Sleeping Pad, Cot, Air mattress+2 Alternatives For Camping

The way we live is changing from time to time. We spend most of our time indoors. In fact, there are people who haven’t spent time outdoors for months. Despite that, there are 100s of millions of people who go camping each year, which makes you think people love camping.

But before you go camping there are some things to arrange and some extra gear that might be necessary. One of them is sleeping gears, like sleeping bags and sleeping pads.

It is obvious that you need a good night sleep while camping, the last thing you want is getting up in the morning with a sore back and red-eyes that is why you have to invest on a high-quality sleeping gear.

Whether it is sleeping pad a cot or an air mattress, it has to be the highest quality and the best one you can afford, keeping that in mind you start thinking which one is suitable for your camping trip, a cot or a pad?

More on sleeping pads

Sleeping pads are widely used and they come in different shapes, prices and comfort levels. They are my personal favorite but I have had some bad experiences with some crappy sleeping pads over the years too. it is up to you whether you get the wrong one or the right one. If you are a beginner camper I would recommend getting someone experienced to help you with that.

You can not just say sleeping pads are better than cots because there are many factors that can affect and it differs from one person to another. But there are things you might have to consider before choosing which one you want.

  • Do you move when you sleep– I personally move a lot when I sleep and if you are like me you need something wide and close to the ground. A wide sleeping pad can do the job perfectly. Generally speaking, if you move while you sleep, getting a sleeping pad might be great idea
  • What side do you sleep– If you sleep on your back or your stomach you will find most sleeping pads comfortable but if you sleep on your side it might be hard to find the right one. Side sleepers have smaller contact area with the bed, unlike back and stomach sleepers and the less the area the more the presser. Which brings us to the point you will need something thick which can support those presser points(the hip and shoulder) long story short sleeping pads aren’t the best for side sleepers.

More on camping cots

Camping cots are not common as sleeping pads but a some of people prefer them to sleeping pads. If you ask me I haven’t had a good experience with camping cots so I am not a big fan.

First and foremost camping cots are heavy which means if you are a backpacker I wouldn’t recommend you to get them the second thing they aren’t easy to carry around they have weird shape.

  • On what side do you sleep– Camping cots are amazing for side sleepers compared to sleeping pads, they are kings and the reason is simple they are stretchy: they support your whole body evenly.
  • Do you move when you sleep– This is the biggest problem when it comes to cots it is hard to move around while you are sleeping. The second thing is if you are a stomach sleeper it can also be uncomfortable because most stomach sleepers raise one leg up to reduce pressure on the lower back but with cots, you can not do that.

More on air mattresses

Air mattresses are not commonly used for camping, the general difference between sleeping pads and air mattresses is size but they have some other differences to like sleeping pads are not necessarily filled with air some are foam and last sleeping pads are very lightweight and compact compared with air mattress and the reason is simple they are made for camping.

So why use an air mattress? comfort, they are way more comfortable and bed like when compared to both cots and pads, it is up to you if you choose comfort more than other things.

  • On what side do you sleep– This doesn’t matter if you are sleeping on an air mattress what matters is to what level you are going to inflate it. If you are used to a firm mattress at home do the same as simple as that.
  • Do you move when you sleep– This also doesn’t matter keeping in mind the mattress is big enough to move around.

One of the bad sides of air mattresses is that they need electricity to inflate them not all of them but most, and as you know it is hard to get power while camping. If you can get power good for you but if you don’t and you want them bad there are other ways to inflate you can find on youtube.

Which is the most comfortable?

I would say the most comfortable out of the three is air mattress followed by sleeping pad. Air mattresses can be the most comfortable to sleep on but it is not made for camping so you might have many difficulties with them.

Air mattresses are big in size so don’t expect them to fit well in a two-person tent, that would be hard with other things you will have, but their comfort level is out of the roof.

Sleeping pads are the second most comfortable, sleeping pads are very small and it is amazing how comfortable they are, but it is only considering their size.

Camping cots are third on my list, I wouldn’t say cots are that much comfortable at least for me, sleeping pads are way better than cots if that is your question.

Which is the warmest to sleep on?

The warmest to sleep on would be sleeping pad followed by air mattresses, most sleeping pads have insulation which is numbered and it is called r-value; it is the level of insulation the sleeping bag can give per its thickness.

Air mattresses don’t have this, they are not insulated against heat loss just unlike sleeping pads.

While when it comes to camping cots they are not the best in cold weather and the reason is you will be surrounded by cold air 360°, unlike the others, which is only the upper half.

If your concern is cold you should focus more on the sleeping bag or you can get a heater which can resolve the problem, but I wouldn’t say sleeping pads don’t have an effect all am saying is the effect is small.

What about weight?

This is so obvious, sleeping pads are made for this they are way lighter than both cots and air mattresses. And if you focus is on having the most lightweight things like for instance you are backpacking or cycling sleeping pads are the one for you.

  • Sleeping pads weigh around 1 pound on average
  • Air mattresses weigh around 9 pounds on average
  • While camping cots weigh around 15 pounds

This is a wild difference they both don’t come close to sleeping pad. So for backpackers, there is no question for you it is obviously sleeping pad that you will need.

Which is the most durable

This is where both pads and air mattresses lose points. When it comes to durability cots might have big plus, the reason is there is a low risk of damage. Air mattress and sleeping pads might have one hole.

If you find out there is a leak and your pad goes flat in the middle of the night while camping trust me there is no fix for that expert sleeping on the cold hard ground, but I would say be a risk-taker and go for it and don’t forget to always test you camping gear beforehand, don’t be that guy who puts new gear into the backpack.

Pros and cons

Pros and cons of sleeping pads

  • Pros: Lightweight, easy to pack
  • Cons: High risk of damage, very close to the ground

Pros and cons of cots

  • Pros: Easy to unpack and use, low risk of getting damaged
  • Cons: Heavy, not good for travel

Pros and cons of air mattresses

  • Pros: Comfortable
  • Cons: Big size

Other choices

Foam sleeping pad– Foam sleeping pads have the durability of cots and the comfort of a mattress, they are like a normal mattress with a small size. If you haven’t considered them before you should and do some research I am sure you will love them if you love air sleeping pads

Hammock– Using hammocks for sleeping is becoming common among experienced campers, but I would say it is not that comfortable, and they are super different. Some people call it hammock camping(it is when you don’t take a tent and you use it as a bed and a shelter too.

Layering sleeping pad on the top of your camping cot: Boom, if you don’t like the fact that sleeping pads are very close to the ground or you don’t find cots comfy layering them with a cot can do what you want.


More or less I am not trying to say one is better from the other, but all of them have pros and cons. My favorites are sleeping pads, but I have tried all of them at different times, I haven’t had a good experience with camping cots but many people love them.

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