Monday, November 3, 2014

8 Camping Essentials

Fall camping trips are always good proving grounds for gear that works or what gear doesn't and our recent trip to Pisgah National Forest for a weekend trip sparked off an idea to pass along a short list of camping gear essentials that have stood and will stand the test of time outside.

In 2004 we bought our Honda Element new off the lot and over the past ten years have driven almost 250,000 miles with this vehicle with hardly an issue.  Scheduled maintenance and oil changes are every 10,000 miles and we've been religious about taking it to the shop with nary a problem over the years.

Over time we have added two children to our family, which does cramp the packing space quite a bit, but I've got mad "Car Tetris" skills which helps when making sure everything fits for a trip.

The Element is no longer made and I wish Honda would go back to the drawing board to bring this vehicle back with a few tweaks and enhancements.  It's been a hell of a ride that can go just about anywhere.  

When my wife and I were married (15 years and counting...) we decided to invest in a few pieces of gear and the Coleman Powerhouse Dual Fuel Stove was kind of a splurge for us but I couldn't be happier with it.  It burns Coleman fuel or unleaded gasoline and achieving a hot blue flame off the burners is one of the finer things in life.

There are a lot of ways to make coffee when in the woods but perhaps there isn't a more reliable or better way to do so than with a coffee press and the GSI Outdoors Java Press tops the list for capacity (30 ounces), durability, and ease of use.  The neoprene sleeve does a good job keeping your pot of coffee hot once it's made too.

Nothing says camping like cooking with a mix of cast iron cookware and our cook set includes a Deep Skillet, Dutch Oven, and Square Griddle and this covers all the bases for meal times.  There is just nothing like camp food made in cast iron.

I've said it a few times before but I'm just a little OCD so keeping things in their own place makes a lot of sense to me.  Also, as a father of two children, keeping track of things like headlamps, matches, knives, handwarmers, and other fun camp gear hasn't always been easy since those things get left here and there and sometimes are never found again.  I have started using one of the medium sized Plano Waterproof Storage Cases to keep these things all together and am working on a training program with the children to return what they take.  So far so good with no loses after a couple trips.  These boxes are tough, water tight, and priced right too.

A couple years ago I was contacted by RedRam about doing a review of their base layers and reviewed them as part of a Cold Weather Apparel post but continue to wear them all the time fly fishing and camping.  It looks like RedRam is now part of the Icebreaker family and these base layers totally rock.  Lightweight, warm, and have held up to several  years of frequent use.

For whatever reason my wife and I decided that sleeping all together as a family on a air mattress would be the best way to stay warm on camping trips.  After a few years of the mattress deflating slowly through the night, my wife and I getting kicked off the mattress by kicking children, and just running out of space on a queen size mattress, we decided that it was time for everyone to have their own Therm-A-Rest mattress.  My wife and I both have Base Camp mattresses, which were another smart purchase we made right after we were married, and we just invested in two Trail Scout mattresses for the children.  Everyone slept warm and comfortable on this trip and no more large cold single mattress hassle like in trips past.

I came across the Zippo Hand Warmer in a winter gear review in the latest issue of Fly Rod & Reel and figuring they would be worth a try ordered two.  (With two children it's almost always easier to just order two from the start.)  The Hand Warmer is easy to use by filling with Zippo lighter fuel and then light the catalytic material.  Place the Hand Warmer back in the fabric sack and let it warm up.  Once it's going you're good for up to twelve hours of warmth.  I'm seeing this as coming in handy for camping and fly fishing trips and priced than less than $20 it's cheap insurance for warm hands. 

Okay...that's my mix up of eight camping gear essentials.  What are yours?


kyle said...

Depending on hiking vs drive-up camping, I'd definitely be bringing:

MSR Pocket Rocket stove/extra fuel container

Eno Hammock/Rain Fly

Thermarest pad


Flask with "warming agent enclosed"

Knit wool cap


Head lamp

Anonymous said...

I dont have anything to add other than saying that the pic of the fully packed Honda is a thing of beauty!


TroutSnout said...

I second the head lamp suggestion. Also like to have my leatherman skeletool, fire striker, TP, and extra wool socks.

Trousertrout said...

I second the GSI french press and dutch oven (I don't know how I camped so long without them). I would add the emberlit stove and a good camp axe, I use the husquvarna forest axe. I may have to look into the zippo hand warmers...

Cameron Mortenson said...

Kyle...thanks for the list. I agree with all listed.

Losef...YES. I am going to be mighty sad when the Element finally gives up the ghost but hoping we get another 100,000 miles out of her.

TroutSnout...good warm socks are tough to beat.

Trousertrout...all solid choices. That Husquvarna axe is very well rated and the price is right too.

Unknown said...

nice blog

Unknown said...

Wow, these are great stuff and thanks for thinking this up for you post. There are a lot of preparations going on when there's a camping trip and I think that's an excellent means of being safe and ready for anything. Camping stoves are essentials since who wants to be hungry, right? So, choosing the right one is a priority for my family. I guess in essence, we need to invest in quality-made gear. And you can only do that when you buy from trusted brands. This is another site that has great camping essentials, see: