Camping season is upon us. Whether you’re in the market for new camping or backpacking equipment or just a gear nerd like me who’s dreaming about future adventures, here are some new gear picks that may make your trips more comfortable or fun.
Summer to three-season bags
For adventures around water or in wet environments — from rafting trips to humid hikes — consider bringing a synthetic sleeping bag (a down bag takes longer to dry and doesn’t maintain its warmth when wet). One of our top picks: NEMO’s new Tempo 35, a three-season, spoon-shaped bag with a roomy and relaxed fit that makes it extra comfy for side sleepers (you’ll appreciate the additional space at your elbows and knees). The polyester ripstop shell and polyester taffeta liner have a water-repellant finish that helps the bag fend off moisture from condensation or humidity. The synthetic insulation offers decent loft for comfort yet packs down small. The Tempo 35, available in men’s and women’s versions, also has a draft collar to boost warmth, a snag-free zipper, and a handy sleeve up top for stashing clothes to make a pillow or for holding your camp pillow in place. $139.95-$159.95. www.nemoequipment.com
If you’re like me, you want something covering you while you sleep, even on a summer night. Sea to Summit’s Spark Ultralight sleeping bag liner keeps you comfortable down to 54 degrees — offering the perfect layer when the sun drops or a mountain or ocean breeze kicks up — and slips into your regular sleeping bag the rest of the year for added warmth. The Spark 0, as it’s called, comes with Ultra-Dry goose down with 850+ loft, packs down to about the size of a pint glass, and weighs just 7.9 ounces (regular, for someone up to 6 feet) to 9.2 ounces (long, up to 6 feet, 6 inches). The mummy-style bag has a three-quarter-length zipper, baffled construction for keeping the down dispersed, and a drawcord at the neck for trapping heat on cooler nights. $309 long; $289 regular. seatosummit.com
Pre-prepared and creative camping meals
Add some flavor to your morning backpacking meal with Good To-Go’s new Breakfast Hash. Company founder and chef Jennifer Scism, who’s worked at and owned top-rated New York restaurants, created this savory meal from her home base in Kittery. The healthy dehydrated camp meal brings together a dozen or so ingredients that you can actually pronounce: onion, butternut squash, feta cheese, carrot, garlic, potato flakes, and milk. Add to that salt, black peppercorn, thyme, oregano, and rosemary and you get a yummy gluten-free vegetarian meal that comes in a single-serving pouch and requires just one cup of boiling water and 15 minutes of patience. Look for it at EMS, Kittery Trading Post, and L.L. Bean or online. $8.60 per package. https://goodto-go.com
First the important news: American Outdoor Products has re-released its popular Astronaut Ice Cream, which it stopped making for about a year. The freeze-dried ice cream sandwich now comes in mint chocolate chip, vanilla, Neapolitan, and cookies and cream. The company also makes a new Backpacker’s Pantry Emergency Meal Kit that lets you buy three days’ worth of tasty, freeze-dried breakfasts and entrées for two people in one box. Use the dozen meals for backpacking and camping or stash the kit in a corner of your garage or in your car while road-tripping, in case of an emergency. The meat-eater’s option includes chicken pad Thai, fettuccini alfredo with chicken, lasagna, and potato stew with beef, while the vegetarian version offers Kathmandu curry, chana masala, veggie lasagna, and pad Thai; both feature packages of granola with bananas and almonds, blueberry walnut oats, and Rocky Mountain scramble. $99.99 (vegetarian), $109.99 (meat version). backpackerspantry.com
Cushioning for the tent and trail
You’ll spend many hours on the ground while camping and backpacking so make sure you bring comfortable mats for beneath you. Exped’s Ultra sleeping mats blend light weight, warmth, and comfort for different seasons. The Ultra 1R works best for summer months (providing insulation for temps down to 50 degrees), while the more versatile three-season Ultra 3R works in temperatures down to 30 degrees, measures 3 inches thick when inflated, and has head-to-toe air chambers that help keep you centered on the mattress. The Ultra 3R weighs just 18.3 ounces (for medium-wide), is available in rectangular or mummy styles, and — my kids’ favorite feature — comes with an inflation bag called the Schnozzel Pumpbag that lets you inflate the mattress quickly using fresh air versus your lungs.
Exped also makes the new 1.8-ounce Sit Pad Flex, a durable closed-cell sit pad that takes up little space, unfolds quickly, and offers comfort anywhere. Tuck it under your backpack lid or in a front pouch and pull it out when needed — for morning meditation at the campsite, to provide insulation on a cold ground, or during lunch stops on a lumpy or rock-strewn trail. $139.95-$159.95 mattress, $19.95 sit pad. www.expedusa.com
Clean water wherever you go
Gone are the days of carrying a bulky purifier to transform water from streams, lakes, and other sources — natural or treated — to potable drinking water. LifeStraw’s new Peak Solo water filter can tuck into the hip-belt pocket on your backpack, attach to any standard narrow-mouth (28mm-thread) water bottle or hydration bladder, and filter up to 3 liters of safe drinking water in one minute. Or use it as a straw to drink directly from a water source. Its microfilter membrane can purify up to 2,000 liters before needing to be replaced, and the included backwash syringe helps keep the device flowing smoothly. The 1.7-ounce device filters out at least 99.999 percent of bacteria, parasites, and microplastics — including E.coli, salmonella, giardia and cryptosporidium — and meets drinking water standards for the US Environmental Protection Agency. $29.95. www.lifestraw.com
Lightweight packs for weeklong loads
Two new Osprey backpacks have all the features you need — and none you don’t — for overnight hikes to weeklong trips carrying loads of up to about 40 pounds. The Aura (women’s) and Atmos (men’s) AG LT backpacks have a spacious main compartment with a hydration bladder sleeve and a lid with a large, zippered pocket with one-inch straps sewn on top for securing a camp mattress or tent. They both come with a stretchable water bottle/hiking pole sleeve on each side; a large sleeve up front for stowing a jacket, rain gear, or snacks within easy reach (with removable straps underneath that also work for securing a sleeping pad); and an integrated rain cover. Add to that two ice ax loops and two handy hip-belt pockets for holding a snack, map, and multi-tool, for instance. One of the most impressive features: the supportive, well-ventilated, and super-comfortable AntiGravity suspension system that can be adjusted on the fly. Both packs come in 50- and 65-liter versions. $270-$290. www.osprey.com
A versatile shelter for all conditions
Check out Big Agnes’ new Gold Camp UL3 for one of this year’s most versatile backpacking options. This three-person pyramid-style setup has three components — a tarp, a footprint, and a “mesh inner” with a floor and mesh sides — that can be configured in numerous ways. Set up the tarp with the adjustable center pole or suspend it using an external loop and you have a wind- and waterproof shelter (unlike many tarp setups, this one provides protection from all directions right down to the ground). Pitch the Gold Camp Mesh Inner with the center pole and you have a ventilated bug-free shelter for clear skies; add the footprint with either option for more protection. Or put all three components together for a fully waterproof and bug-proof camping setup. The tarp has a peak height of up to 80 inches, while the mesh inner has a max height of 72 inches. The tent has eight mesh wall pockets and ceiling loops for a gear loft and lights. The shelter can fit into small campsites, but the sense of overhead space adds to its livability. It only has one door, but a window helps with ventilation. $299.95 tarp, $169.95 mesh inner, $70 footprint. www.bigagnes.com
A tent that’s out of this world
The plush and portable Space Acacia tent takes glamping to a whole new level — and is one of the coolest and most unique pop-up shelters we’ve tested. The tent has a durable 6-inch-thick air floor that can be used as a floating raft (it’s made with the same materials as standup paddleboards) or as the tent base, creating a sleep surface that’s comfortable on virtually any surface. The main tent structure has integrated fiberglass poles and a pop-up design. Setup isn’t intuitive but makes sense after the first try. Use the pull tabs to pop the five wall panels into place and push the ceiling up until it clicks; then secure the tent to the air floor base. Despite the tent’s cubelike design and height — 6 feet, 9 inches at its peak — it’s rated to withstand winds up to 46 miles per hour. The 300-denier tent material can also handle driving rain. Secure the tent fly over the ceiling and roll the waterproof flaps down over the windows to help fend off rain, and add the winglike tent canopy for extra weather protection. The large mesh windows on the vertical walls, two full-size doors, and mesh ceiling provide awesome airflow on hot days and great stargazing opportunities. $1,049 (3-person), $1,399 (6-person). theacacia.com
Kari Bodnarchuk can be reached at email@example.com.
Kari Bodnarchuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.