Folding camp cots add comfort and some bulk to the tent camping experience. The most suitable cot is a compromise between size, transport bulk, and tent space.
If you are unfamiliar with cots, have a look at the camping cot page.
One way of determining product quality is by examining the product information on or inside the packaging. If the product literature points out several details that add to the quality and durability of the product, that usually indicates a better product.
If the product information is terse and not very informative, this may indicate that the manufacturer views the product as a commodity, and quality and durability may be lacking.
Cot frame features
Take a look at the connecting pieces of the folding camp cot. They should be either heavy gauge aluminum or steel.
Take a look at the legs and feet of the cot. The end caps on the feet of a military cot are usually rounded to protect against the cot feet catching on the floor fabric. The end protectors, however, are often small in area, and further protection may be needed, in order not to overstress the fabric. See the sleeping cot usage page.
Set the cot up and press down on a side rail between two sets of legs. Try not to permanently bend the frame, but this should give you an idea of the strength of the frame tubing.
If purchasing a military cot, unless you are very light weight, make sure the legs are reinforced.
Cot fabric features
Check to see that the folding camp cot cover is double stitched. Make sure that the stitching is straight and does not stray off of the fabric edge, which is a sign of poor workmanship.
The seam should be stitched tightly and evenly on both sides.
A higher stitch count (stitches per inch) means more thread in the seam; more thread in the seam means a stronger seam.
The stitching should hold both fabric pieces tightly together and it should not be possible to separate them allowing the thread to show.
Cot warranties vary widely. Some are only warrantied for the store return period. Some have a limited warranty for 1,3, or 5 years. Some have a lifetime warranty.
Limited warranty covers factory defects and workmanship, not wear and tear or abuse. The manufacturer will determine if the cot failure was due to factory defect or workmanship.
If you test your cot early, within the store return period, you will find it easier to return a failed cot for exchange or refund. Stores generally are unable to make a determination that the cot failed due to factory defect or poor workmanship. Please be responsible, however, and do not abuse the cot.
Warranty work involves shipping the folding camp cot back to the factory repair shop. The cot may be bulky and/or heavy, which can mean significant postage. Manufacturers often ask the consumer to pay to ship the product to the factory and the manufacturer will pay to return the repaired or replaced product to the consumer.
You may also have to prove that you are the original purchaser/owner of the product, which usually means filling out a registration card that comes with the product and mailing it to the manufacturer.
If you return your cot to the factory for warranty work, you may be without a cot for several weeks.
Warranty repair is generally available to quality cots only. Inexpensive cots will either be replaced or scrapped by their owners.
Campetent recommends that shoppers who are unsure of the strength of their cot get a cot that is rated to support substantially more than their weight. See the camp cot weight rating page.
The fitting room
Due to the side rails and end rails of the frame, a cot should be wider and longer than the occupant.
Unlike a bed, a folding camp cot user usually does not have a thick mattress to elevate him/her above the frame. The frame rails are generally only inches away and easy to strike while shifting on the cot.
Campetent recommends that the cot should be at least 4 inches longer than the occupant. Beyond 4 inches depends on the height of the occupant and length of the tent.
The end rails are a major source of irritation for cot users. You may prefer a cot that is 6" longer than your height.
It is also recommended that, for leisure tent camping, the cot be at least 4" wider than shoulder or hip width, whichever is more. This will, however, still be a narrow fit for sleeping on a cot. You won't be able to curl up much on the cot without hitting the side rails.
If you are looking for a regular fit, 8" wider is a better bet. This should give you enough room to curl up, if necessary.
Cot size and quality are the two major issues in purchasing a cot.
If you test your cot within the store return period, you have the option to return it if you are not satisfied with the quality or performance. This is the best way to ensure investing in a cot that will perform well.