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The 6 Best Tent Cots: A Wildlife Photographer’s Picks

the best tent cots make it feel like you're sleeping in a bed

As a 35-year-old wildlife traveler, photographer, and guide, and after so many years of sleeping on the ground, in hammocks, on terrible hotel boxsprings, cramped on countless 10+-hour flights and working predominantly on the road, my back is officially effed. 

The problem is, I still love to camp, and while a nice air mattress does wonders, I’ve found that nothing makes camping more comfortable than a good tent cot. 

If you are thinking about making the switch to this style of camping, below are five of the best tent cots on the market. I’ve curated this list based on the best tent for specific purposes. 

They are: 


Best Tent Cot for Smaller Adults: The Kamp-Rite Original Tent Cot 

Of course the first pick on the best tent cots list has to be the original Kamp-Rite tent cot. This tent cot stands 11 inches off the ground to ensure you are protected against dampness, insects and protuberances like rocks and roots. 

Easy to set up and convertible into a lounge chair or a standard cot for sleeping under the stars on a clear night or inside of a larger multi-person tent, the double-zippered mesh doors are easy to get through, and the poly and mesh openings at either side provide fantastic airflow while keeping out no-see-ums and other biting insects

This heavy-duty nylon tent cot is a favourite piece of gear among servicemen and women, and if you pair this with a decent sleeping mat or air mattress you could be fooled into thinking you were sleeping in a normal bed. 

Specs

Materials:
Heavy-duty nylon 
Weight:
30 lbs
Setup time:
1-2 minutes
Dimensions:
210cm L x 71cm W x 90/30cm
Capacity:
1 person
Included accessories:
Kamp-Rite Original Tent Cot, rainfly

Cons

The reason this is the best tent cot for smaller adults is that many of the comments indicate that the space is a little bit too tight for anyone above 5’8 or 9. Many people recommend that bigger people get the two-person (which is often a safe bet for any kind of camping shelter–hammock, tent, or tent cot). 

Still, certainly among the best tent cots for smaller men, women and certainly children and adolescents.


Best Tent Cot for 2 People: The Kamp-Rite Compact Double Tent Cot w/R F

This is the bigger version of the Kamp-Rite Original Tent Cot, meant for two people. As with any camping shelter, a good idea is to always consult the reviews to make sure that the capacity specs are actually accurate and in this instance, it appears to be the case

Made of strong, light and quick-drying 210D nylon (the same material used to make durable sporting goods and medical equipment), the Kamp-Rite Compact Double Tent Cot sets up in seconds, has two zippered poly-mesh entries for easy entry and exit and two zippered overhead windows for airflow

I also really like this little tent cot because it’s quite versatile. You can use it as a tent cot, as a lounge chair, as a tent without the base or as a standard 1 or 2-person sleeping cot. 

Specs

Materials:
Heavy-duty 210D nylon
Weight:
43.5 lbs
Setup time:
first time (15 mins), after than, around 5 mins
Dimensions
Cot size is 84Lx52W. Tent size is 84Lx52Wx36H
Capacity:
1-2 people
Included accessories:
Tent Cot, rainfly

Cons

The biggest complaint would be that there is a metal bar running the length of the cot. While an air mattress or sleeping mat fixes the problem, neither is included.

As with a lot of tents with an included or built-in rainfly, they can sometimes not really do what they are supposed to do. Probably a good idea to buy a third-party rainfly with better reviews if you are planning on using this for more rugged camping. 


Still the best tent cot option for couples or larger adults.


Best Tent Cot for Gear Storage: The Timber Ridge 2-person Full Fly Cot Tent

This two-person from Timber Ridge is the best cot tent for gear storage for a couple of reasons. The fibreglass frame has bent ferrules for added internal floor space as well as heavy-duty steel frame that can hold up to 600 pounds. It also has a gear loft underneath the cot for even more storage (think storage bed-style). 

This is the kind of thing that you would want if you were on a serious hiking trip and you had a lot of gear that you didn’t want to leave out in the rain

It also comes with 2 no-see-um mesh vents on both the door and windows to make sure you aren’t bothered by insects. 

The built-in rainfly actually looks like it would hold up to the rain quite well, as opposed to a lot of other built-in rainfly that you find with even the best tent cots. 

Specs

Materials:
Polyester, Fiberglass, Mesh
Weight:
44.09 Pounds
Setup time:
first time (15 mins), after than, around 5 mins
Dimensions
80 x 50 x 47 inches
Capacity:
2 people but comments indicate not big enough for 2 adults
Included accessories:
Cot, Tent, Storage bag with wheels for easy transportation, stakes for setup, gear loft, and rainfly

Cons

Like other tent cots, the cot component usually has a support bar running down the middle which is a potential comfort issue. It’s always advisable to pick up an air mattress or sleeping pad if you are purchasing a tent cot

Some reviewers indicate that this particular tent cot doesn’t accommodate 2 people comfortably. This is often the case with all camping shelters, especially if you are talking about two above-average-sized people. I’m 6’1 (and I used to be 6’2) so I often find I can’t fully stretch out in a lot of tents and hammocks.


Even still, this is a super study, reliable camping shelter and the best tent cot out there for gear storage.


Best Tent Cot for Solo Travelers and Backpackers: Tangkula 4-in-1 Camping Cot Tent

The Tangkula 4-in-1 One-person Cot Tent is the best tent cot for solo travelers because it satisfies both weight and length requirements for me. It’s 6.5 feet long, which makes it suitable for the vast majority of people, men or women, and it only weighs 26 lbs

26 lbs might sound like quite a bit, and it will take up a significant percentage of a checked baggage allowance, but 26 pounds for something this robust is about as good as you’re going to get. The portable carrying bag also easily doubles as a backpack, which makes it great for hike-in camping or trekking. 

Made from polyester oxford cloth, iron, FRP (fibreglass), PVC and PE (polyethene), in addition to being an all-weather (winter, spring, summer and fall), I also really like the number of accessories the Tangkula comes with–the cot, a mattress, external cover, tent, and storage bag. 

Specs

Materials:
polyester oxford cloth, iron, FRP (fibreglass), PVC and PE (polyethene)
Weight:
26lbs
Setup time:
minutes up and down 
Dimensions
6.5’x2.8’x5’
Capacity:
1 person
Included accessories:
cot, a mattress, external cover, tent, and storage bag

Cons

Some of the comments indicate that the included air mattress is not the greatest and will deflate overnight. Also indicated in the reviews is that even with the included air mattress, you can feel the cot’s metal braces. This is typical for most tent cots, and a good air mattress or sleeping mat is usually necessary. 

I would recommend something thick like the TOBTOS Self Inflating Camping Sleeping Pad with Pillow for this and all other tent cots. It gives you 6 inches of mattress, which keeps you far away from any metal bars, and it only weighs 2.33 lbs. 


All in all, definitely one of the best tent costs for solo travelers out there thanks to its (comparatively) lightweight design and materials and ample space.


Best Tent Cot and Hammock Hybrid: Lawson Hammock Blue Ridge Camping Hammock and Tent

Not a true tent cot per se, but definitely the best tent cot/hammock hybrid out there, the Lawson Blue Ridge Camping Hammock and Tent is worth including on the list because of how comfortable and convenient it is. 

It has been rated number one by Backpacker, Outside Magazine and American Survival Guide and was the winner of the gear of the year award a few years ago. 

This is lightweight (4.25 lbs), made of high-strength nylon and polyester, has a weight capacity of 275 lbs and is ideal for pretty much every camping style and intensity–from car camping to backpacking, kayaking and bike camping. 

It comes with a detachable waterproof rainfly and bug netting

Specs

Materials:
Nylon and poly
Weight:
4.25 lbs
Setup time:
minutes up and down (depending on hammock tying experience)
Dimensions:
interior: 90”x42”; packs down to 22”x6”
Capacity:
1 person
Included accessories:
Rainfly, Poles, Hammock, Stuff-sack (treestraps not included)

Cons

Unlike a tent cot, this hybrid shelter has you suspended off the ground with no insulation underneath (i.e., the cot), so you are going to want to invest in a sleeping mat or narrower air mattress to help keep the cold off. 

Additionally, I would also recommend using some guylines (paracord) to ancor the corners to the ground to avoid it tipping or shifting during the night. 

Still a great invention from Lawson and the best tent cot/hammock hybrid on the market. It’s like sleeping in a bed suspended in the air.


Best Tent Cot for Car or Van Camping Couples: Tangkula 2-Person Tent Cot, 4-in-1 Folding Tent

The Tangkula 2-person 4-in-1 tent cot is basically the same as the one-person, just larger. It is the best tent cot for car or van camping couples because it gives you the same weather resistance (winter included) and durability of the one-person, but with interior space for 2

The majority of the reviewers, where the interior dimensions are concerned, indicate that this tent cot comfortably fits two people, which is nice to know because it’s always a bit of a crap shoot trying to gauge capacity specs online.

The floor length is 78 inches (or 6’6), so your average human being, man or woman, should have enough room to stretch out comfortably. 

The reason I say this is the best tent cot for car camping and not for backpacking or trekking is that it does weigh 44 pounds, which is too much to lug any considerable distance. 

I also think this is the best tent cot for camping couples because it has some additional features that make it great for setting up a little home away from home. It has an internal lamp hook, a shoe storage pocket, nice mesh ventilation windows and it’s raised 1.4 feet off the ground, which will keep you dry

Specs

Materials:
PVC, Iron, PE, Oxford Fabric, Fiberglass Rod
Weight:
44lbs
Setup time:
10 minutes setup/10 minutes tear down
Dimensions:
6.5’x4.8’x5.2’
Capacity:
2 person
Included accessories:
Rainfly, Self-Inflating Mattress & Roller Carrying Bag

Cons

Some of the comments indicate that the wheels on the roller bag are not that well designed and can’t really handle the weight of the tent cot. What’s more, like almost every tent cot on the market, a prominent middle structural bar on the cot seems to be an issue for your back unless you invest in an air mattress. 


Still the best tent cot for couples who want to take something more comfortable than a standard tent or a hammock on the road with them and a piece of gear that really does stand up to the elements.


What Went Into My Selection Process for the Best Tent Cots List

In addition to doing a ton of camping on Canada’s west coast from a very young age–from family trips, to cub scouts, to hitting up local provincial parks with buddies (the outdoors is part of life in British Columbia)--I’ve also spent the past 7 years traveling to the world’s biodiversity hotspots, and I’ve slept in all manner of shelters–from hammocks to tents–in some really remote places. 

I know how to make the best of a hammock, a tent or a tent cot and I’m quite aware of the pros and cons of each. Tent cot camping is by far the most comfortable way to sleep “rough,” so long as you know what to look for, how to evaluate the gear and, importantly how to set it up and look after it.


Main Evaluation Criteria to Choose the Best Tent Cot

Choosing the best tent cot for your needs (your height, destination, number of people etc.) is just like choosing any other outdoor camping shelter. There are some essential buying criteria to keep in mind to make sure you are able to sleep safely and comfortably outdoors. 

They are: 

  • Max weight capacity
  • Interior dimensions
  • Weather-proofing
  • Portability and weight
  • Included accessories 

Max Weight Capacity

All of the options on my best tent cot list include the weight capacity on their products page. This is the amount in pounds or kilograms that the legs that support the tent cot can support. Most single capacity cots are built to easily handle the weight of almost any full-grown adult and most two-person ones can bear 5-600 pounds. 

That said, this is definitely something for larger people to keep in mind. 

Interior Dimensions

Anyone who has done a lot of camping and used a lot of gear knows that interior dimensions are more important than the official capacity recommendations. What matters is how much space you have length and width-wise to spread out, including any gear you might have inside with you. 

The vertical (aka head) space is also something to factor in, but the quality of your sleep has way more to do with the width and length inside. This is even more so the case when there are two people in the same tent. If you are going to be sharing a tent, try to imagine how much space there is going to be between yourself and any/everyone else.

Weather-proofing 

The best tent cots tend to be weatherproofed for at least three seasons, meaning that you can use them spring, summer and fall, but typically not the winter. There are two on the above list that are rated for winter camping (the Tangkula 2-Person Tent Cot, and the one person). 

The best tent cots also tend to come with either a built-in or included rainfly to keep the wind and the rain off. Pay attention to the grade (D) of the polyester and nylon (T) when it comes to waterproofing and the materials used for the tent poles (fibreglass and aluminum) for windproofing. 

Portability and Weight 

I’ve separated the options on the best tent cots list into various applications, including aptness for hiking and traveling. If you are using a tent for car camping vs a hike-through, the weight is going to be a big factor. Something that weighs 44 pounds is also going to be quite difficult to travel by air with, not to mention haul kilometres along trails. 

Included Accessories

I’m a value guy, so the best tent cots to me are ones that include things like a rainfly, stakes, and maybe even a built-in air mattress. You need a rainfly if you are camping anywhere that water and wind are factors and, imo, you always need an air mattress to sleep comfortably in a tent cot because the structural support bars in the cot will dig into your back otherwise. 

Keep in mind that the gear that is often included in the purchase price is not always ideal, and you will probably want to test it out and see if it’s worth buying some extras from third parties.


Reasons To Choose a Tent Cot Over a Regular Tent or Hammock 

Tent Cot Vs a Hammock

When it comes to sleeping in a tent cot vs a hammock, the biggest pro of the tent cot is the comfort. A tent cot is the best of hammock and tent camping. You’re off the ground but you have a solid surface to lay your back on, which is both more comfortable and provides far better insulation than a hammock.

With hammocks, unless you have a tent quilt underneath or a good sleeping bag, you’re going to lose a ton of body heat throughout the night–even in many places in the tropics. 

Tent Cot vs Traditional Tent 

I like being off the ground when I’m sleeping, especially when I’m somewhere where downpours are unpredictable. With a tent cot you can use it as intended or, with a lot of models (but not all), you can detach the base and use it as a normal tent. 

I guess the biggest advantage a cot tent has over a traditional tent is that it’s more versatile.


The History of the Cot Tent

The history of the cot tent (or tent cot) stretches back quite far into antiquity and it is believed that the idea originated with King Tut, who loved hunting and camping. 

A version of the camp bed (without the tent) was also used by George Washington during the American Revolutionary War and Napoleon Bonaparte, along with his high-ranking officers, used camp beds that had vertical poles to support a canopy. 

This is where the camp bed started to become the cot tent and field beds (which are essentially tent cots for military use) are part of standard gear for many militaries around the world. 

This is what the french military’s portable field bed looks like:


Additional Accessories to Make Camping With a Tent Cot More Enjoyable 

Even the best tent cot is going to require some add-ons to make sleeping and camping as comfortable as possible. Some cot tent packages include some of these things, but many do not. 

They are: 

  • A rainfly. You want a rainfly that will cover the entirely of the surface area of the tent cot so that you are kept out of the rain and wind. The rainflies included with a lot of tent cots are not the best, and a good third-party rainfly is a worthwhile investment in your comfort. 
  • Paracord. Paracord is an outdoors/bushcraft essential that anyone sleeping outside (even if it’s only car camping) should have. It’s high-strength, cheap and can be used to tie down extra guylines, a third-party rainfly, secure gear in a truckbed and much more. 
  • A rechargeable tent lamp. A tent lamp or camping lantern is also a good idea, especially if you plan on reading, eating or cooking inside your tent. 
  • An air mattress. If you are going to be sleeping in a cot tent, you need an air mattress. The support bars that run the length of the cot will dig into your back otherwise. I always go for as thick a self-inflating mattress as I can find, but make sure whatever you get fits in your shelter.

How to Waterproof a Tent

The term waterproof is often thrown around pretty casually when it comes to camping gear, and especially lower end gear. If you want to improve the weatherproofing of your tent cot and rainfly, REI suggests following these steps: 

  • Seal your seams
  • Refresh your polyurethane coating
  • Refresh your durable water repellent coating

For a great tent and rainfly waterproofing video, check out REI’s tutorial.

Sealing Seams

Sealing your seams involves applying a seam sealer (that you can get at any home improvement or hardware store). This stops moisture from getting in. 

A lot of tents come with seams that are already sealed, but sealant will become less effective over time, which will eventually result in leaks. If you notice a leaky seam, these are the items you need: 

  • A rag
  • Some isopropyl alcohol
  • Seam sealer (make sure you get seam sealer that is designed for your tent material. Polyurethane coated material and silicone material require different sealants. 

To seal your seams, set the tent up somewhere dry and well-lit, either outside or inside, so you can closely inspect all your seams. The objective is to seal the seams on the underside of your rainfly and the inner side of the body of the tent. It’s a good idea to flip the rainfly inside out so you can get at the seams better. 

Prepare the seams by gently washing them with the alcohol and then apply the sealant. If you notice that one seam is starting to degrade, there is a chance that the rest of them are not far behind and you might want to treat them all. 

Make sure the seams are completely dry before disassembling the tent and rainfly. 

Refreshing your PU

The floors of waterproof (or weatherproof) tents usually come coated in polyurethane, as does the inside of your rainfly. You can either apply an additional layer of polyurethane to your gear before even using it, or after every use. 

If you ever seen material starting to flake on the tent floor or the inside of your rainfly, that’s urethane coating and you should think about reapplying. 

To do this:

  • Place your rainfly and/or tent floor flat on the ground, wet the abrasive side of a sponge with rubbing alcohol, and gently scrub off the flaking urethane. 
  • Apply a thin coat of new material-specific sealant to the entire rainfly or tent floor. 
  • Give the new coat at least a full 24 hours to dry before packing your tent back up. 

Applying DWR

You can also apply a DWR (durable water repellent coating) to your rainfly to help it better shed water. 

If water is no longer beading off your rainfly, the water repellent treatment is failing and it’s time to recoat it. To do this: 

  • Set up your tent and rainfly and then wash the fly with clean fresh water.
  • Apply the waterproofing spray evenly over the entire surface of the rainfly (you can do this while the rainfly is still wet). 
  • Give the spray a few minutes before taking a damp cloth and removing any leftover coating. 
  • Make sure your tent is completely dry before taking it down.

Setting Up a Tent Cot

Whether you’re setting up a tent cot or a tent, there are some tried and true best practices that always apply. 

The first is, always practice setting up your tent before using it. If you just got a new tent delivered to your house, you should always know how it assembles and disassembles before heading out. It’s much less stressful in general, and certainly less stressful if you find yourself having to race against the setting sun or ugly weather rolling in. 

The second is to always clear the area and make sure you are setting up on flat ground. 

Always pitch your tent with its back to the wind. Try to use natural shelter and walls like trees (provided they are healthy and not a hazard), rock faces, hedges, or small hills. It’s also a good idea to select a site with adequate drainage so that you aren’t set up over soggy ground.


How to Set Up a Rainfly

There are two main considerations when setting up a rainfly:

  • Tension
  • Shape

Tension

Nylon tarps/adjustment cords and tent fabrics often stretch when wet which results in a loose, much less effective rainfly. Nylon stretches around 11-15 percent and polyester two to three percent. 

To improve the tension, tie a couple of loops of paracord between the O ring and the adjustment cord on each side of your fly. You can use the stretch in your paracord to take up the stretch in the rainfly material when it’s wet. 

You can also tie a small weight (7-10) lbs onto the O-ring on either side of the rainfly. You don’t need to buy anything specific for this, a rock, piece of wood, or something from your pack works fine. As moisture stretches out the nylon, the attached weight pulls the rainfly down and keeps the tension. 

Shape

To keep the right shape (so that water filters off the fly and away from your tent or hammock), always tighten the fly lengthwise first and then tie down the lateral adjustment cords last.

If you want to optimize the shape even more, tie a length of paracord lengthwise under the fly between each O-ring. You can then adjust it to crate more tension, which will raise the rainfly higher up, remove some crinkles and give you better air circulation underneath.


Why Investing in Good Quality Tent Cot Makes Sense 

A tent cot is not necessarily something you can take on every camping trip with you, but it’s a really nice option if you are looking for (or need) added comfort while sleeping out in the bush. Being able to sleep off the ground, on a flat surface makes sleeping rough a lot more enjoyable–especially if you have a bad back.

I hope the above guide to the best tent cots has, if not helped you make a decision, at least informed you on this less used but good alternative to traditional tents and hammocks. 

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