You’ve got the basics for camping covered—the 16-foot Lotus Belle Outback Deluxe tent, Exped MegaMat Duo 10 sleeping pad, and YETI Tundra 50 cooler. But whether you’re car camping in Squamish or trundling off the grid to the middle of nowhere 200 miles north of Williams Lake, it’s the little hacks that make getting away from it all truly wonderful.
Here are five must-haves designed to make your camping experience considerably more enjoyable than that time your parents took you to an overrun Cultus Lake with a piece of stained green foam for a mattress, a Donald’s plastic shopping bag/Polar Bear Ice block “cooler”, and a DIY tent fashioned out of a trashed blue tarp and four semibroken sticks.
Coghlan’s Egg Holder
As Iron Chef Bobby Flay has noted, everything tastes better with an egg on it. The problem with eggs is that they have to be in a cooler. And because they tend to come in either Styrofoam or cardboard packaging, they inevitably end up smashed when you’re rooting around the YETI Tundra 35, three sheets to the wind, for that ninth bottle of 33 Acres of Sunshine French Blanchè at 2 in the morning.
Problem solved with Coghlan’s Egg Holder. Made out of hard yellow plastic with a flip-up lid that claps shut, it provides a more or less indestructible case for your cackleberries, guaranteeing that when you need something to top off your Spiced Mustard Hash Browns (recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay), you won’t be standing there thinking “I wish I hadn’t broken all the eggs after drunkenly rooting around for that bottle of Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash Whiskey at 4 a.m.” ($2.70 at www.mec.ca/)
Soundfreaq Sound Spot
Here’s something to keep in mind when out in nature: as much as you love, in no particular order, Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff”, Kid Rock’s “Bawitdaba”, and everything by that subhuman Hank Williams Jr., odds are good no one on the next site over wants to hear that shit. So if you’ve gotta show up with an iPod playlist titled Ruining It for Everyone Else Redneck-Style, bring some headphones.
That important fact out of the way, music makes every camping experience more memorable, whether you’re sitting by a lazy river to the Meat Puppets’ “Swimming Ground” or shotgunning Miller High Life tallboys to Hank III’s “Not Everybody Likes Us”. What sets Soundfreaq’s Sound Spot apart from most speakers its size is the audio quality: instead of something that sounds like a tin can attached to a string, the bass is deep, the high ends bright without seeming brassy.
As a bonus, the unit is an economical five inches wide and tall, and lighter than a paperback (assuming you’re not talking Stephen King’s It). Speaking of which, the last thing the campers the next site over want to hear is Pennywise’s “Bro Hym”, so, seriously, keep that shit down. (US$69 at soundfreaq.com/)
No one enjoys spending Day 2 of a camping trip watching your Beaufort d’Été cheese, Cabela’s wild-boar bacon, and Oscar Mayer wieners floating in a half-foot of ice cubes and soupy water. Such is the problem with camping with frozen H2O. There is an easy way around this, though.
East Vancouver’s Praxair sells dry ice by the pound, with, for example, a 25-pound block for $43 keeping things fridge temperature in your cooler for three or four days. Because dry ice evaporates rather than melts, that means no hot-dog-flavoured water making a mess out of your cooler and freshly opened tin of Northern Divine white sturgeon caviar. (Praxair is at 2080 Clark Drive, near the East Van Cross.)
Led Hi-Vis Cap
You know what sucks, besides the guy one site over showing up blaring Toby Keith? That would be doing anything in the dark when you’re camping, whether it’s setting up a tent, taking a leak, or smashing all your eggs while drunkenly rooting around in the cooler for that half-bottle of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20-year-old bourbon.
There are a couple of ways around this. One is holding a dollar-store flashlight in your teeth, which unfortunately becomes a problem unless you enjoy the taste of sweatshop-brand metal. You can also spring for a headlamp, the straps of which are guaranteed to give you a headache after about 10 minutes, an added downside being you look like a dork from The Amazing Race.
Solve the problem with an LED Hi-Vis Cap from Mark’s (formerly Mark’s Work Wearhouse). Despite the fancy name, it’s basically a baseball cap with two built-in battery-powered LED lights. When turned on, those lights illuminate everything for 70 feet, extra-handy when you’ve got a can of Stroh’s in each hand and are suddenly convinced that a large and very thirsty adult-male Sasquatch is watching you from just beyond the tree line. ($22.99 at Mark’s [various locations]).
Winner Outfitters Pro Camping Hammock
Here’s the funny thing about camping—getting comfortable can sometimes be a challenge. Sure, you might look cooler than Paul Bunyan while sitting on a log, but try settling in with Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past for an hour or two. Same with those portable chairs with the built-in beer holder. If you’ve been beyond your Yaletown condo the past couple of camping seasons, you might have noticed that portable hammocks have become a serious thing. We’re not talking knockoffs of the knock-off you bought during your last trip to Mexico, but instead hammocks designed to be slung between two Douglas firs or West Coast cedars.
Often, comfort comes with a price, with the Clark NX-270 Four-Season Camping Hammock clocking in north of $400. Winner Outfitters’ camping hammock brings things in in considerably more budget-friendly fashion. Available in orange, blue, and charcoal with red trim, the hammocks come with hanging straps (instead of ropes) and lightweight aluminum carabiners, the whole shebang packing up into a handy nine-inch tote bag. Assuming you haven’t smoked a hookah full of Island Sweet Skunk, that makes setup quick and easy.
The Winner Outfitters camping hammock supports up to 500 pounds, good news considering that, once you get the thing set up, the last thing you’ll be doing is vacating it for a hike—or anything else involving physical exercise that doesn’t involve getting another Blue Moon Cinnamon Horchata Ale from the YETI Tundra 110 cooler. (US$24.99 at winneroutfitters.com/)