As a kid, vacation with the family meant you were going on a camping trip. From Pennsylvania Amish country down to the wild Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, dad would tote my mother, two brothers and I for weeklong trips of hiking, fishing and sightseeing with a peaceful campsite serving as our base of operations. Somewhere along the line, mostly thanks to work-related travel, hotels began replacing the tents in my life.
As a father of three now, I’m working to change back from hotel stays to roughing it by tent camping. But as my wife and kids learn about the joys of camping, there’s one big difference from how I experienced it as a kid. Thanks to all of the technological advances in today’s camping equipment, it hardly ever seems like we are really “roughing” it. Whether you’re setting up a camp from which to hunt or fish, or just enjoying the weekend with the family, the following gear is sure to make your time in any camp you set easier, more comfortable and more enjoyable.
Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack
Whether packing a sleeping bag, clothes or other soft items, Sea to Summit’s eVent Compression Dry Sackis believed by many knowledgeable campers and backpackers to be the best.
The valve-free sack uses a breathable 70-denier nylon, polyurethane-coated waterproof fabric, which amazingly allows air to be pushed out, yet keeps water from seeping in. A roll-top Hypalon closure with a lid and four straps help evenly compress the bag and its contents and hold it at its most compressed size. Available in five sizes. ($24-$45)
Yeti Roadie 20
With most camps accessible by vehicle, ATV or packhorse, a cooler is a must for a modern camping adventurer. And while these coolers are pricey, they work better than any other I’ve ever seen.
The Yeti Roadie 20 is 20 inches by 13 3/8 inches by 14 3/8 inches, and is among the smaller and more easily packed of the Yeti coolers. These rugged coolers can take a beating and in normal conditions will keep ice for days. On a Florida hunt this spring, my guide’s Yeti sat in the direct sun for three days and still had ice in it! The walls of the Yeti are twice as thick as most other coolers and a full-frame gasket, T-Rex lid latches and NeverFail Hinge System help keep cold in and heat out. ($200)
Coleman Instant Tent
Few things are more aggravating—and perhaps more daunting for new campers—than pitching a tent. Thanks to the folks at Coleman, one of the biggest names in camping equipment, that is no longer the case when using a model from their Instant Tent line.
Boasting an average set up time of only one minute, pitching a tent may now be the easiest part of setting up camp. The tents feature the company’s WeatherTec System, which keeps water out. The system is aided by Instant Tent’s heavy-duty, 150D fabric, which is twice the thickness of the normal fabric used in making tents.
The line includes models made to sleep fiour, six or right people. ($165-$310).
ThermaCELL has been around for a while, but if you haven’t tried one in the summer when bugs are biting, then you’re missing out. These things are truly essential for enjoying a bite-free time in camp, but rather than the single lantern, I like the idea of having an individual appliance for each person in camp.
Then when people aren’t sitting together, nobody is outside the field of protection the unit provides. ThermaCELLs operate off a small replaceable butane canister that heats a repellant pad and releases a force field of bug-free protection for a 15×15-foot area. Try one and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without before. ($30)
Cabela’s Deluxe Camp Kitchen
It was some years back on a camping and turkey hunt in the Nebraska wilds outside Chadron with a group of Cabela’s representatives that I truly learned how to properly set a camp. And at the epicenter of a proper camp is the cooking area.
With Cabela’s Deluxe Camper’s Kitchen the camp chef will have everything organized and ready to go. The kitchen packs into a 42″x26″x14″ nylon carry bag, yet opens out to provide three tabletops, a PVS sink with drain, two weather-resistant removable hanging pantries, a folding spice shelf and dual lantern hooks. ($160)
Primus FireHole 300
Of course, a camp kitchen needs a stove, and the Primus FireHole 300 is one fully capable of turning and, hopefully not burning, a meal to feed your entire crew.
The FireHole 300 boasts an on-board light and cook timer, integrated fuel line and utensil set, recessed control knobs, a battery-powered push piezo igniter, an adjustable foot for set up on uneven surfaces and the windscreens double as prep areas. The FireHole 300 runs on 1-pound propane canisters and produces 24,000 BTUs through its two burners for a water boiling time of just three minutes. ($295)
ALPS Camp Chair
Wider than the typical fold-out chair and with a taller back for better comfort, the ALPS Camp Chair is also sturdy with a Pro-Tec engineered aluminum frame and steel tubes and connectors, it can hold 425 pounds.
Adding to both the comfort and functionality are padded, curved armrests; a powder-coated frame; and cup holder/pocket (a must on any chair!) The fabric is made from durable 600-denier polyester and is available in green or blue. The chair folds flat for transporting. ($85)
Big Agnes Big Creek Sleeping Bag
Much of the joy of camping comes from sharing the outdoors with the one you love and for the ultimate in sleeping comfort and warmth, a double sleeping bag is the way to go. The Big Creek is part of Big Agnes’ Doublewide line of bags.
Like all Big Agnes bags, the Big Creek features an integrated pad sleeve that will hold two 20-inch sleeping pads (purchased separately and will run you at least another $100 for both) so you never have to worry about slipping off of the pad. The bag is as long as it is wide accommodating people as tall as 6-2.
Rated at 30 degrees, the Big Creek features zippers on each side to allow easy access and controlled heat escape for each sleeper, separate no-draft collars, built-in pillow pockets to hold a fleece or Big Agnes camp pillow, no-draft zipper tubes and flaps and SL90 synthetic insulation, which offers better warmth due to 20 percent higher loft than similar fills, as well as more cushy comfort. ($240)
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