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TRAVEL

9 top gear picks for summer camping

We tracked down some of the coolest new adventure gear so you can sleep, cook, and chill in comfort.

The ust Fillmatic Sleeping Mat
The ust Fillmatic Sleeping Mat

Fresh air, birdsong, peaceful nights, and a chance to disconnect — just a few of the reasons why summer camping is the best. We tracked down some of the coolest new camping and adventure gear so you can sleep, cook, and chill in comfort.

Try this cozy mattress

We love a camping mattress that doesn’t make scratchy noises — and disturb our tentmates — inflates and deflates easily, packs down to a manageable size for our car-camping adventures, and doesn’t cost a fortune. The ust Fillmatic Sleeping Mat fits the bill on all counts. Open the valve and let it self-inflate for a while and then blow into it to achieve your preferred firmness. The 4-inch-thick mat has a soft (meaning nonscratchy) surface that won’t drive your tent mates crazy and open-cell foam with horizontal baffles that create a cozy sleeping platform. With an R-value of 6, this pad will insulate you from the ground year-round. The regular size measures 72 inches by 25 inches when inflated (and packs down to 26.8 inches by 4.4 inches by 6.5 inches), while the 80-by-30-inch XL works for taller campers. Bonus: It comes with buckles on the sides that let you snap it to another mattress to form a double sleeping mat. $164.95 regular; $179.95 XL. www.ustgear.com.

The Monarch sleeping bag
The Monarch sleeping bag

A sleeping bag with wings

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Pair the Fillmatic Sleeping Mat with ust’s unique Monarch sleeping bag. On its own, the Monarch behaves like a regular sleeping bag (rated to 37 degrees), but has a few cool extra features including a zippered opening at the feet for venting, a pillow sleeve that keeps your camp pillow from escaping, and a zippered pocket at your left breast for keeping a headlamp within reach. Here’s the fun part: The Monarch comes with two sleeping bag blankets — called wings — that attach to the sides of the sleeping bag. Layer one blanket on top of the Monarch to bring the warmth rating down to 24 degrees or both on top to keep you warm down to 17 degrees (the bag’s main zipper runs three-quarters of the way down the top middle, so you can still climb out with the wings layered on top). Or keep them each attached on one side of the bag and open them like butterfly wings — good for covering a kid next to you or making a nice bed for your dog. Each wing has a built-in stuff pocket, letting you use it as a pillow when stowed. $239.99, short or regular. www.ustgear.com.

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GSI’s Escape series of pots and bowls collapse down for easy transport.
GSI’s Escape series of pots and bowls collapse down for easy transport.

Efficient, collapsible cookware

Cookware can take up precious space in a backpack, but GSI’s Escape series of pots and bowls collapse down for easy transport. They offer a few other welcome surprises. The new Escape Pot, which comes in 2- or 3-liter sizes, has a hard anodized Teflon base and a protruding metal heat shield on the bottom with aluminum blades that look like radiator fins. This technology traps heat from escaping and radiates it back to the pot, helping food and water cook 30 percent faster — and saving about 30 percent of your fuel. The pot also has durable food-grade silicone sides that collapse accordion-style, and it nests with a 9-inch frying pan with a fold-away handle. The lightweight metal lid comes with holes for straining water and fits on both the pot and frying pan. When packed down, the pot and pan measure just 2 inches tall and stow in a carry sack. The Escape series also includes bowls with BPA-free plastic bases, collapsible silicone sides, and handy lids that twist on for storing leftovers. $54.95 (2-liter pot) to $79.95 (pot and frying pan); $19.95 bowl with lid. gsioutdoors.com.

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The nomadiQ grill
The nomadiQ grill

A sleek, foldable gas grill

The nomadiQ works great for beachgoers and campers who want a small propane gas grill that’s portable enough to sling over a shoulder and go but provides enough cooking surface for a family barbecue. This sleek 12-pound grill measures just 12.2 inches by 16 inches by 5.2 inches when packed and comes with a shoulder strap for easy transport. To set up, twist two knobs, rotate the base into place for stability, and then lift and unfold the grill, creating a 226-square-inch cooking area that’s perfect for cooking hot dogs, burgers, and shish kebabs. Attach a 1-pound propane tank and the 9,200 BTU nonstick grill is good to go. The push-start ignition switch makes it easy to fire up and the dual burners each have Hi and Low settings for controlling the heat. Purchase a separate griddle attachment for cooking pancakes ($44.99) and a protective neoprene sleeve to slip over the nomadiQ for storage and transport ($29.99). The one downside: It doesn’t come with a cover (try using a wok lid, which is bulky for travel but does the trick). $299. nomadiqgrills.com.

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MSR’s new Guardian Gravity Purifier
MSR’s new Guardian Gravity Purifier

Pure drinking water anytime

MSR’s new Guardian Gravity Purifier produces 1 liter of safe drinking water in two minutes with little effort required. This easy-to-use purification system removes microplastics and 99.99 percent of viruses, bacteria, and protozoa from water — and, thanks to the activated carbon technology, it doesn’t leave your water tasting like a chemical bath. Use the 10-liter Dirty Water reservoir to scoop water out of a lake or stream (or even fill with campground water) and then hang it from a tree branch or any elevated point 6 feet above your clean water container. Then go stick your feet in a stream and relax while gravity does the rest, feeding the dirty water down through the purifier and then clean water into your bottle or hydration bladder. The handy Universal Bottle Adapter screws onto a variety of water bottles for a drip-free process. The purge hose cleans dirt and debris out of the system so no fussing with backflushing, and the replaceable cartridge purifies about 3,000 liters. $249.95. www.msrgear.com.

Helinox’s Cot One Convertible
Helinox’s Cot One Convertible

Sleep like a baby on this

After my first night sleeping on Helinox’s Cot One Convertible, I told my husband we needed a new bed at home — the camping cot was that comfortable. Now I take it wherever I go, whether we’re car camping or going anyplace where an extra bed would be helpful. The super lightweight portable cot weighs about 5 pounds for the regular size (75 inches long and 27 inches wide), packs into a 21.5-inch-long travel bag, and holds a person weighing up to 320 pounds (add 1.3 pounds for the 82.5-inch-long version). The built-in thermal mattress pad offers extra insulation, making it warm enough for winter camping. The cot sets up quickly using two DAC aluminum poles that slip into sleeves on the cot’s sides and three aluminum crossbars that clamp into place, creating a no-sag, stable platform that stands 6.5 inches off the ground. It’s a surprisingly sturdy and comfortable setup. Optional legs raise the cot 10 inches above ground — perfect for storing gear underneath. $299.95 regular, $349.95 long, $89.95 legs. www.helinox.com.

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Big Agnes’s new Dog House 4
Big Agnes’s new Dog House 4

Sleep in the Dog House

Not every adventure warrants a high-end stormproof shelter. Big Agnes’s new Dog House 4 ticks the boxes as an affordable and lightweight car-camping tent that’s ideal for summer fun. The single-wall tent sets up so easily the kids can do it — just point out the pole sleeves and clips and send them on their way. Steep walls help create more usable interior space in this dome shelter, which has a maximum interior height of 60 inches (tall campers should opt for the 80-inch-tall Dog House 6). The large mesh back window aids with air flow and allows for great stargazing — or zip the window’s rain flap closed in wet weather — and prop open the window vents to further boost air circulation. A cross pole creates awnings over the back window and front door that prevent all but a driving rain from coming in. The no-frills tent has just two interior mesh pockets up high, but plenty of loops for hanging optional gear lofts (not included). The tent also makes a perfect game room on drippy days. $249.95. www.bigagnes.com.

Tarpestry is a heavy-duty, water-resistant ground cloth/picnic blanket all in one.
Tarpestry is a heavy-duty, water-resistant ground cloth/picnic blanket all in one.

A do-everything blanket

There are ground cloths, entry mats, and blankets — and then there’s Tarpestry, a heavy-duty, water-resistant ground cloth/picnic blanket all in one. The super-handy and virtually indestructible blanket has heavy water-resistant material on one side — so you can throw it on the sand or wet grass and be completely protected — and a softer and colorful blanket side for sitting on and relaxing. It works great at the beach, a campsite, or an outdoor music festival, or in the entryway to your tent, creating the perfect transition zone for kicking off your shoes. Buy one with the standard four grommets — one on each corner — or choose up to 10 grommets when ordering and hang your Tarpestry overhead. For camping, choose from the Rugged version, which has UV- and water-repellent layers on top and bottom, or the Epic version, which has a UV- and water-resistant base layer and a poplin layer with wonderful artistic prints on top. Size averages 7.5 feet by 4.5 feet. Prices start at $150. tarpestry.com.

Create a sturdy shelter beside your car with the MoonShade portable awning.
Create a sturdy shelter beside your car with the MoonShade portable awning.

Enjoy this instant shelter

Create a sturdy shelter beside your car with the MoonShade portable awning, which offers 9 feet by 7 feet of covered space — perfect for camping to picnics. The compact shelter sets up in five minutes, tops, and works with RVs, vans, and cars of all sizes (even my four-door Mini Cooper). Attach two suction cups to one side of your vehicle spaced at least 7 feet apart (use the included strut pole if the distance is shorter), fasten two corners of the MoonShade to those anchors using the attached carabiners, affix two cross poles on top of the awning, and then add the two telescoping support poles, which can be adjusted to your desired height. MoonShade also sells magnetic and adhesive anchors, and anchors for the roof rails on Sprinter vans and Airstream Basecamps — or you can get creative based on your rig. Use the included guy lines and stakes to secure the shelter in windy conditions. The awning is made with 420-denier ripstop polyester on top and has a reflective coating on the underside for brightening up the space. The entire setup weighs 8 pounds. $325. moonfab.com.

Happy travels this summer, whatever cool new — or old — gear you take on your adventures.


Kari Bodnarchuk can be reached at travelwriter@karib.us.