A camp mattress is the important thing to a great night time’s sleep within the forest

Cribs are not a new technology. George Washington used one that folded out of a trunk while traveling during the Revolutionary War. If you grew up with MASH, you will remember the crib as a key element in Hawkeye’s “Swamp”. They are still used regularly by the military, but recently they have breathed new life into the outdoor set. You can find plush versions with upholstery and accessories like built-in side tables and elegant versions that are actually intended for backpacking trips.

I’ve been using sleeping mats for decades and they have come a long way in that time. They are lighter, better insulated and more comfortable than ever before. I have a couple of favorites that I switch between on backpacking trips. But my family and I usually use Coleman air mattresses on car camping trips. (Imagine a massive six-person tent with the floor covered with five-inch-thick rafts.) You’d think we’d have chosen the sleeping part of the campsite by now, but these mattresses have their own headaches: they are bulky, occupy most of the soil and slowly lose air throughout the night. To try new things, I ordered the Eureka Camp crib ($ 110). After weeks of testing, I can confidently say that George Washington was up to something. Getting off the floor on a cot lifted my car camping experience into the realm of glamping, despite being in the same old family tent.

(Photo: Graham Averill)

Let’s talk about some of the obvious benefits of not sleeping on the floor. I don’t care how thick your pad is – if there’s a stone under you, you’ll feel it. A cot provides you with a perfectly flat, even and raised surface. You won’t feel uncomfortable from bumps or places where your hips are pressing the pad onto the floor. The cot at Eureka Camp weighs you just enough to hold you in place while you fall asleep. I found that my throwing and turning is limited through the night. That means you probably won’t like this crib if you have a side sleeper.

The Eureka Camp cot is made of 600 denier polyester and has a leather plate on which your head rests. The brand says it can hold up to 300 pounds, although I haven’t tried to maximize it. I push 200 pounds and it feels very supportive. At 14.9 pounds, it’s not light and takes up some space in the back of the car – it’s 37.5 inches long and 5.5 inches wide when folded and stored in its pocket. However, it doesn’t take long to set up. Put it on the floor, unfold it, lock your legs and you’ll sleep like a baby. It stands tall – 17.5 inches off the ground – so forget about it if you’re in a low-clearance tent. Getting off the floor feels like you’re in a real bed, which is a surprisingly civilized touch on a campsite where everything else is filthy and smells like sweaty socks. You can also sit on the raised platform when changing shoes, unpacking or taking off.

I am determined to buy three more of these cribs so that every member of the family can have one. Maybe one for the dog too. The tent will look like a military barracks, but I could always dress it up by adding a few faux fur throws at the foot of the cots, retro lanterns, and Instagram-friendly wide-brimmed hats for the ladies. There is nothing more luxurious than a good night’s sleep in the woods.

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Main photo: Graham Averill

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