What is a Tent Cot?

The Teton Sports Tent Cot

Last Updated on September 7, 2021

Picture this: You pack excitedly for your next camping adventure. You arrive at the campsite in the evening, after driving for eight hours. You are tired, hungry and just want to lie down so that you are fresh and ready to explore in the morning.

But before you can lie down, there is the drudgery of setting up your tent and bed! Every camper knows that feeling - you wish to god there was an easier way. But what if we were to tell you that there is?

Welcome to the hottest new camping gear on the market - the Tent Cot.

So what exactly is a tent cot? Well, as the name suggests, it is a cot with a tent attached or a tent with a cot built in. All you need to do is to unfold the cot, and voila, you are ready to go to bed!

But that's not all; tent cots have a lot more to offer. Let me list some great advantages they have over the traditional model of having separate tents and cots.

Easy Set-Up

Well, this is a big plus for anyone who has camped before, so that we will repeat this point. Not only are tent cots easy to put up, but they also don't have as many poles, rivets, stakes, and other parts that you need to work with.

If you are not very handy with building things or putting them together, this is a major time and energy saver. Having a tent with a built-in cot will let you focus on the important thing - enjoying the beauty of nature.

Is It a Tent? Is It a Cot? Is It a Chair? It's All of Them

We mentioned that tent cots are enclosed cots for camping that have a tent attached to them. But did we also mention that the cot can double as a lounge chair?

That's the beauty of this innovative camping gear. It works as a tent + cot combo during the night so that you can sleep safe and warm. During the day, you can fold up the tent and convert the cot into a lounge chair - perfect to have a cold beer on a hot sunny day! On some models you can also separate the tent from the cot and, if included like in the Coleman Airbed Cot, also the mattress, so there is a lot of flexibility with the options.


Tent cots are slightly elevated from the ground, keeping you protected from small animals and bugs, and away from ground irregularities and stones. You don't need to worry about clearing the ground before setting up your tent.

These tents are waterproof, so you are safe even if it rains outside during the night.


I know what you are thinking - are tent cots comfortable? They look so small!  There is a great variety of them, from camping tent cots which can fit two adults in comfort to highly specialized backpacking tent cots, more suited to those who prefer light weight and portability to go backpacking.

But they are comfortable and practical if you consider the alternatives. Their base does not have crossbars; instead, it has a base of slats, just like a normal bed. The mesh tent keeps out pests and mosquitos.


A camper lying down in the Therm-a-Rest Tent Cot drinking from a cup

How To Set up a Tent Cot

Now that you know the advantages of having a tent cot let me show you how easy it is to set on up at your campsite.

Most tent costs will have a cot with a metal-base frame with a platform for sleeping and foldable legs to form a base. Attached to this cot structure would be a tent with a rainfly and a cover. There are two ways to set up a tent cot:

As a Bed

Take out the tent cot from its bag, and unfold the metallic frame to straighten it. You will find the legs folded inside the frame, just like any other cot. Unfold the legs, and lock them in position with straps.

Put the assembly on a flat surface. You will likely notice an additional frame on top of the cot surface. This frame is meant for the tent. Open the frame and set up the tent cover, and then put up the rain fly on top of it.

That's it! You are ready to sleep on your tent cot! It hardly takes 5-10 minutes compared to setting up a traditional tent and cot assembly.

As a Lounge Chair

Set up the cot as explained above, but don't put up the tent (If you have already put up the tent, carefully remove it and the rain cover, and just set down the frame naturally on the sides of the cot assembly).

Open the straps at one end of the cot assembly without touching the other end. You will find that you can lift the end of the cot and then lock it in place. Lift it and lock it at a convenient angle, and there you have it! A lounge chair on the go.

Below is a nice video that explains how to set up a tent cot:

Tent cots are so versatile, that some people have even put them in truck beds as an alternative to rooftop tents, and on bicycle trailers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Cot Tents Good?

In my experience, cot tents are very good. I love camping but hate any kind of drudge work, so a cot tent is a god sent for someone like me.

They do have a few restrictions; for example, they don't come in very large sizes. But if you are an average-sized family or a single person, the convenience they provide is unbeatable.

Can I Wash My Tent Cot?

Yes. If you are wondering "how to clean tent cot?" you can simply wipe your tent cot with a soft cloth using water mixed with liquid soap.

Why Use a Cot in Your Tent?

Many campers simply use a sleeping bag or a mattress. If you are wondering why you need a cot in your tent in the first place, there are a few reasons.

A cot is elevated, so it keeps you safe from bugs and critters on the floor. Secondly, cots are warmer in the winters because they do not let you touch the ground directly. Alternatively, they are also cooler in the summer because they have space underneath them which lets air circulate under you.

Another important reason is that when you use an air mattress, there is a big chance that your mattress may get a hole and deflate, leaving you with nowhere to sleep.

The Night Cat tent cot set up in a beautiful field with a mountain backdrop

Wrap Up

Now that you know how good cot tents can be for your camping trip, you should try them out. There are many great options on the market. There is no shortage of variety in terms of size and comfort either.

However, if you already own a tent and would like to add a separate cot, we have articles on double size cots and light and ultralight backpacking cots to help you out.

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