While you might laugh at the idea of a camping cot for your next backpacking trip — we sure did at first — the Helinox Lite made us reconsider. This cot rolls up into a compact package and is light enough that you could actually take it backpacking for short trips — much to the irritation of every ultralight backpacker you pass. It's reasonably comfortable and gets you off of the ground. If you have a hard time sleeping on a camp pad and can afford to carry a little extra weight, then the Helinox Lite is an excellent option.
Helinox Lite Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Lightweight, compact
Cons: Very hard to set up, seems less durable
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Unfortunately, all this portability comes at a price. The Helinox Lite is one of the most expensive camping cots we have tested and takes considerably more time to put together. This can all be totally worth it if you have struggled to sleep well on a sleeping pad before — looking at you, side sleepers — but we generally would recommend trying a more traditional backcountry sleeping arrangement first, then giving a cot a try if it isn't working.
Ease of Setup
Our primary testing metric focused on the difficulty of assembling and disassembling the Helinox Lite and the other cots, which is responsible for 40% of the total score for each product. We paid particular attention to this metric, as no one wants to spend time struggling with their cot after a long day of hiking. Regrettably, the Helinox Lite is the exact opposite of that, having one of the more involved and difficult setup processes of the group.
While most of the traditional cots only consist of a couple of pieces, the Helinox Lite is constructed of quite a few more. This cot has four legs, two side rails, and the fabric sleeping surface. It can be a bit discombobulating the first time you lay out all the pieces and can take a bit more time to assemble than most of the other cots.
The assembly process is fairly straightforward in theory but can be a giant pain in practice. The side poles can get caught when threading them through the mattress and the legs take a ton of force to bend into position.
Overall, our judges did not look upon this cot favorably when it came to its assembly process, easily being one of the most difficult cots to put together that we have tested to date. It is equally difficult to break down the cot, with it taking even more force to bend the legs enough to release them. We also found it very easy for the legs to catch on the fabric when breaking it down, concerning us that it would cause accelerated wear and tear or damage the cot.
On top of all that, it can also be a hassle to fold this cot up in a way that it fits back in its carrying case. The legs are prone to unfolding and catching on the bag in a way that keeps it from zipping closed properly.
While the Helinox Lite did deliver a very disappointing performance in our ease of setup metric, it did redeem itself with a top-tier score in our portability metric. This accounts for 30% of the final score for each cot. We based this on the packed size of each cot, how much it weighs, and how easy it would be to transport or carry for any amount of distance.
This minuscule camping cot tips the scale at just under three pounds. Backpacking sleeping pads are usually in the ½ -1 ½ pound range, so you aren't going to be winning any ultralight awards if you go with the Helinox Lite — or any cot, for that matter — for backpacking. However, it is one of the lightest of the camping cots we have tested so far.
The Helinox Lite measures approximately 5" x 21" when folded up, which is a bit larger than you would want to fit into a backpack, but we didn't find it too hard to strap to the outside of a pack.
It's also small enough that it's easy to find space for it in a car, truck, or RV — even when they are absolutely jam-packed with gear. The Helinox Lite is exceptionally compact and portable for a camping cot — even considered ultralight — but it still isn't a good choice if you need to be very weight conscious when packing for your next trip.
Following ease of setup and portability, we moved on to rating and scoring how comfortable it is to camp on each cot. We had a panel of different judges try out each cot and evaluate how comfortable each one is side-by-side to determine the bulk of the scores, as well as noting if you are likely to hit your head or feet on parts of the frame when you adjust your sleeping position during the night. The Helinox Lite is far from the most comfortable cot we have seen to date.
This cot is definitely on the narrow side, and it's so low to the ground that it can be a bit cumbersome to get on and off of. There aren't any frame components that pass under the head and foot of the bed, so no chance of hitting your head or ankles there. Unfortunately, this does mean that there is a slight droop under your head — though this is easily remedied by a camp pillow.
Unfortunately, you can easily bottom out the cot if you don't distribute your weight evenly. Laying on your side can put your hip extremely close to the ground — depending on your weight — so you will want to be careful that the ground underneath the cot is clear of rocks or other debris.
For our final round of tests, we focused on how sturdy and durable each cot is. This is responsible for the remaining tenth of the total score for each cot. While this is a difficult metric to assess, as we only tested a single unit, so we can only speak to how the Helinox Lite held up and if we saw any common issues about this cot come up in user reviews. Based on our experience, we didn't find this product to be the most durable.
The Helinox Lite is rated to hold up to 265 pounds and didn't show any major damage at the conclusion of our rigorous test process. However, we did find that it is easy to accidentally catch only the fabric instead of the pole running the length of the cot when assembling or disassembling it, which can stress the fabric, and we could see leading to an eventual tear.
The design of the cot overall also gives us some concerns when it comes to durability, especially given the fact that this cot is ostensibly meant for taking into the backcountry. There are a lot of parts to this cot, and it seems like it needs all of them to function properly, meaning this could be quite a crisis if you lose or break one on a trip.
The lightweight nature of this cot — like most gear — means it comes at a premium price. The Helinox Lite is far from a bargain buy, meaning you should consider another cot or a traditional sleeping pad if you are shopping with limited funds.
If you are shopping for a new cot that you can take on your next backpacking trip, then we would recommend the Helinox Lite. It's lightweight and easy to carry, along with being one of the more comfortable options for side sleepers out in the backcountry. All in all, the Helinox Lite is a solid product but our qualms with it come more from the idea of using a cot for backpacking in the first place, rather than with the Helinox Lite itself.
— Marissa Fox