Nobody said taking your kids away from their Wi-Fi-enabled nest would be easy. There will be moments (hell, entire hours) where you’ll wish you’d never left home for a family camping trip. But getting everyone into the great outdoors — as the name suggests — is great. Not only are you fostering a lifelong appreciation of the natural world, but you have a fine excuse to eat s’mores. Here is the best camping equipment and camping gear that will help ease the transition to the wild and keep your kids from going native.
You probably never considered yourself a Winnebago Man, but this 22-foot Cadillac of campers may have you rethinking that. A hybrid between a van, an RV, and your den, the Paseo is more spacious and tricked out than your average Windstar, but way sleeker than the typical motorhome. It’s built on a Ford Transit Van chassis with an EcoBoost engine (so you get more power and better fuel efficiency), and the Pimp My Ride interior includes a 2-range stovetop, Nova Kool refrigerator, 4-seat dinette area, and a Flex Bed System that you can set up faster than your kid will go down for nap time.
Wicked Laser FlashTorch Mini
Perfect for camping, winter storms, and the zombie apocalypse, the FlashTorch Mini is a flashlight so powerful that it can literally cook food or incinerate a piece of paper. In addition, of course, to lighting up your campsite like the prison yard during a jailbreak. Think “flood” more than “flash” light. This military-grade aluminum lamp measures 8.25 inches/14 ounces (diminutive compared to the original FlashTorch) and produces 2,300 lumens of “intense white light” (compared to 4,100 lumens) thanks to a high-efficiency reflector and 3-pack lithium-ion battery that can be recharged without having to be removed. Depending on which power mode you use (low, medium, or high), the batteries last between 20 and 80 minutes, and the recharge time is about 3 hours.
Cairn is a free iOS tracking app designed to keep you (and other outdoor enthusiasts like you) safe in the wilderness. It lets you do two main things: Share and update your adventure itinerary via email with friends and family so they know why you’re not answering their texts/phone calls; and find cell coverage on the trail if you want to check in, call for help, or switch your starting RB at the last minute. Simply click the blue dots on the crowdsourced top map, and you’ll see where others in the area have checked in with bars on their phone, and which carrier they were using. Then you hike to that spot.
Cairn App (Free)
For all intents and purposes, goTenna is a walkie-talkie for texting. (Except, unlike a walkie-talkie, you don’t need to keep saying “over.”) More specifically, it’s a small radio antenna that uses low-watt VHF waves to let you send individual or group texts without Wi-Fi or a cell signal. But the best use for this thing is being able to communicate with your family up to 25 miles away — because they may have just gone down the path not taken.
Camp Chef Everest Stove
Most ultralight stoves can barely contain a can of baked beans, let alone a feast for 4. Pick up a heavy-duty propane model like this one from Camp Chef. It has 2 high-pressure burners that will take large pots, pans, and skillets. It also features a matchless ignition (your eyebrows will thank you), and pumps out 20,000 BTUs. Perfect for searing trout. Or mac and cheese.
Lamina Z Flame 22° Sleeping Bag
Camping sleep is never quality sleep. The best you can hope for a few precious hours in this comfort cocoon. The insulation is strategically placed to keep your most weather susceptible areas (namely your core and your feet) nice and toasty. It also has a lightweight nylon shell that keeps water out, and vents on both sides. Because chili.
Nomad Air 30XL Sleeping Mattress
Sleeping on the ground is for the birds — or the trees, or wherever birds sleep. The point is, you’re a man who needs his rest (as stated above), so bring a mattress. The queen-sized Nomad air sleeping mattress inflates 6-inches above the forest floor in no time. Just do some quick reps on its built-in foot pump and you’ll be the envy of your children, who you will make sleep on the ground.
Goal Zero Yeti Generator
Nothing wrong with easing that transition away from all those electronic distractions. Next time you’ll rough it — this time you’ll power up all the cell phones, tablets, and other battery-operated tools with the Yeti from Goal Zero. This 12-pound generator has a USB plug, a 12V plug and an AC inverter (standard wall outlet). Pair with accessories like the Nomad 20 solar panel ($200) to ensure you never run low on juice. (Unless the sun explodes.)
REI Kingdom 6 Tent
You’re going to buy this for all the same reasons that car dealer sold you on the SUV: There’s more people and more stuff in your life these days. (Also: Low, low financing!) REI’s Kingdom not only has enough room to change clothes while standing up, but a zip-up divider that separates it into two distinct rooms. It’s all you’ve ever wanted — a minimal amount of privacy.
Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler
This Yeti is made from extra thick roto-molded polyethylene and marine-grade polyester rope handle. (Unlike real yeti, who are made from fur … and anger.) And since this company tests their products on actual bears, you know that your picnic baskets will be safe from a real-life Yogi and Boo Boo. The best part: It can hold 35 cans of beer (or 200 toddler yogurts.) Sure it’s pricey, but you’ll never have to worry about a bear drinking your beer.
30-Day Duro Lantern
You’ll only be gone for a long weekend, but this lantern can run for 30 days straight on low power mode (if, say, traffic is particularly bad). The Duro is also fully water and impact resistant with a 700-lumen LED that never needs replacing (although the 3D batteries that keep it powered up will need to be.). Turn it on and say to your kids, “Let there be light! ” Classic dad joke.
ECOXBT Bluetooth Speaker
Just like a screaming kid, the compact ECOXBT speaker may it’s size has nothing to do with its sound. It’s impact resistant, 100-percent submersible and easy to grasp (unlike a screaming kid.) And unlike you singing Kumbaya, it has 10 hours of play time and a sound that really carries. Now you can answer the animals with The Animals.
Frankenstein Makes A Sandwich
There’s a lot to fear in nature: The fear of getting lost. The fear of bears. The fear you have no idea what you’re doing. But if you’re with little kids, ghost stories should but fun, not frightening. Gather round the fire for Frankenstein Makes A Sandwich, a kids book collection of guaranteed nightmare-free poems about classic monsters like the Creature From The Black Lagoon Godzilla, Wolfman, and a big sandwich.
This innovative water bottle unscrews in the middle for easy cleaning and storage. Note that the bottom half of the bottle also happens to insulate a beer perfectly. It’s made from BPA-free polyurethane, recycled plastic bottles and grade-5 stainless steel, which all come together to form one super vessel; Voltron-style.
Selk’bag Marvel Kids Sleeping Bag
The Marvel Kids sleep-suit is the only camping gear that you can also bust out for Halloween or Comic-Con. Made from soft polyester with a durable water-resistant finish, this modular bag features an insulated hood, thermal collar, and dual front-entry zippers. Which begs the question: How does Spider-Man pee?
Fix It In Foil
This book has more than 50 easy recipes, and none of them end with you scrubbing pots in a freezing river. Fix It In Foil teaches you how to cook simple, delicious meals in foil over an open flame. It’s not hobo-fare either – we’re talking jerk chicken, lemon rosemary salmon, blueberry cobbler, mini pancakes and everything in between. (Like jerk chicken between 2 slices of blueberry cobbler?)