Sleep is important, especially when traveling, and gone are those days when I could dig a shallow hip-hole, roll up in a five-dollar Navajo blanket and have a pleasant night. Nowadays, I prefer a good mattress on top of box springs—but those are a bit difficult to bungee to the back of a bike. In recent years, when going camping, I have been carrying a semi-self-inflating mattress, which rolls down to a rather large 27 inches across, six or seven inches in diameter…depending on how much air I can squeeze out of it. Pretty bulky.
Recently, I was browsing through an Aerostich catalog—which makes for great reading whether or not you intend to buy anything—and came across the High Tech Cot, which packs down to a very tidy 16 x 5 inches. With a very large 74 x 25 inch sleeping surface. And it weighs just three pounds. I was fascinated by the improbability of such figures: that big to that small?! I made a call to Andy “Mr. Aerostich” Goldfine, and a week later the cot arrived.
The packing bag was as small as promised. The contents consist of a thin fabric cover, with tunnels up each side through which I would run the two five-piece shock-corded poles. There are 12 round nylon feet, six to a side, on which the cot sits about 4.5 inches off the ground, spread apart by 16 two-part poles. Wait! Six pairs of feet, eight poles?! That meant one pole must be a spare. Nope. The instructions say the heavier crowd—the cot is rated to 325 pounds—should double up the poles in the middle.
The instructions are very brief and clear, and I had the cot put together in less than 15 minutes. Assembly is all very straightforward, nothing tricky about it. On my third go-round the time was down to five minutes. Pack-up time was about the same.
A cot provides very different sleeping from an air mattress, as it has sides, and one can conceivably fall out…fortunately the distance to the ground is only 4.5 inches. However, I found that I could roll around on the High Tech Cot quite happily, on my back, on my sides—although my movements did make a skritchy sound against the taut nylon. This did not bother me, but Sue said she would be happy to have me go camping alone, as she is a light sleeper.
That evening was the beginning of the Perseid Showers, and instead of going to bed we went outside. I lay down on my new cot with a pillow and an open sleeping bag, while Sue sat in a Kermit chair. About half past midnight Sue said she was going in; I said I’d follow in a bit. And the next thing I knew it was coming on dawn.
The High Tech Cot is made in the USA by Therm-A-Rest, and the $229 that Aerostich charges appears to be the standard price for the cot. It is not cheap, but is worth the money. And since it packs down so small I can easily add a couple more bottles of wine to the load.
For more information, call (800) 222-1994 or visit aerostich.com
(This Gear Lab review was published in the May 2014 issue of Rider magazine.)