Carlton Boyce reviews the Therm-a-Rest LuxuryLite Mesh Cot – and has the best night’s sleep camping he’s ever had.
With a couple of longish vehicle-based expeditions on the horizon, I was looking for a more comfortable solution than even the plushest inflatable mattress can offer and, having been reasonably impressed with the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite (summary: very light and packable, but noisy and not a great insulator if the ground is cold), I decided to try their LuxuryLite Mesh Cot.
Available in three sizes (please see below for details), at 6’ 3” I opted for the largest figuring I could do with all the length I can get. Being an active sleeper, I thought the extra width might be useful too and because it would be carried around in the back of a Jeep, the extra weight wouldn’t too much of an issue.
The cot comes with its own storage bag, and assembly takes about three minutes once you know what you’re doing. The two longitudinal aluminium poles run the length of the bed and each one is held together with shock cords. You simply straighten them out and slide them into the full-length pockets.
The anodised aluminium legs, with their round nylon feet, clip under these poles, and while the first side slips in easily enough, the second can be a bit of a struggle. But, it needs to be like that because you need a slight bow in the twin-pole cross-struts to tension the fabric properly. It’s more about technique than strength, and holding one side down with your foot makes life much easier.
The result is very comfortable, and almost on a pair with a half-decent bed. My first night’s sleep was probably the best I’ve ever had while camping and subsequent nights have proved that it wasn’t a one-off. It is quite firm but not at all uncomfortable, and the nylon-coated 500D scrim mesh means any water vapour from sweat can evaporate away very easily; it’s also nice to have a cooling breeze underneath you when it is hot.
And, because you are raised off the ground, it negates the need for a groundsheet – and if you don’t need a groundsheet then you don’t need a tent, tarpaulin, or bivvy bag either as long as it’s dry. I love sleeping this way, being able to see the stars if I wake up momentarily, and to be able to hear and smell things that a tent insulates me from.
Of course, that mesh base doesn’t provide any insulation during colder weather but you can buy a reflective layer that clips underneath the mesh. I can’t find one for sale in the UK, but I should be able to get one from the USA via Amazon.
Breaking the cot down is almost as easy as putting it up. The cross-struts fold in half, and just about fit in the bag with the ends still attached. The long poles take a bit of fiddling to slide out – and if you pull too hard they come apart, which means you have to feed them back together and start again. The storage bag is about 46cm/18” x 15cm/6” in size.
Faults? Well, at 95kgs/210lbs I can feel my hips touching the ground when I sleep on my side. I’m not sure there is much I can do about that but a bit more tension in the central section would help. It’s not a huge problem as I’m barely brushing the floor, but it does mean that any dampness would wick up and into my sleeping bag.
I’d also prefer a more subtle colour than the (admittedly dark) blue colour; a khaki green, desert brown, or even a dull grey would better fit in with my ethos of stealth camping but as I am usually camped next to a silver Jeep, my objections are based more on aesthetic than practical grounds.
As an aside, there are six pairs of lateral poles, which leaves two free spaces on the frame. I plan to buy two more poles, which will mean I’ll have a spare if/when I break one. They’re pretty sturdy but you want to be prepared when you’re camping deep in the Sahara and there isn’t a camping shop for several thousand kilometres…
You can also buy round ‘coasters’ to fit under the feet and I’ll probably get a set of these to help prevent the feet punching their way through the groundsheet of my tent when I use it inside.
The cot will set you back around £200 for the Extra Large size, with the smaller sizes being slightly cheaper. Yes, that is a lot of money but it gave me the most comfortable night’s camping I’ve ever had and for me that’s priceless. That it provides an al fresco experience into the bargain is a very welcome bonus.
Regular size: 183cm/72” long by 61cm/24” wide, weighing 1.62kgs/3lbs 9oz
Large size: 193cm/76” long by 66cm/26” wide, weighing 1.81kgs/3lbs 15oz
Extra Large: 196cm/77” long by 76cm/30” wide, weighing 2.01kgs/4lbs 7oz
Carlton Boyce @motoringjourno