8 essential camping products for summer road trips

Camping is one of the most enjoyable experiences you can have. At least, when you don’t have to deal with bugs, gear that doesn’t work quite right, and the nagging sense that you would sleep better in your own bed. That was not the case on a recent trip I took to Lanesboro, Minn. on a biking trip. Outfitted with all of the test gear below, I found a campsite near a bike trail and set out to discover whether this gear would making my camping trip a true adventure.

1. Decathlon Quechua 2 Second Easy Fresh & Black Waterproof Pop Up Camping Tent

I was not sure if this tent from Decathlon could live up to its name. There are two large “easy buttons” on the tent (they are more like pull strips, actually). You pull each one, and the tent enlarges, There are no poles to worry about, and no fuss. The comfortable tent was dark and warm on a cold night at my campsite, and the cots and gear all fit nicely inside.

2. Pull Start Fire

I was also amazed at how easy these firestarters are to use. At $20 for a pack of three, they do save a ton of time. You set the firestarters on the ground in your fire ring. One end loops around a log and then you yank the pull strip. I didn’t even need to bother with sticks and used logs only; the fire burned for a good 20-30 minutes and worked perfectly.

3. Snow Peak Titanium Dining Set

Plastic forks and plates will work okay at a campsite, but not for long. I’ve burned through many Walmart-quality tableware at campsites over the years. (Sometimes, I’ve literally burned them by accident.) That’s not possible with the Snow Peak dining set. They are available as individual plates or sporks where you can order multiple quantities. I loved using them.

4. StatGear Surviv-All Survival Knife

I’ve tested countless knives over the years, but this StatGear survival knife has one clear advantage — it does not cost an arm and a leg. At $45, it’s a reasonable price for a utility knife you can use for cutting laundry cords, trimming logs, and even cutting up your steak. It’s rust resistant and has an including sharpener in the sheath. There’s even an included firestarter rod.

5. Backcountry Juniper Quick Set Adjustable Cot

I like to be comfortable when I camp, especially when I’m hauling gear in a car and not hiking into a site. That means, using a cot. The Backcountry Juniper Quick Set Adjustable Cot was comfortable and has one major plus over other models I’ve tested from companies like Helonox: It unfolds in seconds. The aluminum frame is light and the price is reasonable right now at $71.  

6. Dometic GO Compact Camp Table and Chair

Sometimes, it’s the extra amenities at a campsite that make the experience more fulfilling. Case in point is this Dometic Go table and chair set. The table folds up easily and is highly transportable. The chair is sturdy, also folds up quickly, and has a nice wood trim. For me, it meant a place to cook using my Coleman stove and a place to sit by the fire.

7. Exped Megamat 10

I slept like a rock on the Exped Megamat 10. It inflates in only a few minutes, and felt comfortable and durable. When it was time to pack up, I had to press my knee on the mat to roll it up, but once I learned the technique, it folded up nicely and fit in the included bag. There’s even a repair kit and a pump to help you inflate the mat quickly.

8. LAKA Cooler 20

Stashing all my food and drinks in this cooler made sense on a short trip, and everything stayed cool during hot spring days. I was impressed by how easy the cooler is to transport with a large handle. LAKA says the cooler will keep your food cold for 10 days, thanks to the thick walls. The hooks kept the lid tightly sealed on the entire trip.

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