How To Get A Better Night’s Sleep In The Backcountry


I am a notoriously awful tent sleeper. Spending most of the night staring up at the ceiling, I can never get quite comfortable enough to fully nod off. A hammock sometimes works but is not always practical in backcountry situations. Enter the LuxuryLite UltraLite Cot from Therm-a-Rest. Suspending you above the uneven and pain inducing ground, the camping cot now has me looking forward to sunset while out in the backcountry.

During my last few camping and backpacking trips up in the Sierras, I added the LuxuryLite UltraLite Cot to my pack. At only 2 lbs 12 oz. fully loaded, the camping cot is not going to break your back, but will instead add a world of comfort. The UltraLite Cot uses a unique BowFrame Technology that is easy to set up and eliminates any contact points beneath you. The laminated nylon cover is waterproof and does not stretch, meaning it won’t sag as the night or trip wears on.

The BowFrame Technology support poles are made of aluminum, rendering them lightweight and durable, with tough nylon feet. You assemble the cot by first sliding the large shock-corded aluminum poles down the side rails of the cover. Standing on either side of the cover, you then attach the cross bows that are constructed out of a male and female aluminum pole slotted into a pair of feet.

LuxuryLite UltraLite Cot

The setup process takes some time to master so I would recommend watching the instructional video and practicing a few times at home before you head out. Some upper body strength is required to snap the feet into the side rails. For extra support, you can add two twist bows to the middle of the camping cot but I was not anywhere near strong enough to accomplish this, leaving the extra four poles behind to save on weight.

As I am below the recommended 175 lbs limit for reduced support, I could have dropped even further to just four single cross bows and cut a total of 3/4 lb off the weight of the UltraLite Cot. Even with the camping cot and a bear can, my pack was still well under 30 pounds.

LuxuryLite UltraLite Cot

Standing on the cover for cross bow installation is no easy task inside a smaller tent. I carry a Nemo Obi 2P when backpacking and what is normally a solo palace, could just barely fit the LuxuryLite UltraLite Cot lengthwise. I definitely would not be able to fit two people in the tent when using the cot, but possibly Lola. I would check the dimensions of your tent floorprint before you take the two out together.

I haven’t yet tried this technique but know other people who have- to get around the tent fit problem, just slide the cot under your tent floor, tarp, or even bivy sack. The presence of the cot might make staking the tent a bit trickier but you get around the issue without giving up comfort.

While not necessary, I brought my High Peak camping pad with me for an even comfier night’s sleep. In warmer weather especially, you could leave the camping pad at home to cut extra weight but it’s nice to have for a little extra warmth on those cold nights.

The LuxuryLite UltraLite Cot feels almost like sleeping in a hammock without the raised head and legs. You are fully supported without any pressure points beneath you, great for both side and stomach sleepers. My hips and shoulders were very thankful in the morning, a rare occurrence for me when backpacking. Even though I still woke up a couple times in the night, I chalk that up to altitude and midnight bathroom runs, not screaming hips telling me to roll over every 10 minutes.

LuxuryLite UltraLite Cot

I am curious to see how well the cot cover holds up over time. You need to be very careful when sliding in the side poles as they tend to snag on the cross bow attachment holes. A couple of the holes are already starting to tear and fray but hopefully this won’t become a major problem.

Bottom Line: Although not the Four Seasons, the LuxuryLite UltraLite Cot will give you a blissful, non-achey night’s sleep in the backcountry that is worth every ounce of extra carry weight and assembly/tear down time.

The Therm-a-Rest LuxuryLite UltraLite Cot retails for $230 and is available now.

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