Gear Up For Camping Season
April 1, 2017
The only bad thing about camping is putting all that stuff away when you get home, right? Well, when I was a kid, we camped and hunted all the time, and my dad had a big old Army field desk that we called the Camping Box.
The front panel of it was removed, then it became a table by hooking the front panel to the side of the box and folding the legs out. The inside was all drawers, and we put all the usual camping stuff in there - paper towels, dish soap, seasonings, silverware, dishes, matches - you name it.
Then all we had to do was stow the box in the closet when we got home. It saved a lot of time. But - that box was heavy. And you had to have a pickup truck, because there was no way to fit that in a car or even an SUV.
A Duffel Bag
I found a giant duffel bag at a discount store and made a camping bag instead of a box. We keep our dedicated camping dishes, stove, waterproof matches, etc., in the bag. It even has inflatable pillows that make sleeping so much more comfy. At the SHOT Show this year I saw a lot of great stuff that I'm planning to get to replace some of my old camping gear. Here are some of the nicest things we saw.
Flexware by UST is perfect for camping, and even backpacking or stowing on the boat. Flexware folds up like an accordion, and they've got everything from glasses and bowls to kitchen sinks and buckets. There is even a kettle and mugs. Since they collapse down so small, they are all ideal for the camping bag.
Another great thing from UST is the SlothSak Chair. These are the perfect camping chairs because they fold up to almost nothing, weigh less than two pounds each, and they are comfy as all get-out. All you have to do is swoosh it through the air to fill the two big chambers, then roll up the end and snap the buckle. If it's really windy at the campsite, peg the chairs down.
They are just $40 each and come in lime green, bright blue, and orange. Your kids will love them and so will you. You can see all their camping and survival gear at ustbrands.com.
Cookware is essential. You can cook a lot of things by simply enclosing them in foil and putting them on the grill, but you'll always have a need for a pan or two. I found an excellent cooking kit that includes a 1-liter pot and a skillet, as well as a couple of bowls, a folding spork, a spoon, a pot cover, a cleaning sponge, and a drawstring pouch for just $20 on Amazon.
The pan handles fold away to the sides of the pan, and it's very light and compact. It's by MalloMe and it's called the MalloMe Camping Cookware Kit. You know those little round plastic containers you can buy with cookie decorations in them?
You can get those with spices, too, and they are perfect for the camping box. I found one on Amazon for under $5. It's Coghlan's Multi-spice and it has paprika, curry, cayenne, garlic salt, pepper, and salt. It's perfect.
Lights And Stove
Another thing you always need when camping is lights and a stove. I have a Biolite Stove that will cook with twigs or pinecones and generate power to charge my phone as well. They aren't cheap, but they sure are nice and small and they work great. Check them out at bioliteenergy.com.
You're not always allowed to have an actual fire in the woods, so I also have a JetBoil Flash stove that runs on canned gas. This is one of my absolute favorites because I have the French Press add-on. It boils water in almost no time, and I can enjoy real coffee almost as soon as I wake up.
JetBoil has a bunch of different cooking systems, and they are especially good for backpacking. You can see them all at jetboil.com
For lights, we ditched the old white gas lantern and switched to inflatables. We even have a couple that are solar. The beauty of these is that you don't have to worry about batteries.
The Biolite also a lighting system that the stove powers. You can get inflatable lanterns in a lot of different places. Sportsman's Warehouse has some very good 75 lumen LuminAid ones for around $15. They weigh just 4 ounces and they're almost a 5-inch cube when inflated, but pack down to about an inch high.
They have different levels of light settings, including a flash setting, and they recharge in about ten hours. They'll run for 24 hours on low. They're ideal for the boat - they float and and they're waterproof, so you could even use them as fishing lights. The 150 lumen version is $30.
Another essential for camping in Arizona is a way to cool off the tent. It can get pretty stuffy in there with four people and a dog! One of the best things I ever bought was a Stansport 18-LED camping lantern with fan.
It was only $20 and it has super bright lights that illuminate the whole tent, as well as a fan that can be set on something and pointed where you need it or it can be hung from the top of the tent. You could even hang it from a tree to cool yourself on days with no breeze. It takes two D batteries and is only 6.25 x 6.25 x 7.25 inches. We love it.
Camping Bag Checklist
Coffee making supplies
Comb (comes in handy for removing cactus, too)
Cooking gear: compact pan set, cooking utensils
Dish soap, biodegradable
Dog dish (Flexware again!)
First aid kit
Flexware bucket/sink for doing dishes
Fuel for stove, if needed
Hatchet for wood and for pounding tent stakes
Matches/fire making equipment
Plates, cups, bowls, utensils
Water purification tablets
This is the kind of stuff we keep in our camping bag. It's ready to go with just a quick check-over to replenish any needed supplies like batteries and spices, and we just stick it back in the closet when we get home.
Of course you still have to pack the tent and stuff like that, but it sure helps to have the small stuff that you always need already packed. If you find that you're getting too much stuff in the bag and it's getting hard to carry, just switch to two smaller bags.
You can also find really big, lightweight nylon bags that are big enough for your tent and inflatable mattresses to go in. There may even be room for any special blankets or throws you always bring. We just find it easier to have a few large bags than 20-30 individual things to load and unload. Happy camping!