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Sleeping Cot Usage and Repair

Cot legs and tent floors

Unlike air mattresses and self-inflating pads, camping sleeping cots have legs. This means, while camping, that the entire weight of the camper will be focused on a few small spots on the tent floor.

A tent floor is nylon fabric, not linoleum, and is not designed to support a heavy load concentrated in a small area (1 square inch or less). The ground underneath the tent may be soft and give way, further increasing the stress on the floor fabric.

If you are unfamiliar with cots, have a look at the main camping cot page.

Various cot styles and floor wear

Bi-fold & tri-fold cots have u-shaped legs to better distribute weight and reduce the stress on the floor fabric. The bottom of these legs span the distance from one side of the cot to the other

Army-style cots have straight legs with foot caps against the tent floor to spread out the load. These end caps are often rounded. If the cot is slid across the floor, the end caps keep the legs from catching on the floor fabric.

When the camper sits on the cot, however, almost all of the weight may be focused on one set of legs, and even the end caps may not be enough to fully protect the floor fabric.

If the tent is pitched on rough ground, u-shaped legs can stress tent floor fabric, too.

Ideas to protect the tent floor

Some tips and ideas to help protect the tent floor from cot legs are listed below. If you need to focus your resources, the middle legs will probably put the most stress on the floor fabric.

Tips for u-shaped, tube legs:

  • tarp
  • towel
  • foam padding taped to cot legs
  • throw rug or mat
  • piece of garden hose or pipe insulation cut along its length and taped to bottom leg span

Tips for straight legs with feet:

  • furniture castor cups
  • tennis balls (with an 'x' cut in them)

Cots and creatures

Sleeping cot manufacturers would have you believe that unless you sleep elevated off of the ground, you are in grave danger of ground creatures when camping--you'll be eaten alive by a chipmunk!.

A good tent and careful attention to keeping food and food-like odors out of the tent will allow you to sleep quite comfortably on a camping pad on the ground.

Modern tents with attached floors do not allow crawling insects to get inside. Screen mesh will keep out any flying insects that you don't let in when you enter and exit the tent.

Forest creatures will not be interested in the tent, as long as the smell of food is not emanating from it.

Don't worry about critters when purchasing a sleeping cot. Get the cot because you prefer to sleep elevated and want storage space underneath.

Sitting on cots

Unless you are sure of the strength of your sleeping cot frame, some manufacturers recommend sitting on the sling fabric and not on the side rail. It may also help to sit between two pair of legs. This will spread the load across several rails instead of just one.

Cot Repair

General sleeping-cot repair

Not many campers manage to make a field repair on a bent or broken cot. Cots have various metal parts and a fabric cover, which can fail (break, bend, tear).

Unlike for air mattresses, there are no repair kits for cots.

The easiest solution is to keep a spare air mattress with your camping equipment for emergencies. It will take up very little room and, if your sleeping cot fails, will keep your camping trip enjoyable.

When your camping trip is over, you can return the cot within the store return period. You can otherwise send the cot back for warranty work, or dispose of it.

Military cot repair

If you have a military cot, you should be able to easily disassemble the frame and remove the sling fabric from the side rails.

Replacement sling covers may be available from the manufacturer. Military surplus stores also carry replacement covers for some cot sizes.

If you have a sewing machine, you may be able to repair a small tear or some stitching that has pulled apart.

Squeeky Cot Tips

Sleeping-cot metal parts can rub against each other and squeak while you shift on the cot. There are various methods to get rid of squeaks.

Lubricating a squeaky joint

If you use a spray lubricant, if possible, use a teflon or silicone spray instead of oil. Teflon or silicone sprays evaporate and leave a dry film of teflon or silicon on the squeaky joint.

If you use an oil spray lubricant, it will leave behind a wet film (or pool) of oil on the joint, which will attract dirt and contaminate any fabric that comes in contact.

Remove the cot from the tent and, if possible, the sling fabric from the cot. Downwind of the tent, spray the squeaky joint. If you must use oil, apply it to a cloth and wipe it on the squeaky joint.

Work the joint to help the lubricant penetrate. Wipe off any excess lubricant with a cloth. Wait a few minutes to allow the lubricant carrier to completely evaporate.

Other lubricants

Some other camping items can make a suitable solid lubricant for squeaky sleeping cots. Candle wax can take care of a cot squeak. Unscented talcum powder may also work. These items are inert and shouldn't affect the cot fabric. Use sparingly.

Some manufacturers offer 'no-squeak' cots. These often have nylon fittings around joints to eliminate the metal-on-metal squeaks.

Fabric rubbing on rails

Another complaint is that the sling cover can rub on the rails and make a creaking noise. This is probably due to the PVC (vinyl) coating on the fabric.

If you have a military cot, you can disassemble the cot, remove the fabric cover from the rails, and apply a lubricant. If you spray on a lubricant, let the carrier evaporate before putting the cover fabric back on the rails.

In conclusion

This page has covered the main issues with using and maintaining camping cots. This information should help you get good performance from your camping equipment and enjoy leisure camping.