Cool Camping Crap
July 17, 2006 2:21 AM   Subscribe

Help me be the coolest camper on the field.

I am off fishing and camping soon with a couple of friends, what I would really like to be able to do is to bring along something that will make my friends wish they'd have brought it.

The drugs and alcohol options have been thought of, but anything else that will gain me cool points is considered. I'm either looking for something I can use, and in doing so make my mates jealous, or taking some fantastic fishing/camping gadget out there that we could all use to improve our trip.

Im not looking to spend a massive amount of money, but am looking for maximum impact.
posted by djstig to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (33 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Petzl head torches are great when camping. They let you do all those fiddly little things that take two hands (like switch sim cards to the phone that's got some charge remaining, or, you know...). The other thing I like to take which hardly anyone else bothers with is one of those stovetop italian espresso type machines like this: Bialetti Moka Express.
posted by handee at 2:31 AM on July 17, 2006

You could bring one of those ice cream-making balls. Or a large, gorgeous hammock. Or a massive cabin-style tent with a raised Aero airbed.

I like handee's Bialetti suggestion -- they also make portable cappucino makers -- not cheap but awesome when camping, if you have milk.

Or are you thinking more along the lines of electronics?
posted by theredpen at 3:43 AM on July 17, 2006

How about Swedish FireSteel? It's not more useful than a box of matches, but could still manage to impress. You can even get it with a knife.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 3:47 AM on July 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This isn't cheap either; I recently saw it in SkyMall and just about died laughing imagining someone really buying it to impress their buddies. Read the copy...and in case you have a tough time figuring out what it is from the photo, it's two hanging chairs suspended from the trailer hitch. While taking it seriously is laughable, with a facetious attitude the effect could be great.
posted by saffron at 4:26 AM on July 17, 2006

Response by poster: Ha! That hanging chair thing is brilliant, however a little out of my price range, and I don't think that you could hitch it to the back of a tiny British car.

Keep the suggestions coming though.
posted by djstig at 4:40 AM on July 17, 2006

Check out the backpacking section on Cool Tools. Scroll through books (cool!) and see some of the really really cheap light-weight gadgets like this blue pepsi can stove.

I'm on the mailing list, so you won't see the latest camping cool things he posted until they make it on the page. Is it okay for me to take the links until they do? hmm, I guess so: I thought the LuxuryLite Low Rise Cot (190USD, probably more than you wanted to spend?) looked tempting.
posted by bleary at 4:53 AM on July 17, 2006

The question is whether you want to dicksize with your friends as to who is the bigger James Bond or how much you want to enjoy yourself.

As far as gadgets are concerned, there's no substitute for something that works consistently well.

Bring some filet mignon packed in dry ice and a nice hearty red. If there's dry ice left over, put chips of it into plastic drink bottles with a little water and quickly screw the cap on tightly, throw and run.

Emerson would approve (as long as you picked up the shrapnel).

If you're feeling less sophomoric, use dry ice chips to cool your G&Ts or martinis.
posted by plinth at 4:57 AM on July 17, 2006

I can only relate to this via my burning man experiences, but a lot of the ways you could do something impressive there was to pull out something reflecting a comfort of home which would normally not be available in the wild. There was an added benefit to saving these things until the last day when everyone else had run through their supply of special things. So, a few suggestions:
- pack ice cream in dry ice and duct tape it into a small styrofoam cooler and forget about it until the last day.
- a set of clean and/or indulgent clothes packed in something that will kepe them totally clean until you're ready to go. This may be more of a chick thing, but a pair of freshly washed cotton pajamas at the end of a really long grubby trip is always a bit of a luxury
- seconded about the filet mignon and a good bottle of wine.
- I'm not sure how much you will be roughing it or how long you are gone for, but there are many excellent varieties of sun showers [simple|complex]
- see if you can cadge one of those lcd projectors and a white bedsheet, get an adaptor for your car battery (make sure to bring jumper cables and a surge protector) and show movies in the woods.
posted by jessamyn at 5:40 AM on July 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

You could try a Bakepacker. We have one and people are amazed by it all the time. It allows you to do the omlette in a plastic bag thing, as well as to actually bake bread on a stove. Also, my husband like hot cereal in the mornings, and this lets him have it without the messy, sticky, uses-too-much-water clean up.

Or just get a nice piece of Lodge cast iron - a Dutch oven is most versitile. Make pizza at camp. (I make the dough in advance and just bring it with) People are amazed by the simplest things sometimes.
posted by jvilter at 5:44 AM on July 17, 2006

Forget the gadgets.

Buy yourself a good sized tarp and 100 feet of cord. Learn to how to tie a taut-line hitch and set that tarp up like a pro. This will impress more than anything you could possibly buy, especially if it rains.

Neither my lexan French-press nor whipping out a bottle of wine after a ten mile hike impresses like a well set up tarp.
posted by bondcliff at 5:55 AM on July 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Make daquiris with a gas-powered blender. A little too far over the top you say? How about a hand-cranked model?
posted by adamrice at 6:15 AM on July 17, 2006

Hennessy Hammock. More comfortable than my bed at home.
posted by Crossbar at 6:37 AM on July 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

If this is the standard fishing trip for heterosexual males, and if you aren't going to be miles out in the middle of nowhere, amaze everyone by having a brilliant, attractive woman pull up in a car one evening to liven things up. She could bring in fresh something or others for everyone, too. (Secretly phone her to let her know what you and your mates have forgotten or run out of or never even thought of.) If she's your mate, all the better for you. If not, you can all attempt to woo her with charm and fishing gear. Regardless of the outcome, send her packing (nicely, of course) later that night or early the next morning so you can get on with the fishing.
posted by pracowity at 6:49 AM on July 17, 2006

Best answer: bondcliff has a good point. being prepared is always more impressive than luxuries.

a hammock is always fun, but people are impressed when you think things through and get to the point that there is something you absolutely need, but no one else thought to bring. this varies for different kinds of camping, but here is what will almost always come in handy.

1. 100ft of 550 cord
2. hands free light (ie, petzl head lamp)
3. good, reliable multi-tool
4. 10ft of duct tape wrapped around bic pen
5. liquid, 100% deet bug repellant (keeps the mosquitoes off and works as a great accelerant to get your fire off the ground.)
6. a firestarter (i wouldn't advise a cheap butane lighter; pretty useless except cigarettes. matches are good, but take a good amount, it's never fun to run out. if you have strike-anywheres [white tip at the end of the match head] around the house, those are always nice. buying a fancy sparking steel is nice, but if you're only going once, it's probably not worth it. if you're making a special trip to a surplus store or something, just get hurricane matches.)
7. sunglasses and sunblock
8. a spoon - the king of all utensils. between your spoon and multi-tool, you can do anything a full set of utensils can.

there is no reason not to have these things on any outdoor adventure, save being hunted by hillbillies because you and your friends accidentally stumbled upon some dark secret.

when i am hiking and looking to impress, there are a few luxury items that always seem to inspire jealousy. on the thrid or fourth day, pulling any of these items out should be a jaw dropper.

1. small pack of baby wipes
2. a toblerone bar (the cardboard packaging keeps it in better shape than other candy bars, since this is all about show)
3. a hard salami
4. a tube of ritz crackers and a can of anchovies

if you are doing drive up camping, though it will make a non-camping crowd very edgy, a machete can make life a lot easier. a small fabreeze probably wouldn't kill you, either.

also, if you are planning on river or lake bathing, ivory is the soap that floats!
posted by bryak at 6:50 AM on July 17, 2006 [3 favorites]

bondcliff writes "Neither my lexan French-press nor whipping out a bottle of wine after a ten mile hike impresses like a well set up tarp."

Ya, but it is like systems administration, unless you screw up practically no one notices.
posted by Mitheral at 7:05 AM on July 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

if you need a tent, my two latest entries here may help:

(for readers that see this after 7/16/6, search for 'tent', in case I've added to the category)
posted by BillyG at 7:19 AM on July 17, 2006

We had a portable hammock on our last trip, and it was fantastic. Rather a bit heavy if you're not just unloading your car at the site, though.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:23 AM on July 17, 2006

How about an all-over tan for when everyone goes skiny-dipping?

Also, Duraflame Firestarters are always a crowd-pleaser.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:48 AM on July 17, 2006

I have one of those Lexan french presses of which bondcliff writes and I must say, that plus some really good coffee never fails to amaze people. Also, the pizza trick is good, as is the ability to make a really good meal over a wood fire which just entails bringing good ingredients and doing some prep work at home before you leave. Spaghetti is normal camp food, but if you use fresh herbs, fresh chopped tomatos, really good Italian sausage and so on, you'll amaze everyone.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:11 AM on July 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

The hanging chair truck hitch is pretty funny, its like a redneck bowflex.

My favorite thing to take camping is my air mattress, nothing impressess like a really comfortable sleep. And if one of the pretty girls' doesn't happen to have a mattress, you can graciously offer to share. Aww, isn't sharing nice?

Just make sure you get a tough mattress or you'll end up sleeping on the ground, alone and with a very stiff back.
posted by fenriq at 8:32 AM on July 17, 2006

One of the more fun additions to my camping kit has been a string of miniature battery-powered LCD lights, like you'd use on a houseplant at Christmas. Put them up inside or around the entrance to your tent, and voila! Instant party dome.
posted by Vervain at 8:54 AM on July 17, 2006

Surely you mean LED lights, Vervain?
posted by Rash at 9:59 AM on July 17, 2006

If you're going to bother making good coffee on the trail, then bring a hand grinder and grind it fresh!
posted by Songdog at 10:30 AM on July 17, 2006

If any of your party has lost an arm (unlikely I know) you could make one of these. Totally awesome.
posted by essexjan at 10:43 AM on July 17, 2006

18 inch stainless steel tongs for cooking on the fire, twiddling
with the fire, and making jiffypop.
posted by hortense at 12:04 PM on July 17, 2006

A smokeless woodburning stove is likely something they've not seen before and pretty cool
posted by pegstar at 12:18 PM on July 17, 2006

S'mores are always a hit around the campfire, and bring back fond memories. Gourmet sausages are great too, and a couple of extendable roasters are very handy. A nice tri-tip, prepared with a spicy rub and perhaps frozen at the outset of the trip. French toast with real maple syrup is one of the easiest camp breakfasts that really impress. If you wanted to go all out, get a dutch oven and learn to use it. Nothing like fresh biscuits for breakfast and brownies for dessert.

A star-map of the night-sky can be fun, and a topographical map of the area can be useful. High-powered binoculars are great too.

A reclining camp chair with foot-rest, or one of the little crazy-creek chairs are great for kicking it around the fire, or bait fishing. I've had great success with Rapala balsa-wood lures in alpine streams and lakes.

Its cool to be the one that remembers the first-aid kit, sunscreen, and mountain money (aka TP). A cheap straw hat is great if you are hanging in the sun. Leather gloves can make cooking and manipulating the fire easier.

On preview:
Bryak's suggestions are great: esp: Baby wipes!. The led headlamp is key too.

"also, if you are planning on river or lake bathing, ivory is the soap that floats!"

Probably want to rethink this one for environmental considerations. If I am planning on river or lake bathing, I go soapless, deetless, and lotionless to minimize my impact. You can purchase biodegradable soap at most camping supply stores, but even these should be used well away from the water.
posted by Manjusri at 12:27 PM on July 17, 2006

Peep s'mores are always a hit.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:45 PM on July 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

on the thrid or fourth day, pulling any of these items out should be a jaw dropper.

3. a hard salami

Pulling out a hard salami is a jaw-dropper ANY day.

I totally agree about being able to set up a tarp. It is something I spent some time learning and it has been a comfort ever since. Gadgets aren't half as impressive as something brought out 3/4 of the way into the trip that involves kick-ass eating or personal hygiene. Sun showers are awsome, as before mentioned.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:29 PM on July 17, 2006

D'oh! Yeah, I meant LED lights. That'll teach me to post before caffeine. At any rate, they can be had for a pittance if you hit post-holiday clearance sales.

You can also try making campfire cinnamon rolls, the technique for which I shamelessly stole from some Food Network show. Supplies: a bag of oranges, a tube of instant biscuit dough a la Pillsbury, brown sugar, cinnamon. (Optional: raisins and powdered sugar.) Cut off the very top of the orange, then scoop out and eat/juice the guts, so you're left with a little lidded container. Open the tube of biscuits and flatten some dough into a long, thinnish rectangle shape. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar (and raisins). Roll up the dough, insert it into an orange, put the "lid" on, and wrap it all in two layers of tinfoil. Let it cook in the campfire coals for 20- to 25-ish minutes. When it looks like bread, it's done. And it tastes really, really good...especially if you've been camping for a while.

(However: next time I make these, I'm going to whip up a simple glaze from the oranges' juice and some powdered sugar. It's not that much more work, and cinnamon rolls without frosting are just...wrong.)
posted by Vervain at 4:04 PM on July 17, 2006 [4 favorites]

My coup de grace while camping this past weekend was to prepare a chicken madras the day before we left and freeze it into a solid block. Then when we were in the bush I took it out and reheated it, made a pot of basmati rice, toasted some nan bread on the fire and proceeded to feed 5 of my friends. They all thought it was a feast and goes to show you how little it takes to bring the extraordinary to the ordinary.

P.S. The dry ice ideas are genius and I'll think of them next time!

Oh, and if drugs are involved, then go to the candy store and load up on little bags of jujubs...whip 'em out when people are peaking and nobody suspects it!
posted by furtive at 4:05 PM on July 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great ideas, some are a tad o.t.t. for an English camping trip, but have definitely given me some ideas. And I'll certainly be whipping out my hard salami at some point.

posted by djstig at 3:50 AM on July 18, 2006

An ultraviolet water purifier. It's pretty darn cool.
posted by gbinal at 7:53 PM on July 20, 2006

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