When you’re winter camping, it is essential to stay warm. This is especially true when you’re sleeping. If you are in contact with the ground, it will pull away from your body’s heat. It will interfere with your sleep at best and cause hypothermia at worst.
So, are cots good for winter camping?
Cots are one of the better choices for winter camping. It raises you off the ground, so you’re not going to lose body heat through contact with it. That makes it safer than lying on the ground. However, cots aren’t warm in and of themselves. You must have a winter-rated sleeping bag on the cot, and that is the minimum you need.
A better choice is putting an air mattress on the cot to help trap body heat. This will also make the average cot more comfortable. Putting a soft pad on the cot can improve its heat retention and comfort, as well.
This takes up more space than a deflated air mattress, but you don’t have to pump it up, either.
Why Do People Say Cots Are Not Good for Winter Camping?
When you’re winter camping, you want to be above the ground and insulated from both the cold air and cold ground. A cot holds you up above the ground, but it also lets cold air circulate beneath you.
This makes cots colder than laying on a series of stacked blankets and pads on the ground. If you’re sleeping on a cot when winter camping, double your padding at a minimum.
This means that if you normally sleep within a 1-inch pad on your cot and summer sleeping bag, sleep with at least 2 inches of pads and a winter-rated sleeping bag.
Consider putting the same mattresses, pads or multiple layers of blankets you were going to lay on the ground on the cot instead. You almost can’t have too much padding except when it is impossible to easily transport. And that’s a serious issue given that the biggest advantage of cots is how portable they are.
If you’re concerned about the cot making you cold, try to get one that doesn’t have exposed metal frames. It is the cold metal that will make you as cold as if you were sleeping on the ground. The alternative is to cover the frame with blankets or other padding.
What if you don’t have a pad or air mattress to sleep on when winter camping with a cot? You’ll want two or more blankets or even a folded up tarp under you to help prevent the cold wind from blowing under the cot and making you cold.
The colder the weather, the more layers of insulation you need between you and the cot. And this is true if you’re in a tent, as well.
Why Are Cots Popular for Winter Camping if They Can Make You Cold?
First, they’re familiar, and many campers already own one. Second, they are highly portable. Third, there are many ways you can make it warm enough to sleep on.
On top of that, you’re able to store your gear under the cot while camping, and you probably take much more gear with you camping in the winter than in the summer.
Then there’s the fact that the cot won’t be uncomfortable if you’re sleeping in a heated cabin in the winter, but it will give you an additional bed for guests year-round.
Other Things That Are Best To Sleep On When Camping in Winter
1. Air Mattresses
An air mattress and a thin sleeping bag are not enough for winter camping, though the air mattress is a step up from sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag.
You can improve the insulating effect by putting the air mattress on a ground pad. That’s almost a necessity since you don’t want the air mattress to pop.
Just make sure the pad reflects heat back at you instead of dissipating it. This means you don’t want to use the vented memory foam pads that keep you cool in the summer. The only downside is that air mattresses are not as comfortable as a good cot or foam mattress.
If you want to minimize the inconvenience of an air mattress, buy one that is self-inflating. Then you don’t have to bring along an air pump much less the batteries for the electric ones.
Top-end air mattresses may have decent padding build into them, but this is rarely as insulating as a good foam pad. Remember to get an air mattress with gripping material on the bottom if you’re tent camping so it doesn’t slide around.
This is the side that should be facing the surface of a cot, too.
👉 Check this self-inflating camping pad on Amazon.
2. Foam Pads
Foam pads can have their place when you’re winter camping. A foam pad that retains body heat is an ideal layer between you and a cot when you’re winter camping.
Two are better. If you’re sleeping on the ground, you need a foam pad or other thick material between you and the ground to have any chance of staying warm. Several foam pads could be layered to create a transportable bed, though this is bulky.
👉 There is no need for these items to be complex so check this simple foam pad on Amazon.
Hammocks are ideal for summer camping. You’re up off the ground, away from insects and snacks. And you enjoy an incredible amount of airflow. This keeps you cool in the summer. On the other hand, this is a disaster if you’re winter camping unless you have other arrangements to make up for it.
For example, if you’re sleeping in a heated cabin, then the hammock near the heater is fine. If you’re wrapped in a thermal sleeping bag rated for the winter, you could manage to sleep in a hammock, though you’d be better off on a cot or air mattress. This lightweight hammock will do the trick. (Amazon link)