6 must-have pieces of camping gear
Camp in style with the coolest equipment
Check out the latest in camping equipment that gets you off the ground, protected from biting bugs and keeps your electronic devices charged. A big part of the camping experience is gear, from tents and sleeping bags to stoves and water purifiers.
Taking the concept of camping to a new level are vehicle tents that connect to the roof rack of a parked car. Accessible by ladder, these elevated tents retail for $1,000 and up. “Vehicle tents are proving popular with people who like to road trip because they go up and down so quickly,” says Karl Galko of REI in Madison.
Among the hotter items these days are lightweight hammocks. Strung between two trees with heavy-duty nylon straps, the newest hammocks are not just for lounging; they’re also designed for “elevated camping” under the stars. “They’re fun, they’re easy to set up and they have minimal impact on the environment,” says Galko. A basic hammock from Eno or another manufacturer runs $60-$70 (ones made specifically for sleeping, $100), but that’s just the beginning. You can add a rain fly, bug netting or other accessories to create a more tent-like experience. A full setup can run $300 or more.
A new item to look for at Fontana Sports in Madison is the “Stargaze” lightweight reclining chair from Nemo. Designed for backpacking or hike-in camping, these $220 chairs get you off the ground and let you lie all the way back. “It’s an incredible chair you can carry anywhere,” says Kevin Bruno of Fontana.
Insect repellent apparel
Long a favorite at Rutabaga Paddlesports is the “Original Bug Shirt” made of tightly woven fabric to offer protection from serious waves of biting insects. At $73 it provides mesh to cover the wearer’s face, sleeves and sides while letting in a cooling breeze. “They tend to be popular with people who go to the Boundary Waters” Canoe Area in northern Minnesota, Tadhg Barrett of Rutabaga says.
For car camping, Bruno is a huge fan of the Big Agnes Big House 4 tent. Starting at $300, the Big House 4 is water tight and spacious, especially when you add in the vestibule. “For the family it’s an awesome tent,” says Bruno.
Solar rechargeable devices
Solar power has also found its way into the woods – from rechargeable lights for inside the tent or around the campsite to full battery packs that can recharge a phone or other electronic device. You can also buy an Old Town kayak with a built-in USB port for using devices while on the water, says Barrett. A lot of Rutabaga customers, he says, tend to be “purists” when it comes to electronics outdoors – meaning they leave their devices at home – but that’s changing. “I think people are realizing you need a way to charge your phone if you really want to take good pictures,” he says.
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