Beneath the Sleeping Bag: A Guide To Camping Sleep Platforms

Ultralite Cot Getting a good nights sleep in the back country can be a daunting prospect, fortunately it doesn’t have to be. Keep reading for a detailed look at all the camping sleep platforms available at and to figure out which one is right for you.

First thing to consider when picking a solid sleep platform should be how you like to sleep and camp. Do you prefer firm surfaces? Elevated and cushioned? Will it fit in your tent? These are all things one should consider before making their purchase. Another important consideration is how you will be traveling. If you are backpacking a lighter, more portable platform would be ideal whereas campers taking a car to their destination would do well with virtually any option.

There are a few basic things that you should understand when shopping for your sleep platform. One being that camping sleep systems consist of two basic parts: a sleep platform and sleeping bag. While the other is that camping sleep platforms are the lesser known half of the camping sleep systems and come in various styles: cots, air mattresses, sleeping pads and hammocks. Here’s a look at each:


Cots come in two styles today, ultralight and standard. Ultralight cots sit just off the ground and use a folding pole frame with a special fabric spread across via tension. Cots were previously a platform that tended to be a bit clunky however, manufacturers are continually tweaking their designs to make these ultralight cots more appealing to campers who are backpacking or do not want to carry a lot of weight around.

Standards cots, on the other hand, are intended for car campers. Generally, they are very easy to setup and are similar in height to a bed. Also like a bed, standard cots offer under bed storage that makes organization easier.

Cots are some of the most comfortable sleep platforms and are most practical during the hotter months as they lack insulation between you and the air circulating around you. However, when used in tandem with a pad or blanket between their cot and sleeping bag, a cot can be a cozy and warm sleep platform during the winter as well.

Shop ACK’s selection of camping cots.

Kelty Good Nite Air Bed
Kelty Good Nite Air Bed

Air Beds

The Air beds appeal is in its similarity to your bed at home. Its comfort and convenience has made the air bed a fan favorite among campers for good reason- its endless options, ease of set up, and the “home-like” familiarity it provides in an otherwise rugged and unfamiliar camp site.

Most air mattresses come equipped with a foot or electric pump to inflate in a relatively short amount of time. Although these beds have been heavy in the past, many manufactures are creating beds that are lighter in weight so that backpackers and car campers alike can rest in comfort during their trips. If you are looking for something that will ease you into a camping lifestyle an air mattress would be the easiest transition from home to tent.

Shop ACK’s selection of air beds.

Sleeping Pads

Exped DownMat 7 Sleeping Pad
Exped DownMat 7 Sleeping Pad

The standard in camping sleep platforms today is the sleeping pad. They come in a variety of styles but in general, sleeping pads represent the lightest and most pack-able option around making it a great options for backpackers as well as car travelers. They provide on average about an inch of padding and insulation, which, while it might not sound like a lot, is a huge improvement over nothing at all. The two most common styles are inflatable and self-inflating, both of which utilize air for cushioning.

Inflatable pads are inflated easily with or without a pump and roll into a very compact size for easy travel. Self-inflating pads on the other hand use special foam that decompresses and fills the air gaps when you unseal the valve and unroll the pad. Resealing the valve traps air within the foam cells and boosts insulation and comfort. However, self-inflating pads are a bit larger when rolled up than air only pads.

Shop ACK’s selection of sleeping pads.

Foam Pads

Light, inexpensive and nearly indestructible, foam sleeping pads are a popular option for campers and those who just want a little something beneath them while they sleep. These pads use a closed cell foam that is particularly effective at insulating when sleeping on cold ground or on rough surfaces that could puncture an air filled pad.

Shop ACK’s selection of foam pads.

ENO Singlenest Hammock
ENO Singlenest Hammock


Much different than any of the other camping sleeping platforms available to back country campers, hammocks offer an intriguing option that many have come to love. Hammocks require minimal set up and are extremely packable and lightweight making them a viable option for campers who tend to pack light. They also offer a unique experience of not sleeping on a flat surface, which for many is an acquired taste.

Hammocks initially offer no insulation, so unless paired with a sleeping pad, they are more suited for warmer  weather. That being said, a wide variety of hammock accessories exist to help you setup and sleep in you hammock comfortably anywhere and anytime.

Shop ACK’s selection of hammocks.


Ultimately, when choosing your next sleep platform, you need to consider what makes you feel the most comfortable as well as how you tend to go camping. Are you a light packer versus a heavy packer? A backpacker versus a car traveler? Consider the weight you are willing to carry and the environment you will be in. Once these are taken into consideration check out with this handy guide and choose your new portable bed!

Lose the Zippers with Sierra Design’s Backcountry Bed

Backcountry Bed Presents New Sleeping Option for Campers

The Backcountry Bed
The Backcountry Bed

Sierra Designs has steered away from the timeless sleeping bag design to create a completely new way for campers to tackle backcountry sleeping with their Backcounrty Bed. Unlike the mummy style sleeping bags, the Backcountry Bed is intended to perform like a traditional bed at home. It has a simple design with a very large opening in the middle section to enter with an attached comforter can be pulled around the user which seals the opening once inside.

Backcountry Bed Sleeping OptionsWhat makes this new sleeping option so great is that it offers a wide range of sleeping positions compared to a normal bag. Prefer to sleep on your side? Not a problem! Starting to get too warm? Just fling the blanket off a little to cool down. It also has a foot vent that allows you to slip your feet out of the bottom of the bag on those warm nights.

The reason Sierra Designs has named it the Backcountry Bed (in addition to the built in comforter functioning just like the comforter on your real bed) is that it has an sleeping pad sleeve on the bottom. This allows you to secure your sleeping pad to the bag to give you the experience of a fully integrated bed.

Watch the video below to see more about it:

So what do you think of the Backcountry Bed? Let us know by commenting below!

In Focus: Sierra Designs Zissou 0 Sleeping Bag

Condensation might not be at the front of your mind when planning for a cold weather camping trip, but a little bit of moisture can seriously dampen the fun you should be having outdoors. If it isn’t snowing, the frost on your tent melts when the sun comes up or if it is snowing and it piles up and soaks through the tent. Either way, you could end up with a soaked sleeping bag and that has the potential to ruin a trip. Don’t let that happen to you! Thankfully, Sierra Designs has introduced the DriDown line of bags including the Zissou 0 sleeping bag.

What sets this bag apart from the competition is that it is filled with 600-fill DriDown insulation. That means each individual feather in the bag is coated with a molecular level polymer to create a hydrophobic finish. Simply put, the down inside the bag is water-resistant. It stays dry longer than regular down, puffs up better and if it does happen to get wet, it doesn’t take as long to dry out. That means you will stay warmer for a longer period of time in this space-age, yet down-to-earth bag.

The fill weight is a mere 33 ounces and the bag features an ergonomic footbox and hood to keep you snug and comfortable. It comes with stuff and storage sacks and we offer it in regular and long sizes so there’s definitely a version for you! The Zissou 0 has been getting a lot of positive press lately and was recently featured in a cold weather camping blog on the Huffington Post.

For more information about these and other Sierra Designs products, visit

Trent @ACK

Product Review: Kelty’s Eclipse 30 Double Sleeping Bag

As you may have noticed, we like our Kelty products here at ACK and sleeping bags are no exception. Before we were set to experience the arrival of the first frost of winter in central Texas, my wife and I decided to get out of the house and into the woods for a one night camping trip. Our first goal was to get away from civilization but we also wanted to be prepared with a few of the creature comforts we enjoy at home. What we needed was a sleeping bag that provided durability, comfort and warmth for the BOTH OF US— the Kelty’s Eclipse 30 Double Sleeping Bag fit the bill.

Kelty Eclipse 30 Double Sleeping BagWe had almost everything we needed for a one night camping adventure including our tent, change of clothes, lamp, firewood, food and some casual reading. All that was left was the sleeping arrangement so a quick purchase at the ACK Austin Store got us locked and loaded for a relaxing evening under the stars.

As the fire burned down and the chill of night crept in it was time to kill the flames and retire for the evening. As I slipped into the Eclipse I immediately noticed the plush feel of the sleeping bag’s CloudLoft insulation. It was more than inviting especially after we slipped our pillows into the zippered slots at the head of the bag. The roominess of the Eclipse was impressive, yet not excessive, leaving enough elbowroom to toss and turn without causing too much of a ruckus. We were expecting a much colder night, but our anticipation was met with uncomfortable warmth. My wife wasn’t having any of it and decided to open up the foot vents at the bottom of the sleeping bag — a night saver with nothing but zzz’s.

I would not recommend taking this sleeping bag on an extensive multi-day hiking trip due to its size but it is ideal for the casual camping couple that just needs to get away for a few nights. It’s versatility as both a warm and cold weather sleeping bag makes it a great multi-season sleeping bag. I give this one two thumbs up!

Length: 80 in. / 203 cm
Weight: 14 lb. / 6 kg
Packed Size: 38 x 17 in. / 97 x 43 cm
Shell Fabric: 40D Polyester Ripstop
Shoulder Girth: 136 in. / 345 cm
Fill Weight: 100 oz. / 2.9 kg
Temp Rating: 30° F / -1° C
Brand: Kelty

For more information about this and other sleeping bags, click here.

ACK – Austin Store