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 go.scoutlife.org/scoutstuff.
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.
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.
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.
I love my Kelty cot. Not for backpacking, but super comfortable! Slept on it 8 nights straight last summer, no problem!
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
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
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.
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.
Same. I thought I hated camping until I slept on the Teton XXl with mat.
Hammocks and Water Beds are deadly to my back. Larger sized to allow changing position and thicker pad on cot helps me.
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.
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.
The Thermarest cot may be comfortable, but is a total pain to set up and take apart.