How to Build a Cot for Camping

How to Build a Cot for Camping

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While a night of camping often means sleeping on little more than a mattress pad, you can use an elevated cot to stay off the ground and more comfortable. Cots are available commercially from camping supply stores, but they frequently bear high costs, keeping them out of the budget for most casual campers. However, you can make a simple, affordable cot out of little more than a few PVC pipes, a handful of couplers and a piece of canvas.

Items you will need

  • Heavy-duty canvas

  • Measuring tape

  • Marker

  • Scissors

  • Heavy-duty needle

  • Heavy thread

  • Schedule 40 PVC pipe, 1 ½ inch diameter

  • Hacksaw

  • 4 three-way PVC elbow couplers, 1 ½ inch diameter

  • 4 PVC end caps

Step 1

Measure, mark and cut the canvas to a length of 78 inches and a width of 36 inches using the measuring tape, marker and scissors.

Step 2

Fold the edges of the canvas over and sew them in place with the needle and thread to create a small hem along all four sides. This will prevent the material from fraying with use.

Step 3

Fold over 3 inches of each side and sew each flap into place to create a small sleeve on each side of the canvas.

Step 4

Measure, mark and cut two 80-inch-long lengths of pipe to serve as the left and right support, using the tape measure, marker and hacksaw. Then, measure, mark and cut two 32-inch long pieces of PVC to serve as the head and foot. Finally, measure, mark and cut four 8-inch-long lengths, which will serve as the legs of the cot.

Step 5

Thread the side supports through the sleeves on each side of the canvas. Assemble the frame by attaching a three-way elbow to each end of the side supports. Attach the head and foot pipes to the side supports, and insert a leg into the vacant slot in each three-way elbow. Place an end cap over each of the four feet to keep dirt and debris from entering the pipe.


  • If you are over 6-feet-tall, you may want to make the canvas slightly larger, but be sure to increase the length of the support poles as well.
  • For increased rigidity and stability, you can use Schedule 80 PVC pipe, which has thicker walls. However, these thicker pipes weigh more, which makes it more difficult to lug the cot around.
  • If you do not mind adding an additional 12 pounds or so to your pack, you can use this cot on backpacking trips. Do so by cutting the pipes into smaller sections and using in-line couplers to connect the pipes when it is time to assemble the cot.
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