Never heard of the thing? Read on to let me convince you that these easy-to-transport, bomber camping tables are the only way to go.
I want to start this ode with an apology to my old bosses Ryan and Kyle Allred, who own Adventure Whitewater, where I guided for ten years. I’m sorry for ravaging your gear, particularly your Camp Time Roll-A-Tables. I was often too lazy to wipe mustard or jelly off those things after serving lunch to guests, so I’d just chuck them in the river à la Thor and let the water do my work.
I wasn’t good to the gear, but to my amazement, none of the tables suffered for it. Some broke down over time, but not until after spending multiple seasons on the river and serving hundreds and hundreds of meals. Two particularly sturdy (or maybe lucky) tables survived my entire decade-long career.
The Roll-A-Table is a camp table that packs down to a 32-by-5-inch burrito. The aluminum legs fold down, then you roll the slatted PVC top around them. This tidy little package is easy to transport, but it’s also tough as hell. I’ve strapped the rolled-up tables to boats so tightly I thought the table would dent, but it always came out unscathed. Tables on the edge of my boat have taken rocks head-on without a problem. For those of you who like to overland, you could easily strap a table to the top of your truck, drive a thousand miles through the Australian outback, and it would be just fine.
The table weighs 11 pounds, which means it’s not meant for backpacking. The 28-inch height can also be uncomfortable to cook on if you’re tall. However, it’s perfect for sitting around in camp chairs and sets up so quickly you can’t not set it up.
Nowadays, I still have my own Roll-A-Table. It was a thank-you gift from Ryan back in 2010, after my first season as manager. I’ve used it as a dining table when I lived out of my truck, a food-prep table on dozens of subsequent rafting trips, and a happy-hour platform while car camping. I’ve placed tin cups with boiling hot coffee on the surface, shoved the table into the back of an overpacked truck, and spilled as much beer and wine on it as you’d expect at a dive bar. After seven years of serious use, the table is still pristine.
The aesthetic is ultra-utilitarian: a blue plastic top and aluminum legs. But drape it with a tablecloth, add a candle, and voilà! You’ve gone fine-dining. I have a buddy who proposed to his now-wife over a lemon chicken dinner on a Roll-A-Table next to a waterfall in the middle of nowhere.
I, too, have shared some memorable moments over a Roll-A-Table. I learned to really appreciate mayonnaise on a turkey sandwich while sitting at a Roll-A-Table, and I learned how I could be a totally broke dirtbag but still make a simple, inexpensive dinner feel special while sitting over a Roll-A-Table with my now-wife. The table is an essential piece of my car camping kit, and I know it will be the center of many more trips—and more memories.