Like its predecessor, the latest version of Therm-a-Rest’s Ultralite Cot eliminates the crossbars found in traditional cots, turning out an elevated bed that brings none of the discomfort that traditionally came as part of standard camping beds. This makes it an entirely new experience for anyone who’s stayed away from camping cots after spending less-than-stellar nights trying to sleep on them in the past. Seriously, this is a far cry from the camping cots of 20 years ago.
In terms of design, it seems to stick to the basic ideas behind the LuxuryLite Ultralite that came before it. The biggest differences seem to be the bed material and the shape of the legs. For the latter especially, they went from the round legs of the original to more compact slanted bars that should provide some additional weight savings as well as take up less room in the stuff sack. Truth be told, it doesn’t seem to be a significant departure in any way, so if you already have the original version of the cot and it still works fine, it might not be prudent to replace it with this updated model.
Why You Need a Camping Cot
When you’re young, sleeping on an elevated bed is more luxury than necessity during camping. You can sleep three nights in a row on a hard, cold surface (heck, even make it rocky and uneven), wake up stiff, and shake it off with a couple minutes of stretching. As you get older and your body accumulates wear over time, this changes. Instead of shaking off the stiffness on your back and neck as soon as you wake up, you end up just staying on your back, unable to move an inch. When you do manage to get up, you end up nursing a sore sensation all through the day.
This is that moment of life when you realize a camping cot has become a necessity.
Is a camp bed for everyone? No. If you find sleeping on a mat laid out on the tent floor comfortable enough, it’s definitely not for you. If, however, you find it difficult or uncomfortable, then it’s definitely something you’ll want to consider. On the downside, having a cot can add extra heft and bulk to a pack, which makes it more suited for car campers, cycling treks, and other adventures where you won’t find yourself on foot for extended periods of time. Do note, the Therm-a-Rest Ultralite Cot packs in a pretty compact stuff sack, so if your back is a serious consideration, it might be worth strapping one to your pack, weight and heft be damned.
Sleeping off the ground brings a myriad of benefits, after all. For one, you free yourself from the trappings of hard and stiff (maybe even rocky) ground, giving your body a more ergonomic supporting structure. It also helps your body regulate temperature better, as the cold ground won’t be able to sap away your body heat, all while allowing air to circulate freely under you during warmer climates. Since the Ultralite Cot doesn’t rely on plush padding to keep things compact, however, you might want to consider bringing a camping mat for extra warmth and cushioning.
There are several things to consider when shopping for a camping cot. The good news is, the Therm-a-Rest Ultralite Cot (along with its predecessor) holds a single every one. Let’s run down the list:
As the name implies, this thing is built light. At just 2.75 pounds, it may very well be the most lightweight camp bed you can find, making it much less of a burden to strap to your pack compared to the laundry list of options available. This opens up the possibility of taking a cot to hikes and long journeys on foot – something you won’t even consider with the heavier beds available out there.
2. Support Structure
Most camp beds rely on fabric tension or spring systems to provide support during sleep. It’s no different for the Ultralite Cot, which uses Therm-a-Rest’s patented BowFrame technology, a design that combines lightweight poles, stretch-free fabric, and the cot’s unique feet into a tension-spring system. During use, the bow poles that connect two parallel legs flex until the middle of the pole touches the ground, providing a much more stable foothold while still allowing plenty of give to support more restless sleepers. And, yes, the whole bed, from the fabric to the feet to the flexible bows, is made from durable materials that should hold up even in the face of heavy use.
How comfortable is it? Well, that unique design we described above eliminates the use of crossbars entirely, leaving the center of the bed free from any hard material that can cause any discomfort. Plus, the fact that the bed has three points of contact with the ground at every rib means it’s very stable, so you won’t be roused up from slumber with something suddenly folding unexpectedly. Do note, it’s not entirely silent if you’re a restless sleeper, since the flexing of the bows will make some sound, although it’s definitely not as loud as the creaking noises of old camping cots. As an extra preventative measure, you can also spritz some aerosol silicone spray on the intersections between the bow and the feet to help dampen the squeaking sound.
The Ultralite Cot comes in two sizes: regular and large. The former measures 72 x 24 x 4.5 inches (length x width x height) when assembled and packs down to 6 x 15 inches (diameter x length) when collapsed, while the latter assembles to dimensions of 72 x 26 x 4.5 inches and packs down to 5 x 17 inches. As you can imagine, it packs down to quite a compact size – one that you can even hide inside a roll of mattress during packing. Having two sizes is important since we all have different heights and body types, as this gives smaller campers a more compact option while larger individuals has one that will accommodate their more imposing frames. Both sizes, by the way, can support up to 375 pounds, according to the outfit.
Construction is nylon for the feet and aluminum for the bows, both of which are highly proven in the field of outdoor gear. The stiff bed fabric, on the other hand, is cut in nylon laminate, which boasts a fully waterproof build and absolutely no stretch, giving you a rigid surface to plop down on at camp. Despite the impressive mix of materials, we’re actually shocked this thing can support 375 pounds, although we guess that capability has as much to do with the BowFrame support system as it does with the make and materials.
6. Ease of assembly
As you can tell from the pictures, there’s nothing complicated about the bed’s construction, so the whole thing can be put together with minimal amount of work. Yes, that means you can make your kids do it while you pitch the tent the next time the family goes car camping. According to Therm-a-Rest, average assembly time is just three minutes.
Available now, the Therm-a-Rest Ultralite Cot is priced at $219.95 for the regular and $239.95 for the large. It comes in just one color, though, which is a reflective green shade for the bed fabric.