Ah camping…the smells and sights of the outdoors. Sitting by a fire each night, hiking or paddling each day, and showering, well, very seldomly. Many of us camp because we want to get away from it all. We want to turn off the electronics, and shut ourselves off from society for a bit. We want things to be simple. But simplicity doesn’t mean that we don’t want to be comfortable, and the great thing about camping is that there are plenty of companies out there making cool, simple accessories to make your next trip even more enjoyable. Here is a list of my personal top 10 camping accessories that I now couldn’t live without.
Black Diamond Spot $44.99: Most people don’t know how cool headlamps are until they try one. After that, they’re hooked. Headlamps are ideal for any situation where you need a light, but also need your hands free. They come in handy for setting up camp at night, looking at a map, or even that midnight trip to the bathroom. You don’t have to be a backpacker or be camping in a rustic setting to find these useful either. I just recently got my dad one. He’s an avid car camper and traditionally stays in modern campgrounds, but recently found out just how handy they are when a storm blew in during the night and he had to pull his awning down in the middle of the night. Headlamps range anywhere from $19.99 on up.
Black Diamond Orbit $34.99: While I’m on a lighting kick, I’d like to bring up one of my other favorite items. The Black Diamond Orbit is the perfect compact little source of a ton of light. We use ours mostly in our tent and hang it from the ceiling, but we’ve also brought it out on the picnic table or have used it when setting up in the dark. It’s small, lightweight and super easy to pack. It takes AAA batteries, and generally will last us the entire summer without needing more. In my opinion, for the price, it’s an absolute must have!
ENO Doublenest Hammock $69.99: Ok, so a hammock is by no means a necessity, but ever since the first time we’ve brought one we’ve rarely left it behind. Having somewhere to lay and relax or even somewhere to sit and hang out is key after a long day of play. The ENO Doublenest is ideal because it packs down incredibly small and is under a pound. There’s really no excuse not to bring it along. We’ve taken ours car camping, backpacking and kayak camping and it’s always a hit. You can pretty much set it up anywhere, and in only a few minutes. My favorite place to set it up is around the fire within a safe distance away. It’s so relaxing on your back after a long day and incredibly relaxing next to the fire. The only down side is that you’re pretty much guaranteed to fall asleep. The Doublenest is also a great pick because even though we generally don’t both end up using it at the same time, it’s nice to have the extra room when using it single.
Jetboil Flash System $99.99: The Jetboil Flash is another one of my favorite items we have in our camping repertoire. In addition to its ideal use for backpacking or kayak camping, we even bring it car camping. We’ve used it for making meals, making drinking water, or even simply making a cup of tea. The great part about it is its simplicity. You can cook directly in the cup provided with it, or remove it and add the burner. We’ve cooked everything from Backpackers Pantry dry food to Kraft Easy Mac to a hotdog in a pan! You name it, and you can pretty much find a way to make it with a Jetboil. One of the coolest parts too is that it’s all self-contained, meaning the fuel, burner and pot stabilizer all fit inside of the cup. The cup even changes color when the water is boiling and ready for your meal. They’ve really thought of everything!
Sea to Summit X Set 3-Piece $49.99: There are certain items that I pull out while camping that everyone really seems to like, and the Sea to Summit X-Set is one of those. Containing a bowl, plate and cup, all of the pieces included are collapsible, dishwasher safe and can hold extremely hot liquids. Out of all 3 pieces, I would say the cup gets used the most, but the rest of the pieces come in handy as well. They’re all extremely durable and packable too. You can buy each of them individually, but the mesh case that comes with the sets is well worth it. It keeps everything together for storing and still allows it to dry out if the need be. We also throw our sporks and spoons into the case as well.
Sea to Summit Tek Towel $29.99: I’ve always grabbed a towel when camping, even if swimming wasn’t in the forecast. They come in handy for plenty of things such as washing dishes, cleaning your hands or feet or every drying yourself off after being caught in the rain! But towels don’t exactly pack down small, so I decided to try the Sea to Summit Tek Towel in large. It’s awesome! It packs small, is thicker and softer than the Sea to Summit Drylite Towel, and it’s still pretty compact. I’d recommend the large to anyone who wants something close to a normal towel size, but still wants something that folds up fairly small. The only down side about the Tek towel is that leaves and dirt tend to stick to it if you drop it, but you can brush it off pretty easily. The small mesh sack that it comes with is great for storing it and allows some breathing if you have to stuff it in a bit wet until you get home. It’s also a generous size so it’s not hard to get it back into the mesh sack.
Ruffwear Quencher Cinch Top Dog Bowl $19.99: Bringing your dog along camping, hiking or anywhere in the outdoors is great, but often bringing along their gear can be a pain. Ruffwear, a brand who caters specifically to the outdoors lover who wants to bring along their furry friend, makes this a whole lot easier! One of my favorite items is the Quencher Cinch Top Bowl. I can fill it with about 5 days worth of food for my dog, and with the cinch top, I can throw it in her back without worrying about it spilling. It’s also super durable and waterproof, so throwing it on the ground somewhere where she can access it is no problem. It’s also collapsible, so on a shorter trip, or when the foods gone, it folds up super compact to store. The regular quencher bowl is also great to bring along for water. It doesn’t have the cinch top, but is even perfect to pack for a quick day hike.
Canoeing Michigan Rivers Book $16.95: Chances are, unless you live in Michigan, this book isn’t totally relevant to you, but there are plenty of similar books out there specific to your state. Personally, I love planning a kayak camping trip but to be totally honest, planning one online can be near impossible. Books such as this one not only show you put ins, takes outs and potential camp sites but often even describe each bend and turn of the river. They’re written by people who’ve done the trips and know all the hidden spots and tricks. Planning a trip can be tough because a lot of the spots aren’t on maps or are not well known. The important thing here is to make sure you get the newest edition and also check any local resources before setting off on your adventure. We found this out the hard way by planning a day on a section of the river that hadn’t been cleared in a few years. After a long day of sweepers, low muddy water and portages, we wished we had checked first. Regardless, this book in particular has helped us find plenty of hidden gems. There are also great books for day hikes, places to go backpacking, or the best car camping tent sites that aren’t overrun with RVs.
Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket $129.00: The actual jacket I have is an older North Face jacket that they don’t make anymore, but this is a pretty comparable model. The point is, if you’re at all active in the outdoors; get a lightweight waterproof rain jacket. It will come in handy even more than you’d think. It’s small and packable so it’s easy to throw in your bag for the weekend or even a day hike. They’re also great at home or around the town. On a rainy day here at the office you pretty much see everyone with some variation of them. What’s great is that because they’re breathable, you can throw something like the Torrentshell on on a steamy rainy day and you don’t even have to worry about getting sweaty. I’ve also thrown mine on while around the fire to keep the bugs off and still don’t get hot wearing it. They’re a little pricey, but for the numerous applications and the quality you get, I absolutely recommend getting the Patagonia Torrent Shell Jacket.
Tent Footprints $29.99-89.99: I know it isn’t super exciting, but I decided that my tent footprint had to end up on this list. A footprint is a durable piece of material that goes under the floor of your tent. Think of a tarp in the exact shape of your tent, made out of nylon, and clips into your tent poles. What’s the point? It protects the floor of your tent from getting dirty, damaged, and keeps water from getting in. Simply put it extends the life of your tent, and keeps you happier while using it. Why did it end up on my list? Well, just this past weekend we were on a road trip. For those of you who’ve done an extended road trip, you know that it involves a lot of quick unpacking, setting up, packing up, and doing the same thing all over again. Multiple times it had rained overnight, or our things were thrown into the car in a less than perfect way. Using the footprint kept the tent body totally dry multiple times and also kept the tent clean for the times when it ended up thrown in without its bag and with our clothes. Our tent footprint is scarred with scuffs from branches, blood and guts from insects, and half the time insects themselves. Most importantly though, our tent is not!
I could go on and on about some of my other camping items, but these were my Top 10 favorite camping accessories. The key thing to note here is that our camping gear gets used and abused. I don’t mean that we don’t take care of it, but rather that it rarely sees more than 1 weekend in a row at home, and a lot of it is used for not only car camping, but is also frequently stuffed into the back of a kayak or a backpack. We put our gear to the test, and everything on my list is stuff that I’ve owned for years. It’s quality gear that has held up well over time, and I can truly say that any of these items will greatly benefit your camping experience.
Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear about what some of your favorite camping accessories are!