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What to Choose Between Camping Cots, Sleeping Pads, Airbeds, and Hammocks?
Published: July 15, 2021
When going camping, relaxation and sleep are essential parts of the activity. Therefore, you are required to bring sleeping equipment to rest properly. Don’t expect to just sleep directly to the ground surface without any cover or cushion to support your back.
We have compiled four common sleeping gears. Camping cots are equipped with frames and legs, while sleeping pads can be inflatables, like air beds, although they are thinner. As for hammocks, both ends are suspended on two trees or pillars that elevate your body from the ground.
Those are just some of the key features of each piece of sleeping equipment we will discuss in this article. We also included the differences, sleeping systems, pros, and cons of each gear.
Camping cots vs. sleeping pads vs. hammocks vs. airbeds
These are collapsible cots that can be packed for camping. The parts contain their fabric, frame, and legs. Unlike common cots, they can be packed and compressed in your backpack.
Visually, they just resemble emergency preparedness cots. Several types of cots are usually utilized in urban areas. The most notable categories are used in hospitals, ambulances, and for camping.
This is a lightweight, small, and portable kind of sleeping gear. Materials commonly used by the manufacturers to create these include metal and wood for the frame. In terms of fabric, they are equipped with nylon, polyester, and canvas.
Nylon and polyester are good insulators and can help you maintain warmth in cold weather. On the other hand, a canvas is hefty and somehow difficult to clean.
Frames that are associated with camping cots are made of aluminum, steel, and wood. If you are seeking a lightweight and strong frame, you can go for one made of aluminum. Also, beware of its limitations in terms of weight capacity. Although they are durable, steel is more dependable in this aspect.
Wood frames are rarely used by campers, and clearly, they can be sturdy at first, but as time goes by, they’ll definitely start to be frail. The most substantial factor that you should remember is the function of the frame to be frequently folded firmly. With this feature, you can simply store or insert them somewhere in your house.
- Can be lightweight
- Elevate you from the ground when sleeping
- Steel frames are heavy
- Not all types of camping cots are portable
- Some types can be bulky
- Complicated installation
Among all the products available on the market today, we chose the Coleman Pack-Away Cot as the best camping cot. Thanks to its affordability, reliable frame, and comfortable canvass, you can be sure that you’ll sleep soundly during your camping trip. Check out our Best Camping Cots in 2021 article to see the top-performing cots on the market today.
These are pads that are mainly used for insulation. You can also use one of these as your alternative bed. However, sleeping pads are indeed thin compared to camping mattresses. Thus, it may not be ideal for sleeping on rocky surfaces.
This type of equipment is made of open-cell foam and may therefore absorb water. Standard sleeping mats are made of polyethylene (PE) and ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam. Although they are furnished with foam, they are really slim.
Considering their features, sleeping pads can either be used as your main bed or as an extra pad for added insulation. They are commonly positioned to cover the ground surface to keep you warm while you sleep.
You can sometimes be mistaken and confused between sleeping pads and airbeds. What’s more unsettling is that sleeping pads are also available in inflatable versions. This type of sleeping equipment also comes in a version made of foam.
- Good insulation
- Can be made of foam or be inflatable
- Available in various sizes
- Installed and placed on the ground
- Thin, which can make you uncomfortable
- Lacks cushion
- Can expose you to insects
- Difficult to arise after lying down
When it comes to sleeping pads, nothing beats the Nemo Cosmo Insulated 3D Sleeping Pad. It offers one of the best compact sizes for pads, only weighs 3 lbs., and is very versatile. You can check out our Best Camping Beds and Pads of 2021 to find out more about the top-performing products on the market today.
Hammocks are a piece of equipment made of slung that is hanged on both ends between two trees, or any strong foundation that can hold them. The sleeping areas are usually made of fabrics, canvas, etc. To clarify, they are not only used for camping purposes, as sometimes, people also have these in their backyards.
The standard size for this gear is between 76 and 79 inches. However, there are also larger sizes if you are looking for bigger ones. They are pretty similar to other types of sleeping beds when it comes to the availability of sizes. Their only distinction is the setup.
Camping hammocks’ fabric is undeniably strong. They act as a support to carry the bodyweight of a person. In terms of packing, they are indeed lightweight and can be rolled and folded. Some campers recommend using hammocks for a goodnight’s sleep.
Hammocks are available in different sizes but can only be used with straps or ropes. If camping cots are set on the ground surface, hammocks lift you by hanging. This equipment can also provide elevation and cooler temperatures. But, hammocks’ usage can be prohibited in several places as it can damage trees, and remember that not all areas have trees or poles on which you can hang your hammock.
Hammocks’ sleeping area is thin and does not bear its own insulation. With such, you will still need an underquilt and extra sleeping pads to keep you warm. This is not a recommended sleeping equipment to be used in cold places. Remember that it will elevate you and that it permits the air to blow in your body openly.
After describing the characteristics of hammocks, let’s look at the benefits and downsides you may experience using them.
- Can maintain the body at a cool temperature
- Elevates you from the ground
- Requires a rainfly to protect yourself from the rain
- Does not possess its own insulation
- May not be suitable in cold weather
- Requires two trees or post to set up
When it comes to the best camping hammock, there’s no other product that comes to our mind than the Hennessy Hammock Ultralite Backpacker Zip. Not does it only elevate you from the ground without any problem, but it also features a rainfly and a SnakeSkin cover that protect you from the rain or from insects.
You can check out our Best Camping Hammocks article, in which we have summarized and reviewed the best hammocks on the market today.
Airbeds or air mattresses are inflatable types of sleeping equipment. They are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), textile-reinforced urethane plastic, or rubber. This kind of camping mattress is the leading option for backpackers if you want to prioritize lightweight packing.
Before you can use inflatables, you need to fill them with air. Although, what we like about airbeds is you can just deflate them after using them, and roll or fold them inside your backpack. With such, you will be able to save a lot of space, and the weight won’t be a hassle either.
Airbeds can be inflated in many ways. You can either use a manual or battery-operated pump, or even do it yourself. But, some airbeds require you to blow into the air valve, which may not be advisable for asthmatics.
On the other hand, we can’t deny its portability and the comfort it provides. This is built to be inflated and deflated, and can be folded inside your backpack. The materials used to create this don’t absorb water. You can definitely use this on the water, as long as you inflate and lock the valves properly. But also, we can’t deny that the texture of the material is totally slippery.
From our perspective, the major factor that you need to consider when choosing an airbed is its size. Just like other sleeping equipment, airbeds are available in different lengths, widths, and even thicknesses.
They also provide a lot of advantages and disadvantages.
- Easy to pack and store
- Can be used in water
- Needs air to inflate
- Can be torn easily
- No extra space under the airbed
- You also have to carry an inflating device
- It may not fit your tent’s size
Sleeping can never be more comfortable than with the Therm-A-Rest MondoKing 3D Self-Inflating Foam. This large airbed ensures that you won’t have to re-inflate your bed in the middle of the night, unlike other airbeds. Plus, if you’re willing to take on the extra weight, you’ll surely sleep like when you’re at home.
How to know which sleeping equipment is right for you?
Camping cots’ legs and frame support your back to elevate your body from the ground, kind of like airbeds, although these are thick. Whereas sleeping pads may be a bit similar to airbeds, even though they are thin. Finally, hammocks allow you to sway and raise your body from the ground.
You can get both advantages and disadvantages using this outdoors. Although it is true that they are truly comfortable, they can also be heavy. Thus, if you choose the most durable option, then you have to bear its weight when backpacking.
Some campers and hikers don’t mind the weight of camping cots as they just want to ensure good relaxation at night. This is simply because of their ability to raise you from the ground. It’s a unique feature that other sleeping equipments don’t provide.
Indeed, if your body is elevated, it openly exposes you to the airflow, which keeps you cool the whole time you’re lying down. We definitely recommend you to use these in warm places. Choose cots with huge sleeping space, so that you can freely move when switching position overnight.
From my opinion, this type of sleeping equipment is independent in some ways but can be used to complete the lack of another sleeping gear. For example, hammocks lack insulation and sleeping pads can help thicken hammocks’ sleeping areas to reduce coolness. This is simply just a pad that you will be needing to cover the ground.
There are two types of sleeping pads.
- Self-inflating pads are equipped with valves that allow air to be inflated and deflated automatically if you just open it. The upper area also feature foams. This sounds easy to inflate, but it is also dangerous to inflate it too much as it just works independently, which requires you to monitor it throughout the process.
- With manually-inflating sleeping pads, you have the authority when filling this pad with air. Indeed, you can control how thick and solid you want your pad to be. Ask the manufacturer if what are the other ways or equipment that you can use to inflate them.
Like with self-inflating pads, you should keep track while filling them with air. As for comfort, we observed it is a thin pad compared to air mattresses, so it may not be suitable in some areas. Although, it can be your alternative to cover your back when you sleep.
Clearly, sleeping pads should be spread on the grounds. If you lay down on them, they expose you to several types of insects that may bite you. This can hugely affect your sleeping agenda due to the disturbance brought by the insects.
These are the more comfortable version of sleeping pads. No, they are not really the same type but they resemble each other in many ways. However, as the name suggests, airbeds are empowered with air and all are inflatable.
Airbeds are undeniably comfortable and firm to sleep on. They are thick with a good cushion that can contribute to your relaxation. This is like bringing your mattress from your home to your outdoor campsite.
Airbeds are available in several sizes, which clearly is an advantage for users. Unlike sleeping pads that are usually small, with airbeds, you have the freedom to choose the wideness of your bed. Note that if you have a large space for sleeping, you will have the privilege to freely move or switch positions.
They are set up on the ground, but since they are thicker than sleeping pads, they will elevate your body from the ground, preventing feeling cold temperatures. However, if you think that raising your body from the ground will exhibit your body to airflow, it won’t if you are protected by your tent walls.
As we mentioned, airbeds are very similar to inflatable sleeping pads. Both of them are set up on the ground without any legs to separate the body from the ground. Although, airbeds are thicker than sleeping pads, which can elevate your body when you lay down.
We kept thinking about the vulnerability of this sleeping equipment as when they get torn, it can be hard to repair them depending on the deepness of the damage. Imagine you are camping somewhere and accidentally tear it to the point where even tape won’t work to cover the hole. That will turn your trip into a complete disaster rather than a relaxing getaway.
One of the most ideal kinds of sleeping equipment we have encountered is hammocks. Not only do some campers and hikers love them, but we also rate the essence of its sleeping system. Hammocks can be swayed and elevate your body, which makes the user more relaxed.
The airflow, and the fabric following the formation of your body when you lie on it, are clear advantages. Based on our research, sleeping on a hammock provides health benefits because the sleeping position and swaying can benefit your brain activity. This is the reason why many people seeking good sleep approved of using this.
Although, something you should watch out for on hammocks is the lack of roof protection. Obviously, you can’t use hammocks inside your tent because it is enclosed with walls. So, for insulation, you will be needing an extra sleeping pad and underquilt. The use of a tarp or rainfly can also stop the overflowing of air that affects your body temperature when you sleep. Although cold is good, too much cold is not.
Hammocks may be difficult to install and require you to consider many things and rules. Also, bear in mind that not everyone likes to use hammocks, so you should know your preference before buying this equipment.
On the other hand, note that not all camping sites will allow you to use hammocks as these can damage the bark of the trees because of the use of ropes to hang them. Thus, we advise you to ask the management of the place before deciding to use this kind of gear. They’ll provide you with the rules or will simply prohibit you from using them.
The sleeping equipment we have mentioned is all impressive. Each gear’s features are suitable to a specific place and grounds, but if you are looking for the best choice for you, we advise you to scrutinize the characteristics, pros, and cons.
Usually, campers just pack sleeping pads or airbeds with their tents because they are available in lightweight versions, not to mention that they are easy to pack. Hammocks and camping cots are indeed unique, but they can certainly offer you the comfort and relaxation you are seeking.