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In this guide
Spotting the differences between people with kids and people without them is never more obvious than when it comes to holidays. People without kids might enjoy long lie-ins without being interrupted by the bawl of a baby. Or lazy days drinking around the pool, where they don’t need to worry about their bestseller being destroyed by an over-enthusiastic cannonball. People with kids? Not so much.
At least a portacot (also called a portable cot or travel cot) makes where baby sleeps easy. The best travel cot is easy to set up, pack down, carry around and store. Most importantly, it’s a safe sleeping spot for baby. Read on to discover Australia's best portable cot, which has been chosen from hours of research, especially into safety features.
How we picked
For something as important as a sleeping spot for baby, we knew we needed to get some expert insights. That’s why we headed to CHOICE, Australia’s leading consumer advocacy group. They put a range of portacots through their paces, checking for compliance with mandatory and voluntary standards, plus other things, like ease of use.
Unfortunately, not many portable cots made the cut. Weighing up passes and failures, we made a selection of travel cots that we felt comfortable recommending.
We then headed to ProductReview.com.au, Australia’s first consumer opinion site. This let us know which portacots Aussie parents rate. As well as their safety, we considered things like their availability, features and price. This gave us just 5 of the best travel cots.
Before we get into the good stuff, we’ve got to cover something really important: safety. Because your baby is going to be sleeping in a portacot, it’s important it’s safe. Here’s how to check your portable cot is safe and how to use it safely.
Check it complies with standards: all portable costs sold in Australia must meet the mandatory standard based on sections of the Australia New Zealand Standard: AS / NZS 2195:1999. This standard states that the folding mechanism must be secure, there are no gaps to trap baby’s head, the mattress must be safe and that the portacot comes with adequate safety warnings. There’s a more recent 2010 Standard, but it’s not mandatory for manufacturers to comply with this (yeah, we know). This standard includes a test for breathable zones, in case baby rolls face-first against the sides. The first thing to check for is a label or sticker that confirms the portacot meets the mandatory standard.
Check it’s not been recalled: before buying, use the Product Safety Australia website to check it’s not been recalled.
Only use the mattress provided: researching and writing this guide has been terrifying. That’s because we’ve come across so many complaints about the mattresses provided with portacots. A lot of people feel like they’re too hard, firm and uncomfortable for baby. So, they opt for a softer mattress to put on top or use instead. Or they add soft padding. We can’t stress this enough: please don’t do this. Supplied portacot mattresses should always be firm, thin and well-fitting because they’ve been specifically designed for the portacot. A well-fitting mattress with no gaps helps avoid trapping baby’s head. Adding a second mattress or additional padding over or under the mattress poses a suffocation risk. Baby could become trapped in gaps between the mattress and the side. It can also make the travel cot too shallow, meaning your older child could easily climb out.
… and follow safe sleeping steps
- Red Nose, Australia’s leading authority on safe sleep, recommends the following safe sleeping steps. Whether baby’s in their usual cot or a portacot, these steps should always be followed:
- Sleep your baby on their back, not on their tummy or side.
- Keep your baby’s head and face uncovered.
- Keep your baby smoke free before and after birth.
- Have a safe sleeping environment night and day. Make sure the mattress is firm, clean and flat, in a safe (porta)cot that meets industry standards. Make sure there are no blankets, toys, pillows, or bumpers in the cot.
- Sleep your baby in your room. The safest place to sleep your baby for the first 12 months is in a safe cot next to your bed.
- Breastfeed your baby where possible.
Always read the instructions provided: they show you how to safely set up, use and pack down your travel cot.
Make sure it’s got good ventilation: the sides should be mostly made from breathable mesh that goes all the way to the floor of the cot.
Check for no wear and tear: Only use a portable cot that has intact mesh and no broken parts, including ties for the mattress. Look for anything that’s poking out that could catch baby’s clothes or provide a climbing foothold. Check it regularly for wear and tear.
Ensure the base is flat: Baby must sleep on a firm, flat surface.
Watch where you put it: Don’t put a portacot beside blind cords, power points, windows or other hazards.
Don’t add anything: Pillows, cot bumpers and soft toys are a suffocation risk. Plus, they can be used to climb out.
Stop use once baby is big enough: Once baby weighs more than 15kg or can undo any latches or ties, it’s time to stop using the portacot.
The best portacot for most
Choose this if
Great safety? Tick. More than just a portacot? Tick. Great price? Tick. No wonder we reckon the Target Adventure V2 3-in-1 Portacot is Australia’s best travel cot. It combines a portable cot with a bassinet and a change table. It’s just $99 and is currently the only portacot that CHOICE recommends.
What we love
Recommended by CHOICE
It’s the only portable cot that’s currently recommended by CHOICE, which means it passes key safety tests - a top priority for all parents.
At $99, it’s very affordable, especially compared to other picks.
You’re not just getting a travel cot, you’re getting a bassinet and change table too.
To stop bugs interrupting baby’s (and your) sleep.
It comes with a mattress and a carry bag so you’ve got everything you need.
The not so good bits
At around 12.5kg, it’s not the lightest.
Once it’s up, moving it around isn’t very easy because it doesn’t have wheels.
Hard to pack
A lot of Target customers mention that there are lots of parts to fit into the somewhat flimsy bag.
The Target Adventure V2 3-in-1 Portacot is proof that the best portable cot isn’t necessarily the most expensive. It’ll set you back $99. Price isn’t the only reason we love it - the earlier version of this portacot is the only one that’s recommended by CHOICE in their latest testing. This means it passes key safety tests. We reckon safety’s the most important thing to consider when buying a portable cot.
Apart from its excellent safety, it also represents excellent value for money. As the name tells you, you’re getting 3 things in 1. As well as being a travel cot, it’s got a bassinet, which means the base can be raised for babies under 6 months old. It’s also got a clip-on change table.
To keep baby bug-free, it has a mosquito net. It comes with a mattress (psst - check out our FAQs for why you should always use the mattress that comes with a portacot and never add your own) and a carry bag. Target reckons it’s suitable from birth and it’ll last baby up to 36 months / 15kg / 90cm tall.
Although it’s not on ProductReview.com.au, it has well over 150 positive reviews on the Target website, giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars. (Note most of these are incentivised.)
It’s pretty heavy, coming in around 12.5kgs. It doesn’t have wheels to move it around either, so make sure you put it up where you want it to go. A lot of Target customers mention that the bag is a bit flimsy so putting it away can be tricky, with lots of poles and parts to squeeze in.
Loved by Aussies
Choose this if
For convenience, you can’t go past the BABYBJÖRN Travel Cot Light. Easy to set up, it’s also lightweight (6kg) and super compact. This makes it easy to store or squeeze into a crowded car boot. It’s currently the #1 portacot on ProductReview.com.au, but it has a huge RRP: $500.
What we love
It weighs 6kg in its bag, so it’s easy to carry.
Measuring 49cm x 60cm x 14cm when in its bag, it’ll easily fit into a packed car boot.
Easy to set up
There’s just 1 movement to set it up.
No loose parts
When you pack it down, you don’t need to separate legs or poles, it all collapses together.
Wide stable base
Its triangular shape keeps things stable.
Ideal for safety, hot nights and keeping an eye on baby - there are no panels of other fabric to block your view.
Both the cot fabric and the mattress cover are machine washable.
It’s got a mattress, mattress cover and a handy carry bag.
Loved by Aussie parents
It’s currently the top rated portacot on ProductReview.com.au.
The not so good bits
Just a portable cot
No bassinet, no change table, no toys - just a cot.
RRP $500, it’s not very affordable, especially if you’ll only use it a few times in the around 3 years it’ll last.
Aussie parents have spoken - the best portable cot is the BABYBJÖRN Travel Cot Light. It’s currently the #1 rated portacot on ProductReview.com.au. It gets almost 5 stars from around 130 reviews.
Why? Because this thing is seriously lightweight, compact and easy to use. It only weighs 6kg, including the carry bag. It’s got no loose parts to lug around. When popped inside its carry bag, it measures just 49cm x 60cm x 14cm.
Set up is simple, it involves one movement - ideal for tired, cranky parents after a long journey. We love the wide, built-in base which keeps it stable and secure.
We also love that it’s made out of breathable mesh, so you can keep an eye on baby and they can look around. Plus, it’s ideal for hot summer nights. All materials meet the OEKO-TEX Standard 100, Class 1 for baby products. This means they’re sensitive skin-friendly and safe to taste, for baby’s inevitable chewing.
If things get messy, both the cot fabric and the mattress cover is machine washable. We reckon the fact you can remove and wash the mattress cover is a bonus.
BABYBJÖRN says it’s suitable from newborn to around 3 years, or until your toddler can climb out of it. There’s no upper weight limit. It comes with a mattress, a removable mattress cover and a carry bag. The downside? Its RRP $500 price.
The best lightweight portacot
Choose this if
If you want the lightest portacot possible, meet the Phil & Teds traveller. It weighs less than 3kg. Compact, it packs down to around the size of a yoga mat, making travelling a breeze. We love the zip-down side for back-friendly access. We not so love CHOICE’s safety concerns (read our review for details).
What we love
It weighs less than 3kg, making it ideal for travelling.
It packs away into a bag around the size of a yoga mat.
Aussie parents love the zip-down side that’s kind on backs when settling or feeding baby.
Breathable mesh sides
For safety and easy viewing of baby.
Comes with everything you need
Including a carry bag, inflatable mattress and fitted sheet.
It’s racked up a few awards.
The not so good bits
CHOICE has stated the traveller fails key safety tests. Although the Phil & Teds website states that it’s “firm sleep surface approved”, we haven’t found the evidence for this.
Just a portacot
Although we like the flexibility of the zip-down side, you’re still just getting a portable cot, nothing else.
Phil & Teds reckons it takes less than 2 minutes to put up. Judging by the number of parts it has, we reckon this isn’t quite true.
Before we get into why we reckon the Phil & Teds traveller is the best lightweight portacot, we want to be honest with you. CHOICE named this portable cot as one (of many) that failed key safety requirements, including mandatory standards. The biggest failure is that neither the cot nor the supplied mattress has a base of rigid material or a firm flat base. Both of these things pose a suffocation risk to your baby. In response to CHOICE’s findings, Phil & Teds states that they have ‘third party verification of compliance to the mandatory standard’.
On their website, it says the traveller is “firm sleep surface approved” and that its mattress “passes the test” for not being overly soft. There’s no link to this verification and we haven’t been able to find evidence of this. We’re not passing judgment on this, but giving you the facts as we’ve found them. Ready to move on?
Ok, so the Phil & Teds traveller is seriously lightweight. It weighs less than 3kg - that’s about half of the BABYBJÖRN Travel Cot Light. Packed into its bag, it measures 65cm x 20cm x 20cm, so it’s compact too. Phil & Teds reckons you can assemble it in under 2 minutes. Judging by the overwhelming number of parts it’s packing, we’re not sure we believe that.
It has a side you can zip down, which means when baby’s not sleeping in it, it can be used as a playpen. Or as an Aussie parent points out on ProductReview.com.au, for easy night feeds while camping. It’s also great for saving your back when you’re settling baby down to sleep.
Like the BABYBJÖRN Travel Cot Light, its sides are breathable mesh, with nothing to stop you seeing inside. It comes with a carry bag plus a thermally insulated and self-inflating mattress and1 removable, washable fitted sheet. It’s made from OEKO-TEX® certified fabric, which means it’s free from health-hazardous substances.
It’s suitable from birth until your little one can climb out or reaches 89cm in height. Phil & Teds says this is around 2 years old.
It’s award winning, picking up a Gold in the Australian Mother & Baby Magazine Awards 2017, travel cot category. It’s also highly commended at the Editor’s Choice Awards Pregnancy & Parenting 2018. On ProductReview.com.au, it gets almost 4 stars from around 70 reviews. Aussies love how lightweight and compact it is. It’ll set you back around RRP $230.
Others worth considering
Another lightweight offering, the Vee Bee Amado Travel & Play Cot weighs just under 4kg. This makes it light and easy to move around and travel with. It folds flat for easy carrying and storage. It has breathable mesh walls for great visibility of baby and safety. Plus, they’re removable and washable for easy care.
It works on a simple folding mechanism for quick set up (no multiple parts here). It comes with a carry bag and mattress and a reasonable RRP of $150.
Again, it’s failed CHOICE’s key safety tests - the mattress isn’t firm enough. Although according to the manual, this portacot meets Australian New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 2195 Folding Cots – Safety requirements. A key requirement of this standard is that the mattress must be firm enough.
The Babyhood Bambino Dormire offers 2 levels of use: as a portacot and as a bassinet, which makes it great for younger babies, then growing with them.
Babyhood is keen to stress all the safety features on the Bambino Dormire. These include the fact that it’s been tested to fully comply with Australian standards, including the non-mandatory ones that came in in 2010 (AS/NZS 2195:2010 Requirements for Folding Cots). It also has multiple independent locking systems and an anti-collapse leg. Following CHOICE testing, they’ve made changes to the mesh breathable zones to ensure they don’t pose a suffocation risk.
We like that it folds into itself for easy set up and pack down. It weighs around 10kg so it’s a little heavy. But it does have 2 lockable wheels so you can move it around easily, once assembled.
It comes with a mattress and a carry bag and a RRP of $299. It gets over 4 stars from over 10 reviews on ProductReview.com.au and is multi award-winning. It was awarded Gold in the most popular travel cot category at the Australian Mother & Baby Magazine Awards 2015, among others.
The bottom line
Every parent knows the key to a happy holiday, is a happy, well-rested baby. That’s where a portacot (or travel cot or portable cot) comes in. A safe spot for baby to lie their head, the best portable cot is easy to set up and pack down. It’s light to carry around and easy to store when you’re done. It comes with its own safe mattress and carry bag. Most importantly, it meets Australian safety standards.
We think the Target Adventure V2 3-in-1 Portacot is Australia’s best travel cot. Currently Australia’s safest portacot, it’s the only one recommended by CHOICE in their latest testing. It gets full marks for its safety performance. The cherries on top? The price (just $99) and 3-in-1 functionality - it’s a bassinet and change table too. It does weigh 12.5kg though.
Aussie parents love the BABYBJÖRN Travel Cot Light. It’s currently the #1 portable cot on ProductReview.com.au with parents loving how easy it is to set up. It’s compact and lightweight, coming in around 6kg, making it ideal for slinging around. We love the removable, washable mattress cover to help keep things clean. We’re not such fans of the price: a whopping RRP $500.
The Phil & Teds traveller puts other portacots’ weight to shame: it weighs less than 3kg, making it seriously lightweight. It packs down to about the size of a yoga mat, which means it’s plane / crammed car boot-friendly. The unique zip down side makes it a great playpen when baby’s not asleep. It also makes settling and feeding baby a breeze. It’s award-winning and comes with a bag, mattress and fitted sheet. CHOICE has some safety concerns about the lack of firmness of the mattress and base which Phil & Teds disagrees with.
Features to consider
The number one feature to consider? Safety. We’ve covered that at the top of this guide (get a refresher). Here’s what else to look for.
Ease of use
If you’re using a portacot, chances are you’re travelling. So you’re going to be tired and possibly cranky when it comes time to put it up. Check how easy it is to set up. Does it have lots of parts and pieces? Or does it open in 1 movement (like the BABYBJÖRN Travel Cot Light)? How long will it take to set up?
You’re going to be moving and carrying it around a lot so make sure it’s easy and comfortable to carry. Anything over 10kg is going to be awkward.
If you’re flying, you’re going to need something as compact as possible (think the BABYBJÖRN Travel Cot Light or Phil & Teds traveller). Given how much stuff a baby needs, space might be limited, even if you’re driving. Plus, when you’re not using it, you need to store it. So make sure you understand how big it is when it’s packed away.
All portacots we reviewed included a carry bag. You really need one of these to pack everything away neatly. An included one means it’s perfectly sized for your portacot.
Look for locking mechanisms on the rails that stop accidental collapse. Check that the cot floor is sturdy, rigid and doesn’t sag.
What you get if you spend more
Judging by the travel cots in our guide, spend more and you’ll get a brand name, like BABYBJÖRN. You’ll probably also get a much lighter weight portacot.
We found some portacots that had all the bells and whistles. These included mosquito nets and toys. We didn’t find any we felt happy to recommend though.
Can I put a mattress in a portacot?
Most portacots come with a mattress. They’ve been specially designed for the portacot, so they’ll fit really well, with no gaps for baby to get trapped down. A portable cot mattress won’t feel like your usual bed mattress. They’re normally thin and quite hard or firm. This makes a safe sleeping environment for baby.
Add a plush or thick mattress or other soft layer, and you’re upping the suffocation risk - baby could slip between the mattress and the side. It also might make the portacot too high so a toddler could climb up and out.
So no, you can’t put a mattress in a portacot.
Can I use a portacot all the time?
A portacot is normally more affordable than a standard cot (although BABYBJÖRN obviously didn’t get that memo). Which means it can seem appealing to use one all the time. But portacots aren’t designed or intended for daily use. They’re nowhere near as sturdy and durable as a standard cot. Plus, you normally need to bend down a lot more to pick baby up from a portacot. Your back won’t thank you for that.
Are portacots safe?
If a portacot complies with Australian standards, it should be safe. Look for a label or sticker that mentions Australia New Zealand Standard: AS / NZS 2195:1999. There’s also an updated 2010 Standard but this isn’t mandatory.
Or how to move your sleeping baby, without waking them (not guaranteed).
Or how to get stuff done while still being close to your baby.