There was a time when you wouldn’t even think about backpacking with a cot. They were bulky, awkward and way too heavy to carry. Nowadays companies are adjusting to the changing times and making lightweight cots that fold into a neat convenient package. Thankfully, the days of 14+ lb camping cots are behind us and there are ultralight cots dropping close to the 2.5lb range. So what’s the lightest and best ultralight cot on the market?
Therm-a-rest’s UltraLite Cot is one of the best ultralight cots money can buy. It only ways 2lbs 9oz, folds into a compact convenient package, and it’s available in a regular and large size. It’s about half the weight of most of the other lightweight backpacking cots on the market.
There’s only one other ultralight backpacking cot that’s comparable and that’s the Helinox Lite Cot. It’s more expensive, 4 oz heavier, and has a larger packed footprint than Therm-a-Rest, but it has a few special feature that make it stand out. The extra weight and higher price tag make sense when you look at the opening/closing mechanism. There’s an internal bungee cord that you pull that automatically extends/contracts the legs. So you don’t have to worry about keeping track of poles and take the time to put everything together.
Big Agnes Goose Nest Inflatable Cot falls into a completely different category because it’s not like every other cot on the market. It’s almost like a super duty inflatable sleeping pad that lifts you 6.5″ up off the ground. So it’s way more comfortable and like sleeping on an air mattress. It slightly heavier at 3lb 1 oz, but that’s a little bit misleading since you can use it without a sleeping pad in the summer. The only problem is there’s no stated R-Value, but I would guess it’s slight over 1 so you would need to pair it with a traditional inflatable sleeping pad in colder weather.
With that being said, there are quite a few options in the 3-4 pound range that can save you a lot of money. While it’s hard to consider a 4lb backpacking cot “ultralight” they’re definitely worth considering if you don’t mind carrying an extra 1-2 lbs. You can save about a $100 by going with a lightweight 4lb cot if you’re not overly concerned about buying the lightest backpacking cot on the market.
Ultralight Vs Lightweight/Regular Camping Cots
Backpacking cots seem to fall into 3 distinct weight ranges with a few random cots filling in the gaps. There’s no set weight range to differentiate an ultralight cot from a lightweight cot, but you can use the relative weight of each category as a guide. Here’s how I view the weights in the three different categories of ultralight, lightweight, and regular weight cots.
- Ultralight Cots (2-3 lbs): At this point there are only 3 cots that I would consider for the ultralight category. The Therm-a-Rest Ultralite Cot, Helinox Lite Cot, and Big Agnes Goose Nest Inflatable Cot. They all fold down into a compact package and weight 2-3lbs. Big Agnes Goosenest Cot is a little bit heavier and inflatable so it’s not like a traditional cot, but it does raise you up off the ground. I decided to include it in this category, because it’s a comparable weight in nice weather when you don’t need a sleeping pad.
- Lightweight Cots (4-6 lbs): The lightweight cot category is fairly broad and filled with choices. This is where you find most of the lightweight affordable cots in the $100 price range. These cots fold down into a compact package and are designed for backpackers. They add a few more pounds to your pack than ultralight models, but most people don’t mind carrying an extra 1-2lbs to drop the price in half.
- Regular Camping Cots (budget cots): Most of the budget camping cots fall into the 8-20lb range and they’re far too heavy/bulky for backpackers to carry. Regular cots like the Coleman Trailhead Cot (20lb 14oz) are cheap and sturdy, but you would never want to try to load them in your pack. These are mostly used by people that stay in campgrounds and camp within walking distance of their car.
What’s The Best Ultralight Cot?
As I mentioned above, Therm-a-Rest’s Ultralight Cot is by far the best ultralight cot money can buy. It’s only 2lb 9oz, can hold 325lbs and it folds down smaller than every other cot on the market. There’s just no other model that comes close to meeting those specs.
I understand that most people don’t want to spend $200 on an ultralight cot. So I decided to add a few lightweight budget models to the mix as well to give you a few more options to choose from.
1) Therm-A-Rest Ultralite Cot
Packed Dimensions: 16×4 inches
Open Cot Dimensions: Regular Size 24″ x 72″ Large Size 26″ x 77″
Trail Weight: Regular Size 2lb 9oz Large Size 3lb
Weight Capacity: 325 lbs
Price: On Amazon
Therm-A-Rest set the bar high with their ultralight cot. It’s the lightest ultralight cot on the market at 2lb 9oz, with the Helinox Lite Cot (2lbs 13oz) coming up from behind at a close 2nd.
This is by far the most backpacking friendly cot on the market. It’s both the lightest (2lb 9oz) and most compact cot money can buy, but the price tag reflects that. Look at how neatly the cot folds up in the picture above. It can fit right in the bottom of your pack or you can strap it to the outside like a foam sleeping pad.
I’m a fairly large guy at 6ft tall and a stocky 200lbs so I really like that there’s a larger version available. The regular cot is 24″x72″ and the large size is 26″x77″. The Big Agnes GooseNest Inflatable Cot is the only other option for taller people.
The Helinox Lite Cot comes close at 2lb 13oz, but you’ll have to pay $50 more for a design that’s 4oz heavier and takes up more room in your pack. I do like the the helinox cot’s opening/closing mechanism better, but that comes with a higher price tag and heavier overall design. I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to take the 2-3 minutes it takes to set up my cot to save $50.
Just make sure you keep track of all the support poles and legs. You can buy replacement poles/legs, but they’ll set you back $25. That’s an expensive mistake that I don’t want to make. I Recommend counting all your poles and legs every time you pack up.
This has been my go-to ultralight cot for years, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I pair it with my NeoAir Xlite Inflatable Sleeping Pad (12oz) and a lightweight Space Cowboy 45 degree sleeping bag. This keeps my summer sleep system at under 5lbs and I add a lightweight sleeping bag liner in the spring/fall.
If you’re on a tight budget or a bigger guy, you should definitely check out the Therm-A-Rest Mesh Cot that I talk about below. It’s about 1lb heavier, but it’s cheaper and uses a similar design. The Xlarge version is 30″ wide by 77″ long so it’s one of the only options for taller/wider guys.
2) Helinox Lite Cot
Packed Dimensions: 21″x5″
Open Cot Dimensions: 23.5″ x 73″
Trail Weight: 2lb 13oz
Weight Capacity: 265 lbs
Price: On REI.com
I really had a hard time choosing between the Therm-a-Rest and Helinox Lite Cot. This cots design wins hands down, but the increased weight, price tag, and limited options for length pushed Therm-A-Rest over the top. Plus I’m definitely biased because I’m too tall to fit in a 73″ long cot comfortably.
The Helinox Lite Cot has 4 major selling points. It’s lightweight, easy to open/close, has an insulated cover (sold separately), and it packs down into a single collapsible unit. This is definitely the cot I would choose if it was cheaper and came in a longer model.
This cot is one of the lightest cots on the market at 2lb 13oz which is only 4oz heavier than Therm-a-Rest, but there’s a very good reason behind the added weight. It has an easy open/closing mechanism so you don’t have to mess around with legs.
Pull the bungee cord and the cot opens up on its own in seconds. Release the cord and it collapses into a compact 21″x5″ package. It doesn’t have removable legs that you have to put away and there’s no risk of losing anything.
Helinox also sells a Cot Warmer Insulation Layer to protect against drafts when you’re not using the cot with a sleeping pad. It’s good enough to keep you warm in 55+°F weather, but I would get a real high R-Value sleeping pad on cold nights.
From a design standpoint, the Helinox Lite Cot wins hands down, but it comes with a high price tag. If you want the convenience of the easy opening/closing system and have extra money to spend, you should definitely check it out.
3) Big Agnes GooseNest Inflatable Cot
Packed Dimenstions: 29″ x 7″
Open Cot Dimensions: 26″ x 78″
Trail Weight: 3lb 1oz
Weight Capacity: 300 lbs
Price: On Amazon
The Big Agnes Goosenest Cot uses an innovative design unlike every other cot on the market. It’s basically an overstuffed inflatable sleeping pad or air mattress that lifts you 6.5″ off the ground. The Goosenest cot is slightly heavier 3lb 1oz than most of the other ultralight backpacking cots, but the weight difference is negligible in warm weather since you don’t have to use a sleeping pad.
You can’t even compare the comfort of a traditional cot to the Goosenest. It’s like sleeping on a mini air mattress that packs down to the size of a foam sleeping pad. You’re up off the cold ground and there’s no draft blowing below you. Plus it’s 78″ long so it’s a little bit bigger than every other cot.
You should always use a sleeping pad with a traditional cot since it cuts down the cold draft from underneath. Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir Uberlite Regular Size Sleeping pad (11oz) is the lightest sleeping pad that will fit on the Therm-a-Rests ultralight cot. So add 11oz to their ultralight cot and the Goosenest ends up 3oz lighter than the lightest traditional cot on the market.
That looks great on paper, but there is a minor problem with the Goosenest Cot. They don’t openly state an R-Value which means it’s problem a little bit higher than R-1. This isn’t a big deal in warm weather since you don’t have to deal with an underdraft, but you will want to use an additional sleeping pad when nighttime temperatures dip below 50°F.
While the Big Agnes Goosenest Cot doesn’t look like a traditional cot, it’s definitely worth considering. I almost decided to leave it off this list, but changed my mind. I couldn’t ignore the fact that it functions like a cot and is easily one of the lightest most compact designs on the market.
4) Helinox Cot One Insulated Lightweight Cot (built in sleeping pad)
Packed Dimensions: 25″x7.5″
Open Cot Dimensions: 23.5″ x 73″
Trail Weight: 6lb 9oz
Weight Capacity: 320 lbs
Price: On Amazon
Let’s start off by saying the Helinox Cot One Insulated Cot is ridiculously expensive and falls into a hybrid ultralight/lightweight category at 6.6lbs. Before you quit reading, let me explain what makes the Helinox Cot One Special.
The weight would usually be a dealbreaker for most ultralight enthusiast, but it has a built in self inflating sleeping pad with an R-Value of 5. So it can be used all year round down to -30°F weather. At 6.6lbs the cot is somewhat heavy, but all the extra weight is in the self-inflating sleeping pad. The convenience of not needing to carry a sleeping pad more than makes up for the increase in weight. You’re trading extra room in your pack for a 2-3lb difference in trail weight.
I was lucky enough to test this cot out on a recent backpacking trip and I was impressed. It’s ridiculously easy to setup. You don’t have to mess around with legs and support poles. Just pull the internal bungee cord and the legs setup automatically. Open up the self-inflating sleeping pad valve and you’re cots ready to go in 30 seconds. When you’re ready to pack it up you just release the cord and it folds down into a compact 25″x7.5″ package.
It’s hard to justify the high price tag, but you have to remember how much you would pay for a high R-Value sleeping pad. That knocks $100-$200 dollars off the price tag which makes it comparable to other ultralight models. From there you’re paying for the convenience of the easy opening/closing system and not having to deal with all those legs/poles.
5) KingCamp Ultralight Cot (Lightweight Budget Pick)
Packed Dimensions: 14″ x 5.1″ Cot Bag and
Open Cot Dimensions: 25″x75″
Trail Weight: 4lb 14oz
Weight Capacity: 265 lbs
Price: On Amazon
The KingCamp Ultralight Cot is really punching above its weight class. This cot tiptoes the line between ultralight and lightweight models. It’s a little bit heavier than the ultralight models higher up on this list at 4lb 14oz, but the low price more than makes up for the 1.5lb difference in weight.
Once you factor in the longer length and wide body it starts to look even better. Most of the other models in this price range are more than double the weight and pack down into a huge bag. I don’t know how they managed to pack this oversized cot into a 14″ x 5.1″ bag, but it packs down smaller than all of the other ultralight cots on this list.
The legs can be tricky to figure out at first which leads to people breaking the legs. It’s hard to describe, but you can only pull the lever mechanism open when the legs are angled towards the frame. So people end up trying to install the legs when they’re fixed at 90° and end up breaking the locking mechanism. Once you figure out how they work it’s a surprisingly sturdy design.
6) Therm-a-Rest Mesh Cot (Best Ultralight Cot For Large People)
Packed Dimensions: 18″x6″
Open Cot Dimensions: Regular 24″ x 72″ Large 26″ x 77″ X-Large 30″ x 77″
Trail Weight: Regular 3lbs 9oz Large 3lb 15oz X-Large 4lb 7oz
Weight Capacity: Regular 325 lbs Large/XL 350 lbs
Price: On Amazon
The Therm-a-Rest Mesh Cot falls into a strange price and weight range. It’s slightly heavier than their ultralight model and about $50 cheaper. Honestly I’m kind of doing it an injustice by placing it so far down this list, because it’s a great alternative to their Ultralite Cot.
There are just so many great features higher up on this list and you can’t ignore the slight increase in weight when you’re comparing ultralight models. It should have probably gone up above the Kingcamp Ultralight Cot, but it’s close to double the price. So it’s hard to justify the slight decrease in weight when you compare the price.
With that being said this by far the best cot for bigger guys. The X-Large model is by far the biggest ultralight cot at 30″ wide and 77″ long. I hang off the edges of most cots and I have room to spare in the XL Model and it fits inside the same 18″x6″ carrying bag as the regular size.
Setup is easy and shouldn’t take more the 5 minutes. Plus there’s shock corded poles with preassembled feet to make setup and break down a snap. This makes cleanup easy since you only have to keep track of 6 pieces instead of 28 with the ultralight model.
7) RedCamp Ultralight Cot (Budget Option)
Packed Dimensions: 21″ x 7″
Open Cot Dimensions: 26″ x 76″
Trail Weight: 6.6 lbs In Tall Mode 4.8 lbs Short Mode
Weight Capacity: 330 lbs
Price: On Amazon
There are two major reasons why the RedCamp Ultralight Cot made this list. The price is ridiculously cheap for an ultralight cot and it has removable legs so it can be used in a 15″ tall mode or 7.5″ low mode. It’s one of the only ultralight cots with longer legs so you don’t have to squat down to get into bed.
Unfortunately, those long legs add a lot of weight to the bed making it weigh in at 6.6 lbs with the legs installed. That’s not a huge deal since you can leave the extensions at home which drops the trail weight down to 4.8lbs. The cots also bigger than most of the other models on this list at 26″ x 76″ which adds a little bit of weight as well.
Most people have never heard of the Redcamp brand since you can’t find their gear in any retail stores. The only place I’ve seen Redcamp gear is Amazon and Walmart’s website. Don’t worry about the unfamiliar brand name! I’ve bought lots of Redcamp products over the years and they’ve all been well made and reliable.
I would compare Redcamp to Coleman camping gear. It’s not the best stuff in the world, but everything’s affordable, durable and well designed. It’s hard to beat the versatility of this cot at such a low price.