Compact cots are designed to elevate the sleeping camper a few inches off of the ground, as well as to disassemble and pack with minimal bulk and weight.
These low-profile cots are especially light weight, and are often used by backpackers.
This space-saver cot style is especially useful in a small tent, which would normally not accommodate a cot at all.
It are often less than half the weight of other cot styles of the same width and length.
In order to minimize bulk, a compact cot elevates the camper slightly above ground-level and not at sitting level like other cot styles.
It provides a sleeping deck about 4" to 12" inches off of the ground.
This cot may be advertised as a low-profile cot, lite cot, ultralite cot, low cot, low-rise cot or space-saver cot.
How it works
Compact cots have 3 to 6 short, wide, u-shaped legs to support the frame side rails.
This style of cot is unique in that the frame has no end rails to brace the side rails apart. The side rails are both supported and braced apart by the short, detachable u-shaped legs.
The combination of taut sling fabric, side rails, and supporting legs provides a low deck for sleeping closer to the ground. This allows the cot to be placed closer to the tent wall, leaving space inside the tent for other uses.
To reduce bulk, the legs of compact cots are often made from spring steel instead of tubular aluminum or steel. Spring steel is basically a steel rod that can take a strong bending force and still return to its original shape.
The spring steel rod is bent into a 'u' shape at the factory to form a cot leg. These rods are much smaller in diameter than the tubular aluminum or steel used in the other cot styles.
Using a compact cot
Compact cots are also useful for family tent camping, in that they offer an even sleeping surface, but can be placed close to the edge of the tent floor, thus taking up less space.
This low-rise cot may also suit young children, but there are low-profile child camping cots, which are shorter and narrower, and take up even less space.
Since this style of cot does not have end rails, it can accommodate a taller camper, without the camper hitting his head, arms, or feet on the end rails, if they hang off of the ends of the cot while sleeping.
Due to the low deck, this cot does not provide a useful place for sitting. You may well bottom out trying to sit on a compact cot, but when you lie on it, your weight will distribute itself and you will be suspended above the ground.
These cots are very well suited to low-profile tents. Campers who are bringing a small tent as a second sleeping space for some of the camping party may appreciate the extra comfort that a this cot style offers for sleeping in a small tent.
No end rails
There are no frame end braces or leg braces on a compact cot. The weight of the camper on the sling creates a strong bending force on the legs. The legs are designed for this, but a heavier camper may find that he lies a bit lower in this style of cot than other styles.
For this reason, these cots usually have more legs than other cot styles.
They are also not rated for as much weight as other cots on average.
Campetent recommends spring-steel legs, or heavy-duty, aluminum-tubing legs.
Setting up the cot
To set up, the side rails are unfolded and separated until the fabric is taut. Then the leg rods are inserted into holes in the bottom of the side rails.
The legs are springy and it does take some force to bend the legs slightly so that they can be inserted into the side rail.
To pack away, the spring detach from the frame side rails, the side rails separate in sections (or occasionally fold together), and the kit is rolled up in the fabric and stored in a small carrying case. Because of the reduced bulk due to short legs and lack of end rails, this kit packs away in a small space.
Since a compact cot has no bracing on the ends or on the legs, campers tend to sleep a bit lower in it, as the weight of your body will draw the siderails and legs towards you. Compact cots with more legs can improve this situation for heavier folk.
Low-profile cots with longer legs (12"), may have more spring than compact cots with shorter legs
The carry (transport) weight on these cots is approximately 2 to 12 lbs.
Compact cot brands include Alps Mountaineering, (Byer) Allagash, (Earth Products) Deluxe, (EZ Sales) Grizzly/Nomad/Trailblazer/Voyager, Go-Kot, Luxury Lite, Stansport, Texsport.
A compact cot offers a uniform, light-weight, ground-level, but somewhat-elevated sleeping surface that packs away with minimal bulk for easy transport.