It’s almost summer — time to get out of the houses we’ve been wrestling with for the past year and into our tents and camp chairs, with a cold beverage or fishing pole in hand.
But after months of purging and organizing within your walls, it might be a bit disheartening to enter your basement or shed or closet and see the overflowing pile of tangled camping gear.
Keep your tidying tendencies on track by streamlining all that stuff, and making better use of what you do own. A great way to do that is to choose gear that works beyond the campsite, becoming useful pieces you can employ at home year-round. This will eat up less of your storage space and will decrease your cost-per-use of those big-ticket items that usually only see sunlight a few weekends a summer.
Here are a few pieces of camp gear you can pull out of the bin and make more use of day to day, as well as some product picks if you’re looking to upgrade.
The return of guests
As vaccinations become the norm, your out-of-town friends and relatives may be wanting to visit soon.
Don’t stress about turning your guest-room-turned-office back into a guest room. A camping cot decked out with a nice pillow and fluffy duvet makes for a great spare bed. The L.L.Bean Byer Cottage Cot Bed ($180 at llbean.com) has a 3-inch-thick mattress, is 75 inches long, can hold 300 pounds — and won’t deflate in the middle of the night like that old air mattress.
Rather than adding flimsy folding chairs around the table, use your comfy camping chairs. If they’ve gotten ratty and you can’t shake the smell of woodsmoke, consider the new REI Co-op Outward Low Padded Lawn Chair ($80 at rei.com). With classic good looks, wood arms and a fully padded seat and back, it will be fought over whether at home or the campsite.
A weekend with guests shouldn’t be spent doing laundry. Give each guest one of your quick-dry towels that air out faster, allowing them to be used multiple times. Or take the towels to the beach or park for extra seating. Guests probably won’t even be able to tell that Seattle-based PackTowl’s Luxe Towels ($30–$45 at packtowl.com) are for travel, as they’re as soft as a typical towel but dry 30% faster.
Bring everything you love about camping to your backyard, so you can enjoy the outdoors even when you can’t get a campground reservation.
It’s never been easier to add festive twinkle lights to your yard or campsite, thanks to a proliferation of LED versions available at big-box stores and outdoor retailers. Revel Gear’s Trail Hound 30-Foot Camping Light ($25 at rei.com) is generously sized and gives off a beautiful glow with 100 white or multicolored lights. It can be run off a standard or solar-charged battery pack, and has various brightness settings and light modes.
If you still need a reason to get a backyard fire pit, consider that officials are already concerned about a bad wildfire season this year. When burn bans are in effect at your campground, you can still stay cozy at night with a propane-powered fire pit like the Outland Firebowl Gas Fire Pit ($180 at amazon.com), which is sturdy but lightweight enough for car camping. (Be sure to check the latest burn rules and regulations before you head out.)
Self-care time is just better in a hammock. The new Eno SuperNest Hammock ($300 at eaglesnestoutfitters.com) is made for backyard use, with spreader bars that prevent it from packing down small. But, oh, the comfort of the quilted material and plush pillows may just make it worth the space in your rooftop cargo carrier.
Whether super-lightweight or super-sturdy, your camp kitchen gear shouldn’t languish in bins 90% of the year.
Step 1: Break out your cast iron for cooking year-round. Easier to handle day to day, smaller sized pans, like the new Smithey Cast Iron Square Grill Pan (available May 27 for $225 at smithey.com), are versatile tools that fit perfectly on the grill for everything from burgers to summer stone fruit.
Don’t need a travel mug anymore? Keep your joe warm all morning in one of your cool camp mugs. Local company MiiR’s Insulated Camp Cup ($25–$28 at miir.com) has the shape of a classic enamel cup, but with double-wall vacuum insulation and a fitted lid for better temperature control.
Upgrade from paper or plastic when entertaining outdoors by using your enamel camp plates. Barebones’ Enamelware Plates ($18 for two at rei.com) are particularly attractive, with a speckled finish in eggshell or slate gray and an elegant copper rim. A high lip keeps food from sliding off when balancing the plate on your lap.
While camping, you can take a moment to disconnect and de-stress a bit; that, too, can be done at home by creating the right atmosphere.
Pull out your cozy camp blankets and snuggle up in front of a movie or on your patio for a sense of hygge. Portland’s Rumpl recently became a Certified B Corporation and its NanoLoft Puffy Blanket ($179 at rumpl.com) lives up to those ideals, using 100% post-consumer recycled material for its shell and insulation. The blanket looks equally good whether at home or the campsite, and even the one-person size is big enough to pair up under.
Free your camp lanterns from storage and use them to add a soft glow to a relaxing bath or in place of candles at dinner. The new BioLite AlpenGlow Lanterns (available July 21 for $50–$70 at bioliteenergy.com), available in two sizes, can display a dizzying array of color choices, from a flickering white to undulating gradients of hues that can be controlled with taps, twists and shakes.
In your fantasies, the only sounds you hear from your tent are birds chirping and leaves rustling. In reality, there are snores, neighbors and cars whizzing past — which can sound a lot like home in the city. Sleep more soundly with a portable white-noise machine, like the Yogasleep Rohm Travel Sound Machine ($30 at target.com), which is just 3.5 inches in diameter and comes with a lanyard that can be strung from a doorknob or loop in your tent. The USB-rechargeable battery will keep one of its three soothing sounds running for six-plus hours.