Say what you will about taking a cot camping. A purist would never; it adds too much extra weight; hassle to set up and break down and so forth. Whatever. After one too many uncomfortable nights under the stars, I gave in and started the hunt.
As it turns out, collapsible backpacking cots are a thing! There are numerous models on the market right now. They range wildly in price and somewhat so on weight, size, and ease of use. I settled on the Helinox Cot Lite from the folks at Big Agnes. After a summer of use in a variety of venues, I can tell you that I don’t plan on camping without it again.
Let’s talk specs. The bed surface is rip-stop polyester with sleeves on either side. It’s slightly over six feet long and just about two feet wide.
The side poles are shock-corded aluminum. The legs are also shock-corded with the attached feet sturdy plastic. The shock-cords keep all your pieces and parts together as they should be. At just 2 pounds 8 ounces the Helinox Cot Lite is the lightest cot currently on the market. And it folds up to a diminutive 21” x 5” x 5”. It is small and light.
It gets better. Setting up and breaking down this cot is EASY. The sturdy shock-cords make the side poles practically self-assembling. The side sleeves are ample enough to make inserting the poles very smooth. A small pull tab secures the poles into the sleeve. The legs and their feet also open quickly into shape. Once open, snapping a foot onto the side pole, applying some body weight to flex the leg and directing the second foot to the opposite side of the cot takes about 30 seconds a leg. Seriously. The first time I set this up it took a minute to sort out how to flex the legs and direct the foot to the pole at the same time. A couple of legs later, the system was set. It takes 3-4 minutes to go from packed to set up. Packing it up in the morning- reverse all that. Just as easy and quick.
And the best part. Sleeping on this cot is dreamy. I have mostly used this for river camping so there have been a variety of surfaces- sand, gravel, grassy dirt, pine needles, and cones, etc. No matter what the ground surface, I am slumbering above it all happily and securely suspended.
I have slept on it with just a bag. It’s comfortable though slightly slippery between the polyester surface and the polyester bag. I have also slept on it with a standard Therm-Rest pad and bag. On a really hot night- Therma-Rest and cotton sheet. This combination produces the best night’s sleep I usually get in the summer. Of course, it could also be the sound of the river a few feet away.
It will fit into many tents but it does take up more room than just a pad. I have a North Face 2 person tent that I use it in solo. I also have a 3 person Big Agnes that I use it in with my husband and dog. So far, I have not had any problems with the feet tearing the tent floor though I wouldn’t count on that!
Overall impression: Get one. I have checked out a few other models and believe that the Helinox Cot Lite is the best available right now. The Big Agnes Helinox Cot Lite is a bit pricey (retail $249) but absolutely worth it if you can swing it. So- I would give the cot 4.5 out of 5. The .5 left on the table is simply due to the cost. A good night sleep is worth a LOT.