While you can’t expect to have every creature comfort when you’re camping (it’s called “roughing it” for a reason), there are things you should own to make your outdoor experience as pleasant as possible. Over the years, I’ve camped countless times and tried many good and not-so-good products. These days, I’ve whittled down my gear to just the essentials with the greatest return on investment. (I’m going to assume that if you’ve gotten to this point, you already have essentials like a tent or a sleeping bag or hiking boots.) From extra-reliable light sources to guaranteed clean water, this is the stuff that any experienced outdoorsman or outdoorswoman will be glad they brought along.
The BioLite CampStove 2 completes two important campsite tasks at the same time: It cooks your food and it powers up small electrical devices, such as a phone, camera, or a flashlight. How? By converting heat energy into electricity. You simply build a small fire in this compact stove’s chamber, then turn on its internal fan, which controls heat intensity by feeding more or less air to the fire. The hotter the fire, the more power you generate, and of course, the faster you can boil water or cook your meal. I love this thing because it’s a perfect example of an upgrade to a classic, essential piece of hardware.
When you’re hiking, climbing, or even just car-camping, you’re going to require more hydration than normal. But you’re also going to be much farther away from a reliable source of clean drinking water. With this water bottle’s filtration system, though, you can drink almost any water found anywhere with impunity. The internal filter will remove 99.9 percent of waterborne parasites, bacteria, and other unwanted contaminants, and each replaceable filter can service up to 26 gallons of water. So go ahead and dip the bottle into that stream, lake, or river, screw on the cap, and sip away. Just don’t drink seawater — that still won’t work.
Every time I go camping, one of the first things on my campsite-setup checklist is hanging my Coleman Quad Pro lantern somewhere near the middle of the site. That way, as soon as the sun goes down, I can light up a few dozen square feet at the push of a button. This lantern uses eight different LED panels to shine bright light in 360 degrees, and it can shine on its brightest setting for almost a full day, and on its lowest setting for more than two weeks! Each LED panel can also be popped off to serve as its own smaller lantern, casting 180 degrees of light, or used as flashlights.
Folding chairs are not exactly high-tech, are they? But a lightweight folding rocker that uses a pair of pistons to generate relaxing rocking motion in a chair that weighs only 12 pounds but can support 250 pounds? That’s impressive engineering, friends. I have used my GCI Outdoor FirePit Rocker on four or five camping trips, but more often than not I use the thing in my own backyard. We have large rattan-style outdoor seating, but frankly this thing is just more comfortable. Also, it has a cup holder attached.
You know what’s totally awful? Shuffling half-asleep back toward your tent after a midnight nature call and stepping on a tent stake or tripping over a guyline. However, imagine if said stakes were illuminated, easily lighting up the cords and stakes used to secure your tent while also adding a bit of soft light to your campsite. UCO Gear Stakelights are exactly what they sound like: They are lightweight, extra-strength aluminum tent stakes that have LED lights built into the upper portion of the shaft. You can use them as tent stakes or to light up a path, or you can pop the compact LED panels off and use them for lighting in your tent; they’re perfect for reading, checking a map, and more.
All right, I know I made a big deal about roughing it, but you probably need to charge your phone (and camera and laptop). With the RAVPower Solar Charger, you can juice up two devices at the same time, provided you can get some direct sunshine beaming down into the unit’s four panels. In fact, in the right conditions, it can generate 16 watts of power, which can fully power up your dead phone in just over an hour.
[Editor’s note: This exact product is no longer available, but RAVPower now sells a (smaller and slightly cheaper) Portable Charger Solar Power Bank that can also simultaneously charge two devices and recharge via sunlight. While the brand doesn’t specify how many watts of power the charger can generate, it says the device’s battery capacity can recharge an iPhone 8 up to seven times.]
Right up there with the fun of tripping over a tent stake is the fun of sweating away inside your tent, but with a compact, battery-powered ceiling fan whirring overhead, your tent will be much cooler and more tolerable, even on a hot summer night. And as the Image Camping Lantern and Ceiling Fan also has three banks of LED lights, you can enjoy overhead illumination along with your air circulation. One set of batteries should get you about three nights of cooling.
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