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How to Build a Cot for Camping

Updated February 21, 2017

While travelling, campers often sleep on the floor of their tents with only a mattress pad and sleeping bag between them and the hard, uneven earth. To improve sleeping, some bring a cot to sleep on. While many camping goods stores have them, it is possible to build your own with some basic materials.

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  1. Lay the two 6-foot lengths of wood parallel, a little over two feet apart. This will make the frame of the cot. Place the 2-foot 3-inch pieces at the head and foot of the frame, and nail them inside the two 6-foot lengths.

  2. Reinforce the frame's corners with the truss plates. Place the truss plate so that about half of it covers the joint between the 2-by-4s while the other half hangs off of the corner. Nail or screw the plate down, then fold it around the corner and attach it.

  3. Repeat for the other corners.

  4. Lay out two of the 1.5 feet pieces so that they are parallel and about 2 feet 6 inches apart. Place one of the 2-foot 6-inch pieces across the tops of them so that it creates a C shape. This is the basic leg structure for the cot. Attach the leg pieces to the 2-foot 6-inch piece at the corners.

  5. Repeat for the remaining legs and the 2-foot 6-inch piece of wood.

  6. Place one of the leg structures at the head of the frame so that it looks like the cot is lying upside down on the floor. Then, pivot the leg structure as though you have folded it closed, so that the legs lie flat on the frame and there are about 4 inches between the top of the leg structure and the head of the frame.

  7. Screw two of the hinges to the leg structure and frame so that you can fold and unfold the legs into their proper positions.

  8. Repeat steps four and five for the remaining leg structure and hinges at the foot of the frame.

  9. Take a sheet metal strip and drill a nail-sized hold on one end, about half an inch from each side. On the other end, drill a hole in the same position, but make a cut from one of the long sides straight in.

  10. Repeat for the other three sheet metal strips. These will become leg braces for the cot.

  11. Measure one of the leg braces against the cot in its standing position, it will go from inside the bed frame to the inside of one of the legs. Place the strip so it creates a right-angled triangle, with the frame and the leg making two of the sides. For best results, make the corner angles as close to 45 degrees as possible.

  12. Nail the hole-end of the leg brace to the frame. Nail the cut-end of the leg brace to the leg, so that you can slide the brace off when you need to fold the cot closed.

  13. Repeat for the other three legs.

  14. Stand the bed up properly and stretch the canvas over the frame. Tack the fabric to the cot as tightly as possible.

  15. Tip

    If you think the cot needs additional support, you can brace the leg structures with extra pieces of wood attached at 45-degree angles to the top and legs. This may be a good idea if you tend to move in your sleep.


    If you plan to camp in cold weather with a cot, be sure to insulate the space under the cot with newspaper or other material to prevent cold air from circulating under you.

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Things You'll Need

  • Two 6-foot pieces of 2-by-4
  • Two 2-foot 3-inch pieces of 2-by-4
  • Two 2-foot 6-inch pieces of 2-by-4
  • Four 1.5-foot pieces of 2-by-4
  • Four 1-inch hinges
  • Four 4-by-8-inch truss plates
  • Four 1-by12-inch strips of sheet metal
  • 2 1/4 yards of 227gr canvas
  • Nails
  • Screws
  • Large-headed tacks

About the Author

Grahame Turner has worked as a freelance writer since 2009 and a freelance reporter since 2010 for Wellesley Patch and Jamaica Plain Patch in Massachusetts. He also works part-time as a bookseller at the Northeastern University bookstore. He is a Northeastern University graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

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