Home Gear Reviews Five Pieces of Gear That Make Camping Better

Five Pieces of Gear That Make Camping Better

by Karen Ung

For many years, we thought we had everything we needed for camping and backpacking, but camping with kids meant we had to bring a lot more more stuff. How could we fit everything in the car (or backpacks)? We had to go smaller and lighter… but made an exception for a bug screen shelter.

1. Therm-A-Rest LuxuryLite UltraLight Cot: Camping should not be a pain in the neck… or hips and back. Get off the ground and onto a cot and wake up refreshed. I don’t know why we waited so long to buy this cot! At 2 lbs, it is light and compact enough to take backpacking (for comparison, my Thermarest Trail Pro self-inflating mattress is 1 lb 14 oz) and way cheaper than buying a truck and trailer.

Therm-A-Rest LuxuryLite UltraLight Cot* – the best thing I’ve bought this year!

2. Black Diamond Orbit Lantern: Tiny (4″ tall and 4.7 oz), yet mighty, this lantern is perfect for family backpacking. Brighter than our D-battery powered lantern, but small enough to fit in your pocket, it also doubles as a flashlight! In lantern mode, it provides glare-free ambient lighting. In dual mode (lantern and flashlight bulbs on at the same time), you can illuminate your tent evenly without dark spots. Why bring a lantern backpacking when you have headlamps? So the children don’t blind you! Also, most backcountry campgrounds don’t allow fires, so some light at night is comforting to little ones. 

Black Diamond Orbit Lantern*

3. Integral Designs Siltarp: I’ve long been a fan of cheap blue tarps, but I fell for the swanky, silicone-treated 3tarps after seeing them in action. While blue tarps are light, they cannot compete with the tiny packed size of the Siltarp. The Siltarp 1 packs down to the size of a pop can. The Siltarp 2 packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle. Light, thin, and strong, use your Siltarp to rig a rain/sun shelter over a picnic table or extended vestibule for your tent (to stow gear in a rainy place). We carry ours in our daypack in case we need to build an emergency shelter!  For more tarp for your money, consider the MEC Silicone Guides Tarp (fantastic quality but not as compact as the Siltarp). 

Integral Designs Siltarp in action on the West Coast Trail

4. FORLIFE Brew-In-Mug Extra-Fine Tea (or Coffee) Strainer: This strainer is the best thing ever for brewing coffee or loose leaf tea at camp! It’s sturdy (made of stainless steel), does not require paper filters, and fits inside your cup/travel mug so it doesn’t take up extra space. 

FORLIFE Brew-In-Mug Extra-Fine Tea Strainer* – I use it for coffee too!

5. MEC Hootenanny Bug Screen Shelter: Truth be told, I used to laugh at people who brought their own cabanas camping, but now I see how wrong I was. The bug shelter paid for itself when bug spray resistant mosquitoes were swarming around us. It allowed us to cook and dine in comfort without spraying the kids with mosquito repellent every 15 minutes. The shelter makes a breezy sun shade too! We used the Hootenanny for over 2 weeks last year, in sun, rain and high winds, and it’s still good as new.

The roomy MEC Hootenanny Bug Screen Shelter

What are your favorite pieces of camping gear you’ve bought this year?

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How to Choose a Tent
The Ultimate Camping Pack List
Sleeping Bags, Sleeping Mats & Camp Cots
Day Trip Pack List

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