Here are some more cool and quirky camping gear finds. From a thingy that turns a car backseat into a bed to gasless lighters and space-age tents; from eco-cabins underwater breathing kit. For our long-term, tried and tested camping equipment recommendations, swing over to our favourites.
A Tentsile for backpackers?
We’ve featured Tentsile’s off-ground tents before, but the company has now brought out some lightweight versions aimed at backpackers and hikers. These two-person tree tents get you off the wet, muddy or bumpy ground and away from insects and snakes. They have insect mesh and a waterproof flysheet.
We haven’t tried them yet, and – at first glance – they seems a bit like a standard bivvy hammock (have a look at our favourite bivvy tents and hammocks here), albeit with three connections rather than two. We’ll report back when we’ve spent a night. Expensive compared to some of our favourites, but rather cool!
From around £350 at Amazon.
What a great idea. A collapsible water bottle that takes up no space when it’s empty, and is as light as light can be. The Platypus soft Duolock bottle is BPA-, BPS- and phthalate-free and can stand up when empty or full (unlike some flexible water pouches). BPA, by the way, has now been officially recognised as BAD for us, so we were right all along to avoid those nasty plastic bottles.
There’s a range of sizes, designs and colours to choose from. They all have secure flip-top lids and a handy carabiner clasp. A bit noisy to drink out of, but that’s a teeny, tiny thing!
An easy-to-store roofbag
We were kindly sent a rooftop bag from Road Trip Kit to test. Its main feature is that it fastens through the doors, so doesn’t need rails. It’s waterproof and sturdy and available in a range of sizes (425 to 800 litres). Prices start at around £150, but you do get a five-year guarantee. We’ve sent our mate Ken out with one to test on the road and we’ll report back with his thoughts.
There are plenty of other cheaper rooftop bags to choose from too (these all get good reviews). They start at around £40, though some will need roof rails to attach to. The main things to look for: something to protect your car roof, super-reliable straps, and waterproofing, especially on seams and zips, that will cope with storm conditions.
We like the idea of a clutter-free vehicle (especially if you’re thinking of following our guide to camping in your car). And a roofbag is easier to store than a solid box.
The Camp Champ kitchen
This is a monster of a field kitchen. This simple-looking ‘crate’ unfolds to reveal a top-end mobile kitchen with a powerful expedition stove, a selection of kitchen utensils, a knife block with chef’s knives, handmade cutlery, a big grill plate, pots and a pan, spice rack, dishes glasses for six and much more. Every item is held inside and secured for moving around.
Mind you, moving around isn’t a lightweight job – as you might expect with so much kit. The Camp Champ weighs 70kg, The cabinet is made of marine-grade ply painted with three layers of heavy duty PUR paint. The working surface is layered with a high pressure laminate. Rather heftier than the flimsy camp kitchens we’re used to, but….around €6,000. Campchamp
Soft, squashable and packable drybags are always useful…and even more useful when you can see what’s in them. Sealine View bags come in a range of sizes and with a choice of fully see-through (Discovery View) or window-view (Bulkhead View).
The PurgeAir™ valve quickly vents trapped air for easy closing and packing and the oval bottom stops the pack rolling around.
Costs from around £25.
Is it a rocket…or is it a camping stove? This futuristic butane-fuelled stove was a successful competitor on Dragons’ Den – partly for its good looks and partly because it uses special technology to get around the not-so-great qualities of butane. It’s one of the cheapest and most widely available fuels for camping stoves, but not great at burning.
Its other features are that electrical energy is created while you cook, so you can charge mobile phones, tablets and GPS equipment. Charging can be done at anytime; you don’t need to have the stove opened up and lit to charge gadgets. But if you do want to charge when you’re cooking, a USB port is located away from any open flame so you don’t scorch your device.
It’s very stable and the top pan holders hinge outwards to give you a larger, and more even, cooking surface. We found the mechanisms for the legs and top a little stiff, but they’ll no doubt ease up with use.
It’s rather heavy, so won’t suit many backpackers, but it wins out for us over the Biolite because it doesn’t have a noisy fan. Mind you, the Biolite uses even more readily available twigs for fuel. Have a look at our guide to the best (and worst) gas camping stoves.
Costs around £150
Cool cooking concepts…that we can’t have!
Sometimes there’s a great idea out there but it doesn’t make it past the design stage. We’ve been waiting years for these three to come to fruition!
The Wrapstove clings to your pots with magnets and uses induction to heat. It switches on only when the end tab is folded and the temperature is set via a touchscreen. It was designed by Wonchul Hwang.
The Kumzit social cooker was designed by Boaz David Lazar. It’s heavy, hot and involves lots of kit.
Cook with silver on the Cooka, designed by Maurizio Maiorana. Using the thermal conductivity properties of silver, the cooking plates are claimed to heat up and cool down quickly. It folds up for easy carrying. If you want one, though, you might have to build a little factory for Maurizio.
Designed as a training aid for professional athletes, we don’t see why we amateur snorkelers can’t benefit from the Powerbreather too. It’s a long away from the standard snorkel. It has a central mouthpiece and two tubes which promise only fresh air to breathe (rather than air mixed with your own carbon-dioxide out-breaths). It’s very adjustable (though watch you don’t wind your hair into the fastener if you’re not wearing a swimming cap). We haven’t given it a thorough test in the sea yet, but a pool test proved interesting. It does take a bit of getting used to. There’s some resistance to the breathing that feels scary at first; there’s a tendency for it to slip off your head if you don’t wear a cap.
There are three versions. The cheapest is the Sport at £70. They’re all available here
It seems that very soon there won’t be a field, mountain-top or bit of woodland that doesn’t have some cabin or chic-shed plonked in it. The Ecocapsule is a bit special in that it’s totally off-grid with its own power and water supply. There’s solar, wind and rainwater harvesting, funky looks and plenty of comfort. The downsides seem to be a lack of space and light, a hint of flimsiness (though this may be ironed out once it’s properly in production) and the cost. Designed and made in Slovakia, it’s €79,000 (ex VAT) for the first 50, but guaranteed cheaper if you can wait till the next batch. EcoCapsule
We used to like the Summit Jet Flame lighter for its adjustable flame, but the button was hard to press and the fliptop lid got in the way of lighting some things. Same goes for the Coney lighters. The Coneys, though, are very affordable and pretty reliable..so you can just snap off the lid if needs be. Avoid the Turboflame, despite its removeable lid. Looks sturdy, but breaks easily.
The best refillable, though, is the Jetlighter with its swivelling ‘nose’ for lighting at any angle, plus three powerful flames.
BUT, do you know you can get lighters that don’t need to be refilled at all? These use a beam or arc (like an arc welder) and the mechanism for creating the beam means they can be recharged using USB. Tesla make a Coil lighter, but it has the lid-in-the-way problem again. Still, if Tesla are on the case, it’s something to aspire to maybe!
The best USB-charged plasma (arc) lighters are ones with long noses so that you can get it into a storm lantern, a campfire or candle.
And if all this seems too high-tech, just get yourself some weatherproof matches for easy lighting in wind or rain.
How could we resist? The Stick Book: Loads of Things You Can Make or Do with a Stick.
As New York’s National Museum of Play pointed out when they selected a stick for inclusion in their Toy Hall of Fame, a stick can become a wild west horse, a mediaeval knight’s sword, a boat on a stream or a slingshot with a rubber band. Costs around £7.
Have a look at our suggestions for other presents for camping and outdoorsy folk – gifts for adults and kids!
For all those car-campers, overnight stops and sleeping children. “This product is designed for the interior inflatable structure, inflatable few minutes to complete.” Or, without the Google translation…an inflatable bed that fits onto the backseat of your car. It has two pillars to hold up the side that would otherwise flop into the footwell.
We can’t vouch for their comfort or durability, but the concept’s interesting. Around £25 to £70.
Guaranteed to get you a second look on any campsite, Heimplanet’s range of inflatable tents look like no other. They’re wickedly expensive, but promise super-stability and minimum weight.
The Fistral, for example, is a one- to two-person tent that weighs just 2.5kg. It has multiple air chambers as a back-up in case of puncture, but can be inflated using a single pump. Two entrances and a geodesic shape.