It’s June, summer is here, and you’re probably itching to get out of the house and away from civilization. That’s right. It’s camping season. There’s nothing like having hot days to justify wild dips in a lake or pounding pilsners in the shade. This kind of fresh-air freedom, to do anything or nothing, helps to rejuvenate the soul.
But let’s not kid ourselves. Although we pack up gear for an escape from civilization, we’re going to be bringing some modern tech with us. Don’t feel guilty! At the very least, smartphones and tablets are our sources for music during the day and e-book reading at night. Not just that, but there are many apps that are useful to have on-hand while camping, such as medical guides, survival guides, and trail guides. Besides, do you really want to be “that one” carrying camping relics from past decades?
So before you set off on your next outdoor adventure, make sure you’re well-prepared. Here’s a list of ten gadgets to make you the envy of your peers.
Why choose a basic camping chair when you can have a veritable throne? This chair has a shelf system to hold your drink, food, or any other gadgets or equipment you want to have close at hand. It has a detachable insulated cooler (with pockets!) that can be carried over the shoulder. Fabrics straps on the back let you mount an umbrella, if you have one. Best of all, this folding chair features a backpack strap system for easy portability.
All of your tech gadgets need a proper container for carrying, right? This rugged backpack from Pelican provides a tablet sleeve to protect it against impact. You don’t want to take any unnecessary chances, especially when it comes to the merciless outdoors. The 21-liter main storage compartment is roomy enough to hold practically all of your personal belongings.
Free energy doesn’t grow on trees; it comes from the sun. If you want to make sure all your electronics and battery-powered devices last for more than a day, you’ll need a solar panel. This Suntactics solar panel has a few great features, making it an ideal choice for camping: folds flat, durable, waterproof, can generate 2.8A for fast tablet charging. You can read the review for the (previous) sCharger-12 for more info.
While nighttime gadgets (e.g. lights, flashlights, etc.) can charge via solar during the day, your daytime tech (e.g. smartphone, tablet, speaker, etc.) will be low on power by the time the sun sets. Unfortunately, a solar panel won’t do much for you then. The solution is to store solar energy in an external battery pack. And if you’re going to get a battery, you’ll want one that can resist dirt, water, and shock. The dual USB ports can output 5V/1A and 5V/2.4A for smartphones, tablets, and everything else.
Sure, the sounds of nature are great and all, but I’m not about to go a day without listening to music. Of all the rugged, Bluetooth speakers out there, nothing tops this one by Eton. Not only is it designed to deliver big sound wherever you go, but the built-in solar panel makes it entirely self-sufficient. This speaker also features a 5V 2.4A USB ports to charge an external device. Does it overlap with a standalone solar panel? Some. But is it likely that you’re the only one to have a solar energy source that everyone else will beg to tap into? Definitely. Extra never hurts anyone.
For the same reason that a movie at the drive-in is fun, watching video from a projector while camping is fun. Even if you might be picky about the overall performance, I highly doubt the kids will be. Without the light pollution from cities, this little projector is bright enough to create a big-screen viewing experience in the woods. A 75-minute battery may not seem like much, but that’s why the before-mentioned Eton is perfect; it can provide power and an audio output for the projector.
You can’t go camping without a proper light (you can, but won’t like it so much). For utility and preparedness, the Goal Zero Lighthouse 250 is a top choice. The dimmable Cree LED bulbs can output a max of 250 lumens for illumination. This lantern charges via USB or the built-in hand crank for when cloudy skies crash your camping trip. It also features an output USB port to charge other devices, too. It might take some extra cranking, but at least you have peace of mind knowing there’s always one reliable power source with you.
While lanterns are great for lighting up an area, you’ll need a good headlamp or flashlight for personal use. Why settle for a basic flashlight when you can pack a feature-rich one? The Satechi LightMate runs off a 2200mAh battery that recharges through USB. It can also charge other devices through it’s output USB port (noticing any versatility trends yet?). 220 lumens can be used directionally, like a standard flashlight, or it can double as a personal lantern with the included screw-on diffuser bulb.
Clean drinking water is plentiful back at the camp, especially if you’re at a recreational camping area. However, things are a bit different if you’re backpacking, hiking, or camping further out where water isn’t easily on tap. In these situations, staying hydrated can mean the difference between life and death. The Lifestraw Go filters all the same bacteria, parasites, and chemicals that the basic, award-winning Lifestraw does, but in a 670ml, easy-carry bottle.
While neither tech nor gadget, a quality blade should always be your closest companion in any outdoor or wilderness environment. Heck, you should have one on you for every day carry (EDC), but that’s a completely different post. What’s not to love about the Manix 2? You’ve got awesome finger choils for grip, a cutlery-grade (USA) stainless steel blade, and a flat-ground leaf-shape for easy sharpening. The cherry on top of all this is the fact that the Spyderco Manix 2 has half the weight, compared to other folding knives with the same blade size. Beautiful.