One Piece of Camping Gear I Wouldn’t Live Without Now That I Have Kids (And Where I Got Mine)

Ah, the cot conundrum. A “cotnundrum,” if you will. This summer, I thought heading to the store to pick up a cot for my two year old to nap on at the lake would be a cinch. Boy, was I wrong. Read more to find out what I learned, and which one we went with.

Little Fish just turned two, and still takes daily naps (thank heavens). At the lake, it is really difficult to nap during the day because it can get pretty ridiculously hot inside the tent (yep, even with the windows open).

We needed something that we could set out under the shade of the trees, up off the ultra-rocky ground, with the cool breeze coming in from the water. When she was younger, we brought the pack n’play, but in reality she ended up using it more for play then sleep. When the time came she would just nap on me pretty much anywhere.

This year she had outgrown the pack n’play, and she really didn’t sleep in it last year anyhow. Plus, if we had a cot, the whole family could use it, and ideally it would last for years.

Now just to give you an idea of what I was looking for, my list of prereq’s was pretty specific (and sensible, I think):

BIG

Sturdy enough for Little Fish to nap on mine or my husband’s chest. Often times she still needs help to fall asleep, especially in a new place…

… With a little padding too while we are at it. I mean, these mom’s hips do not lie. I needed something comfy. Who doesn’t?

ADJUSTABLE

I wanted a cot that I could sit up like a lounger so I had a place off the ground between naps for Little Fish to sit comfortably on my lap, for a break, diaper changes, snacking, reading or nursing time. You know, basically everything. Besides, even during naps it would be nice to have the headrest up A LITTLE so you don’t feel like you are lying completely flat.

AFFORDABLE

Because, you guys. Yes some people may consider a camping cot to be a luxury, but we really felt that we needed something to make camping with a toddler easier. A necessity. One we could afford. We were hoping to spend less than a hundred bucks. (Spoiler alert: nope.)

So there you have it: Big, Adjustable, Affordable. How hard could it be?

Here is what I learned.

A. Don’t expect to just walk into a regular store and find a cot that will fit the needs of you and your toddler.

Target, Walmart, Kmart, Costco. Hubby even went to a couple of major sporting good stores. Slim pickings cot-wise, my friends, even at the height of camping season!

They all had the range of tents, lanterns, coolers, air mattresses, etc.. But when it came to cots, all we could find were one or two basic small cots made with a single layer of canvas, and definitely not adjustable.

GRANTED, there were more options online, but most of them didn’t meet my criteria either unless they were super expensive, which, well, come to think of it didn’t meet my criteria.  Also, we were short on time. I guess I made a mistake in waiting til the last minute because I really didn’t think it would be that difficult to walk into a camping section in July  and find what we wanted. Besides, call me crazy, but I may be one of the last people on Earth who prefers to try something out in person before sleeping on it. Sure I know, it can be returned, yadda yadda yadda. No thanks.

As I searched store after store, I started to doubt myself. I thought, maybe I am the only mom who wants something like this.

Maybe cots are cots and just meant for one person to lay flat at night in their tent. Who knows.

But then I thought.. NO.

Other Open Air Moms who camp with their family would know how convenient it would be to have a big sturdy cot as a multifunctional hub for nap time, diaper changes, and even doing puzzles or reading books.

lakebedopenairmom

As you can see in the photo, we camp on a lake bed. Not every campsite has soft ground or beds of grass or sand to simply lay a blanket on. In some places, we need to be able to escape to areas up off the ground at certain points in the day – away from the bugs, rocks, grit, and soaring temperatures.

And no, just sitting the kid on your lap in a regular camping chair does not cut it. Believe me, it gets old fast.

From my experience, having the right cot was a real game changer. I was able to sit comfortably cross-legged with Little Fish in front of me, or lay with her beside me or on my chest. No, this is something that should be marketed and supplied to families. It should not be so hard to find.

B. Costco used to sell EXACTLY what I wanted. Or they only do sometimes… IDK You Guys.

There is a reason I knew my expectations were not crazy or unrealistic. My brother’s family OWNS the cot I wanted:

timberridgecamplounger

The Timber Ridge Camp Lounger. They have had it for a few years…it was about $60 bucks at Costco, nice and big, comfy, and adjustable. Come on people. This was my cot.

Only one problem. COSTCO DOESN’T SELL IT ANYMORE. At least I think they don’t. We went multiple times to multiple stores to check, and could not find it. Wasn’t on their website either. I was teased by a couple of internet searches that it was back briefly in the Spring but I haven’t seen any proof of that, and it definitely wasn’t around in the summer time… when people would buy camping gear. Other searches came up with people complaining and wondering why it is not available anymore… pretty much like I am right this minute, I suppose. But, it matters to me, so here I am.

I even searched Amazon to see if I could order it there, and there IS a LISTING! Hallelujah! But… the product is unavailable. Or out of stock. Indefinitely. Here is the link if you want to see for yourself. Aaaaarrrghh.

I know Costco has a tendency to cycle products in and out, I just hope Timber Ridge is still manufacturing these puppies. Keep an eye out and let me know if you see them at your local Costco, so at least I know I’m not crazy.

C. REI is King (And They Know It)

“Did you try REI?” – Pretty much every person who I told I was having trouble finding a cot.

I mean, who doesn’t love REI? It is like camping heaven. But camping heaven ain’t cheap, that’s for sure.

While I would love to be able to walk into REI and just shop to my camping heart’s content, my budget has never been very REI friendly. And now that I’m a stay at home mom who tries to save on everything, I’m surprised someone didn’t hear me walking down the aisles saying in my tsk-tsk-rain-on-your-parade voice, “Yeah but do we really NEED that?” and immediately throw me out for killing all the fancy camper vibes.

So, after exhausting my search, and deflecting a reminder from my husband for the umpteenth time that, “I think I saw a pretty good one on REI’s website, and it says it is in stock…” there we were, at the pearly gates of pine.

After weeks of searching, we walked in and out in twenty minutes with the cot I wanted (well, with a higher price tag, because REI).

reikingdomcot3We went with the Kingdom Cot 3. Weight capacity of 300 lbs, ADJUSTABLE, and $159.

At first, the stingy grinch (the Stinch???) in my head hesitated at the price, (remember, I wanted to stay under $100). BUT, in my quest I had seen cots online that were even MORE expensive, so what are you gonna do?

Besides, I did ask, “DO WE REALLY NEED THAT?” and nobody threw me out. Everyone that worked there was pretty chill actually. Almost too chill even, because they know. They are not salesmen. There is no need to pester or cajole the customers. They are the Keepers of the REI Kingdom. If they build it, we will buy.

We had to ask someone if they even had the cot because they keep them in the back – I would imagine to save space on the showroom floor – they are that big, you guys. If you have a small car it may not work for you. So, after a few minutes, the guy just sat the behemoth of a box in front of us… nay! … directly in front of the REGISTER, and said, “Enjoy.”

Because he knew. He knew we would buy it. He knew we had already gone everywhere else. This was it. The literal “King” of cots. It was in the name. It had to be true.

“Can we open it and take a look?” I asked. Because, you may be the keeper of all things camping I could ever want forever and ever, BUT, you don’t know me. Man, I am stubborn.

A subtle raise of the eyebrows and a scratch of the beard, because he knows and my husband knows and even my two year old knows we are buying the sucker, followed by a laidback, “Sure man, go ahead.” And just as soon as he had appeared, he was gone, off to help another customer.

So, after a few minutes of having my husband wrestle the cot out of the box, all three of us taking turns to lay on the thing (in front of the register, if you recall) while customers in line looked on in quiet amusement, we bought it.

Once we got the cot out to the lake, it was glorious. Everything I was looking for and hoped it would be, with one or two drawbacks…

1. The edge of the cot needs some sort of support bar to keep it from toppling over if you sit near the end.

The FIRST THING I did when we set the cot up at the lake, was sit on the wrong end and the whole thing flipped up and I literally fell back and scraped up my elbows. Granted, sometimes I am not the smartest tool in the shed, but my brilliant 6 year old nephew did the same exact thing five minutes later. This was a problem.

We ended up having to adjust the cot to sit up so everyone would know which way was up, because to be honest it isn’t super clear at first sight. There is a little “REI” label where the head goes, but it blends in with the rest of the cot so you really have to look for it.

SO, we stuck a 30 pack of beer under the end so the dog wouldn’t be smashed to death if she went under and someone sat on the end of it. After that, we were golden. At least until someone drank the beer.

2. This cot was great, BUT, it was the same as my brother’s.

You know, the $60 one from Costco. We set them up side by side, and I don’t know, besides some cosmetic differences it was the same thing. There is probably some specific engineering in the materials that makes it $100 better, and I’m sure someone will be kind enough to school me on this at some point. But yeah. You get the picture. The Stinch is still a little bitter about the price. Part of me was proud that I reached a point in my adult life where I could afford to buy the fancy cot from REI, while the other was sort of disappointed that I could have gotten something for a better value if I only could have found the dang thing.  Oh well, we are banking on the idea that it was an investment that will last us for many years. I will let you know how that one goes!

That Said…

I am happy we chose to buy the cot from REI. It really did make camping with a two year old more convenient and more enjoyable. I spent most of the camping trip either in the lake, chasing Little Fish, or (literally) camped out on the cot.  I wish I could add more photos of the cot from the actual camping trip, but the pictures I do have were snapped by family of Little Fish and myself conked out under the trees, and I do have something against posting photos of myself drooling for all to see. It was that comfortable.

Oh! And About Walmart…

Back in July when I was getting desperate to find a cot to fit our needs, I sent out a Tweet asking a few stores for assistance. Walmart was the only store that responded and messaged me privately. Although I did not go with one of their cots, I now go to them for practically everything else. I will never forget it. Thanks, Walmart. Customer service matters.

Thanks for Reading! If you are an Open Air Mom or Dad who is wondering if a cot will be worth it while camping with your kids, I say GO FOR IT. I hope my experience helps you narrow down your search. Camp on, everybody.

Open Air Mom

Twitter: @theopenairmom

 

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