May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine

Camp Outs, Family Vacations 1998


All the right stuff for camping
By Douglas Gantenbein

Bags and Pads

Slumberjack Little Chief

Sierra Designs Lewis
One sure way to ruin vacation: sleep deprivation. A good sleeping setup is as important as afternoon sun and a dip in the lake. L.L. Bean has a near-perfect summer solution in its Burrito Bag ($119). For warm nights, use only the fleece liner; when the weather cools down, zip up the PolarGuard-insulated layer. Car campers will appreciate the roominess and affordability of Kelty's Light Top 55 ($65), which can be flipped over so the thick side is up when nights cool. Another roomy bag is Cascade Designs' Acadia 25 ($154), which has durable Polarguard HV insulation. At 3 pounds, 14 ounces, the Acadia also is suitable for backpacking. Serious backpackers, meanwhile, will appreciate helvetica">Sierra Designs' new helvetica">Lewis ($220), which has lofty 600-fill down and keeps you warm to 15 degrees. For ultra-light campers, Marmot's Arroyo ($249) is close to weightless; just 1 pound, 12 ounces. Any bag will benefit from Design Salt liners, such as the CM22 MummyLiner ($28), which adds warmth and keeps bags clean. Kids will snuggle down happily in Slumberjack's Little Chief ($51) or REI's Kindling ($75). The Kindling unzips at the feet so youngsters can walk around and stay warm.

But even the best bag only goes so far toward comfort without some significant padding underneath. Cascade Designs' self-inflating Therm-A-Rest LE Long ($102) will smooth out the lumpiest ground but is light and packable. Artiach's Skin Mat (six sizes, $50-$70) is also great for traveling light and has an excellent no-slip polyurethane cover. The EMS Crash Pad (72 inches, $55) is a mummy-shaped self-inflating pad with a full inch of foam cushioning to keep those campsite pebbles from turning into the Rock of Gibraltar. Slumberjack's Camp Chair/Sleeping Mat ($60) does double duty as a chair or three-quarter-length sleeping pad, while Crazy Creek's Original camp chair ($40) is light and compact enough for backpacking. Cascade Designs' fluffy Deluxe Pillow ($18-$24) works well in camp at night, or in a car or plane during the day.


Cascade Designs
Evolution Camping Set

Coleman Electronic Ignition
Propane Stove
As Napoleon said, vacationers march on their stomachs. So mealtime enhancers are a must. Coleman's venerable two-burner Electronic Ignition Propane Stove ($75) now is available in an updated version that burns easy-to-use bottled propane and has an electronic ignition for quick starts. For an even more homelike kitchen, the Camp Chef Sport Stove ($175) has two-burner convenience in a free-standing stove that runs off bulk propane. If you're cooking on the trail, Coleman's Peak 1 Xpedition ($90) is a compact, light, two-burner stove that uses Coleman's new recyclable propane/butane fuel bottles. It's the greatest thing to happen to backcountry cuisine since freeze-dried lasagna. MSR's Whisperlite Shaker Jet Stove ($52.50) has a self-cleaning nozzle and burns widely available white gas. For minimalists, the Primus Mini Burner Lantern ($152) combines both a stove and a bright lantern in a single, 15.9-ounce unit. Cascade Designs' new Evolution Camping Set ($68) has six- and three-liter pots plus lids, and a 9 1/2-inch skillet, all with non-stick coating on both the inside and out.


EMS Crash Pad
One word on successful camping: accessorize. To light that fire, use the Windmill Windproof Lighter from Essential Gear ($50), which has a unique internal coil system and refills from standard butane cartridges. Then relax by the campfire in your Byer of Maine folding Deluxe Maine Lounger ($40). One gadget hikers are finding increasingly valuable is a pair of hiking poles. Leki USA, Inc.'s shock-absorbing Super Makalu Core-Tec PA poles ($130) ease wear and tear on knees while helping maintain balance on rough trails. And should anything in your camping outfit break, Outdoor Research's Backcountry Repair Kit ($34) includes everything from no-see-um netting to super glue.

Water Bottles/Filters

Nalgene Lexan wide-mouth bottles keep liquids close at hand, while the square HDPE wide-mouth version stores dried foods such as pasta (32 ounces, $5.25-$8). Cascade Designs' Platypus bottles come in three sizes from .5 to 2.5 liters ($3.80-$6.80) and can be frozen, boiled, used as a pillow, and folded in your pocket when empty. If you're not confident of the water you're drinking, SweetWater's Guardian filter ($50) will take out nasties such as giardia and protozoa. For overseas travel, add the virus-killing ViralGuard cartridge ($15). PUR's Explorer ($130) can handle extended use with its built-in self-cleaning brush and an iodine strainer to remove viruses.

First Aid

Kids are kids, and so are parents. Translated: Accidents happen. But if you have a compact, well-equipped first-aid kit you can fix things fast. For families or groups of up to five, Atwater Carey's Family Medical Kit ($52.50) has bandage shears, Betadine antibiotic cream and cleanser, a wide variety of bandages and tape, plus a backcountry first-aid book. For day hikers and small groups, Outdoor Research's Hiker Medical Kit ($29) will see you through even serious injury. It includes a range of bandages and tape, antibiotic cream, moleskin, tweezers, and analgesic tablets.


A good tent is a retreat from the elements and a friendly gathering spot. Eureka's Equinox 6 ($450) sleeps a family of six comfortably and has a sturdy aluminum frame and near-vertical sidewalls for efficient use of space. For backpackers, Sierra Designs' updated Orion CD ($239) sleeps two comfortably and weighs just under five pounds. For warm climates, The North Face's Breezeway 2 ($275) has an all-mesh canopy to keep you cool while a full-coverage rain fly fends off summer showers. For all-around backpacking and camping, REI's Geo Mountain 4 ($385) has a sturdy dome design that can take whatever nature dishes out. Kayakers or big backpacking parties will like the roominess of Walrus's Oasis ($459), which sleeps six yet is plenty packable at 12 pounds.

Photographs by Clay Ellis

Copyright 1998, Outside magazine

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

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