Air Mattress, Sleeping Pad or Camping Cot: Which One is Right for You?

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Over time, camping gears are upgraded and now, we have lots of options for any specific type of camping accessories. Let’s think about the camping beds. There are different options and three of them are mostly used, we all know. But the beginners often face difficulties with the comparison between these three sleeping gears, I mean about air mattress vs sleeping pad vs camping cot.

Basically, an air mattress is an inflatable mattress you can carry while folding in the deflated stage. A sleeping pad is a thin mattress and it can be either the normal one or the inflated one. And finally, a camping cot is frame-based bedding that is comparatively safer but heavier.

However, ensuring a better night’s sleep is very much important. It will keep you healthy and energetic. So, you have to prefer comfortability first. At the same time, you have to think about their cost, portability, and some other basic functions.

So, here we are today to describe every single comparing issue of these three popular camping bedding gears. I am sure that you will have no more confusion left and then before I end, I promise to give you some tips that will help you choose the best option anyway.


Basics of Air Mattress, Sleeping Pad, and Camping Cots

Having proper sleep is very essential when you are camping in a remote place. Without a comfortable insightful sleep, you cannot stay energetic all day long. So, you cannot just think that you will sleep anywhere anyway. You have to ensure warm and comfortable bedding for a good sleep time.

However, the good news is tons of camping gear manufacturers are upgrading different types of sleeping gear and most of them are very easy to carry. Even the cost is not too much to bother you anyway. Besides, these different types of camping bedding feature differently.

Generally, sleeping pads, camping air mattresses, and camping cots are the most common three types for general camping. When it is Winter, a sleeping bag is another option but we are not concerned about this option for today.

Basically, a sleeping pad, a camping cot, and an air mattress are for the use of any season. That’s why we are comparing these three options only. First, let’s see what these products are and some basics of them.

Air mattress

An air mattress is the most common sleeping gear and it is also known as air bed. They come in different sizes and types. Some are foam-based and some are inflatable. You will find them very convenient as they come in lightweight packages. Air mattresses are made of high-quality fabrics which are also thermal proof for providing optimal comfort in different seasons.

Air mattresses come in different sizes and they also vary by thickness. You will find air beds from single to queen sizes. These are good for multiple people and suit best with the tent. You can also find a tent package with air mattresses included with the package. They are easy to use and most of the time hassle-free.

High-quality air beds come with an air pump and other tools. You should get thicker ones which at least provide room for two people. Thicker air beds provide additional insulation facilities and keep the body warm from the freezing floor.

As it’s a kind of inflated mattress, you can deflate it and fold it in a smaller size. That’s why campers always prefer having an air sleeping mattress except for seasonal issues.


Sleeping Pad

The sleeping pad is similar to air beds but they tend to be smaller than the mattresses. There are different types of sleeping pads available in the market. Some are made of closed-cell foam and some are inflatable.

Inflatable sleeping pads are pretty much the same as an air bed. Like the inflated mattress, it is also foldable and easy to carry. Besides, the maintenance of sleeping pads is very easy and does not require any additional tools. You can even clean it in the river water while camping.

If you want bedding at affordable pricing then foam-based sleeping pads are best suited for you. You will have moderate cushion and comfort from the foam-based sleeping pads. They might take a bit more storage too if you compare them against air beds.

But many people cannot sleep comfortably just using a sleeping pad.

Read more: Best sleeping pads for side sleepers: Top 10 Reviewed

Camping Cot

Camping cots or camp beds are another solution for an instant sleepover in a camp. They are usually heavy compared to sleeping pads and sleeping bags. It is made of wood or metal base, canvas, linen, or nylon fabric. Cots are very versatile and compact. They tend to be durable but offer far less comfort than sleeping pads.

You have to take additional mattresses or sleeping pads to ensure comfort with camping cots. But some cots come with a cushion while packing additional weights. If you want to use it in a tent, you have to elevate the tent more or camp in a more spacious tent than the regular ones.

These camping cots come in single and double sizes. Most of the camping cots you will find in the market are made of aluminum or metal alloy based. Always check if the folding mechanisms are well built and erosion-free.

With this minimal information, I know, it is not possible to have a comparison idea about these three camping bedding options. So, the next functions will possibly help you compare them regarding their features.


Air Mattress vs Sleeping Pad vs Camping Cot: Detailed Comparison

Generally, we have some issues of comparison when we check the bedding products and make decisions for them. We have found out the basic issues and check various types of these three bedding systems. And then find out the points where they differ from one another. Let’s check out the issues below and I am sure you will get to know all together exactly what you are looking for.

  • Size

No doubts that the size of the sleeping gear facts the more for any of you. You will get bedding of different sizes on the market. Almost all of them come with single and double-size surfaces. And what matters is the thickness.

Generally, a sleeping pad is the thinnest one among these three options. For that, it is easy to carry and fold. An air mattress on the other side can have variations in thickness. It mainly depends on the mattress types and the brands.

Different types of mattresses come in different sizes and thicknesses. In general, it can be 4 to 10 inches in thickness. The thicker it is there, the more comfortable it will be. In that sense, an air mattress is more comfortable than a sleeping pad.

A camping cot is a bedding type that comes with a thin nylon-made surface with a frame to keep it above the ground. In most cases, a camping cot has a 10 to 20 inches higher bedding surface. But these frames are foldable and so, you can easily carry them too.

  • Weight and Portability

The product weight matters especially when you don’t have a vehicle to use while starting for camping. Especially, when you have to hike and reach the top of the mountain, you cannot carry heavier items. So, the lighter it is the better and more portable it will be.

You have known that a sleeping pad can have variations in type. It can be inflated one or not. If it’s an inflated pad, you can simply deflate it and carry it in a small bag. And then it won’t be more than one or two pounds.

And if it is not an inflatable sleeping pad, it will be a little bit heavier. But as it is a thin pad, you can fold it multiple times, and then it will be no more than 2 to 4 pounds. So, about portability, a sleeping pad is the best product I think.

Well, an air mattress is not also less portable. An air mattress naturally comes with an inflated function. So, the bag after deflating, won’t be more than one or two pounds either. But the problem is carrying an air pumper.

You can inflate a sleeping pad with your breath but it’s not possible for an air mattress. You will need a pumper and the good news is, the high definitely air pumper is very small in size and it is around 1 to 3 pounds in weight.

And lastly, it is about the portability functions of a camping cot. I have already told you that a camping cot comes with frames to keep the surface above the ground. So, it weighs more for the frames. And mostly it can be 7 to 15 pounds.

Then if you think about its portability, I also have good news here. These frames are completely foldable. You can even fold it to have a size like a camera tripod. So, you can carry it high on the hills but it won’t be as easy as carrying a sleeping pad or an air mattress. So, when you have your car with you, this gear will definitely be the best option.

  • Comfortability

Most people seek comfort when it is proper for sleeping. And these three different items are completely different when it is about comfortability. So, you have to be careful while buying one if you prefer comfortability first.

Air mattress, I think can be the best solo item that will provide you enough comfortability. If you have an air mattress that is quite thick, you can simply lay down on it and have a better sleep. You don’t need anything inside the tent other than the tent floor to set it up.

A sleeping pad is quite thin, I have already said. So, most people cannot sleep comfortably just over a sleeping pad. If the ground is so hard and not properly flat, you will have problems sleeping over a pad if there is no support under it.

But you can use it over anything like a camping cot or even over the air mattress. Also, you can sleep on it when you have an additional sleeping bag.

A camping cot on another side, just has a nylon-made surface over the frame. So, it won’t be very much comfortable either if you don’t have a mattress on it. Some people use a sleeping pad on it to make it more comfortable.

Again, some good quality camping cots come with additional mattresses that will be the best if you think about comfortability. Besides, when it is winter and the ground is cold, you should use a cot to save yourself from the ground. In that case, a camping cot is better than an air mattress.

  • Durability

Who doesn’t want camping gear to be durable? Once you pay more to buy one, you have to check its durability so that you can use it for a long time. Weight capacity is also associated with the fact of durability.

Generally, the durability and weight capacity both are depending on the product quality and materials. For sleeping pads and air mattresses, nylon-made fabric works quite best. Some manufacturers also use leather and artificial leather too. But these items cost more than the nylon-made ones.

For a camping cot, the frame must be made of stainless steel or iron. You will also get some wooden cot but they are fancy and rare. And a camping cot also lasts for long if you manage to do some basic maintenance.

About weight capacity, you have to be aware of your weight and how many people will be using it at once. So, make sure to check the weight capacity of each item before you buy.

  • Ideal Season

The seasonal issue is another important fact when it is about camping gear for bedding. Basically, you don’t get a 4 season bedding other than a camping cot. But an air mattress also works well in any season except in winter. You can simply use it anytime. But for winter, it can be the cause of cold as it can absorb ground cold very easily.

About the sleeping pad, I cannot assure you if you can use it in other seasons rather than the summer only. As it’s a thin mattress, you cannot use it in the rainy season. For winter, it’s the worst idea anyway.

But if you have other options aside from the sleeping pad like an additional air mattress, camping cot, or a sleeping bag, you can use it for extra comfort issues. But when you have nothing other than a sleeping pad, it’s better not to depend on it when it is not summer.

A camping cot is the 4 season one you can try. Whether it is the rainy season or winter, you can simply use it anywhere. Even if the ground is not clean and flat, it’s not a problem if you have a cot. It’s because the cot will keep you above the surface and you will stay out of any issue regarding the ground.

  • Essential Accessories

You just cannot bring a sleeping bed with you to the campsite. You need to install them using some gears. And you have to carry them as well. If you don’t like to carry anything with you, I think a sleeping pad is the better option. Most of the sleeping pads are not inflatable. So, you can carry them in the folding size bag and simply use them inside the tent.

If your sleeping pad is inflatable, you don’t necessarily need an air pumper too. 8 to 15 of your mouthful of breath can inflate it easily. And you have to carry a hammock if you want to use a sleeping pad on it.

For an air mattress, an air pumper is a must. You cannot inflate this mattress without the pumper anyway. Most of the time, you will get an additional air pumper with the mattress as a combo package. You can also buy them from a shop separately.

Most of the camping cots don’t need any other accessories to install it. But it has everything itself with the setup. Eventually, some of them require some screwdrivers in case you break them. Otherwise, it’s okay to bring the cot only.

Some camping cots don’t come with additional mattresses. And if you prefer comfortability, you have to carry an additional mattress or a sleeping pad with it. I think a sleeping pad is a better idea for this issue.

  • Tent Issue

Here, my point is about how you will set it up inside the tent. If your tent is very small, you have to buy the right size bedding systems anyway. Otherwise, you will face difficulties setting it inside the tent.

A camping cot will be a little bit troublesome to install in a smaller tent. So, you should check the size of the tent and then measure the size of the cot as well. You have to be ensured that you can use them properly inside the tent and the size won’t be an issue.

  • Price

Lastly, it is about the Price. But I am sorry to say that I cannot specify the exact price of a sleeping pad, an air mattress, and a camping cot as the price varies from product to product. Additionally, the price varies based on the brand, material, quality, and size.

In general, you can get a sleeping pad for 30 to 200 USD. An air mattress can be from 30 to 400 USD and it mainly varies regarding how many additional gears the package includes. And a camping cot is a little bit pricey because of its extra frame and mattress. However, you will get it from 80 to 500 USD.


Which One Should You Buy?

Now, it’s time to make your decision, right? You have to be careful while thinking about the situation of the camping sites you often visit. If it’s cold, there is no other better option rather than a camping cot. For rainy reasons, it works better too.

If you prefer portability and have to hike and run a long way, an air mattress is the best option. If you prefer comfortability, I think you can try an air mattress too. Besides, the above discussion also makes it clear how supportable an air mattress can be. You can even use it on the water.

And a sleeping pad is preferable when you have soft and clean grounds or you have other bedding to place the pad over it. Besides, a sleeping pad is good for an emergency issue and you can carry it easily. Also, in winter, it works well for body heat insulation.

So, you have to think about your needs, your preference, the season, the campsite situation, and similar. When you are clear about these issues, I think you will learn automatically exactly which one you actually need.


Final Words

In the end, I have some very essential advice for you. If you are planning to camp so often, it’s better to have all these three products near your hand. It’s because all of them are essential and you can use multiple ones to have a better night’s sleep.

Other than that, they are not very much pricey and you can store them anywhere in your home. And after learning about the above information I think you have now got a clear idea about air mattress vs sleeping pad vs camping cot. For any more inquiries, you can simply leave your questions right below in the comment box. Thank you for staying with us.

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