Camp Gadgets for Christmas

Worried that I'd get some really bad gifts this Christmas, I visited my local outdoor store (Peterborough, Ontario's Wildrock Outfitters) and had them make up a list of this year's top camp gadget gifts. Here's the list, the same one I posted on the fridge at home for my wife to see. It's the same one I emailed out to my friends and family, especially the ones who continually buy me a cheap sweater, or worse, clip-on tie every holiday.

Nemo GoGo Air-pole Bivy 

Instead of using poles for support it's an air-filled beam that creates structure and stability, and cuts down on weight. That's really cool. Just inflate the central arch and stake out the perimeter. And that not all; the 2 pound tent is made up of a 30D waterproof outer shell and a 30D PU coated abrasion-resistant nylon floor. And, combined with its roomy swallowtail design and an airy vestibule, condensation was minimal. Cost = $280

Gravity Filter by Platypus 

New water system idea that saves you the hassle of pumping the filter - works on gravity. The process is simple enough; contaminated water is poured into one bag, filtered through a hose and a Hollow-Fiber Filter Cartridge to another "clean water" bag. The system cleans 4 liters of water in just 2.5 minutes, without a single pump stroke. Its hands free. You just hang the filtration system up somewhere, like a tree branch, and let gravity do all the work for you. The filter itself works just as effectively on single-cell pathogens than any other microfilter. Cost = $60

Squishy Bowls & X-Plates 

Eating surfaces have become revolutionary with two products. The Squishy Bowl is made of flexible food-grade silicone - and can resist temperatures to 400 degrees F. The bowl squishes and packs perfectly into your pack and can easily be cleaned by turning the bowl inside out. The X-Plate is comprised of a rigid food-grade nylon base, which makes an excellent cutting board, and food-grade flexible silicone walls. Fits into your pack better then a Frisbee - and even doubles as a Frisbee around camp if needed.  Cost = $18

Ostrom's Camp (bar) Kitchen 

Legendary paddler Paul Mason got together with pack designer, Bill Ostrom, to design the perfect camp kitchen, complete with a cutting board, dishrack, various storage areas and eco friendly straps to mount it to the nearest camp tree. I loved the idea, but not necessary just for making meals (which eliminates the process of bending over while cooking on the ground); to me, this gadget became the perfect camp bar! The moment I get to camp I strap it to a trunk, cut up wedges of fresh lime and lemon on the cutting board and begin pulling out martini mixes from the storage compartments. It's an incredible sight to see. Cost = $195

North 49 LED Lantern & Adventure Light 

Don't let the small and simple design of these new camp lights fool you; the North 49 and Adventure LED lights pack a lot of punch. North 49 Lantern is equipped with 8 super bright LED bulbs, lasting up to 80,000 hours of illumination, with the white colour LED the lantern casting a 360 degree glow. The Adventure LED clip-on lighting system takes it up a notch at 100,000 hours of illumination, waterproof up to 300 feet (90 meters) and dependable in temperatures ranging from - 40 to 122 F (- 40 to 50 C) and even works extremely well underwater. Cost = $12-$14

Compression Stuff Sacks 

Bulk, not weight, is your real enemy when packing a canoe pack. You can easily fill half your pack up with one puffy sleeping bag or one poorly rolled up tent, leaving no room for amenities such as extra wine or a second bag of jelly beans. That's why compression stuff sacks are pure bliss. You can squeeze a sleeping bag or even a tent to the size of football with a good quality model. My preference is Outdoor Research's AirPurge System. Cost = $30

Whiz Easy 

Important to note - this product is for women only! Men, of course, are allowed to purchase it and gift-wrap it for their significant other. Many users of the Whiz Easy equate the product to "freedom when nature calls." This device, which won the prestigious 2009 Medical Design Excellence Award, gives women the ability to urinate in a comfortable, discreet way. It's a small, hygienic, anti-fungal, bacteriostatic, spill free, flexible, easy-to-use pee device that gives peace of mind when nature calls.

Want more gift ideas? 

Products that I featured last year would still be worth a good look for that outdoors person in your life. Read last year's Gadgets article.

The attached video is a sample from my latest project - "The Happy Camper" on It showcases some of these products and a few more.

Just a note before you watch the video: My mother always said that change was good. Of course, I think she was referring to the changing of my underwear or socks. But I've taken her advice in relation to spreading my enthusiasm and knowledge of camping and the outdoors. My new project is not a book this year; it's an on-line video website presenting multiple episodes on ways to be a "happy camper." It's going to be a blast!

The launch will be in a few weeks. We're a little behind schedule, mainly because our prop guy, Scott, while dressed in a cheap bear costume for a "bear wise" episode, decided to attack me during filming and managed to break two of my ribs (see previous blogs for the full story). The producer, Kip, wants some extra time to make sure we edit that scene into the episode and, according to my wife, I need some time away from Scott. It's worth the wait though. The Happy Camper on won't disappoint you.

Kevin Callan is the author of 11 books including "Wilderness Pleasures" and "The Happy Camper." A regular keynote speaker at major North American canoeing and camping expos for over 20 years, he has received three National Magazine Awards and four film awards, including top award at the prestigious Waterwalker Film Festival. Callan lives in Peterborough, Ontario, birthplace of the modern-day canoe.

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