Camping Life’s Top Camping Gear Of 2008
Kelty Basecamp Kitchen
The folding Basecamp Kitchen from Kelty is the best camp kitchen organizer we’ve seen in years. It has everything-plenty of surface area for food prep, a wind-protected place for your stove, zippered pantry that can hold Kelty’s Binto storage bins (sold separately)-including the Kitchen Sink (optional). Ruggedly built and easy to set up, it keeps all your kitchen implements organized and in one place, won’t take up a lot of space in your campsite, and re-packs into a small package. The Basecamp Kitchen retails for $160. Kelty: 800/423-2320; /kelty.com./
Big Agnes Ripple Creek
The company’s new Re-Routt collection of products offers construction using a variety of recycled fabrics, fills and hardware. Our pick is the new Ripple Creek 35-degree sleeping bag that features Climashield HL Green 100-percent recycled content insulation with 100-percent recycled rip-stop nylon shell and liner fabric. The bag’s drawstring cord, storage and stuff sacks also use recycled content. Plus, Big Agnes bags come with an integrated sleeping pad sleeve so the pad never gets away from the bag at night. The Ripple Creek will run you $160, but you get a top-notch sleeping bag and a clear conscience for buying green. Big Agnes: 877/554-8975; /bigagnes.com/.
Brunton Polaris LED Lantern
The Polaris LED Lantern ($60) from Brunton has a lot going for it. It’s compact (about 6.75 inches tall), weighs less than a pound (15 ounces on our scale), runs on three C-cell batteries (easy to find anywhere), and carries the new Cree three-watt LED. Thanks to the LED’s unique filter and diffuser/reflector, it casts an extremely bright “natural light,” replicating the warm glow of a propane lantern in a 360-degree spread with no dead spots. The lantern offers a low- and high-power setting, and with its integrated clip up top, can be hung inside a tent or other enclosure. Brunton: 800/857-4700; /brunton.com/.
Eureka! Copper Canyon 1610
It’s huge (16×10-foot floor), sleeps an entire family (6 persons according to the manufacturer), has nearly vertical walls and a high peak (7 feet, 3 inch), and features an integrated 80-square-foot screen room divided from the main sleeping area by a zippered inner door. The new Eureka! Copper Canyon 1610 tent also features a sod cloth along the perimeter to keep insects out, a sweep-out at the front door to help easily broom dirt out, and a large interior storage-organizer pocket. This is our pick for a large, value-priced ($299) family tent. Eureka!: 800/572-8822; /eurekatent.com/.
Eureka! N!ergy Pillow
This pillow also delivers the tunes, which could be very helpful for campers who have a difficult time falling asleep. We like how Eureka’s N!ergy pillow fits into the pillow pocket in the company’s sleeping bags and how it can be plugged into an MP3, CD, DVD player or even a laptop. Just lay back and listen to Cheeseburger Paradise from the two speakers, one on each side of the pillow. $25. Eureka!: 800/572-8822; /eurekatent.com/.
Ex Officio Women’s Soytopia Seamless Underwear
Much like Cocona, soy fabrics (made from the plant stock of soybeans) offer natural antibacterial, odor-resistant and moisture-wicking properties. It’s no wonder soy is an ideal fabric for underwear, and Ex Officio is taking full advantage of the material with its women’s Soytopia performance underwear. The line includes a boy-cut brief (shown, $20), bikini, thong and tank bra (also shown, $24) that are sold in eco-friendly packaging. Soy clothing is resistant to wrinkles, dries quickly and is soft to the touch, making it comfortable underwear while camping. $18-24. Ex Officio: 800/644-7303; /exofficio.com/.
Garmin Colorado 400t GPS
It’s got pre-loaded color topographic maps with a 3D elevation option, a thumb-wheel that makes holding the unit and scrolling down through menus and selecting functions a one-handed operation, a 3-inch screen, an electronic compass that works standing still, and all the other cool stuff a typical GPS unit features. The Garmin Colorado 400t runs on two AA batteries, costs (ouch) $599, but it took just two minutes to learn how to use this incredibly intuitive device. Garmin: 800/800-1020; /garmin.com/.
How is it that a tent can have such a hefty price, you ask? Well, in MSR’s case with its new BoardRoom tent, that’s easy to explain. The company does not cut corners with any of its tents’ construction and material components, and the BoardRoom offers deluxe and versatile features that make it big, functional, durable and strong-perfect for large groups and multi-activity camping. Quality is embedded in every inch of this huge tunnel-design tent, from the Bow Frame perimeter tensioning poles that provide near-vertical tent walls for maximum usable interior space, to the I-Sky light marine-grade vinyl ceiling windows, to the reinforced stress points. With 6 feet, 10 inches of interior head room, zip-out privacy doors, side and end entrances, proven hoop geometry, aluminum poles and waterproof fabrics, the BoardRoom is really like an outdoor residence. $800. MSR: 800/531-9531; /msrgear.com/.
Primus Twin Stove
What we like about the lightweight (4 pounds) and easily packable Primus Twin Stove is that it can do double-duty as a backcountry stove or a family camping cooker. The fuel is formulated for four-season and multi-altitude use, and the stove is only $60. The folding legs may look skinny, but they are stable and the stove can handle two 5-6 liter pots. We boiled a liter of water at sea level on it in about three minutes; and the 110-gram propane/isobutane/butane fuel canisters can be readily found for about $5. Primus: 307/332-0901; /primuscamping.com/.
Royal Robbins Men’s Ascent Crew
The big three eco-friendly fabric buzzwords in many of today’s outdoor-related apparel are bamboo, Cocona (derives from the carbon of discarded coconut shells) and soy, and they provide many of the same benefits as their chemical counterparts. In Royal Robbins’ case, the company infuses bamboo and Cocona into its men’s Ascent Crew, which, at first glance, might look like an ordinary cotton shirt. We think it’s a shirt men can wear during any season because its fabric composition-a blend of bamboo charcoal polyester, cotton and spandex-produces a fast-drying, stretchy, breathable fabric that has sun protection and is anti-microbial. The fabric in the underarm gussets are made of Cocona, which helps naturally wick moisture away from the skin, traps many odors, and also offers sun protection. $45. Royal Robbins: 800/344-7277; /royalrobbins.com/.
Sierra Designs Bedouin Annex 4+2
This new Bedouin tent version from Sierra Designs combines a four-person dome tent with an all-mesh bug-free attachment room that adds 13 square feet where two people can sleep or where you can place gear. We like how the tent’s rainfly covers both tent and attachment, yet can be rolled back to expose only the Annex portion. And campers have two options of entering and exiting the tent through full-size doors. $449. Sierra Designs: 800/635-0461; /sierradesigns.com/.
The Sympatico intrigued us from the very beginning because of its design and quality materials. But once we took it on a weekend camping trip, we were hooked. Great for couples or a couple of kids, this two-person rectangular sleeping bag can be used as a traditional sleeping bag or with a queen-size inflatable airbed that you attach to the bag the way you would place a fitted sheet over a bed mattress at home. We liked how the Sympatico fit perfectly edge to edge in one of our staff member’s two-person backpacking tent (gear stayed in the car), so it will fit larger tents while leaving room for gear. The inner poly-cotton liner kept our campers cool and dry during the hot nights. $130. Slumberjack: 800/233-6283; /slumberjack.com/.
Smith Interlock Sunglasses
What could be so cool about a pair of sunglasses to get us excited? To answer that, you have to see the new Interlock series of interchangeable-lens (100-percent protection from UVA, UVB and UVC rays) sunglasses from Smith Optics. With a simple twist of the temple arms, the frames open up to allow the quick and easy exchange of lenses, then a twist back of the temple arm and the lenses are locked into the frame. Each pair comes with two replacement lenses-Ignitor and Clear Mirror-additional lens tints are available. There are three frame options-Interlock 01, Trace and Whisper. MSRP: $149. Smith Optics: 800/635-4401; /smithoptics.com/.
Discovery Trekking Outfitters Wick-er Warmup Camp Towel
When we’re packing for a camping trip, we don’t want to take up loads of space with bulky towels. The new Wick-er Warmup towel is made from Polartec (just like your favorite high-performance shirt), so it draws water quickly from your body. When we tested this towel, our first thought was “water vacuum.” Even though the towel is thin, it will get you dry faster than a traditional towel. Best of all, the towel is impregnated with silver, a natural antimicrobial agent, so it won’t start to smell after multiple uses. The Wick-er towel comes in a variety of sizes; we recommend the large (58×34 inches; $29) or medium (28×34 inches; $19) sizes for camping. Discovery Trekking Outfitters: 250/286-6577; wickingtowel.com.