With school out and summer here, it’s time to pull out your camping gear and hit the road. Before you set off on your adventures, consider some of the latest family-friendly outdoor gear, from spacious shelters and kid-specific sleeping bags to a stove that can cook dinner while charging your portable devices. Here are a few of our top picks.
KICK BACK IN THIS HANGING SHELTER
Enjoy a comfy night’s sleep or just relax in a cozy spot with ENO’s Jungle-Nest Hammock. This spacious hanging shelter officially sleeps one, but can easily fit Mom or Dad and a couple of kiddos for an afternoon nap (it holds up to 400 pounds). The hammock has a durable ripstop nylon bottom and built-in netting on top to help you escape the mosquitoes. Use your own rope or ENO’s Atlas straps (sold separately), which have multiple loops for quick and easy height adjustments. Then run a separate line from tree to tree a few feet above the hammock and clip the bug netting to it. Hop in, zip up, and enjoy your spacious, bug-free tent in the trees. Stash your sunglasses, seashells, or toy trains in the internal pocket. $99.95 hammock; $29.95 Atlas suspension straps. 828-252-7808, www.eaglesnestoutfitters
SPACIOUS TENTS THAT TUNE OUT THE WEATHER
For a more traditional shelter, and one more suited to stormy weather, try REI’s InCamp 4 or InCamp 6, spacious freestanding dome tents that can be accessorized to create more usable sheltered space. The front of each tent angles up and fits nicely under the lip of REI’s new InCamp 100 shelter, letting you form a 10-foot-by-10-foot covered space that is big enough to fit a picnic table or camp kitchen, and that keeps you out of the sun or wet weather (add optional walls for extra protection). The three-season tents come with mesh ceilings and windows, and two sizeable doors for easy access. The InCamp 6 may feel palatial with its 86.8 feet of floor space (versus 62.5 feet for the InCamp 4), but it’s perfect for families who want extra elbow room. The quick, intuitive setup makes it easy to pitch. InCamp 4 $259, InCamp 6 $349, InCamp Shelter $199. 800-426-4840, www.rei.com.
A KITCHEN SETUP THAT COOKS, GRILLS, AND REFUELS
Not many camping stoves come with a USB plug, charging capabilities, and a promise not to pollute the environment with chemicals. The innovative and compact BioLite CampStove takes twigs, pinecones, bark, and other campground fodder to burn for cooking, and it won’t cost you extra time: A 1-liter pot of water takes 4.5 minutes to boil. In this symbiotic setup, heat from the fire generates a fan in the attached Power Module that, in turn, helps keep the fire stoked (the fan has two settings, so you can switch to “lo” for simmering). Any excess electricity that’s generated gets stored in the rechargeable battery, enabling you to attach a cell phone, MP3 player, or headlamp by USB cord for charging.
The stove packs into the 1.5-liter stainless steel BioLite KettlePot, which has enough space to hold a meal for a family of four. Bring the whole setup along on your backpacking adventures. For car camping outings, add the BioLite Portable Grill, an ingenious 9.5 x 12 inch grill that perfectly pairs with the CampStove and adds a wood-fired flavor to your gourmet meals. CampStove, $129.95, KettlePot $49.95, Portable Grill $59.95. 909-257-8683, www.biolitestove.com.
CAMPING’S A BREEZE WITH GOOD COFFEE ON BOARD
You can handle rainstorms, kids’ meltdowns, and logistical hiccups on your outdoor adventure as long as you have good cup of java in hand. The super portable Handpresso Wild Hybrid lets you create the perfect brew using hot water from the campfire or your BioLite stove, and your favorite coffee grounds. Hand pump the Wild Hybrid, much like pumping a bike tire, until you reach 16 bars of pressure, add 1.5 ounces of hot water to the reservoir, and tamp down your espresso coffee (or use pre-filled espresso pods with paper filters). Press a button and wait, as pressure forces hot water through the coffee and into your cup. The device measures 8.7 inches, and does not require batteries or electricity. $129.99. 888-389-4123, www.handpresso.com.
THESE MUMMIES CRADLE YOUR CHILDREN
Kelty’s mummy-style children’s sleeping bags keep kids cozy and warm down to 30 degrees, and have high-loft yet packable synthetic insulation that stays warm even when wet. The Woobie 30, good for children up to 4 feet tall or about 6 years old, has a wider design for extra wiggle room, and two zippers that allow the top panel to act like a blanket that can be pushed down. The Big Dipper 30, good for kids up to 5 feet tall or roughly 4 to 12 years old, grows with your child so you don’t have to buy a new sleeping bag every few years. Unzip the bottom of the bag and the footbox expands 12 inches, extending the bag’s length from 57 to 69 inches. Both sleeping bags have anti-snag zippers that make them much easier for little fingers to operate. Woobie $64.95; Big Dipper $79.95. 866-349-7225, www.kelty.com.
BED DOWN IN COMFORT
To put a little space between you and the ground, try Big Agnes’s Helinox Cot One, a 4.4-pound aluminum and nylon bed that takes up little car space but provides a supportive night’s sleep. Once you get the hang of setup, the cot quickly unfolds and snaps into place. It holds sleepers up to 320 pounds and 6 feet tall. Add a camping mattress for a little extra padding, and you may forget you don’t have your box spring and pillow-top mattress beneath you. Helinox Cot One, $299.95. 877-554-8975, www.bigagnes.com.
SCRUBBA DUB DUB, SOME CLOTHES AND A RUB
Exploring forests, digging for critters, and cooking around the campfire can be messy work. Throw a shirt or a couple of pint-size clothing items in the Scrubba Wash Bag and let the kids shake, roll, and kneed the bag until its contents are washing machine-like clean. The Australian-designed bag, a sealable dry bag made from 40 denier ripstop nylon, has hundreds of little rubber nodules inside that create a washboard effect when you add soap, water, clothes, and arm muscle. The packable bag weighs just 5 ounces, lets you avoid washing clothes in sketchy sinks, and keeps the kids entertained in between capture the flag and s’mores. $64.95. www.thescrubba.com.
KEEP YOUR CAMP SQUEAKY CLEAN
Wash the dog, do the dishes, hose down your camping gear, or get yourself clean with the Helio Pressure Shower. This portable shower, made by New Hampshire-based NEMO Equipment, offers better water pressure than many gravity-fed devices and has a clever, simple design. Fill the heavy duty 2.9-gallon dry bag-like tank with water and seal it with a rubber cap, step on the attached foot pump a few times to pressurize the tank, and then depress the nozzle and start spraying. The shower has a handy 7-foot-long hose, weighs just 22 ounces, and packs into a 5.5 by 8.5 inch carrying case. $99.95. 800-997-9301, www.nemoequipment.com.
STOW GEAR OVERHEAD, NOT UNDERFOOT
Yakima’s Skybox Carbonite roof box can swallow all of your new and old gear, leaving plenty of room in the car for family and friends. The storage boxes quickly and easily attach to your roof bars, whether they’re round, square, factory-made, or aeroblade style. The boxes, made from 80 percent recycled plastics, range from 12 cubic feet (you can fit all of your basic gear) to 21 cubic feet (bring two of everything), and come in a variety of widths and sizes. Get a longer, skinnier box like the Skybox Carbonite 12 (92 inches long by 24 inches wide by 16 inches high) and you can still fit a bike on either side of it using Yakima’s new FrontLoader bike carrier. The boxes have low-profile designs and new dimpled lids that make for an impressively quiet ride, and they open — and lock — on both sides for easier access. $419-$589. 888-925-4621, www.yakima.com.
POTABLE WATER ON THE SPOT
When you hop in your canoe, hit the trail, or head for the playground, bring Camelbak’s All Clear bottle with you. This clever 25-ounce bottle uses ultraviolet technology to transform “dirty” water into potable drinking water in 60 seconds. Fill the bottle with water from a stream, faucet, or questionable source — making sure to filter out large particles — screw on the UV cap, press the button, and then gently shake the bottle for a minute. An icon on the LCD screen indicates that the water is safe to drink. The UV rays kill microbiological contaminants and make your water safe to drink. The UV cap must be plugged into a USB port or outlet to charge, but the fully charged battery should produce 80 clean bottles, or about 16 gallons, of water. $99. www.camelbak.com.Kari Bodnarchuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.