By Dan Kidder
When it comes to camping, we all dream of loading a pack and setting off for a remote location miles from our vehicles, trekking for days on isolated trails in the backcountry.The reality however, is that far more people pull up to their camp location in their truck or SUV and haul as many comforts as possible with them in their vehicle, than they do on their back.
The benefits of car camping are many. The most noticeable is how much and the types of gear you can take along. I can cook over a tiny backpacking stove, but for a large group of hungry campers, I would much prefer to do my cooking over a Camp Chef Pro 90 Triple Burner Stove. The Pro 90 offers three 30,000 BTU cast aluminum burners, a fold-up design that minimizes space in the truck, and easy to adjust knobs to help get the heat just where you want it. A variety of accessories from grill boxes, to full length griddles, to portable pizza ovens are available for your Pro 90 stove to help you get the most out of your outdoor dining experience.
Depending on the size of your camping group, having a common area protected from the sun, rain, and bugs is a real plus. The Clam Six Pack 1660 Mag Screen Tent gives your clan 94 square feet of covered space to congregate. It has a center height of 7-and-a-half feet and is large enough to fit a picnic table. Mesh walls let the breeze blow but keeps the bugs out. The Clam 1660 is rugged strong, made of the highest quality elements, so it can withstand even the windiest days and it goes up in less than a minute, far faster and easier than standard pop-up canopies.
To keep everything cold, a cooler big enough and rugged enough to hold all your perishable food and also protect it from bears is a necessity. For this purpose, we recommend and use the Grizzly 75 Cooler. This 75 quart cooler is ideal for long weekend getaways and keeps ice for over ten days in our testing. It measures 33.25 inches wide by 18 inches deep and stands 18 inches high. This hardcore unit is made from rotomolded plastic, which insures that the wall thickness is consistent throughout, making it extremely tough. It is injected with environmentally friendly insulation that truly will keep ice longer than any other cooler on the market. The 2” drain plug allows for quick draining and the full length drain channels on the bottom of the cooler complete this process. It comes with non-slip and non-marking rubber feet which will keep the unit in place on the deck of your boat or bed of the truck. Handles are molded in, but also comes with rope handles with a nylon sleeve and heavy duty rubber handles. There is a 2” tie down slot on each side which allows you to not only tie it down, but even lock it to your vehicle. The internal molding in this cooler is designed to hold the Grizzly frozen dividers which, are powered by Arctic Ice. If you will be camping in bear country, this cooler is also Grizzly Bear compliant. Each cooler has a lifetime warranty and is made right here in the U.S.A.
For a good night’s rest, you can rough it on the ground, but a good quality air mattress will make your sleeping more comfortable and keep you warmer. When car camping, you can take along the Coleman Queen Size Double High Airbed With Pump. This inflatable mattress rises to normal bed height and features 34 individual coils for added support of your body. Welded seams insure your mattress won’t leak all night long. It fits standard sheets and has a sueded micro-fiber top to prevent your sheets from slipping off during the night. When deflated, it rolls up easily and is kept compact by the Wrap ‘N’ Roll Storage System and takes up only minimal space. The included 120V DC pump lets you quickly fill the mattress by using a car inverter, or you can pick up the rechargeable Quick Pump for use where there is no access to electricity.
For those more daring souls, a Camping Hammock from Eagle Nest Outfitters offers the comfort of a hammock and the luxury of a tent. Zip-in bug netting, rain fly, stakes, and extension straps provide you multiple protection from the elements and flexibility in set-up options. Accessories such as a wrap-around quilt or lights make this a super comfortable option where you will have the ability to suspend the hammock. And for those who like a cuddle buddy at night, they offer the ENO DoubleNest 2 Person Hammock so you can stay extra warm.
Your tent is your home away from home and having enough room to comfortably sleep your entire clan and all of their gear is a necessity. For ultimate group camping the Browning Buckmark Six Man Tent offers two rooms with their own entrances split up with a removable divider. This 9×14 tent stands 6’8” in the center and features a free-standing steel three-pole design with fiberglass shock corded tent supports. A rain fly covers the top and is easily assembled in a short amount of time. Straight walls offer more room for people and gear and the already waterproofed and sealed tent means you can take it straight from the store to the field without treating the seams and letting it dry before use.
To extend your camping pleasure, good lighting is a must. Thermacell offers their Camp Lantern that not only puts out up to 300 lumens of light in a 360 degree arc, but it also is equipped with Thermacell’s non-topical insect repellent technology to keep the bugs away. It will run for up to 50 hours on its highest setting. It has three brightness settings as well as a flashing SOS setting and features a battery level indicator. For keeping the biting bugs at bay, the Thermacell butane cartridge and repellent pad form a 15 by 15 foot protection zone of virtually odorless and silent protection from insects. The base of the lantern features a hook that makes it easy to suspend in a tent or above a camp table to more readily allow the light and insect protection to be extended to their maximum effectiveness.
They say camping is all about the fire. The experience of sitting around the campfire telling and retelling tall tales is one of the more enjoyable camping activities. To help make building and maintaining your fire easier, Zippo has created the 4-In-1 Woodsman Axe and Saw. This full sized axe features a 5-inch blade that doubles as a hammer on the back side for driving in tent stakes. Inside the handle resides a large-toothed wood saw blade that attaches to the handle and the axe blade cover to form a bow saw for cutting wood. The metal loop on the bottom not only tightens the saw blade, but also acts as a tent stake puller.
For locations that don’t allow fires, the Camp Chef Redwood Portable Propane Fire Pit gives you the atmosphere of a campfire without the risk of burning wood in a dry environment. It connects to a portable propane tank with a 6-foot hose and puts out 55,000 BTUs of heat; enough to cook on or use for heat. It is self-lighting so matches are not needed. The 15-inch diameter fire bowl gives off plenty of heat and light and a stainless steel safety ring protects little ones from falling in the fire. A wide base keeps a stable platform for the 12 pounds of lava rocks, especially on uneven surfaces.
Once you have set up camp, cooked a meal, built the fire, and pitched your tent, there is nothing left to do but sit back and relax in the beautiful outdoors. For hours of camp comfort, the Alps Aluminum Camp Chair will provide you with a wider seat than most other portable chairs. It also offers better support, a heavy duty powder coated frame, and folds up compactly for transport. The ALPS Aluminum Camp Chair offers better stability on uneven ground and provides a more rigid backrest for hours of comfortable enjoyment. Padded, curved armrests and a cup holder pocket complete your throne, letting you focus on being king of the campsite.
This summer, take the family out and enjoy the wonderful outdoors together. In too short of time the kids will be grown and gone, so take this time to make valuable memories spent together as a family. But just because you are camping doesn’t mean you can’t rough it in comfort and style the next time you camp out. And while you are at it, look into some of the wonderful State Parks that offer camping for families. These parks are often underutilized except during major holidays like Labor Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day. The rest of the year, you may find yourself all alone with your loved ones in first-rate campgrounds. If not, you just might meet some fun neighbors and strike up a life-long friendship. Save me a S’more.