Many campers are looking for cot mattresses to make cot camping more comfortable.
Campers can make their own camping cot and mattress combination. Foam camping pads and self-inflating mattresses are available in many widths and are easily matched with narrow-to-moderately wide cots (24" to 30").
These pads also work fine with room to spare on an x-large cot.
Foam and self-inflating pads are low profile and can easily be placed on any style of camping cot without worrying about loss of stability.
Since self-inflating pads have an airtight shell, they cushion better than a standard foam pad in a woven fabric shell.
A self-inflating pad will also be handy if you are using the cot on a cool night and need insulation under your sleeping bag.
Making your own attachment system
Unlike a custom padded cot, a DIY pad and cot combination will probably have no special features to keep the pad in place while campers shift in their sleep. Campers will need to devise their own attachment system.
There are separate cot pads that have straps to attach to a cot frame. The width of the pad needs to be within a few inches of the width of the cot for the straps to fasten.
A couple of compression straps around the pad and cot frame can also hold a pad in place.
Separate cot pads
Separate cot pads with attachment straps are available in a few sizes.
These pads should attach to cots with frame side rails (bi-fold and military). There may be attachment straps for the side rails in the middle, so this pad may only be attachable to fold-in-half cot rails, not fold-in-third cots.
These cot mattresses can also be used for lying on the floor of the tent.
Brands include Cabelas and Teton Sports.
Use your own camping pad
Foam pads and self inflating pads are quite suited to cots. They are low profile and available in many widths.
The only issue is attaching the pad to the cot.
Some pads have flocking or a gripping bottom surface and do not need any attachment straps. Try putting your pad on the cot, lying and shifting on it, and see if the pad stays put.
If it slowly works its way off of the cot, campers can try some kitchen cupboard liner of non-adhesive, gripping material to see if that holds it in place.
Campers who use a foam pad in a woven fabric enclosure should be able to sew some velcro straps to the corners and middle of the fabric to make their own attachable pad. The short straps should wrap around the frame rails and velcro together.
Sewing straps to an air-tight, self-inflating pad is not an option. However the author believes that attaching velcro straps by means of self-inflating pad repair adhesive should work. The straps should not cause problems when rolling up the pad or when using it on the ground.
Cots and twin air mattresses
Since air mattresses come in bedroom sizes, they are not as tent friendly as other sleeping gear, but campers can sometimes use a standard twin air mattress on a cot.
Cots used to be too narrow for most air mattresses, but now xx-large models (36" to 40") are available that can function as a frame for a twin air mattress.
A cot is usually designed to be at least 50% wider than it is tall. This means that a 16" tall cot might be at least 24" wide. This is for stability and to keep the cot from tipping over, when campers shift in their sleep.
Since most cots are about 16" high, wider cots, such as 30 to 32 inch tall cots, may be twice as wide as they are tall, giving them even more stability.
Campers who add a twin air mattress on top of their cot are effectively raising the height of the cot, without increasing the width. They should be sure to maintain the 50%-more-width-than-height ratio by measuring the new height of the combination and comparing it to the width.
Adding an air mattress to a narrow cot
Adding an air mattress to a cot shouldn't be a problem as long as campers don't try to put an eight-inch-thick, twin air mattress on a 26" wide cot that is already 16" high. This will result in a cot that is roughly as tall as it is wide.
Another issue with putting a twin air mattress on a narrow cot is that the mattress can hang several inches over each side rail. While sleeping, this could cause a camper to shift their weight beyond the side rail and find oneself unceremoniously dumped off of the cot in the middle of the night.
Campers who roll their own cot and air mattress combo will find that the cot sling fabric will not have a sleeve to accept an air mattress and hold it in place.
Standard camping air mattresses do not have any straps to attach to a cot frame, as well.
As with self inflating pads above, kitchen cupboard liner or long straps may be useful to keep an air mattress in place on a cot.
For campers who are interested in a ready-made solution, twin air mattress frames, also known as air-bed-and-cot combos, are available with fitted fabric sleeves to keep the custom air mattress in place.
There are may ways to add cot mattresses to cots. Campers who build their own cushion and cot combination may need a little ingenuity to keep the pad in place though the night. A padded cot may be just the thing to make tent camping enjoyable.