It’s seems crazy to be writing about Outdoor Recreation now, when we just had several inches of snow in Atlanta last week and nighttime temperatures are still dropping into the 20s. But on March 20 Spring will officially be sprung, days will get longer, and many nature-lovers will start making plans for hiking, boating, camping and more. Hopefully our Spring 2015 Camping Gear Guide features a few choice items that can help make a weekend in the great outdoors a little more comfortable:
Weighing in at just over 18 pounds, the Eureka Jade Canyon 4 Tent is not gonna top any serious backpacker’s must-have list. But with a whopping 64 square feet of floor space, an interior height of 7 feet, a fill mesh roof for ventilation and a cord port/media center that allows easy plug-in for electronic devices, it’s the perfect 3-season, 4-person tent for camping families.
One of the cooler outdoor recreation gear ideas we’ve seen this year is the Coleman Instant 2-For-1 Tent & Shelter, which gets bonus points for adaptability. You can take it to a picnic and just use the 14 X 8 shelter on its own, or attach the inner 8-person tent– which is big enough to fit two queen size air beds inside– for camping out.
The Wenzel Ridgeline Tent is more geared towards backpackers than drive-up campers. With 49 square feet of floor space and 50 inches of headspace, the 7.3-pound dome tent is light, compact and designed for easy set-up. It’s a little too small for the 3 people it claims to hold, but at around $60 it’s one of the best economic tent options on the market.
The Kelty Gunnison 2.3 Tent with Footprint is the smallest of all the tents we tried out this season– a 2-person model weighing in at 5 lbs 14 oz. The light weight, compact folding poles and cube-shaped roll-top carry bag make this another good choice for backpackers, and the color-coded clip and fly attachments make it super easy to set up and take down. Vestibule awnings over the two doors and a gear loft provide surprisingly decent storage space for a tent with just 30 square feet of floor space. But, at 84″L x 52″W x 42″H, it’s a bit too snug for our tastes.
It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Eagle Creek’s luggage, but their new Deviate Travel Pack is equally impressive. The 85L version includes a 70L main pack and a 15L clip-on day pack, which offers 5550 cubic inches of space and weighs a combined 4 lbs 5 oz– making it great for backpacking or carrying on a plane. It’s also ultra-light, customizable to your torso size and flexible, with a Check-In Fly that serves as a rain cover and transforms to a check-in duffel bag with lockable zipper.
The Black Diamond Element 60 Pack is smaller and doesn’t have as many bells and whistles. But it’s specifically designed for multi-day backpackers, offering a streamlined waterproof design, major comfort (thanks to the reACTIV suspension system and an Open Air back panel for high-flow ventilation), and a floating top lid that converts to a lumbar pack for day hikes. With internal organizer pockets, quick-cinch side pockets, retractable trekking pole loop and sleeping pad straps, it’s a great pack for the price.
Based in Seattle, Tom Bihn is an indie outfitter with a reputation for superior quality and innovative design. Their 31-liter Guide’s Pack blends the aesthetics of old school camping gear with decidedly modern functionality, with a large top pocket, top loading main compartment, and fully customizable interior organization. Beyond that, it just looks really cool, perfectly styled for the city or the trail.
If you’re headed to the mountains at this time of year, cold nights are par for the course. The Drift 30 Sleeping Bag from Brooks Range effectively kills the chill, as it’s stuffed with 11.5oz of 850+ fill power down to keep your tootsies toasty even at 30 degrees. Thanks to its soft 15d Nylon shell fabric, lightweight baffle netting, cloak hood design and ergonomic footbox, it’ll also keep you as comfortable as you are warm.
Camping gear has been changing at lightning speed in recent years. We love seeing new ideas such as Ticla’s Besito GOOD Kit, which combines a sleeping bag, sleeping mat and oversized stuff sack into one easy-to-carry package. The sleeping bag’s liner is as luxe as it could be, with a 2-sided design that works for warmer or cooler climates. It’s perfect for first-time campers.
Sierra Designs’ Backcountry Bed Sleeping Bag is another innovative concept, eliminating the standard mummy-style bag inn favor of zipper less access through a large oval opening and an oversized integrated comforter, which allows you to sleep on your back, side or stomach. Insulated with 600-fill or 800-fill DriDown and incorporating an integrated sleeping pad sleeve, the bag has earned 2014 Editors’ Choice Awards from Backpacker and Climbing magazines.
Cooking outdoors is one of our favorite things: I believe it always makes the food taste better. The Elektra FE Cook System from Optimus Stoves offers one of the most intriguing and compact campsite cooking designs we’ve ever seen. It’s slim, versatile and modular, weighing in at just over a pound and boiling water in about two and a half minutes.
One of the more ingenious ideas we’ve seen this year is the IceMule Cooler 30L Pro– a big ol’ backpack for your beer or sodas (or food, if you prefer). Designed for rugged outdoor adventure, the cooler measures 20” tall, 14” wide and 11” deep and will hold 24 cans plus ice. The TriFold DriTop System is designed with a foolproof seal to keep ice in and air out, and the PolarLayer insulation ensures the cooler’s contents stay cold for up to 24 hours.
The Gerber Freescape Camp Kitchen Kit is another clever design idea that makes campsite cooking much easier. It contains two razor-sharp, Santoku-inspired chef’s knives and a compact cutting board with a carrying handle, built-in ceramic sharpener and locking drawer for portability.
We’ve got to give a big shout-out to Eagle’s Nest Outfitters for ingenuity. We’ve long been impressed by their two-person DoubleNest Hammocks, but their new HouseFly Rain Tarp allows outdoor lovers an alternative to tent camping. The floor-length sides and overlapping doors create an awesome weatherproof fortress for your hammock, keeping you warm, dry, comfortable and elevated, no matter what time of year you choose to use it.
I’ve recently taken an interest in fly-fishing, and our native Georgia offers many great places to practice. The folks at Orvis offer a complete All-in-One Fly Fishing Rod & Reel Set for around $160, a hard-sided Safe Passage Carry-It-All Rod & Gear Case (which holds up to 6 fly rods and allows for customized organization of reels and fly boxes) for the same price, and a Safe Passage Angler’s Day Pack (with insulated cooler compartment and compression straps to hold your rod tube) for $140. Trout, here I come! –Bret Love
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