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Comfortable Camping With a Bad Back

Q. I have a bad back. I need something to keep me more comfortable while camping. I don’t care if it’s a mat or a cot, but I want it to last a long time. Any ideas?
— Tanner, Monroe, Louisiana

A. You’re in luck! Click here for our sleeping pad buying guide, including a list of pads that should work for you in almost any situation. Sleeping pads are great because they’re lightweight and maintenance-free, and can be pretty cheap.

Cots are a different story. For the most part, they’re bulky and a lot more expensive. For example, the new top-of-the-line Therm-a-Rest Ultralite Cot costs $220. It weighs less than 3 pounds, can be assembled in less than 3 minutes and is about the same size as the average sleeping pad when stored. Too much? Try the Slumberjack Tough Cot ($90). If you aren’t having to haul it around, it will work great. Find it at select Scout shops or

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15 Comments on Comfortable Camping With a Bad Back

  1. Former Cubmaster Bill // October 11, 2019 at 11:55 am // Reply

    I use the Teton XXL camp cot, which is heavy to lug around, so only for easy to get to campsite camping. I also have the Teton XL pad, which it too is bulky and takes up lots of valuable space, but it is comfy.

  2. I have a Eureeka cot that I love, it is not light enough for backpacking but is not as cumbersome and heavy as standard cots. I also have a sleeping pad from LL Bean that is their camp futon and is 3 inches thick when fully inflated. Both of those plus having a pillow between my legs allow me to sleep without too much pain.

  3. Dr.ScoutMaster // March 18, 2019 at 9:08 pm // Reply

    I have some back issues as well. In the past, I’ve used pads, hammocks, cots, and now, a reclining camp chair. Good for stationary campsites only, but can double as my SM camp chair or my bed. I do pad the two armrests with old pillows or folded blankets.

  4. I love my Kelty cot. Not for backpacking, but super comfortable! Slept on it 8 nights straight last summer, no problem!

  5. I have the slumber jack best investment I ever made. Camping once a month with my son’s boy scout troop takes its toll on my back. Not with the slumber jack

  6. Anonymous // May 25, 2018 at 4:35 pm // Reply

    Don’t forget to bring a camping chair which provides lower back support. I’ve found a bad chair will hurt more than an inadequate pad. Try the Magellan Lusaka tension arm chair

  7. Anonymous // May 25, 2018 at 3:57 pm // Reply

    I love my Teton xxl camp cot. Holds up to 750 lbs. Also has an available pad. I’m 250+lbs with severe degenerative disc disease in lower back. It’s high enough for me to get my feet under me & stand. Have lasted me for 5+ years & going strong. Can find on amazon for $120 or so.

  8. I’ve had that exact same Slumberjack cot for the last 15 yrs or so – very sturdy for my 275 lb frame. Still holding up well too – solid construction.

  9. Hammocks and Water Beds are deadly to my back. Larger sized to allow changing position and thicker pad on cot helps me.

  10. WilhelmWhisper // February 2, 2018 at 12:33 am // Reply

    Hammock all the way. Insulation above and below on colder nights is a must, but your back will love you for it. It can take some doing to figure out the sleeping position that works for you. I tend to do a little research before I go to check for trees, and go back to tent and pad if I must.

  11. Hammocks

    • Carlos H Correia // September 2, 2018 at 4:19 pm // Reply

      I have two herniated discs in the lower back and once I started using a hammock I won’t trade for anything else where it’s possible. I bought a hammock tent and insulation and couldn’t be happier.

    • I got a Mountain Trails cot. It has been great. It is low to the ground so it fits in my 2-man Eureka Isis 2. It weighs a little more, but is so worth the effort.

  12. The Thermarest cot may be comfortable, but is a total pain to set up and take apart.

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