I'm going camping! Share your cool gear, tips, etc...

It’s my favorite time of year. We are headed out to the annual camping trip. We do little trips throughout the year as well but this is our big trip I have decided it is time for some near gear (most of my stuff is hand me downs or leftovers from childhood). Share with me your coolest camp gear. The most useful, and even the not so useful.
Our trip is going to be a two parter. We are driving into some property in Sierra Nevada’s leased by my boyfriend’s family from the government where we can drive straight to the site. We will camp there for a couple of days and then we are going to go backpacking for a couple of days. I need recommendations for stuff!

Specifically I need a new pack (I’m 5’2 and a woman if that will help in suggestions), a one person tent for the backpacking part of the trip, and a warm sleeping bag (we will be in the mountains and I am a cold wuss), and a lightweight sleeping mat. I am also open to all suggestions of anything else I might need. I love cool camping gear, so even if it is not a necessity, but is just plain neat, I want to hear about it (though it will probably be left behind on the backpacking portion of the trip). Since we will be able to leave some stuff behind in a locked storage shed during the backpacking portion of the trip not everything need to be small and compact, but any cool backpacking gear you know of would be awesome as well. We will also be fishing (stream and lake) so any cool gear you can suggest there would be great.

I am a pretty seasoned camper (pretty much the only vacations we took as a child) and we will be strictly tent camping for both portions (we have a larger tent for the easy camp portion), though others might appreciate cool stuff for people who use campers and what not.

I also thought it might be fun to share any tricks, tips for camping, recipes, nice camp spots, cool camping gear, etc. that people have come across though the years whether a strictly RV, state park camper, or a deep woods hike (or kayak) in camper.

I love this time of year!

I can recommend this sleeping bag (it’s rated at 20F, but they also have ones at 0 and 35F). It comes with both a compression sack (it packs down fairly small) and a storage sack. It was a nice addition to my gear since my -25F bag (North Face) is far too bulky for backpacking, and 40F bag (Slumberjack) is a bit light, though I have to say I have been impressed with the Slumberjack bag too. Gee, writing this post I’ve see that I am starting to collect sleeping bags like I collect bicycles.

Mountainsmith also has women’s backpacks. I don’t have one of their backpacks, but the duffel bags I have from them (one is about 20 years old) are extremely well made.

I’m far from an expert, but here are some ideas.
I have a stove simlar to this: http://www.rei.com/product/784352/primus-omnifuel-backpacking-stove The nice thing is the whole thing folds and fits inside my cooking pot (not including the fuel bottle)

For a sleeping pad, the tehermarest is popular http://www.rei.com/product/829825/therm-a-rest-40th-anniversary-edition-sleeping-pad-womens
Think of foam rubber with an outer shell. Compresses fairly well, and then self inflates a bit. You can inflate it a bit more after that.

You could get a ~30F bag and get a liner http://www.rei.com/product/705534/sea-to-summit-reactor-thermolite-mummy-bag-liner

I’m not sure how likely dew / rain is wher you are camping, but I like a small sponge for wiping the tent before packing.


I love the idea of a liner for the sleeping bag! We don’t always camp in the mountains so it would be really nice to adjust the temp of the sleeping bag accordingly.

I was looking at one of these on amazon.com. I realize it is ridiculously cheap and I should therefore be wary, but the reviews are really good and I like that it is tiny and comes with a case. Does anyone have any experience with one of these. I looked at the one posted above, but it is a lot more expensive and looks to be similar, if not more bulky.


I go backpacking a lot and highly recommend trangia stoves their nice and light very easy to use and pack up much smaller than a gas type stove. http://www.ultralight-hiking.com/stoves-trangia.html

I have one of these stoves. Super compact. Super light. Powerful burner. What it lacks is a bit of stability and any sort of wind shield but you can improvise both.

Other than that a good head lamp is a must and useful not just in the wilderness.

If you need to travel light, I recommend a “travel towel”. They are lightweight, work well, and dry quickly. And they hardly take up any luggage space. They’re a real treat.

The other handy camping must, in my view, is a headlight. You never know when you might need one and it is a wonderful, hands-free tool for searching for items in the dark.

For the car camping part of your trip, behold the REI Comfort Cot. I love mine. It takes a ton of room in the car, but I get a great nights’ sleep. I also have an ALPS Mountaineering XXL pad (mostly for warmth). It is almost better than a regular bed when paired with the cot. You wouldn’t want to take either backpacking, but for car camping (which is what I do) they are great.

As for food, check cafe society - I’m sure there are recent threads on camp food.


For the car portion, totes from Rubbermaid or Sterlite are invaluable, IME. In addition to carnut’s towel, bandanas make great washclothes, napkins, hand towels and, well, bandanas. :slight_smile: Just choose a few different colors/patterns so everyone has their own and you have lightweight, multi-purpose squares that dry pretty quickly.

Ziploc bags are da bomb for keeping stuff dry, toting out trash when backpacking and keeping stuff organized.

Kind of basic, mundane stuff, I know, but all have served me well on my camping trips over the years.


I have had great results from Osprey packs, they are very light weight and comfy.

Have a look at Tarptents by Harry Shire, I have the Contrail and it is a bloody ripper at only 700g!

Trail runners rather than boots are a great idea, the idea that you need to wear 5 pound boots is stupid.

Weight is your enemy on the hike so ask the questions “do I really need this and does it carry out more than one function?”

If you google light weight hiking there are tons of sites that have active forums.


Get a bloody comfy chair, best investment when camping.

Veteran backpacker checking in.

If you’re looking for a great tent for a great value, check out the ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 1. It has everything you need for a one-person tent, and nothing that you don’t. Very lightweight, freestanding, polyester rain fly. I love it, but I don’t necessarily vouch for anything else from that manufacturer.

These days I always take Tynenol PM to help me sleep. My old body doesn’t do so well on thin sleeping pads.

Yes. I even brought extra of the huge size to share with friends on a recent camping trip. They were a hit.

I was all ready to recommend one of these because Amazon was having a sale, but the sale is over. They were $17.00. Now they’re $29.56.

I have two of them–one in my truck and one at the cabin. Pretty handy when the lights go out during a thunderstorm.

A few recommendations for the car-camping portion:

We keep all utensils in a small simple tacklebox. They can be found at Walmart for a trivial price, and you can use the upper tray for things like matches or lantern mantles. It also keeps everything dry when closed and can be left on the picnic table for the entire stay.

For handwashing, we keep a small bucket-rope-soap assembly in our vehicle. We put a bar of soap into the leg of old pantyhose and tie it to the bucket handle. Also a length of rope is tied there as well. When arriving at a campsite, we stretch the rope between two trees and loop the bucket end in such a way the bucket hangs about waist high. When filled with water you can wash your hands using the soap, then let it (soap) hang outside the bucket to dry. Used carefully, the water will last for days before it gets soapy enough to need replaced. A small dollop of Clorox will also add antiseptic if you wish. The rest of the rope can be used as a clothesline for towels etc. When finished, everything fits into the bucket and takes up very little space in the vehicle. This is very useful when you have limited water, or have to carry it to your site.

A small package of bungee cords (again from Walmart) can be invaluable. They work great for pinning your table cloth at each end to the picnic table (winds). Just assemble 2 or 3 of them in a suitably sized ring and it’ll usually stay the entire trip.

Instead of potholders, we carry a few sets of heavy workgloves in our camping gear. They work for hot pans, and also keep the rest of your hand protected when operating near the fire/grill/etc. With a small fire, you can simply reach in and position the wood as you like, rather than poking with a stick to move the logs.

Speaking of fires, I was a boyscout but who wants to bother with tinder, etc.? I take a small bag of matchlight charcoal with us. Toss the bag into the fire ring, light the bag itself, pile the wood on top; and in 20 minutes you’ll have a great fire. (I’m lazy).

I’ll add more as I think of it… have a great trip!

Tent: Eureka Spitfire

Sleeping bag: I’ve got the campmor bag, but they don’t make that anymore. I guess the Kelty Cosmic is in the same league.

Pad: the blue Walmart pad

Bag: some Marmot rucksack I got from Dick’s

Stove: DIY Coke can

Pot: Heineken can

You should go to whiteblaze.net or you should go to backpackgeartest.org or you should go to outdoorgearlab.com

I use a MSR Hubba one man tent, and love it.

Can you go into a little more detail on this one? I am intrigued…

Also, I agree with never having too many ziplock bags. I also have found that you can never have too much tin foil.

How about meals for the backpacking portion? Any suggestions that aren’t the norm?