Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Frugal Home-Made Camp Cot

Owning a pop-up camper would be really nice, but for our family, there are a million things that rank above that on our wish list. So we make the most of our tenting experience. To do that, the first thing we did was invest in some camp mats.

For the boys, the inexpensive self-inflating foam mats from Walmart ($19 each) worked fine. For my husband and I, we chose a double wide self inflating foam core mat from Cabela's --mainly because my husband had a gift card we needed to use. It is really nice, and well made and all (like what you would expect from Cabela's), but you still have to get up and down off the floor. For me and my TB (tiny bladder), that means lots of nighttime trips to the bathroom where my boys are lucky if I don't get dizzy getting up from the floor and step on them!

Thus, earlier this summer, we decided to look into buying a cot to put the mat on. Only, no one (not even Cabela's) sells one this big without having a tent or an air mattress attached to it.

We tried putting the mat on two of my friend's fold up camp chair style cots and they had too much sag. It made my husband and I feel like we were sleeping on opposite sides of a mountain. Not good. Plus, their leg structure made it impossible to use the space beneath.

So we decided to see if we could make something. Really, all we needed was a platform and something to support it. A piece of 1/2 inch plywood was soon cut to the dimensions of the mat.
We cut handle holes along the top and sides to make it easier to move around, and put it on top of four brand new five gallon buckets from Rural King. (We love Rural King!) All told, we spent around $15 for the plywood and $12 for the buckets.
It turned out great! There was even enough room under the bed for my boys to each slide their own camp mats and sleeping bags under to save space. It was kind of like a family bunk bed! The extra space was wonderful, not to mention the height (for me) was perfect! Not sleeping on the ground Works For Me! Accomplishing it frugally is icing on the cake! Oh, yes, and we packed other camp supplies in the buckets to transport them.

Besides camping in the backyard with it several times this summer, we also used it as a spare bed when we had large groups of visitors. When not in use, we just lean the plywood against the wall and stack the buckets in the garage.

I could/should end this post now, but there is more (unnecessary and impulsive spending) which I must confess.

We were all set to go camping this past weekend with our homemade cot, and I happened to see these Coleman Ridgeline Camp Beds at Walmart last week. (We probably should not have gone back to the camping section, but who can resist when you're all geared up?) Anyway, the more we looked at them, the more we really liked how lightweight they were and how nicely they folded up. Pretty nifty! Oh, and they came with their own little foam mat. They ran around $42 each (not so nifty).
Long story short, we bought two and tried them under our big mat at home. We then put the little mats on the big one and made the bed up with sheets and blankets. It was incredibly comfortable!! So this is what we actually decided to take with us this weekend.
Here's my little bundle of joy pretending to be sleeping on our bed. You didn't think a four year old would really take a nap while we camped, did you? Alas, no such luck. But he slept well at night in his own pack-n-play and for that, I'm thankful.

Sorry, I got sidetracked. Back to the cot thing. We didn't fully vet (is that the word for it?) the idea before we left. One big downside we found of using the cots instead of the buckets and plywood was that there was less clearance for my two older boys. The cots only gave them about 12 inches, whereas the buckets had given them 15 inches. O.K., lesson learned. But, if they would have simply stayed on their backs, they would have been just fine! Honestly. Rolling over is highly over-rated . . .lol!

Anyway, I set them up side by side when we got home and compared them, but it's hard to see in the picture.

For our comfort, either idea is far better than using the mat on the floor. But for the boys, the home-made frugal one works much better.

What will we do next time? Definitely take the plywood and buckets (maybe with a sheet of foam from Walmart for that luxury feeling!). It is nicer for the boys to have a little more wiggle room. Besides they'll probably go and grow over the winter and need the space even more!


Heather said...

I never would have thought to bring a cot along when camping! This is just the thing I need, as I can't stand feeling every little rock under me when I try to sleep.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great idea... we have been looking at "cheap" popup campers and have decided to stick with tenting for now ("cheap" is such a relative term, isn't it?)... any ideas to make the experience more "frugally fun" are so very much appreciated.