Camping doesn’t always have to be about roughing it — in fact, camping tech is improving every year, from high-tech stoves that cook your food more efficiently without wasting fuel to hiking boots that offer waterproof ankle support without all the weight. It’s easy to remember the basics — tent,, backpack — only to overlook the creature comforts that can make camping trips more comfortable for you and your family.
We’ve crowdsourced the top tips from CNET’s camping regulars for gear that can help you focus on connecting to nature without completely disconnecting from the world you live in every day.
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A portable shower is a must-have
I’m one of those people who won’t go camping anywhere unless there’s a shower nearby. Unfortunately, some areas are more secluded, which limits camping options for me. Fortunately, there are portable showers that run off solar energy, so a warm wash is always available even in the backwoods.
A convenient and affordable option is the Advanced Elements shower ($30), which holds up to 5 gallons of water and has a temperature gauge. It weighs a little over 1 pound and rolls up for easy storage. Hang it up in a private shower tent or suspend it from a tree if you’re feeling wild.
Cook with a portable stove
Who says you have to build a wood or charcoal fire to cook? Just bring a small portable stove with you so you won’t worry about how you’re going to cook on rainy days. Sure, the campsites probably have a charcoal grill you can use, but a portable propane stove is much quicker and you don’t have to wait your turn to use it if you’re sharing a site.
Most stove options will fit in a backpack, like this one-burner Coleman stove ($23). Don’t forget to bring some small skillets and cooking utensils, too.
Charge your electronics without killing your car battery
While you may not have an internet signal where you’re camping, you can still use your phone or tablet for other things, like taking photos, playing games, reading books and watching movies while you relax. Therefore, you’ll want to keep it charged, especially if there’s an emergency (emergency services can find the last location your phone pinged).
Instead of draining your car battery charging your electronics, it’s best to get a solar portable charger that can recharge itself by day so you don’t have to worry about running out of battery life at night.
You can, of course, bring a large portable battery for your devices, like the ($1,100 at Amazon) three charges and a Galaxy S10 Plus ($900 at Walmart) a little over two charges.($500), which has a 116,000mAh capacity. This is especially nifty for those who can’t live without their straighteners and hair dryers — though depending on the capacity, you may not get a lot of repeated charges. You can also go with a smaller 10,000mAh battery that will roughly give an iPhone XS Max
Make your tent feel like home
Solarize your tent to make it feel less like you’re in a jungle and more like you never left home. You can make your own solar tent by hanging up solar lights like these hanging solar lights ($33) — these are especially useful if you hang them up around the tent poles so you don’t trip over them at night. Make sure you bring some that can also run on batteries in case the weather doesn’t permit sunlight.
Solar fans like the Opolar travel fan ($16) can help keep your tent cool in the late afternoon or on a particularly sweaty night. Just make sure to leave them out during the day so they can soak up the sun.
It’s also a great idea to pack camping lanterns, like the Suaoki LED Camping Lantern ($17), in case you decide to venture out of your tent for a bathroom break or night hike. This lantern is solar-powered and also has a USB port for charging.
Forget the campground. Camp in your truck or SUV
If sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag is a deal-breaker, and you have a truck, van or SUV, you can turn it into. It already has lights, shelter and power, so that’s less stuff you’ll have to pack from the get-go. Consider bringing a warmer option for cooler nights, like the REI Co-op Kingdom Insulated Sleep System 40 ($279) — you do have to hand-pump this one.
A self-inflating air mattress is great no matter where you’re sleeping, so you can do other things while your mattress is filling up. It’s still a good idea to bring a portable battery or generator so your car battery isn’t doing all of the work.
Keep your drinks cool without ice
If you really want to go the extra mile while camping, invest in a solarlike the GoSun Chill ($499) that will keep your drinks and lunch meat cool without using ice. It’ll feel like you’re reaching into a refrigerator, and your hand won’t freeze every time you grab a drink. Plus, you’ll prevent melted water from seeping into your food packaging. Make sure your cooler is on wheels so you don’t have to lug it around every time you move.
Instead of packing plastic bottles, you can also pack a few reusable water cubes ($12) in the coolers to make sure you’re stocked up on filtered water. These have a tap handle to make it easy to pour the water into a bottle.
You can have your coffee and drink it, too
Coffee snobs, you won’t have to forgo your daily coffee or worse — drink instant — while on your camping trip. A($64) doesn’t require electricity and you can have your morning cup of joe in no time. Or, if you get a strong enough portable battery with the right plug type, you could potentially bring your coffee maker along.
Prefer French-pressed coffee? Get a French press that also serves as a thermos and can hold heat for several hours. You’ll need access to hot water for this type.
Camping slippers are a must
Bring some close-toed slip-on shoes with you, because tying your shoes to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night isn’t ideal. Closed toes are a good plan to keep out dust and avoid stubbing your toes on loose rocks and branches while you navigate the dark.
One CNET editor swears by the Thermoball Traction Booties from The North Face ($60). These all-weather slippers are warm enough to wear in a Michigan winter without socks all the way to 75 degree heat without burning off your tootsies.
Other essentials you won’t want to forget
If you do decide to take the plunge and glamp, remember the basic necessities:
- Bug zapper and mosquito repellent
- Paper towels
- Toilet paper
- Hand sanitizer and wet wipes
- Tarps in case it rains
- Trash bags
- Resealable plastic bags
- Warm clothes for night
- More underwear than you think you actually need
Originally published May 25.
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