Five Pieces of Camping Equipment You Don’t Need, But Will Love

by Lauren Braden

in Camping and Outdoors

You have the perfect tent. And your Dad’s old Coleman stove still works like a charm. What’s next?

If you’re an occasional camper, you acquire the basics to keep you warm, dry and fed in the outdoors and you’re good to go. But if you’re ready to take your camping to the next level, there’s a whole world of fancy, specialty camping gear out there vying for your attention. Some of these little extras are rather overpriced and others are just not necessary. But after many years of car camping and backcountry camping, I’ve come to the conclusion that a few little luxuries can make a night in the outdoors a whole lot more comfortable. Here are five neat pieces of camping gear you might want to have for yourself.

 

Petzl Zipka Headlamp1. Petzl Zipka Headlamp

Hands down, this is my favorite piece of personal camping gear. I still pack a flashlight in the car, too, but nothing beats an LED attached to your forehead, pointing a bright light directly into your field of vision. This compact headlamp has a zip retractable cord system, allowing the headlamp to be worn on your head or wrist. When its not in use, I keep mine in my pocket when I’m camping at all times. Note: while the retractable cord makes this headlamp super compact, I have long hair and the cord does occasionally get tangled.
REI shelter for picnic table

 

2. REI Alcove Shelter

Pitch this shelter over your picnic table or over a big blanket for the kids to play on. The REI Alcove is a freestanding, floorless rain and sun shelter with substantial wind integrity. Make it even better by adding these REI Alcove Windwalls, a 2-panel windbreak that attaches to the Alcove shelter for more wind and sun protection (and privacy if you’re in a crowded campground).

 

3. Camp End Table

This is almost getting into “campground host” territory (though far short of hummingbird feeders and goofy strings of awning lights.) The thing is, sometimes you just really want a place to securely place your beer or set down the fixins for s’mores. Sure, you could bring a milk crate and turn it upside down–that’s what we used to do. But this high-quality REI end table with two cup holders and side pockets for storage is much nicer. Plus, it packs down small and has its own carry bag.

 

4. Uco Candlelier Candle Lantern

For years we used an old Coleman propane lantern that required silk mesh mantles. It puts out a ton of bright light, but I cannot count how many fragile mantles I ruined (I’m a bit clumsy). The Uco Candlelier Candle Lantern is much easier to use for a klutz like me, and there are no fossil fuels required. It puts out a fair amount of heat on chilly nights, which is a major plus. I rather prefer the dimmer light now, too —  the blast of harsh light from the Coleman can be a bit much, whereas the light off this one is just right.

 

5. ENO SingleNest Hammock

I’m not suggesting you leave your tent at home and sleep in this hammock, though plenty of campers do just that. Rather, I think hammocks are a grand alternative to a lounge chair at camp. Imagine that you return to your campsite after a long day hike, and you’re tired. You want to rest up a bit before dinner, but you don’t want to crawl into your tent in the middle of the afternoon. Instead, you recline onto this comfy hammock with a good book and a cup of tea. That’s the life, isn’t it?  They also make this double-sized, roomy enough to hold two adults.

 

BONUS! Reader favorites!

We asked some Northwest TripFinder readers to share with us their favorite “beyond the basics” camping gear, and this is what we heard:

Platypus Wine Bottles!“– Craig Romano, guidebook author and outdoors writer. Protect the flavor of your wine bottles with a set of 4 Platypus wine preservation bladders. The PlatyPreserve pouches extend the life of your wine by eliminating exposure to oxygen. Containers are lightweight and packable so you can carry wine to the campsite or take it along on a hike. These containers are BPA-free!

Silk sleep sheet.” – Lace Thornberg, Fullbright-powered museum-builder on Palawan Island.  The Cocoon Silk Travelsheet can be used as a sleeping bag liner for extra comfort and warmth, or simply by itself in warmer weather. These have become popular for travelers to use in hostels, too.

Popcorn!” – Janet Way, activist. The Camp Chef popcorn popper lets you munch on fresh popcorn while taking in the sites and sounds in the best theater around: the great outdoors.

Old milk jug - fill with water and clip the head lamp to it = instant tent lamp!” – Kris Kirwan, Don’t Break the Piggy Bank

Compact LED lantern – so much safer than my old candle lantern and it works better too.” – Dan Buck, master of the canoe.

GCI Outdoors Wilderness ReclinerA comfy chair for fireside.” – Lesley Braden, Seattle band Fast Arrow. This GCI Outdoor Wilderness Recliner Chair has a padded seat and lumbar support, letting you recline in absolute comfort. And of course, a cup holder for your…

Pabst Blue Ribbon.” – Brent Larson, urban dweller.

 What’s your favorite piece of “luxury” camping gear?

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Shep Griswold July 2, 2012 at 8:29 am

The Petzl Zipka Plus 2 Headlamp is, and has been my favorite piece of gear for years now. I’m glad someone else is impressed with it’s usefulness. I keep two of them in my pack at all times, they are so compact! I have had to lend them out on hikes where others have either forgotten their lamps, or they have had battery issues. They are awesome!

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Jennifer Johnson July 2, 2012 at 10:36 am

For us it seems the headlamp isn’t a luxury! LOL! But I just bought myself a super light-weight inflatable backpacking pillow. It is so much more comfy than lumpy sweaters piled up under my head. My neck is thanking me after my first test drive of it this weekend camping.

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Caanan @ No Vacation Required July 2, 2012 at 12:29 pm

We have been on a multi-year gear diet. We’ve done a lot of gear minimization, so I don;t see any end-tables in our future! I do love the candle / lantern. I hate the light that comes off of the old Coleman Lanterns (as well as that loud hissing sound). Our little propane lantern is only a little bit less obnoxious. The worst, though, are those battery operated full on neon lights that most people use nowadays. Nothing says “gettin’ back to nature” like 800 watts of light burning through your retinas! :)

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mark July 3, 2012 at 5:53 am

Thanks for the tip on the camping headlight! I forgot what a handy device this is when you need to do some hands free work in the tent at night. I don’t like trying to find things in my bag with one hand on the flash light and one inside the bag. I end up using 2 hands and then my light is buried in the bag!

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Claudia @ thetravellingmom July 3, 2012 at 10:53 am

We’ve loved our Uco Candlelier for years. The soft, candlelight glow beats that awful Coleman glare hands down every time. We replaced our three candles just this camping season for the first time, after many years of loving use. Highly recommended!

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James October 24, 2012 at 10:26 pm

I have an LED flashlight that puts out 140 lumens. Took it on the AT last year with a translucent 35mm film canister (Fuji 400 film used to make these). Pop the canister on the end and it makes a GREAT lantern. Saves weight/space too.

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Lauren October 25, 2012 at 8:15 am

James – great idea! Tricks like this to save weight while backpacking are so important when every ounce counts!

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