Gear and Gadgets to Take Your Camping Experience to the Next Level!
Whenever we think about (solo) camping gear, we focus on the big and obvious pieces: a tent, sleeping bag or sleeping mat. But beyond those, there are some nice items that can make even the most basic camping trip almost a glamping adventure.
I’ve collected a few “must-haves” camping gear items that should not be overlooked when thinking about the big stuff. Then, I added five luxury items – they might not be necessary but elevate your camping adventure from mere survival to sweet dreamy pleasure.
I know that it is important to lighten our loads up - but I am of the middle way philosophy - I prefer to carry a few seemingly unnecessary items for the added comfort and pleasure.
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Must-have camping gadgets for a (solo) camper
In addition to the other must-haves for all camping trips, like a set of dry sleeping clothes and socks or food (duh) I added five of my own, possibly not that obvious, must have items:
Unless you are heading off to Iceland in summer, a headlamp is a must. It’s so much easier to use than a regular flashlight when you look around your tent or read a book (or a Kindle). And don’t even think about going to relieve yourself in the night with a flashlight in your hand. So much more bothersome! Grab a nice, light headlight with a few options of light strength. It is also a good idea to have one with a red light option – it helps when there are other people around.
My headlamp doesn’t have it and I plan on getting one with that feature. For now, it hasn’t been all that much of a problem as I camp and hike alone most of the time, but it’s a must when camping on campsites or sleeping in hostels (or mountain refuges).
I know there are some crazy folks who go stove-less. But I consider stoves an absolute must for any camping trip. It is proved that we sleep better (and warmer) after we eat a warm meal. There is also something magical about eating even the crappiest dehydrated meal after a long day of hiking. The meal seems a Michelin-star worthy gourmet dish and there are angels singing in the back.
And don’t even let me start about the pure awesomeness of early morning coffee! The moment you get out of your tent and grab a mug of hot coffee, all is good in the world. You feel at peace with your life and can’t imagine a more perfect moment.
Fine, I’m not sure about the angels but grab a stove with you (and a few appropriate cooking dishes). There are a lot of options out there and you can go with the small and light stoves like the MSR rocket pocket or the combos making boiling water a breeze, like the Jetboil Minimo. I own both of those stoves and can highly recommend them.
There is nothing worse than unpacking and realizing that your sleeping bag is wet because your rain cover moved slightly as you walked. Protect your valuables with dry bags.
Get a few different kinds and sizes to fit all your needs. Soft things like sleeping bag or clothes can benefit from compression bags.
Small electronics feel at home in a tiny, 1L bag. All the different colors can also help with finding what you are looking for in a breeze. Make sure you always have a dry set of clothes for the night.
Even if the day was a miserable wet and cold hike through pouring rain, the moment you change into your dry thermals and get into the sleeping bag, all is good again.
If you want, you can also get a big bag liner - to protect all your things inside. It is definitely something to rely on when heavy rains are in your hiking future.
Buff (or two)
I am sure this one is not an obvious one! But I find it a must. I always have two of them with me.
My newest sleeping bag has no hood so the buff is even more needed but even with a regular bag, buff makes sure there are no cold spots around your neck. You also should wear a hat or a buff on your head (unless you sleep in really warm conditions). This makes you all nice and warm in your sleeping bag.
Buffs are obviously heaven-sent during hikes - not just for the night. They protect your neck or head, can serve as face mask or quick sweat drying headband. And they come in awesome designs!
No matter what the manufacturers say, most tents have condensation issues. They also can get wet from rain or dew. Sitting and waiting for them to dry could take you well beyond noon so you need some help with dealing with the unwanted moisture.
I’ve heard people use smaller quick drying towels but I found something much better for the task. I always take a square sponge cloth from my kitchen cabinet. They are the kind that is hard when dry but soak up a great amount of moisture and gets soft then. I use it to collect as much water as I can from inside or outside and then the tent dries in no time.
Luxury camping gadgets for a (solo) camper
Now, what makes a good and memorable (in a positive way) camping trip? A pleasant evening and a good night sleep. I found that a few pieces of gear make me enjoy the solo evening in a tent so much more when I have them with me. I also make sure that I sleep warm and comfortable; otherwise, the next day hiking is going to be miserable.
My favorite thing when I’m camping is the moment I’m all changed, cleaned and fed and I can grab my kindle and just read until I’m ready to turn the lights off. Second place takes the breakfast - oatmeal, coffee and a kindle. Hiking and camping trips are the time I read the most – during regular work-filled days I just don’t have the time or peace of mind to read.
But camping? That’s the perfect moment. But I use kindle not just for holding my books. I also copy into it documents like my insurance info, guidebooks, useful information I collected online and compiled into a document (and then turned into a pdf), bus timetables, booking confirmation and so on. You could hold them also on your phone but I find reading on phone a bit tiring, I prefer the bigger screen of my kindle.
Stainless-steel vacuum flask
Might not be as useful during summer trips but when the evenings are cold? Oh, it’s just so wonderful to have a flask filled with hot tea right next to your sleeping mat.
Tea in a mug just gets cold too fast so an insulated flask wins. This one is a new item for me – I took it for the first time for my solo hiking trip to Crete and really loved it. I was also making some for the hiking day if it was to be cold. I got the 0,5L Esbit you can see above and it's just the perfect size for me.
You could use your clothes stuffed in a dry bag as a pillow (what I used to do) but a tiny pillow can bring so much comfort! I usually sleep on a small pillow so one of those ultra-light travel ones is not far from what I have back home. It takes no place in your bag and is light like a feather but the quality of sleep it brings is worth the price tag. The ultra-light pillow is a new acquisition for me – I took it for the first time to Crete, but I am not going anywhere without it from now on! I also use it on planes or ferries – it’s just amazing.
Each evening when I hike, I take notes on it. Memory is not a perfect thing so I prefer to write my thoughts and emotions while they are still fresh. I generally take just a simple school notebook and a pen but I never use it outside of my tent. If you think you might want to have it ready no matter what the outside conditions are like – grab a weatherproof notebook, so you can write your thoughts, poems, and navigation points whenever the inspiration strikes.
Small, packable backpack
It's probably useless for a one-night camping trip but pretty useful for longer ones. Some can serve as a dry bag or can get stuffed into their own pockets to take very little room in your bag. Why I take one with me? First of all - it's perfect for traveling toward the hiking destination. I take it with me to the plane or a bus with a few useful items, while the big backpack is traveling somewhere else. I also use it when camping on a campsite and taking a few things to take a shower, go to a pub or wash my clothes. A few times I had a chance to stay two nights at a campsite and take just this small backpack for a day hike.
What is the gear that you would recommend others?
Do you agree with my list?