsibly.