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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Pads and Air Mattresses > Cascade Designs LuxuryLite Cot > Test Report by Kurt Papke

Cascade Designs LuxuryLite UltraLite Cot

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - April 4, 2013

Field Report - June 11, 2013

Long Term Report - August 6, 2013

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 59
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 235 lbs (107 kg)
Email address: kwpapke at gmail dot com
City, State, Country: Tucson, Arizona USA

My backpacking experience is a combination of Minnesota where I have lived most of my adult life, and Arizona where I moved to take a new job about three years ago.  I have always been a "comfort-weight" backpacker, never counting grams, but still keeping my pack as light as easily attained.  I have been an ardent hammock camper for a number of years, but the Arizona desert limits the places I can hang, so I have been looking for comfortable alternative sleeping gear that does not require trees.

Initial Report

Product Information

Manufacturer's photo
Photo courtesy Cascade Designs

Manufacturer: Cascade Designs
Model:
LuxuryLite UltraLite Cot
Year of manufacture: 2013
MSRP:
US $229.95
Manufacturer website: http://cascadedesigns.com
Color tested:
Gray.  This is the only available color listed on the website.
Materials:
Laminated nylon cover; anodized aluminum poles and nylon feet
Dimensions:
Listed: 4.5 H x 24 W x 72 in L (11 x 61 x 183 cm)
Measured: 4.5 H x 23.5 W x 72 in L (11 x 60 x 183 cm)
Weight:
Listed: 2 lb 12 oz (1247 g) packed weight
Measured: 2 lb 13.8 oz (1298 g) with stuff sack
Weight capacity:
325 lbs (147 kg) maximum in standard setup
175 lbs (79 kg) maximum in lightweight setup

Note that I will not be testing the lightweight setup in any way, as I far exceed the maximum load for that configuration.

All the measured dimensions were reasonably close to the manufacturer's specifications: 1/2 in (1 cm) narrower than spec, 1.8 oz (51 g) weight over spec.

The features listed by the manufacturer include:
  • BowFrame™ Technology: patented technology eliminates painful crossbars, squeaky joints and broken hardware.
  • Ultra Lightweight: so light even backpackers carry it.
  • Super Packable: compact design fits easily in a pannier, portage bag or backpack.
  • Durable Construction: laminated nylon cover is waterproof and stretch-free; anodized aluminum poles and durable nylon feet stand up to heavy use.
  • Three-Minute Set Up: assembles quickly and easily – no tools required.

Initial Inspection

The cot came nicely packaged in a stuff sack with a spec sheet (photo at left).  The first thing I did was pick it up to check the heft of the package - it feels heavy, but the scale does not lie, it really is quite light.

Removing the contents from the stuff sack revealed the components compactly stowed along with the setup instructions (photo at right).
Stuffed cot unstuffed

The side poles are very sturdy, and are designed to be easily assembled with their integral shock cords.  The lateral poles are a smaller diameter. The fabric bed is reinforced nylon - it reminded me of the type of fabric I see frequently used for backpacks.

Trying It Out

Setup instructionsI followed the instructions as shown at left to set up the cot.  I found it quite straightforward, with the exception of a little bit of confusion with the "Standard Setup" section which called for a single bow in the "slots three places from the ends".  It took me a few minutes to realize there was an extra set of slots for the lightweight setup.  Once that made sense to me I was able to complete the setup without issues with the result as shown below.

Assembled cot

I sat down gingerly on the cot, not wanting to break it in my first use, but it really is quite sturdy.  The fabric feels really tough, and though it is very taut on the frame, it has just the right amount of "give".

When I lay down I immediately noticed that I was on a quite narrow platform off the ground.  It feels very different than laying on a similarly-sized sleeping mat on the ground, where I can hang a foot, arm or leg off the side and have it supported by the earth.

On the other hand the cot felt surprisingly long.  I was concerned when I took on this test that it was going to be too short for me, as in theory I am four inches (ten centimeters) longer than the cot.  My feet hang off the end a bit, but not bad at all.

The next thing I noticed is I will need some sort of a pillow with the cot, even if it is a rolled-up fleece.  The surface is very flat, not like the hammocks I have become accustomed to that support the head ever so slightly.

While lying on my back I noticed a slight hyper-extension of my spine.  The twist bows are located near the center of the cot, where strength is needed to support the weight of the torso.  I believe what is happening is the twist bows are slightly more rigid, and do not "give" as much under my weight as the single bows causing the center of the cot to be slightly higher.  I am thinking I will have to mostly sleep on my sides, which is my preferred position.

Rolling onto my side was a very low effort exercise (it is a little tougher in a hammock).  Comfort was good; the bare cot with no pad is much more forgiving than the hard ground, even with a lightweight sleeping pad.

Summary

I am really excited to get the cot out into the field and spend a night in it.  One of the things I have become accustomed to as a hammock camper is having insulation underneath me to prevent a chill, as the open air can very quickly rob me of heat.  I am guessing the cot will have similar thermal characteristics, so I will have to play with various pads to see how much insulation I need to keep warm.

Things I Like So Far:

  • Lightweight, compact package.
  • Quick and easy setup.

Things That Concern Me Upfront:

  • There are a lot of pieces in the package.  The feet are black, and might be easy to lose sight of in the dirt.  I'll have to be careful I don't leave anything behind in the campsite.

Field Report

Field Conditions

Date
Location
Trail
Distance

Terrain/ trail type
Weather
Altitude range
Pad used
April 5-6, 2013
Santa Catalina Mountains, Catalina State Park near Tucson, Arizona Romero Canyon to Old Camp
11 mi
(18 km)
Sky island canyon, very rocky trail Sunny, 45-85 F
(7-29 C)
2700-4700 ft
(820-1430 m)
Therm-a-Rest Prolite 4
May 11-12, 2013
Santa Catalina Mountains near Oracle, Arizona Arizona National Scenic Trail - Oracle Ridge
14 mi
(22.5 km)
Mountain ridgeline, very rocky trail Sunny, very windy, 48-78 F
(9-26 C)
4500-6500 ft
(1370-1980 m)
Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol

Romero Canyon to Old Camp

Old Camp is an historic site in the Santa Catalina Mountains close to where I work and live.  I don't get up there as often as I like, and the wildflowers were in full bloom so it seemed a great spot to spend my first night on the LuxuryLite cot.

I arrived at my campsite after dark and set up camp:
First night
It took me 12 minutes to set up the cot in the dark using a headlamp.  Not bad for the first time.  I believe I'll get more efficient the more I go through the motions, and can learn to economize the steps.

One thing I noticed while I was setting up: the bows must be attached with the cover upside-down, in the dirt.  After completing the assembly, the cover top was very dusty and dirty.  Most of the dust brushed right off, and I put my pad on top of the cover, so my sleeping bag stayed clean.

As is visible in the above photo, both my pad and my sleeping bag are slightly longer than the cot.  My feet stuck over the end, but I was very comfortable.  I spent most of the night sleeping on my side, due to the spine hyper-extension issue I pointed out previously.  I considered putting some dirt under a few of the end legs to elevate them to reduce the hyper-extension, but I was too tired to experiment in the dark.  I spent a *very* comfortable night on the cot, arguably the most comfortable night I have ever spent on the ground (or close to it).  I had to get up once during the night, and had no problems getting out of or back into the cot in the dark.  It sits very close to the ground, but I had no difficulty standing up or sitting back down on it.  When I returned to the cot in the middle of the night I noticed my pad was slightly off-center, but it does not seem to slip once I lay down.  I'm guessing it moved when I was sitting down/standing up from the cot.

Tear down the next morning was very fast, just a few minutes required to break down the cot and stuff it back in the sack.  I did not pack the feet carefully, I just threw them in the sack.  As a result it was not quite as compact as before when I carefully repacked the poles into feet rings, but I had plenty of room in my pack.

Overall I would classify my first experience as a great success!  The cot carried easily, went up and disassembled quickly, and was exceptionally comfortable (with the pad used).  Note that I used the pad for warmth underneath me, not for comfort.  In future trips I will experiment with other pads, or none at all to arrive at a good balance of comfort and weight.

Oracle Ridge

Oracle Ridge is a nearby segment of the Arizona National Scenic Trail that is only 45 minutes from my home, but not heavily used.  This was my first backpack on this segment.  The trail follows a very steep ridgeline, and I saw very few level spots where I could set up the cot.  Right around the time I was getting really tired I encountered an area near a saddle that was perfect for camping.  It took me about 10 minutes to set up the cot this time:

Cot on Oracle Ridge

As can be seen from the above photo, the terrain was pretty rocky, not a great spot to be sleeping directly on the ground.  It was *very* windy while I was setting the cot up, and it is light enough that it might make a pretty good kite!  The only time during setup that the wind mattered was when I was sliding the poles into the sleeves.

It was a little chilly in the evening as the wind did not die down as the sun set, so I curled up to read in my sleeping bag on the cot.  This was reasonably comfortable - I laid on my side and leaned on an elbow.  When I got tired I fell asleep on the cot in minutes - it really is quite comfortable.

The next morning when I awoke my back was a bit sore.  I was sleeping on my back for a while, and I think my spine was slightly hyper-extended because I really did not try and find a spot that that made sure the ends were as high or higher than the middle of the cot.  The side poles are very flexible, so the cot will definitely conform to the ground profile when weighted down.  Something to remember for next time!

Summary

Overall I am very pleased with the UltraLite cot.  It has done exactly what I hoped it would: give me a comfortable place to sleep up off the ground for areas that do not have sufficient trees to hang a hammock.

Good things:

  • Lightweight and compact enough for my backpacks (I've carried it in two different packs so far)
  • Reasonably fast and simple setup
  • Very fast and simple tear-down
  • Comfortable, especially with a pad

Areas for possible improvement:

  • It would be nice to not have to step on the cot in the dirt to set it up.  It cleans off easily, but in the backcountry I do not bring materials for cleaning the top of the cot.  This has not been a material problem for me so far, as I have always used the cot with a pad for warmth.

Long Term Report

Field Conditions

Date
Location
Trail
Distance

Terrain/ trail type
Weather
Altitude range
Pad used
June 14-16, 2013 Huachuca Mtns near Sierra Vista, Arizona Carr Canyon
12 mi
(19 km)
Sky island canyon and ridgelines, very rocky trail Sunny, 50-80 F
(10-27 C)
7200-9462 ft
(2200-2884 m)
Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol
June 21-22, 2013
Huachuca Mtns near Sierra Vista, Arizona AZT
19 mi
(31 km)
Sky island canyon and ridgelines Sunny, 55-85 F
(13-29 C)
5600-8500 ft
(1710-2590 m)
Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol
July 5-7, 2013 Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness north of Mammoth, Arizona Aravaipa
28 mi
(45 km)
Creek running through canyon + slot canyon Sunny, 70-100 F
(21-38 C)
2550-4000 ft
(780-1220 m)
None
July 26-28, 2013 Huachuca Mtns near Sierra Vista, Arizona Crest Trail
11.5 mi
(18.5 km)
Sky island canyons and ridgelines Sunny/rain mix, 55-80 F
(13-27 C)
6600-9000 ft
(2010-2740 m)
None

Carr Canyon

I have had good intentions of backpacking the Huachuca Mountains for some time, and finally made it there for a 3-day/2 night trip.  The first night was car-camping at a National Forest campground just a few steps from the trailhead:

At Reef campsite

It might not be clear from the picture, but this is a different sleeping bag than I have used before with the cot.  It gives slightly more knee room, which seems to encourage me to sleep on my side more.  The cot is quite narrow, and when sleeping on my side for extended period the side support poles do put some pressure on my legs.  It is not like sleeping on the ground on a thin pad where my knees are supported by the ground.  I'll have to experiment in the future with putting some clothing next to my knees for padding.

Night number two was on top of a ridgeline.  This was at quite a bit more altitude than the night before and the wind blew pretty well.  The good news is I set a new world record for assembling the cot: just over seven minutes!!  Here's the setup in the back country:

Cot in the Huachucas

Same issues with side sleeping on night two, but slept extremely well nonetheless!!

Arizona National Scenic Trail - Huachuca Mountains Passage

Same mountains as the prior weekend, but starting from the Arizona Trail (AZT) trailhead on the west side of the range.  I car-camped near the trailhead on Friday night, a pleasant spot to spend a night on the cot near scenic Parker Canyon Lake.

Cot at Parker Canyon Lake

A little different tarp pitch than I have been using due to the strong winds out of the west.  This was the first night using the cot that I got a little irritated with the narrow width.  It was hard for me to get really comfortable on my side.  The dirt on the top of the cot is visible in the picture above.  No matter how clean the cot is when I set out on a trip, as soon as I set it up with the top on the ground it gets pretty dirty.

I carried the cot in my backpack during a very long day of hiking, fully intending to spend a second night out on the trail, but for whatever reason I finished what was supposed to be a 2-day hike in one day and drove home on Saturday night.

Aravaipa

It had been four years since I had been to Aravaipa Canyon, and I wanted to explore more than I did last time so I got a permit for a 3-day trip.  This was a low-altitude hike, so the nighttime lows were expected to be warm enough that I did not bring a pad.  Indeed, the nights were warm and humid enough that I either slept directly on the cot, or on top of my sleeping bag.  I was more than warm enough.

The cot did not feel any less comfortable without a pad.  I noticed that the cot fabric did stain a bit from sweat when I lay directly on it without my sleeping bag.  This effect was cosmetic only.

My companions tried out the cot for comfort on the first morning.  They had spent a restless night sleeping on a minimalist pad that was painful when sleeping on their side.  They were so impressed with the comfort of the UltraLite Cot that one of them asked for an UltraLite Cot as a Christmas present!

Here's a photo of the cot setup on night one of the trip:

Aravaipa campsite

Crest Trail

I returned the Huachuca Mountains looking for a respite from the hot and humid Tucson monsoon season, only to run into rainstorms.  I didn't get a lot of mileage in, but I did get a break from the heat.  I was trying to lighten my pack on this trip, so even though I was going to be at altitudes where temperatures would be cooler, I left my sleeping pads at home.

The first night I used my fleece pullover as a pillow, and was a little chilled beneath me wherever my sleeping bag insulation was compressed by my body weight.  The cot does not offer any insulation underneath, so the cool night air can rob heat if no pad is used.  On the second night I used a bundle of clothes for a pillow, wore my fleece during the night, and was plenty warm despite similar temperatures as night one.  My bottom line: below temperatures of about 60 F (15 C), I will either carry a sleeping pad or make sure I have extra torso insulation.

Both nights were spent on wet ground.  It was nice to not have a muddy sleeping pad or ground cloth to deal with in the morning.

One aspect of assembly that I have been experiencing all along finally became irritating on this trip: when inserting the shock-corded side poles into their slots, they inevitably get caught up in the holes provided for the foot hooks:

Pole meets hole

Of course it seems to happen the most often with the holes farthest away from the slot opening, where I am pushing the tube through.  I have to walk down to the other end of the pole, insert it under the flap, walk back and continue pushing until it hits the next hole.  I have become pretty proficient at manipulating the side pole as I slide it in to avoid the problem, but it happens at least once or twice on every assembly.  I'm not sure how the designers could work around this problem, but it would remove a great deal of aggravation if they could.

Summary

The only thing I would update from the Field Report summary was my feelings about comfort.  The UltraLite Cot is narrow, which is no issue when sleeping on my back or stomach, but can be a bit of an issue when sleeping on my side in a fetal-type position with my knees up.  The side bars do create some pressure spots on the side of my legs in this position.

My bottom line on this piece of gear is it sure beats sleeping on the ground.  It kept me away from bugs and other crawly things (important for me when I camp with a tarp), and is more comfortable than the typical lightweight backpacking sleeping pad located on the ground.  The comfort piece really comes from the fact that I do not feel the ground itself, even if it is very rocky which many of my campsites often are.  It also can be used directly on wet, muddy ground without need for a ground cloth.

The Ultralite Cot has also been very reliable for me considering it is so lightweight.  It appears flimsy at first, but for a person of my size and weight to use it steadily for four months and have zero breakdowns is pretty darn good in my book.  I neither coddled it nor mistreated it during the test period, just normal use.

I have been giving some thought to how I will use the cot in the future now that the testing is completed.  One of my planned uses is actually for my wife on a future trip to the Grand Canyon.  She sometimes has sore hips and does not relish sleeping on the ground, so I will likely bring it for her use in these situations.  It weighs a little more than a typical backpacking sleeping pad, but it is far more comfortable, and sometimes comfort trumps weight.


Thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and Cascade Designs for the opportunity to contribute to this test.



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