Must-have camping supplies
April 8, 2019 9:34 AM   Subscribe

I have not been camping in 25 years and we're maybe going to start easing into it again, what's up in camping gear these days?

We're never going to be anything but comfort car campers (in fact this is probably a toe-dip phase to decide whether to buy some kind of specialized vehicle in a couple years), so we are not needing hardcore survival/freezing weather/ultralight/hiking supplies. Our likely roaming range for the next few years would be California/Nevada/Arizona, in mild weather, with short hikes or maybe lake/river recreation. (On our short list is to go try paddleboarding to see if that's a hobby we might integrate, or kayaking.)

We're just looking to basically set up a bedroom and comfy outdoor living room/kitchen in nature. I've got a burgeoning hobby interest in portable solar power so gadgets are interesting to me. I am interested in toilet/shower/sink solutions and have researched the potty problem pretty extensively but have never actually talked to anyone with experience in the various options.

My one absolute disinterest is an air mattress. I'm a fat middle-aged person, I'm looking for something as much like a bed as humanly possible, if not taking actual mattresses with us.
posted by Lyn Never to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (35 answers total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have a soft spot for Luci solar lanterns. They pack down flat so you can leave them on your dashboard to charge, and inflate them at the campsite for some pleasant evening lighting.
posted by cnidaria at 9:45 AM on April 8 [7 favorites]


Well, just for the record, Thermarest makes air mattresses as thick as four inches, and there are others much bigger, like this Intex model that 22 inches high! I am close to 200 pounds and just over six feet tall, and I like mine. *shrug* One of my brothers-in-law used to bring a queen-size air mattress that filled the entire tent and they were quite happy with it.

Another brother-in-law made a metal frame that he sets a bar sink on, with a 5-gallon bucket under the drain. That way he can wash dishes or prepare food, and collect the waste water for disposal elsewhere. He runs water through a line from a big container. It's frickin' camping genius.

Solar lights are a popular thing, and pretty cool: very festive, no batteries required, and left on overnight they will help you find your way back from the outhouse.

Do you have hammocks? There are a million to choose from, and they make reclining after a hike pretty great. Just make sure to learn how to hang them correctly, so that you don't tie up to something flimsy (or use a thin rope that will kill a tree).

Ditch your high-top hiking boots for "trail runner" shoes or at least low-cut hiking shoes. More than likely you son't need the extra weight or ankle support for just day hikes -- and they feel better.

If you're middle aged (like me!), then buying some hiking poles is amazing as a way to spare your knees and to aid your balance. I bought the Cascade Mountain Tech set (via Amazon) that get reviewed a lot, and last weekend we hiked five miles of upanddownandupanddown in the Blue Hills with some Boy Scouts. My ol' knees were perfectly happy at the end, and I really appreciated being able to brace off against far-away trees or rocks on the way down some of the steeper trails. I had owned them for most of a year but not used them out of a misplaced pride: lots of other hikers carry them, and they didn't strain my shoulder (they're super lightweight), and they were totally worth it.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:49 AM on April 8 [7 favorites]


Also, high-capacity battery packs (over 10000mAH) will keep your phone or tablet running all weekend. This is nice when you're out in the middle of nowhere and want to know whether it's going to rain overnight.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:50 AM on April 8 [6 favorites]


We just build a wooden platform in our van and put a queen sizeed folding foam mattress on it. It's about eight inches thick. We also bought flannel sheets and brought our Duvet/comforter from home and some extra blankets because it is about 35 degrees Fahrenheit (I just learned that this word means "experience"). Your weather will be warmer. You can get a pop up Coleman tent and put the mattress inside. I am not familiar with toilet solutions other than reading about cartridge toilets for van dwellers. I am a pudgy man in his early fifties and my body hurts in the mornings. I bring my shredded foam memory pillow. LED lanterns are on the list of stuff we should have brought last time. The word "Glamping" might generate some useful results. I just spent three days with the kids at Capitol Reef Park with variations of this gear (van + tents) and we camped for free on a beautiful BLM site just outside the park. Those popup tents are not good in high winds, we discovered, and had to park the van to make a wind block for one night.

Mandatory Image of Campsite

Mattress
posted by mecran01 at 9:53 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]


I really like buying camping gear, so I'm usually tempted to buy All Of The Things all together. But there is a fair amount of personal preference at issue here, and it's a good idea to start with the basics (tent, sleeping setup, cooler), camp with some friends, and see what works for you and what doesn't, stealing ideas from your friends at will.

Also, just because you can bring everything in the world when car camping, it doesn't mean you should. The less unnecessary crap you bring with you, the easier it is to setup and tear down camp, and the easier it is to find what you need.

My basic car camping setup for camping with my kid:
Sleeping bags/pads/pillows from home
Tent (well, we sleep in a platform in the back of my truck, but failing that, a tent; get something car-campy from a reputable source (i.e. REI) so it doesn't leak or blow over)
Clothes
Cooler (size depends on length of stay, but the $500 rotomolded coolers are overkill for you at this point; wirecutter/sweethome has some good reviews of <> Coleman propane stove (two burners + a platform are nice things to have; little canister stoves pack to nothing but can be finicky to cook on)
Headlamps (mandatory)
Foldable dishes (they fold from flat plates (good for cutting) to bowls. Easy to pack and clean
Some sporks
Pocketknife
Toilet paper/trowel (may not work in the desert)
Camp chairs (mandatory)
...and that's about it
posted by craven_morhead at 9:56 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]


The ever cheesy and environmentally wasteful hand warmers can be a nice thing when the temp decides to do a twenty degree less than forecasted turn. The 'toewarmer' versions have an adhesive side fwiw.
Scotchgard can still be a great thing for ball caps etc.
Wipe on insect repellent.
Marmot's Pre-cip line is pretty good stuff. Pit-zips are a 21st century wonderment.
Gore-tex lined shoes/boots. Cool when warm, warm when cool.
Good sock are worth good money. Smartwool.
A 'Jetboil' is a good start for a camp stove.
posted by Afghan Stan at 10:06 AM on April 8 [1 favorite]


+ many for the Luci solar lanterns. I think I have 6 or 7 at this point. They double as emergency supplies at home.

Also echoing the camping pad. I have a 3.5" one and supplement with a piece of egg crate foam on top. Go as high-end as you can with that -- you won't regret it. Like this.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:26 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]


It's not new, but the Jetboil brand water boiler is my favorite camping discovery of the last decade. I've switched entirely to only eating "things can can be made with boiling water" and "things that can be cooked over an open fire" since discovering it. Even if you're planning to bring a full stove, making coffee in three minutes without pans is nice. And it'll fit in a kayak dry bag.
posted by eotvos at 10:29 AM on April 8 [4 favorites]


Two more: Starbucks Via instant coffee packets are awwwwwesome for camping. Bring your hand grinder and whatever other gear you want, but one of these in the morning is a Godsend. (I am a bit of a coffee snob but I always have one or two of these in my pack.)

Also, there's a chemical called permethrin that kills a lot of bugs on contact. You can soak your boots & hat & hammock & shorts/pants/shirt and even tent in it to keep them little devils at bay, including ticks.

It's harmless to pets (except cats, but only while still wet) and people; they've used it on farm animals for years. You make a dilute solution and put some in a big zip-loc bag (or bucket) with clothes, and kind of smoosh them around to soak through, then leave to soak for a while. Hang them up to dry in the back yard, and Bob's your uncle. The treatment lasts through several washings.

Anyway, it's a nice complement to bug repellent that's not as monstrously powerful as DEET.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:42 AM on April 8 [12 favorites]


100% on the Luci lights.

I'm thinking my next camping splurge will be one or two of the Nemo Stargaze chairs.

If you'll be hiking in the desert at all, I'd recommend a good pair of sturdy, all leather hiking boots. I used to be a hiking shoe person (somewhere between a trail runner and a boot), until I got a cactus spine in the mesh that I could not remove. I upgraded to full leather the next season and haven't looked back. I also carry a small comb and multi-tool with pliers for cactus removal.

I'm a big fan of quilts over sleeping bags, especially if you move around a lot at night. They make them with zippers and cinches so you can still cocoon in them on colder nights.

A cast iron Dutch oven is great for cooking on the fire.

GearJunkie probably covers a lot of stuff you'd be interested in.
posted by natabat at 11:11 AM on April 8 [1 favorite]


When we go car camping we'll take the kind of air mattress that you'd keep in a spare room for when guests come over not a camping one along with a pump that plugs into the car.

Camp lighting is so much better these days. I remember flashlights being huge, heavy things requiring C or D batteries and now thanks to LEDs you can have as many lights as you like and not have to worry about them running out of juice.

I'm not sure what the water situation is where you'll be camping. We always have freshwater relatively nearby here (southern Ontario) so we'll take a water filter along with whatever water we bring with us.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:12 AM on April 8 [1 favorite]


We are older, and creaky, so getting up off the ground just doesn't happen any more. We use cots (one each) topped with a 'standard' (but full-length) Thermarest. This serves two purposes - make the cot SO much more comfortable, insulates you from the cold air that circulates under the cot (we tend to camp in shoulder season, so nights are cold-ish). We also bring our own normal pillows, because we're car-camping so why not!
posted by dbmcd at 11:17 AM on April 8 [1 favorite]


I sleep better on the Kamp-Rite self inflating air mattresses than anything that requires blowing up. It feels close to my foam mattress at home and doesn't sag to the ground overnight. The downside is that they're bulky both to transport and store.

I like having an EZ-Up style canopy over the tent for extra protection from rain and sun.

If moderately heavy wind is a concern, the extra large dog chain holders that you screw into the ground do a better job of holding things down than tent stakes.
posted by Candleman at 11:28 AM on April 8 [1 favorite]


Funny you posted this; I am leaving for camping tomorrow.

Lots of great advice above, so I'm going to mention my toilet. I go car camping, too. There are bathrooms (upgraded versions of Port A Potties). But lets face it: I do not want to go trekking in the middle of the night to pee. So I have a five gallon bucket. I line it with two garbage bags (in case the inner one leaks). The bags are kept in place with a pool noodle (measure the circumference of the bucket, and cut a length-wise slit in the noodle. It makes a great cushion!). I use a small container of kitty litter - and sprinkle it in the bucket after use. The bag gets tossed in the morning.

Some day I also would like a camping vehicle, but I've been car camping every year for the last five years (I'm 52) and I tweak it every time. I have a portable power pack, the kind that can jumpstart a car, that charges my phone/camera, can blow up my tall air mattress using my car charger type pump; and I have an LED study lamp from Walmart that lights up my whole tent when plugged in it.

This time I have interlocking rubber floor mats for the inside of the tent to try out.
I hope you guys have a great time. I really enjoy camping.
posted by annieb at 11:28 AM on April 8 [6 favorites]


Pee funnels can be really helpful with gross or absent outhouses/public restrooms but practice ahead of time.
posted by Candleman at 11:30 AM on April 8 [5 favorites]


Separating pee and poop makes things less gross. See instructions on a two-bucket system for emergencies that you can modify for your use (like one bucket for pee + carrying some plastic bags you can fit over the top of the bucket for pooping and tie off after use).

In situations like the side of a road, you can get decent cover by opening the front and rear doors of your vehicle and dropping trou between them.
posted by momus_window at 11:49 AM on April 8 [5 favorites]


Instant Tents are really nice and most of them are huge! They are heavy, but go up and take down very easily with two or more people. We got one on Amazon that is an 8 person (which means floor space for 8 sleeping bags with no extra) for under $200.
posted by soelo at 11:51 AM on April 8


If you can stand to visit Reddit, the /r/campinggear subreddit is pretty good. Lots of questions, alerts to sales, firsthand experience with gear, and advice.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:09 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


Agreeing with others regarding air mattresses. I'm overweight and middle-aged and my back and joints can get pretty creaky without proper support. I have this one and I sleep very comfortably. Also seconding a proper 2-burner stove.

For car camping I use a sturdy plastic folding table as a "kitchen" workspace, and a couple of plastic dish tubs (one for washing, one for rinsing) for cleaning up after meals.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:19 PM on April 8


Binoculars! Good for bird watching and stargazing.
posted by Poldo at 12:34 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


As a mosquito magnet, I like having a screen house. Mine is this older REI one and it's a bit of a drag to set up, but it's worth it at night to have a place to sit without mosquitoes / wasps / whatever attempting to murder me.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:19 PM on April 8


Since I was a Boy Scount (circa 1960):

REI has replaced LL Bean (although Bean still has good stuff). Campmoor was big than and is now.

Flashlights have come to maturity. Variants, such as headlamps, are very useful.

Camping stoves for hikers are much better. Tents are much better. Fiberglass and carbon fiber have replaced wood for many uses.

Stainless three piece knife/fork/spoon kits have been replaced by lightweight (titanium?) flatware that weighs next to nothing.

"Leave no trace" has become the new normal.

Sleeping bags are better, but only a little. Padding for under the bag comes in many more forms.

So called "technical clothing" has become the norm.

Hiking boots come in much greater variety.

GPS units exist. Cell phones exist.

Saws have taken their place beside axes. Many things are easier with saws, many things are easier with axes.

First Aid kits have changed. The old ones were a collection of stuff. The new ones are a collection of similar stuff along with written instructions.

Dehydrated food is much better, but it's still true that if you can find what you want in the grocery store in will be better than what's in the outdoor store.
posted by SemiSalt at 2:32 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


If you're car camping, forget the toilet. I'd suggest getting a site close to the bathroom and some good headlamps. (Or just mark your territory and show those coyotes who's boss.) Get some plastic jugs of water for the sink, shower in the campground bathrooms or use wipes. Get some little backpacks to store your toiletries and towel -- it sucks to walk to the bathroom and forget your towel!

Get the Allstays Camp and RV app, it shows you where you can go. MAPS.ME is handy too. You're in the west, so the Windy app might be useful for avoiding getting pelted with fine sand.

Also -- see if you can rent a Hobie Mirage Drive kayak. It's a paddleboat but way faster. And the Adventure/Tandem Islands are little trimarans that sail, I had some fun with one in the Florida Keys.

Oh yeah, you might want a bike rack.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:31 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


> I'm thinking my next camping splurge will be one or two of the Nemo Stargaze chairs.

I'm also eyeing those. I tried them out in the store and they are super comfortable.

In addition to GearJunkie, The Wirecutter has good gear reviews.

Backcountry, Campsaver, and REI are all having sales at the moment.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:51 PM on April 8


The mattress thing is going to be the tough one. A full-thickness air mattress is pretty high-end as far as comfort goes, even for car camping. Coleman's 8" version is comfy enough that people use it on a semi-permanent basis, and it rolls up easily for storage. Coleman's D-cell inflator makes short work of blowing it up. I do know people who bring cots (Walmart has decent ones) and that does help comfort. A thicker memory foam topper makes an excellent mattress and rolls up into a fairly small box. Costco is the place to get camping gear, in general. You can walk out of there with a decent tent, sleeping bags, memory foam, camp chairs, cooler, etc. for very little money. Their quality tends to be excellent. If Costco doesn't have it, I'd go online or check a big box sporting goods store like Big 5. I would not even look at REI unless I wanted something really specific (and I say this as someone who spends a ton of money there). The REI gear is great, it's just overkill and overly expensive when a basic version will serve your needs perfectly.

I really don't think that much has changed in car camping in 25 years, though. Does it matter that you can get coffee 10 minutes faster than on a Coleman stove from the 80s? Fabrics have gone almost exclusively synthetic, with "wicking" now de rigeur. Trekking poles are totally mainstream, and as mentioned a trail runner is much more common than a hiking boot. I see a ton of people in "North Face" jackets but fundamentally it does the same thing as an LL Bean jacket from a generation ago. On the backpacking and technical side, sure, things are unrecognizable. A full set of high-end ultralight gear, including clothing and shoes, weighs about what backpack did in the 80s! And costs as much as decent used car. But a basic, comfy, heavyweight sleeping bag costs about what it did back then, without even taking inflation into account, and serves just as well.
posted by wnissen at 4:01 PM on April 8


If you intend to be walking around by flashlight/headlamp at night, get one with a red mode to protect your nightsight.
posted by Candleman at 4:10 PM on April 8 [5 favorites]


My one absolute disinterest is an air mattress. I'm a fat middle-aged person, I'm looking for something as much like a bed as humanly possible, if not taking actual mattresses with us.

Have you considered a hammock? You can get a basic one for $20, more if you need a mosquito net. My back aches within an hour of lying down on any cot or foam pad I've tried, but I can sleep in a hammock all year. And I have!
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 4:12 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


While the Stargazer chairs look nice, for car camping I can personally recommend this set of 2 chairs for $75. They're sturdy and well-made, and after I added a pillow for lumbar support they're very comfortable cradles for extended fire- or star-gazing.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:34 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Since no one has mentioned it yet, read up on The Ten Essentials. They all seem pretty obvious, but after many many years of outdoor adventures I still check a Ten Essentials list before every trip just to make sure I haven't forgotten anything anyway. I usually have. :)

A development I've been pleasantly surprised by in recent years (in some cases, recent months): quality plus-sized outdoor clothing is much more available, even among the more established brands like Prana and North Face--REI even has their own plus-focused house brand. Not to say you need to spend money for special camping clothes, but it does mean you can take advantage of things that improve outdoor living comfort like merino wool baselayers and ultra-light-but-still-warm-and-dry rain layers and leggings that are truly suited for camping and not repurposed yoga pants (or yoga pants too expensive to risk snagging on tree branches). Still easier to find online than in-store, though.

Things that make the most comfortable and happy while I am camping:

- Headlamp - Soooo much nicer than trying to do things with a flashlight in my hand... or in my mouth... or tucked in my bra...
- Lanterns - For ambient evening light at camp
- A sleeping bag of the appropriate size
- A comfortable place to sit that's not the tent or the car - Camp chair when I'm car camping, sit pad when I'm hiking or bike camping
- A walking stick or trekking poles for wandering around beyond camp - These are helpful for stability and comfort and protection of aging joints even if you're not doing any srs hardcore hiking
- A well-stocked first aid kit I'm familiar with - I like to get an Adventure Medical Kits one and customize it a bit for my own needs
- Dry bags - You'll definitely need these for paddleboarding or kayaking, but they're useful against unexpected rain or morning dew, as well
- A backup battery for my technology device
- The ability to make coffee
- Tasty food

Re: food, if you like to cook, car camping makes it easy to get creative with camp cooking, whether it's over a campfire or a campstove. Get a couple good coolers and a lightweight camp kitchen set and have fun with it.
posted by rhiannonstone at 6:29 PM on April 8 [6 favorites]


My next vehicle will be a Prius or other Toyota hybrid; you can run stuff off the storage battery, turning the car into a sort of generator. The starting battery remains untouched. Music, lights, laptop, phone. It's not that big a deal for 1 night, but can be a pain if you are camped for a couple days. And they are quite roomy; very easy for 1 person to sleep in, not sure about 2; there is a hybrid Highlander that's bigger.

There are a number of tent extensions for vans, suvs, etc.

Ikea has a wide range of mattresses that are not terribly thick and could be rolled. Some camgrounds have tent platforms, so you don't have lumpy ground to contend with.
posted by theora55 at 7:02 PM on April 8


For a camp stove, I love how small and light weight REI's PocketRocket is.

Also if you place a premium on sleeping comfort, I highly recommend getting a roof tent, particularly a clamshell type that can accommodate a mattress. Depending on your vehicle situation, of course.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 12:34 AM on April 9


Ten-plus essentials for hiking (what you consider to be important for your safety and can be carried in pockets or in a fanny pack at all times):
Compass and maps, cell phone (charger carried in backpack), clippers, extra clothes
Flashlight or headlamp, fire and firestarter, first aid kit (every day usage), extra food
Whistle, watch, extra water
Swiss army knife or multitool, pepper spray, bug spray, sunscreen and lip balm, sunglasses, extra shelter

Ten essentials (or some of them) on a spiral key chain -- easy to use, stays on my wrist when using, tiny items are not lost in the grass or between the slats in a shelter, fits in a pocket when not needed.
Clippers, Swiss army knife, tiny LED light (one that twists to turn on), ball compass (replace as water evaporates), whistle, pepper spray (for stray dogs).
A second key chain with BIC lighter, maybe a small vial of water treatment chemicals.

Don't bother with tiny lights that must be squeezed constantly. Seconding a headlamp with a red light option for retaining night vision.

Platypus or other brands of soft bottles for water storage. I like a Nalgene or a recycled water bottle for adding flavored drops to water. I like either a fanny pack with side holsters for water bottles or a water bottle sling across my shoulder.
Chemical treatment is easiest and light weight, Sawyer Squeeze is quicker and produces water that looks and tastes clean.

Sunscreen and lip balm are necessary, along with long sleeves and sunglasses. A bug net and a wide-brim hat are very helpful.
DEET and lemon eucalyptus sprays work, as does permethrin sprayed or washed into clothing. The clothing advertised as repelling insects? That has permetrin on it, which must be reapplied periodically. Just do it yourself.
Have a game plan for checking for ticks daily, and tick removal.

Emmm... GoGirl and other female urinals do work. Bring a bit of tissue or get used to the idea of "recycling" soft leaves. A pee-dana is also a thing. Bring hand sanitizer.
Cat-hole -- Bring a tent stake. Dig a hole about six inches deep. Do your thing. Replace dirt in hole.
When in doubt, pack it out. If it did not go through -- pack it out, too!

Spend money from the ankles down -- good wool socks (I like Smartwool or Thorlo synthetic hiking socks) and good trail runners. Some like to add nylon sock liners to prevent blisters, some like replacement cushion inserts.
My thing to is make sure the footwear has been broken in before any long excursions. Have a blister kit and treat hot spots immediately (she says, looking at the band-aid on her toe).
A cheap Wal-Mart hiking stick really does seem to help after the first couple of miles, and it does help to keep balance.
posted by TrishaU at 11:05 AM on April 9


There are many vids online about the benefits and requirements of hammock camping, by far the comfiest way to sleep apart from a waterbed. Many devotees hammock camp in very cold weather with a series of quilts and pads. Here's an excellent resource regarding this gear.
posted by R2WeTwo at 7:56 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Things got fancy, because fancy makes people more money.

The only thing that I'd 100% pack that I wouldn't have packed 20 years ago is a better ground mat, which you echoed. I've tried upwards of the $200 variants at REI, and they're better, but still... yeah, no.

What I use when car camping is a Japanese futon or just a folding mattress. I sleep a thousand times better, and just enjoy everything more. (I'm 250 lbs and a side sleeper, and wow, camping otherwise kinda sucks for sleep.)

Here's an example of what I mean:
https://www.amazon.com/Milliard-Tri-Fold-Folding-Mattress-Guests/dp/B00NB2NPTC

It's huge inside the car. I don't care.
posted by talldean at 8:53 AM on April 10


A lightweight hammock is a great thing that probably postdates your last camping experience. I have an ENO Double Nest and a set of Atlas straps that are constant camping companions. I don't sleep overnight in it, but it's swell for hanging around the campsite of an afternoon, reading a book by the stream or whathaveyou. You may be imagining lying lengthwise, and that's nice, but rotate 90°, hang your legs out, and it's essentially a loveseat in the wilderness. It packs down small enough that we often take it on hikes, too, in case a choice vista demands extended appreciation.

I am your age and far from svelte, and I sleep on an REI self-inflating sleeping pad, which is older than the model linked to, but has about the same specs. For what it's worth, it keeps my bones sufficiently off the ground, has a good insulation value, and I don't feel too creaky in the mornings. Mine is four or five years old, which means probably about 70 nights of use, and it's still going strong. (It helps to store it in an uncompressed state; I keep mine under the bed at home.)

Speaking of tent life, it can be nice to lay down one of those vinyl-backed picnic blankets on the floor of your tent. Makes it cozy, collects crumbs and dust, can be taken outside and shaken as needed.

Even though you plan to camp in mild weather, it's easy to underestimate how chilly a summer mountain morning can be. I always pack some Uniqlo Heattech tops and bottoms, just in case. They're synthetic and take up hardly any room. It looks like their women's line are all scoop-necked(!) though, so you may want to shop elsewhere.

LED headlamps are awesome. Maybe too awesome, these days. You definitely want one, but they've gotten much more fiddly-confusing. My preferred headlamp is probably 15 years old, has a cracked case, and three settings: low, medium, and high. Newer ones tend to have a red LED mode for preserving your night vision, continuously dimmable brightness, emergency flashing modes and other creeping featuritis. I definitely recommend trying them out in person so that you know if the user experience works for you. You'll be using it in pitch dark, after all, and it sucks to fire up the strobe when you really wanted a soft reading light.

If you're going to be camping outside of established campgrounds you'll want bring a table along. We have a couple of roll-up aluminum camp tables that I wholeheartedly endorse.

I cook on a Camp Chef Everest stove. It's intended to run on 16 oz propane canisters, but the damned things are neither recyclable nor refillable, and you'll go through them faster than you think. If space isn't a concern (particularly if you've already got a gas grill at home), get an adapter hose and bring a full-sized tank along. Can't think of anything else about my kitchen that's particularly 21st century... cast iron still works well, and an old-fashioned percolator still makes good enough coffee.

If you have an ereader, consider loading it up with regional hiking and campsite guides and public domain camp classics, in addition to any recreational titles. There's rarely cell coverage where I camp (national forests), so I find it good to have a pre-loaded reference library along. Should you need to charge your Kindle, phone, bluetooth speaker, or whatever, you'll want a good portable charger. I like the Jackery Bolt, which has both lightning and micro USB cables built in, and comes in a very findable orange.

In addition to Wirecutter, I recommend Outdoor Gear Lab for reviews.
posted by mumkin at 11:10 PM on April 21


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