Many campers are unsure whether a prospective camp cot on the store shelf will support them and perform well for several years.
Many cots get returned or junked, because they were not strong enough for the occupant. However, there are many good products on the market that will perform well.
Unless campers are certain that a prospective cot can support their weight, Campetent advises, especially with army cots, to get one that has a maximum weight capacity of at least 50% more than the weight of the user. This will help maintain a margin of safety against failure and better ensure satisfactory performance when camping.
Campers who are unfamiliar with cots should have a look at the camping cot page.
The chart below provides various sizes and a recommended occupant weight in order to guide campers in selecting a suitable cot.
|Maximum weight rating||Cot size description||Recommended occupant weight||Length|
|150-200 lb||Junior or Child||up to 100-135 lb||54" (4'6")|
|225-275 lb||Regular, Youth or Women's||up to 150-180 lb||72" to 76"|
|300-375 lb||Large, X-Large, Heavy-Duty or Men's||up to 200-275 lb||75" to 84"|
|400-600 lb||XX-Large, Oversize, Super or King||any tent camper||82" to 90"|
Regular size cot
A regular camp cot, like most camping 'regular' sizes, is based on the average height of a male in the U.S., which is 5'10" or about 1.75 m.
A 5'10" male ideally weighs approximately 130 to 170 lb or 60 to 77 kg.
This will give campers an idea of what weight the cot is expected to carry.
Market pressure vs. cot ratings
Shoppers look at the weight capacity of the cot to get an idea of the strength.
Cots with higher weight capacities will appear stronger, and people will be more likely to purchase.
This places market pressure on cot manufacturers to be liberal with the maximum weight rating.
However, some manufacturers do still conservatively rate their cots, so the stated maximum capacity does not need to be reduced. These manufacturers will point out the features of their cot that justify the weight rating.
If the product literature only states, "Includes legs, frame, and fabric cover. Holds 375 lbs!", the buyer should be skeptical. Caveat Emptor.
Length and width vs. maximum weight capacity
The length and width of the cot will limit the amount of weight that it will need to bear. Sleeping on a regular-size camp cot (74"L x 26"W) is not going to be comfortable, or even possible, for a 6'-6", 300 lb camper, even if the cot is rated for 325 lbs.
Most likely a regular-size cot will not be used by campers over 6' tall and 225 lb.
Inexpensive, discount, military-style camp cots are an exception to the weight chart above.
From an informal survey, Campetent has determined that, while aluminum is fine for most frames, campers who are considering a discount army cot will likely get better performance from a steel frame, rather than an aluminum one.
Inexpensive aluminum cots often use a light-gauge or untempered aluminum that is not strong enough to hold an adult—even if the cot is long and wide enough for a large adult.
Even if half their rated weight is applied to them, these cots often fail.
There is generally little or no warranty on these cots. They most likely can only be returned for credit within the return-policy period of the retail store.
Trying to de-rate an discount, aluminum cot to a proper margin of safety against failure is not worth the risk.
When shopping for camping equipment, these cots are not worth consideration.
For their true weight capacity, they are most likely too large to be useful for tent camping.
Campers should inspect any exposed ends of tubing to see if the gauge is too light.
Gently try to flex a span of the metal without permanently bending it. If the metal flexes too easily, the cot may only hold a child.
Steel is less expensive and stronger than aluminum and is better suited to bargain cots.
Campers who are willing to invest more in a cot can take advantage of lighter weight and non-rusting features of aluminum frames.
Campers who have more questions about cots can have a look at the sleeping cot usage and maintenance page.
Camp cots are available with a variety of weight ratings, some of which are inflated. It is important to inspect the product carefully and check the literature to be certain of getting a cot that will perform well.
For campers who are unsure of the ability of a prospective cot to support them, Campetent recommends getting a cot that is rated to support at least 50% more than the weight of the occupant.