There's no sense fighting it really. We've been trying to improve our comforts and indulge in new technology since our inception into the wilderness. There are the rare campers who prefer the primitive life style out there, but that's probably because their job is gadget related and they're desperate for an escape away from the high-tech world. However, it is quite possible to get carried away a bit.
It seems we're seeing a little too many lab-tops glowing around fire rings these days. But if you follow the simple rule of "if you want to use it, then you carry it" then things won't get to out of hand; and if you don't want to carry it, then RV it at a campground and go hog wild.
The top four categories the major companies like Bass Pro Shop, MEC, L.L. Bean, REI have been asked by their clients to add more gadgetry for Christmas are luxury tents, sleeping bags, camp chairs and cooking gear. You've got tents with built-in LED lights, down mummy bags that double as hooded parkas, collapsible camp rocking chairs, espresso kits, double-burner cook stoves and Titanium "sporks" (half spoon and half fork). Other main interests, in sales anyway, were items such as the Eddie Bauer "Insta-bed" with a queen-size air mattress with simulated box springs, those pop-up instant tents, and a bathroom tent complete with portable toilet seat, windows and shower.
Here are the camp gadgets my local store - Wildrock Outfitters - stated were on top of the Christmas list for this year (check out the video of my visit as well):
Group Cooking System Jet Boil
This is one efficient camp stove. A liter of water comes to a boil in two minutes, thanks to the patented Fluxring fused to its bottom. Where the GCS stove gets more credit, however, is its compatibility; the stove and tiny 100-gram propane/isobutene tank (capable of boiling 12 full liters) fits into a stylish cooking pot the size of a large coffee mug.
Cost = $120
This anti-slip traction device, made of tight-fitting mess of rubber bands and metal coils, gets top grades for its non-spike design and durability. Simply slip the pair over your footwear and be free to walk or run across ice and snow without the danger of doing a nasty face plant. Cost = $30 www.yaktrax.com
This is "barebones" when it comes to multi-tools, weighing in at only 142 grams. The Sketetool comes with a stainless steel frame that houses needlenose pliers, wire cutters, four screwdriver bits a straight blade which is deployable from the closed position. It's all you really need and comes with nothing you don't. Cost = $85 www.leatherman.com
Outdoor Research Downmat
This is the ultimate sleeping mat for camping. Outdoor Research's has revolutionized the art of sleeping outdoors by placing soft down insulation inside the sleeping pad's chambers, which not only gives extra loft between you and the hard ground, it gives off a toasty warm feeling as well. If you want a guaranteed cozy night sleep, this is the mat for you. Cost = $160 www.outdoorresearch.com
GoPro Hemet Hero
This camera may be less sophisticated then some of the more James Bond type video gadgets out there but if you want a light weight, waterproof (and low cost) camera mounted on your helmet to capture your next whitewater mishap, then it's a perfect buy. The camera takes up to 56 minutes of film footage or an automatic snap shot every four seconds. Cost = $200 www.gopro.pointofviewcameras.com
Are you distressed about unpacking bruised or squashed bananas from your lunch box? No worries. Pack your potassium-rich snack in a Banana Guard. This top selling device allows you to pack individual bananas in a safe plastic holder, equipped with small perforations to facilitate ventilation (and preventing premature ripening). It comes in five colors, including Mellow Yellow and Sublime Green. Cost = $5 www.bananaguard.co.nz
GSI Glacier Javapress
Countless campers already use plastic a coffee java press. The big difference with Glacier's 18/8 stainless steel Javapress is that it's bombproof and will last through any hardcore packing mishap; and more importantly the double wall thermal design will keep your coffee nice and warm for up to an hour after brew time. Cost = $40 www.rei.com/product/776153
eGear Dyno Mite
This mini 2 LED light fits on a key chain and is battery free, meaning it generates its own power by you winding it up. One minute of winding gets you five minutes of light. It's a perfect stocking stuffer. Cost = $11 www.essentialgear.com
Spot Black Diamond Headlight
Don't let the small and simple design of this new headlight fool you; the Spot Black Diamond packs a lot of punch. The company has refined the reflector to increase the HyperBright Bulb's spotlight beam and clustered it with triple SuperBright LEDs. What this really means is that you're able to see a good distance in the dark if needed, more then any other similar style light on the market. Cost = $40 www.bdel.com/gear/spot.php
Kelty Deluxe Camp Chair
Camp chairs won overall for the top camp gadget this year. It seems everyone wants one. And the Kelty deluxe model wins for comfort and reliability. The model comes with adjustable back rest and arm rest, an oversized padded seat area, storage area for books and bug spray and double drink holders. It also miraculously fits easily back into its storage sack. Cost = $60 www.kelty.com
Kevin Callan is the author of 11 books including his latest "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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