When I was a kid, hiking and backpacking the North Georgia mountains and sections of the Appalachian Trail with my family, our equipment was fairly rudimentary. The extensive array of cool camping gear that’s available now, more than 30 years later, would have blown our minds.
We’ve been so busy traveling the world in the seven years since we started Green Global Travel that camping has taken a bit of a backseat. But we still love exploring the world’s best hiking trails. And we’re already planning a massive RV road trip to explore the incredible U.S. National Parks after my daughter heads to college in a few years.
In the meantime, we’re building up an impressive collection of cool camping gear, from tents, sleeping bags, and backpacks to unique items that make life around the campsite more enjoyable. Here’s a look at some of our favorite camping stuff for 2017!
Retailing for around $800, Fjallraven’s Abisko Shape 3 Tent is the priciest tent we’ve ever tested. But, as with other cool camping gear we’ve reviewed from Scandinavian brands (Helly Hansen, Helle Norway, etc.), you’re paying for exceptional quality. The Abisko Shape 3 is a tunnel tent, which allows for light weight (4.76 pounds) and an impressive amount of space. The color-coded pole sleeves make set-up a breeze, and the vast vestibule and 6 interior pockets provide plenty of room for gear storage. You can roll up the flysheet at both ends for improved airflow, and all the openings have mesh to keep out even no-see-um-sized bugs. Paired with the Footprint, it’s an awesome 4-season tent. And we love the fact that, like all Fjallraven tents, it’s made without any PVC plastic or toxic flame retardants.
At 6’2” tall and around 250 pounds, I’m a big dude. So 2-person tents often feel uncomfortably cramped for me. The first thing that stands out about Big Agnes’ rel=”nofollow”Tufly SL 2+ is its spaciousness: At 88 inches wide and 105 inches long, it’s got ample room for two people in the center and gear (or dog) in the vestibules. It offers tons of interior storage, including 6 mesh pockets, 2 media pockets, and gear loft loops. With a trail weight of just 4 lbs 3oz., the super-light 3-season tent uses DAC tent poles, whose Green Anodizing process is safer for the environment and reduces waste water considerably. But the tent’s coolest feature is that it was designed by the women of Big Agnes, and a portion of every sale is donated to SheJumps, a non-profit working to encourage more ladies of all ages to participate in outdoor activities!
The In-Season 2 Tent from Slumberjack has the disadvantage of being considerably heavier (weighing 7 lbs 5 oz) and a little smaller (60 x 93 inches) than the Tufly. But its rugged 5-pole construction and full-coverage fly gives this 4-season beast the strength to stand up to just about any weather conditions nature throws your way. Three doors and three vestibules give you an array of options for entry and gear storage, with a front fly that can be extended via trekking poles for a shady spot outside. The large front window and high-low venting system make it perfect for warmer weather, too, allowing you to control air flow and prevent interior condensation.
Weighing in at a whopping 13.7 ounces, Sea To Summit’s Traveller Tr I is, to my memory, the lightest sleeping bag we’ve ever tested. But thanks to the 750+ loft ULTRA-DRY Down filling, it’s still warm and cozy enough to use in three seasons. We also love its versatility: Thanks to the tapered shape and full-length zipper, you can use it as a blanket or zip it together with another Traveller bag. The Large model is actually big enough to be used as a two-person comforter. Though we’re not backpackers, those who are will appreciate the fact that it fits in a 1.55 liter (or 1.89 liter for Large) compression bag. In other words, it’s eminently portable.
Mary and I live, work, and travel together 24/7/365. We’re a perfect complement: She gets cold, I burn hot. So a sleeping bag that allows us to remain attached at the hip is a huge draw at certain times of year. Weighing in at a whopping 9 lbs 8 oz, the Tru.Comfort Doublewide 20 isn’t gonna be on any backpacker’s packing list. But with its 6’6” length, Cloudloft insulation, two built-in blankets, and a zip-off top layer, it’s a perfect snuggle nest for weekends in the mountains. The oversized hood even offers enough room to bring our favorite pillows from home!
Fjallraven offers the most expensive tent in our cool camping gear round-up, but the least expensive sleeping bag. Their Abisko Two Seasons Reg is a lightweight (2.2 pounds) two-season bag that offers a surprising amount of warmth thanks to Supreme Microloft Insulation. The full-length 2-way dual zippers allow for easy ventilation on warm summer nights. But there’s also a padded flap along the opening that blocks out drafts, plus an insulated hood to keep you cozy on cooler nights. It comes with a compressible stuff sack for easy transport.
Columbia’s rugged, aluminum-framed Trail Elite 22L Backpack earned an Editors’ Choice nod from Backpacker magazine in the summer of 2016. A year later, it’s still one of the best daypacks available. It’s made of sturdy 420D Velocity Twill nylon, with a water resistant zipper and integrated rain fly, rescue whistle. It’s also got stretch-woven water bottle pockets, compression straps, and trekking pole attachments. Our favorite features are the Techlite shoulder straps and Backdraft tensioned back panel, which make for a surprisingly light, comfortable carry even when the pack is loaded down with gear.
One of our favorite new brands for cool camping gear, Cotopaxi’s mission is to “create innovative outdoor products that fund sustainable poverty relief, move people to do good, and inspire adventure.” How can we not love them? It helps that their products, including the Nazca 24L, are awesome in their own right. Made from water-resistant nylon/cotton canvas, this 19.5 x 10.5 x 5.5-inch bag looks like a suitcase, but carries like a backpack. You can also tuck away the straps and carry it over your shoulder like a duffel. It’s large enough to use for a weekend, with internal storage compartments and a padded sleeve that allows easy access to your laptop (up to 15 inches). There’s also a fleece-lined front pocket for storing sunglasses, phone, passport, etc.
Patagonia is another brand we adore as much for their environmental stewardship and philanthropy as for their products. Last year, they gave all profits made on Black Friday to grassroots environmental groups, and this year former CEO Kristine Tomkins donated 1 million acres of land in Chile to be converted into national parks. The company’s Chacabuco Backpack 28L is perfect for exploring such wilderness. It’s a rare daypack that boasts a modified harness and back panel specifically designed for women. Other key features include a padded tablet sleeve; padded compartment for 15″ laptop; and adjustable cording that can be used to hold yoga mats, extra clothing layers, etc.
The largest pack in our cool camping gear round-up, Kelty’s new Revol 65 is designed for serious backpackers who spend days (or weeks) on the trail. The 4 lb, 3 oz bag measures 30 x 12 x 10 inches, and is designed to carry 30-50 lbs of gear comfortably. The PerfectFIT adjustable suspension ensures that the pack sits comfortably on your back. Kelty’s new Kinesis hip belt is designed to move with your body, providing improved comfort, more effective weight distribution, and greater stability than their previous models. The top-loading bag offer tons of storage, including hip belt pockets, top stash pocket, front shove-it pouch and organizer pocket, a trap door sleeping bag compartments, water bottle pockets, and more.
MISC COOL CAMPING GEAR
When it comes to camping, we find that comfort is key. If you’re not backpacking and weight isn’t an issue, why not take along any items that can make your campsite feel a bit more like home? The Air Chair Plus from Crazy Creek is a perfect example: It quickly converts from a chair into an adjustable-firmness full-length mattress pad big enough to put a sleeping bag on. All you have to do is extend the hidden chamber and inflate to provide 2.5″ of cushioning air. When you’re done, it rolls up to a 4-inch diameter, with straps and a handle for easy transport and storage. Made of durable 70D nylon, with a 210D outer shell to protect you from the wet ground, the Air Chair Plus is virtually unbreakable and comes with a 5-year limited warranty.
Speaking of comfort, I’ve never really been much of a hammock guy. I love the concept, but due to my size most of them make me feel like I’m wrapped up inside a burrito. The GO Inflatable Hammock from WindPouch seems much more my speed, almost like an oversized beanbag. To inflate you simply open the end with both hands, fill it full of air, then roll down the end like you would a wet bag. We’ve tested a number of these types of products in the past. But the GO Inflatable Hammock seems sturdier than other models, made from tough HEX-RS nylon ripstop. I also like the built-in wedge pillow headrest, hanging mesh pocket, and aluminum stake kit. Looking forward to using it at the beach this weekend!
Mary loves spending time outdoors, partly because it’s my favorite place to cook. Put me on a stove or grill at the lake, beach, or mountains, and I’m one happy camper! Combining these two products from Camp Chef makes it easy to prepare tasty foods on the fly. The portable Sherpa Table can be used for prep space, base for the stove, and/or dining table, with four removable storage bags for keeping utensils and ingredients organized. The compact Everest Camping Stove packs a lot of power into its 13.5″ x 23.5″ x 4″ size, with two high-pressure 20,000 BTU burners, a nickel-coated steel cooking grate, and 3-sided wind barriers. Add a one-pound propane cylinder and you’ll literally be cooking with gas!
Making its debut at the 2016 Winter Outdoor Retailer, this is one of those cool camping gear innovations so clever, you wonder why nobody thought of it before. Anyone who’s ever camped (or watched Survivor) knows that “fire is life,” and keeping a fire going in the wilderness takes a LOT of work. The Pro Camper Kit makes it easier: Made from military-grade fabric, the 68” x 60” Campfire Defender can be placed over the fire to protect it from rain and extend coal life by up to 8 hours. The kit also includes two fire stakes, 8 glow-in-the-dark tent stakes, LED flashlight, utility gloves, and a canvas carrying bag.
As a boy who one year as a Cub Scout and many more camping and backpacking with my family, I always wanted (but never got) a Swiss Army Knife. The SwissTool Spirit X is basically a more sleek, elegant SAK for grown-ups. This ergonomic 8.7-ounce beauty is extremely handy, featuring 24 different tools. From blades, needle-nosed pliers, and wire cutters to saws, screwdrivers, and scrapers, it’s got virtually every tool an avid outdoorsman (or woman) could possibly need during a weekend (or year) in the backcountry. As far as cool camping gear goes, this is among the the most awesome little gadgets we’ve ever owned! –Bret Love & Mary Gabbett