11 Camping Essentials to Get You Through the Summer

iStock/pixdeluxe
iStock/pixdeluxe

If you're hitting the trails this summer, you'll want to make sure you've got everything you need to make your trip to the great outdoors the best it can be. Before you lose cell service, grab these 11 camping essentials.

1. Alite Monarch Chair; $70

Treat your butt to this comfy hammock chair, which is perfect for sitting around the campfire. The patented design only has two legs (you’ll need your own legs to balance it) but that means it can easily perch on uneven terrain where other camping chairs can’t go—not to mention you can use it as a rocking chair. When packed up, it’s just a foot long and weighs just a little over a pound, so it can go anywhere, whether that means the soccer field on Saturday morning or a long backpacking trip.

Buy it: REI

2. Scrubba Wash Bag; $50 to $55

Wash your clothes on the go with this little bag, which has a textured washboard lining to give your clothes an actual scrubbing. Throw your clothes in, add water and soap, then slosh the bag around for a few minutes to get a high-quality wash for your sweaty, dirt-laden outdoor gear. Then empty out the soapy water, rinse, and hang your newly cleaned clothes to dry. Scrubba also makes a bag designed just for delicates, a travel clothesline, a camping towel to dry your clothes, and even a set of inflatable hangers.

Buy it: Amazon ($55) or REI ($50)

3. PackTowl; $7 to $55

This travel-ready towel dries 30 percent faster than the traditional cotton version, and despite its thin form, it can absorb up to five times its weight in water. It comes in multiple different styles, sizes, and colors from lightweight hand towels to deluxe beach blankets, the largest of which folds down to be about the size of a kid's lunchbox. The company touts its PackTowl Luxe as “the most luxurious fast-drying towel available”—and having used it as a very comfy desk blanket to ward off frigid office temperatures, we’d have to agree.

Buy it: Amazon or REI

4. Otterbox Venture Cooler; $230 to $350

Otterbox’s Venture Coolers are just as indestructible as the company’s famous phone cases. They’re waterproof, drop-tested from every angle, and can be made certifiably bear-proof with an optional lock set. You can add slide-on cupholders, a bottle opener, a cutting board, and other accessories as needed; you can even organize the interior into compartments to keep your fruit from getting squished by your soda, your bread from getting wet from your icy beer, etc. And the 2-inch foam insulation is designed to keep your ice solid for a full 14 days.

Buy it: Otterbox

5. Kicker Bluetooth Speaker; $81

Kicker’s heavy-duty outdoor speaker is water-resistant, durable, and fits in a cupholder. But don’t let the small size fool you: It’s also capable of churning out “muscular bass” beats. It’s got 10 hours of playback, plus a built-in USB port that you can use to charge your phone.

Buy it: Amazon ($81 plus shipping) or Walmart ($137)

6. Sea to Summit X-Series Cookware; $95

When you’re carrying everything you need to survive for days, weight matters. So does size. These aluminum-base, silicone-walled dishes and pot are a little pricey, but they take up barely any room and weigh less than 1.5 pounds. The two-person cook set comes with a pot (and a lid with a built-in strainer), two bowls, and two mugs. They collapse almost flat and fit together like nesting dolls, saving you space in your pack or in your car. Note: You’ll need a camping stove, because an open fire will burn the silicone sides of the pot.

Buy it: Amazon ($95) or REI ($110)

7. Kelty Sine 35 Sleeping Bag; $161

Even if it’s summer, you probably still need to prep for cold nights. This sleeping bag has easily customizable ventilation so you can adjust it for whatever the weather. Outside magazine calls the Kelty Sine 35 “a smart choice for almost everything.” The diagonal zips make it easy to get in and out of, and if you’re a feet-outside-the-covers person, there’s a vent down at the bottom of the bag for your tootsies.

Buy it: Amazon ($167) or REI ($161)

8. Summer Moon 2 Tent; $142

This squat tent is super simple to set up because it only uses two poles. At less than 4 pounds, it debuted as the lightest tent on the market for less than $200, according to its manufacturer Sierra Designs. It’s designed to function in three seasons and also comes in a three-person size. It comes equipped with Sierra Designs’s Night Glow, an accessory that turns your headlamp into an overhead light.

Buy it: Amazon ($142) or Moosejaw ($190)

9. Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System; $90

This handy system lights up with the push of a button and boils two cups of water at a time for coffee, instant oatmeal, dehydrated meals, and more. It’s essentially a combo stove/Thermos, which you can use both for cooking and as a drinking vessel. The Neoprene sleeve protects your hands while it’s hot—with a color-changing indicator to warn you when it is—and it comes with a lid you can use to drink straight out of the cup once everything is done boiling. When you’re done, the fuel, stove, and accessories all fit back into the cup for safe storage in your bag.

Buy it: Amazon ($90) or REI ($100)

10. Radiant 300 Rechargeable Lantern; $36

Your campfire can only be your sole source of light for so long. This ultra-bright rechargeable lantern works for five hours at its brightest setting and 27 hours at its lowest, recharging in three-and-a-half hours. It’s water- and impact-resistant, so there’s no need to treat it with kid gloves. Just clip the carabiner handle to your pack and go. It can also be used as a power source for your phone or tablet.

Buy it: Amazon

11. Vasque Breeze III GTX Boot; $180

What kind of hiking boot you want will depend a lot on the type of trip you’re taking and the specific contours of your foot, but for all-around outdoor footwear, you could do worse than Vasque’s Breeze boots. The Breeze III is lighter, with better traction than its predecessors. It’s got great grip on rocky terrain, keeps your feet cool with mesh panels, and features a nice cushion that you’ll appreciate after hours on your feet. It comes in men’s and women’s sizes.

Buy it: Men's: Amazon or REI or Backcountry; Women's: Amazon or REI or Backcountry

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

A version of this article first ran in 2017. It has been updated to reflect current availability. 

20 Weird Clubs That Actually Exist

Mental Floss via YouTube
Mental Floss via YouTube

Groucho Marx once famously quipped that he'd never "want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members." Most people would probably say the same about the Martin-Baker Ejection Tie Club—a very exclusive, 63-year-old organization created specifically for individuals who have had their lives saved by an ejection seat. Currently, the club boasts more than 6000 members.

That's just one of the weird and wonderful clubs you'll learn about in our latest edition of The List Show. Join Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy as she hunts down the world's most unusual clubs (Extreme Ironing Bureau anyone?). You can watch the full video below.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here!

An Explosive History of the T-Shirt Cannon

Tom Szczerbowski, Getty Images
Tom Szczerbowski, Getty Images

As the mascot for the San Antonio Spurs from 1983 to 2004, Tim Derk—also known as the Coyote—was constantly looking for ways to make the live game experience better for fans. In addition to dancing, antagonizing players, and engaging with attendees, Derk did what many mascots do to raise morale: He gave the crowd free stuff.

Shirts, hats, and other apparel were tossed out on a regular basis, though the gifts were limited to the ability of a mascot’s throwing arm. Which meant that fans seated in the upper bleachers didn’t get much of anything, except maybe a nosebleed.

Derk and the other mascots used huge rubber bands to propel shirts to those people seated higher up in the stands, but even those had limited range. Then, in the 1990s, Derk and his peers decided to become apparel arms dealers. They designed and fabricated a massive, 90-pound cast-iron pipe 4 feet in length that used the pneumatic principle to blast T-shirts into the air and into the arms of fans.

Once Derk strapped it on for an appearance during a game as “Rambote,” sports would never be the same again.

The T-shirt cannon can be traced back to Britain during World War II, when sailors on commercial freighter ships were left vulnerable after their anti-aircraft weapons had been rerouted to warships. Desperate to protect themselves from enemy attack, the sailors adopted a weapon developed by the Department of Miscellaneous Weapons Development. Dubbed a Holman Projector, it could shoot projectiles out of a tube using steam from the ship’s boiler.

Rugby mascot Captain Hurricane (L) stands near former Hurricanes player Norm Hewitt (R) as he fires a T-shirt cannon at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand in May 2018
Hagen Hopkins, Getty Images

Sailors usually lobbed grenades in this manner, but when they weren’t under direct threat—which was most of the time—they loaded the gun with less-lethal ammunition, like potatoes. When Winston Churchill observed a demonstration and someone forgot the grenades, operators used beer bottles instead.

Without a wartime steam boiler, people still felt a need to launch projectiles. Contemporary “spud launchers” use compressed gas, usually carbon dioxide, that is delivered into an air tank. When the trigger is pulled, the gas is released all at once, and the energy shoots whatever’s in the barrel. That can be a potato, a paintball pellet, or a rolled-up T-shirt.

Derk was intrigued by the concept of the spud launcher and adopted it for clothing. When he began brandishing his T-shirt cannon, other mascots quickly followed suit. Kenn Solomon, also known as Rocky the Mountain Lion—a mascot cheering on the Denver Nuggets—had a friend build him one after seeing Derk’s. Solomon also got involved in selling them commercially. Pretty soon, the device was in heavy use across the NBA, MLB, NFL, and NHL organizations, growing smaller and lighter with each passing year. Once 90 pounds, the cannons now weigh as little as two pounds.

This T-shirt arms race grew to include multi-barrel guns like Big Bella, a 600-pound behemoth which debuted in 2012 at a Philadelphia 76ers game and could fire 100 shirts every 60 seconds. Not to be outdone, the Milwaukee Bucks introduced a triple-barreled gun powerful enough to propel vests and jackets. The Army’s football team built a tiny T-shirt tank.

Rumble, the mascot for the Oklahoma City Thunder, fires a T-shirt cannon at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in May 2016
J Pat Carter, Getty Images

Despite having a relatively innocuous payload, these guns have not always brought joy to attendees. In 2018, a mascot named Chip at the University of Colorado-Boulder suffered an injury when a T-shirt cannon malfunctioned, shooting him in the groin. (The video, of course, went viral.) That same year, a fan named Jennifer Harughty claimed that Orbit, the mascot for the Houston Astros, shot her with a T-shirt and shattered her finger, necessitating surgery. In 2019, Alex Swanson was at Citi Field for a New York Mets game and alleged that a shirt struck him in the eye and knocked him unconscious. Both sued the respective teams.

Derk surely had no idea there would be the occasional mishap, nor could he have predicted someone might misappropriate the gun for other purposes. In 2019, a woman named Kerri Jo Hickman was arrested after being caught while trying to deliver contraband—cell phones, chargers, ear buds, and drugs—by shooting it over the fence of North Folk Correction Center in Sayre, Oklahoma, with a T-shirt cannon.

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