Best Camping Beds – Car Camping

When you see the heading of this article – Best Camping Beds for Car Camping – you should be thinking about ensuring the best way you can have a good night’s sleep in your tent.

Lying on the floor if you don’t have to, is totally insane. Luckily when you’re car camping, you can take a few luxuries with you, good bedding being one of them.

Up until now, unlike my other articles on camping, where I have been writing for the newbie campers , this one will cater to all car campers.

In our Camping for Newbie’s series so far, we’ve chosen a tent and a sleeping bag, so now the next option is your bed.

What are your Choices?

There are 3 main options to choose from

    1. Camping Cot
    2. Air Mattress
    3. Sleeping pad
      • Self-inflating
      • Foam filled

Camping Cot

Like all camping equipment, you have a variety to choose from. This, as per normal, can get quite confusing. Below are the main factors you will be looking out for: –

    • Weight Capacity
    • Length
    • Frame Materials
    • Fabric
    • Ease of Assembly
    • Packaged Size & Weight
Camp cot
Camping Cot – Heavy Duty

Weight Capacity

An adult male will need a sturdier cot than a petite female or a child. Make sure you choose the right one for you. Always add a  little extra, for example – If you weigh 220lbs then go for the 265lbs carrying capacity cot. You want it to last you a long time and to be sturdy under your weight.

Keep in mind that the sturdier the cot, the heavier it s to carry. Luckily with car camping we don’t need to lug our equipment too far.


Again, this is an obvious one. Make sure your feet or worse, half your legs aren’t hanging over the edge. This will result in some frustration, swearing and a sleepless night.

Frame Materials

Most cots frames are made of aluminium, which are light, yet still strong. Cots with a heavier carrying capacity have steel frames which are heavier.

Included in this section, is the legs of the cot, of which there are 3 main styles. Vertical, X legged, and C-shaped. I would look at X-legged or Vertical only.

Make sure the feet of the legs have protectors so the tent floor doesn’t tear.


This is the material that will support you. It’s normally made of a flexible nylon which aids in your support and comfort through tensioning and releasing. You do get mesh ones that are cooler in hot conditions.

Some cots come padded and basically have a built-in mattress. These are bulkier and heavier and generally very comfortable. You will not need a sleeping pad with these..

Padded cot
Padded Camp Cot

Ease of Assembly

To me, this is a very important aspect. I don’t want to hack around in my tent building a camp cot from scratch; threading poles through fabric and connecting leg pieces. I like to just unfold the cot in one smooth move and fold it back up again when I’m done.

At the end of this article I will give you my current setup and you can see if it’s something you would like to use too.

Packaged Size & Weight

This isn’t too much of a concern when you’re car camping. Most cots these days come in a nice compact bag making it easy to pack in your trunk.

The weight will, as discussed earlier, will depend on the carrying capacity of your frame. Aluminium =  Light; Steel = Heavy.

Final Thoughts

These make for a comfortable night’s sleep, especially for someone my age (50) and for my size (6’1″ ; 260lbs). I can’t be lying on the ground anymore. Also it’s nice to be able to sit on the cot while getting changed or looking for something in your luggage.

Remember, you need a spacious tent to use a camping cot. A small A-Frame tent with 2 cots inside is going to be extremely uncomfortable.

Choose the right camping cot with the right sleeping pad for your space and you will have a combination that will provide you a comfortable outdoor sleeping experience for years and years

Air Mattress

Seriously, I wouldn’t even bother with this type. If you do, you’ll curse yourself and your mattress. Everyone I know who’s tried them, including myself, all say the same thing -They lose their form during the night and you end up on the floor anyway. Also having to use a compressor to blow them up is bulky, noisy and irritating.

Air Matress
Air Mattress

I always laugh when I hear some poor soul in the campsite next to me  firing up their compressor in the middle of the night to pump up his/her mattress that had deflated. My comment is always a “sigh” followed by an “Aaaaaah, the sounds of the wild”!

Final Thoughts

It’s horrible, don’t do it!!

Sleeping Pad

As indicated, and because we’re camping, there are 2 main options you want to look at for comfort. These are the self-inflating & foam-filled types.


When we say self inflating, it means that you can either leave it lain out to inflate and then top it up with a few quick breaths at the end. Or, you can blow it up with your mouth and still will only use a few breaths (6-8) to reach the required buoyancy.

Self-inflating Sleeping Pad
Self-inflating Sleeping Pad

Self-inflating pads offer a combination of open-cell foam insulation and air. Opening the valve(s) allows the foam to expand and brings in air automatically. Rolling it up after uses expends the air.

There are many types you can buy. Personally I like the thicker models, but then I am talking car camping here.

If you are not going to use a camping cot then I suggest a thicker pad for camping.


I wouldn’t bother with the closed cell foam mattress. It’s better used as a yoga mat than a sleeping pad. They’re ok if you’re on a trail, but for camping, you can do better.

Closed Cell Foam Pad
Closed Cell Foam Pad


Tri-fold Matress
Tri-fold Mattress

Personally I like the Tri-Fold foam mattresses. This works well on the ground and even better on a camp cot.

Final Thoughts

If space is an issue then go for the self-inflating sleeping pad, otherwise a good tri-folding mattress works well.

Both are great add-ons to a camping cot and both can be used on their own, but keep in mind the thickness when sleeping on the ground. A memory foam tri-fold will be best if using it directly on the ground, as this harder material will keep you elevated.

My setup

As mentioned earlier I will now give you my bed setup. It’s simple really and everything fits in both my car and my tent comfortably. Remember to calculate your restrictions re: space.

I have the 2 pieces of equipment I’ve already shown above.

I have the Coleman Camp Cot

and I have the Tri-fold (very basic) Mattress

You more than likely will not get what I have, but rather something completely different. Whatever you do make sure its the right choice for you.

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In Conclusion

Ask yourself….

    • How much packing space do you have,
    • Will I have enough room in my tent for a camp cot or only a sleeping pad
    • How comfortable do I need to be when I’m camping
    • What is my budget.

With these questions answered, go out there and buy yourself the best bedding you can for your next camping trip.

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments section below, thanks a mil.

Happy Camping!!

Warm regards,


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