Whether you're setting up camp in your backyard or preparing for that eventual post-lockdown camping trip, nothing says adventure travel more than a tent. Camping gives you freedom, flexibility and the sheer fun of sleeping outside, often far away from civilization. But the deeper you go in the wilderness, the better your equipment needs to be, so we tested some of the best new camping gear to take along on your next trip.
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MSR PocketRocket Delux stove
True to its title, the MSR PocketRocket Deluxe stove folds down very small yet quickly heats water for that vital pre-hike morning coffee. The refined control valve means it’ll perfectly simmer your evening pasta as well, while the inbuilt ignition switch is invaluable.
In testing, we found care was needed to keep cooking pots stable, but that’s the case with any stove screwing direct into a gas canister. Overall, the combination of light weight, great performance and fair price make the PocketRocket Deluxe highly recommended.
Buy for US$70 / GBP70 at msrgear.com.
Vango Cuillin 300 tent
For any camping trip, the first item on the equipment list is a tent, and the Cuillin 300 from venerable Scottish brand Vango is ideal if you’re heading for mountains or wilderness where the weather may turn nasty.
Fortunately for this review (but perhaps unfortunately for our test team) we trialed this tent in an overnight storm, with driving rain and winds topping 50mph (80kph). Come morning, the team were glad to report the tent was unscathed, while they remained dry inside, proving the Cuillin is as tough as the rocky ridge for which it’s named.
Key to the tent’s stability are the external poles (which also make setting up quick) while other features include a porch at each end (one for cooking, the other for gear). Nice touches are the windows in the fly and storage pockets high on the wall of the inner tent.
The Cuillin 300 is designed for three people, and perfect for two on a longer trip where extra weight to carry during the day is offset by the convenience of extra space inside at night. If you’re an ultra-lightweight hiker in gentle climates, there are many other options. But if you’re likely to face the elements, this tent is an excellent choice.Buy for US$430 / GBP335 at vango.co.uk.
Osprey Archeon 70 backpack
Backcountry camping trips in wilderness areas mean carrying your stuff, so a good backpack is essential. Step forward the Osprey Archeon, providing 70L capacity, along with durability and comfort to make days on the trail enjoyable. It’s constructed from recycled material, so your soul will feel good as well.
The main compartment is reached from the top in the traditional manner and from the side which is especially useful in camp. In testing, we especially liked the “floating” top pocket which can be moved away from the back of your head.
The Archeon 70 male version is available in two sizes (S/M and L/XL) with shoulder strap height adjustable for further fine-tuning to get a perfect fit. The female version shares these features with a slightly smaller capacity (65L).
Buy for US$340 / GBP250 at amazon.com.
Therm-a-rest Topo sleeping pad
The original Therm-a-rest self-inflating mattress revolutionized camping several decades ago. Since then, development continues on new products, including the Neo-Air Topo. It differs from classic Therm-a-rests because it’s inflated by lung power, but payback is an extra thick pad that’s very comfortable while still remaining light and compact. It’s also available in various widths and lengths, and pairs up perfectly with Therm-a-rest sleeping bags (see next review).
Buy for US$125 / GBP120 at amazon.com.
Therm-a-rest Questar sleeping bag
Therm-a-rest Questar sleeping bags come in three varieties to cope with temperatures from 32F down to 0F (0C to -18C) and work well with Therm-a-rest sleeping pads, thanks to two wide straps on the outside of the bag that fit around the pad and prevent you rolling off the pad onto a cold groundsheet. It’s a simple idea, but highly effective.
Other impressive features include the filling of Nikwax Hydrophobic Down: natural feathers responsibly treated to repel water, which keeps you warm and dry. As with all down-filled products, care is needed to ensure your bag survives the rigors of camping, so use Nikwax Down Wash Direct to maintain the Questar’s filling.
In testing, we found the “box baffle” design reduced unwanted cold spots, and we especially liked the extra down filling at the bottom of the sleeping bag which kept our feet warm all night.
BioLite 330 headlamp
For nights around camp, the BioLite 330 headlamp provides great illumination, whether you’re cooking food, chopping firewood, or reading a book tucked up in your sleeping bag. The head-band is very comfortable and the ultra-slim lamp stays firmly in place, with no bounce. Lighting angle is adjustable, and modes include red, "spot" and "flood," dimmable to save (USB rechargeable) battery life. In testing, although we were impressed by light levels, we found switching between modes rather cumbersome.
Buy for US$59.95 at amazon.com.
Chrome Storm Signal jacket
Hope for the best weather, plan for the worst. So goes the maxim for every camping trip, and the aptly named Storm Signal jacket from Chrome will deal with any rain that comes your way. Originally designed for cycling, it’s waterproof and breathable, and the back of the jacket comes low over your rear end, which is just as useful for hiking – especially with a full pack. It’s available in male and female cuts, and even when your camping trip is over and you’re celebrating over beers in a bar, it’s also stylish enough to wear around the city.
Buy for US$150 / GBP140 at chromeindustries.com.
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