Last Updated on October 21, 2021
Sleeping on the ground is fine. Cowboys do it...in the movies, at least. Many other animals sleep on the ground too. And for thousands of years, even us humans slept on the ground.
But these aren’t the dark ages. Camping doesn’t have to be a trial by ordeal. On the contrary, these days, we all like a little bit of comfort when we are out and about in the great outdoors.
When you have a bad back (or any musculoskeletal condition), however, getting a good night’s sleep out in the woods can be extremely difficult. Furthermore, you don’t want your outdoor sleeping place to exacerbate your condition.
So choosing the correct camping cot is almost as vital as choosing the correct footwear for your adventures.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the things you need to consider when choosing a camping cot that won’t aggravate your back problems. And then, we’ll unroll (pun intended) some examples of great outdoor beds for adventurers with bad backs.
The Best Camping Cots For Bad Backs
Back to Basics
Exercise is great for your body. The old adage of “move it or lose it” provides a perfect bit of inspiration to get outside and explore the back country, or the coastline...or even your own yard out the back.
By keeping your muscles, bones, joints, and cardio-vascular systems exercised, you will not only be doing your body a favor: you’ll also be giving yourself the chance to have some epic adventures. What could be healthier than that?
For people with back problems, the notion of hiking or camping may seem counterintuitive. Heavy backpacks, rough ground, uncomfortable sleeping places. None of those could be good for a bad back. Right?
Well...not necessarily. As we outlined above, healthy activities and adventures are good for both the body and the mind. And with a bit of forethought, your sleeping arrangements can be as comfortable as your bed at home.
Here are some things to consider:
Firm things up
Generally speaking, a firmer mattress is better for someone who suffers from back pain. Orthopedic surgeons recommend that a firmer mattress will help prevent lower back pain during your sleeping hours.
Lower back pain is usually tied to muscle strains, but may also be complicated by issues affecting the vertebrae and nerves of the spine.
Therefore, a mattress that supports the lower back reasonably firmly will help to minimize back pain.
If a cot is too soft, the user’s hips will sink too deeply into it, and cause the lumbar region to move out of alignment.
So if you decide to use a memory foam mattress on your camp cot, it needs to be a reasonably firm one.
If, on the other hand, you prefer to use an inflatable mattress on your cot, make sure that is a good quality one, with well-sealed seams and an effective bung. This will make sure that the mattress does not deflate whilst you are asleep and become softer.
Bigger is better
Another important factor to consider when choosing a camping cot and associated paraphernalia is the sizing. Both the width and the depth are important factors here.
A sleeping cot should be roomy enough for you to move around freely while you are asleep. This will give you the room to flex and stretch out, and to find the most comfortable position in which to lie.
How high off the ground
You may find it beneficial to use a camping cot that is as high as possible off the ground. This will reduce the distance that you have to crouch down in order to get in or out of the cot.
So is seems like the perfect camping cot for a bad back has to conform to the basic parameters of being not too hard, not too soft, not too low, not too high.
Ask the Doc
Before you head off into the wilderness, make sure that you ask your doctor for advice about how to look after your back out in the great outdoors. They will certainly approve of you getting the exercise! They will be able to provide advice specific to your condition.
Let’s Go Explore
Alright. We’ve established that it’s a great idea to head off into the outdoors. Now let’s take a look at a few camping cots that are perfect for adventurers with bad backs.
Six Great Cots for Bad Backs
The best way to test out a camping cot is to lie down on it. So ask around your hiking and camping buddies. They may have cots you can test out.
Failing that, go hang out in some outdoor shops. They’re always great places to browse anyway! Be a nuisance...ask questions, and get them to let you try all of their options.
This is serious stuff. There’s no point lying awake in some starlit forest glade, cursing the shop assistant that sold you the wrong cot. You have to exercise due diligence during your buying phase to ensure you choose wisely.
Check out these options, for instance:
Coleman Camping Cot and Air Mattress - Foldaway Luxury for the Woods
These mattresses feature an air-tight construction system and a double valve to ensure that the air supporting you doesn’t leak out. Built with the taller person in mind, the Coleman cot is big enough for a six-footer to sleep on comfortably with plenty of stretching room.
The strong, folding frame is held in place by sewn-in covers, and with a height of 23.5 inches, it is very easy to get in and out of. If space isn’t an issue, you might also like to consider the queen-sized option which has even more room for stretching out.
(Author’s note: Having used one of these beds in the wilds of New Zealand’s South Island, I can attest to how comfortable they are)
Kamp-Rite Oversize Kwik Cot - Simple Setup and Space for Your Stuff
Constructed to offer extra comfort to people with back problems, this oversized cot is wider and longer than their standard cots, but still maintains a compact design which will make it easy to carry on your adventures.
This cot features a heavy-duty, powder-coated frame without the usual crossbars which often caused discomfort for people with bad backs. The 600D (dernier) fabric base has a padded head section and some nifty side storage pockets, where you can put the bits and pieces that you might need at night, such as a water bottle, a torch… and some snacks.
Coleman Comfortsmart Deluxe Cot - Simple Works Best
Another awesome product from the good folks at Coleman (who actually seem to have their heads screwed on when it comes to making epic products for the outdoors), this cot is a stripped-down version of the air mattress combo mentioned above.
This cot will give you plenty of comfort as you’re resting up from a big day exploring. It also features their ComfortSmart coil suspension system, and a thick, foam mattress pad. Once again, the strong steel frame is high enough to make it easy to get in and out of the cot, and as you drift off to the sounds of the night creatures, you might easily forget that you are sleeping in the wilderness and not in your own bed at home.
Alpcour Folding Camping Cot - Light and Rugged
This extremely well-built and rugged camping cot features a nifty pillow setup that can elevate the sleeper’s head. For people suffering from back problems, this can sometimes be a great way to add comfort while they're sleeping in the outdoors.
With a total weight of just 13 pounds, this cot will support an adult weighing up to 300 pounds. It is constructed from a double layer of 600D polyester, which will provide superior strength and firm support. This camping cot also has an organizer where you can store your stuff within easy reach.
TETON Sports Outfitter XXL - The Real Rack
Teton is a company with an excellent reputation for designing outdoor products that are practical and durable. The Outfitter XXL Camp Cot pairs with another one of their products: the Outfitter XXL camp pad.
This oversized bed features a sleeping area that will support up to 600 lbs, but which folds down to a compact 42” x 12” x 7”. Constructed from extruded aluminum with reinforced steel legs, the heavy-duty 600D brushed poly canvas bed is akin to the cots generations of soldiers have got their rack time on out in the field.
Hitorhike Compact Camping Cot - The Backpacker’s Option
This ultra-light, low-profile camping cot may not be perfect for general camping if you have a bad back. However, if you want to get further out into the back country and need a lightweight cot to sleep on, this might be your huckleberry.
Weighing in at a measly 4.8 pounds, and stuffing into a tiny 15 x 6.2-inch sack, this cot will easily fit into your backpack. By pairing it with a good inflatable mattress or sleeping pad, adventurers with back problems could utilize this cot for their escapades into the wilderness.
Don’t Let Your Back Hold You Back
Whether you are an experienced hiker, or a weekend 4WD warrior, a trip into the back country - or the beach, or even the back yard - gives you the opportunity to reinvigorate yourself from the pressures and strains of everyday life.
And by ensuring that you have the correct camping cot upon which to rest after a hard day’s adventuring, your forays into the outdoors will be the perfect antidote for your bad back.