9 Essential Pieces of Camping Gear You Need for Your Next Trip

Wise Owl/Amazon
Wise Owl/Amazon

Camping doesn’t have to be synonymous with roughing it. A trip to the great outdoors can be vastly improved by bringing along a few pieces of useful gear. There are products that make every part of the camping experience more enjoyable, from outdoor cooking to lounging in the woods. Whether you’re planning a relaxing weekend outdoors or a long backpacking trip, these are the camping must-haves to add to your packing list.

1. Stanley Easy Carry Outdoor Cooler; $50

Camping cooler.
Stanley

The food and drink menu of your next camping trip shouldn't be limited by your equipment. This double-walled cooler from Stanley keeps items cold for 27 hours, which is roughly 40 percent longer than a standard cooler. It's big enough to hold nine cans, or seven quarts of goods, if you're looking to eat as well as drink on your outdoor excursion.

Buy it: Stanley

2. Stanley Full Kitchen Base Camp Cook Set; $80

Camping kitchen set.
Stanley

This full camping kitchen only weighs 5.6 pounds and fits in your backpack. Thanks to the innovative nesting system, the cooking gear set is super portable, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality for convenience. There are 19 pieces of durable kitchenware featured in the package, including a stainless-steel pot, a cutting board, and a frying pan.

Buy it: Stanley

3. Stanley Stay Hot Camp Crock; $65

Camping crock.
Stanley

Enjoying a hot, homemade meal on the trail is possible with this portable camping crock. It holds three quarts of whatever you want to pack, whether it’s soup, chili, or mac and cheese. The double-walled vacuum insulation also keeps cold things cold, making it a perfect portable ice bucket.

Buy it: Stanley

4. Coleman Sundome Tent; $55-$191

Coleman tent.
Coleman/Amazon

Coleman’s Sundome Tent is designed to keep you safe and comfortable. Large windows and a ground vent promote airflow, while the welded corners, inverted seams, and rainfly keep the interior dry in any weather. There’s even an e-port you can use to power your electronic devices. With sizes ranging from two to six occupants, you can choose the tent that’s best for your camping party.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Wise Owl Hammock; $28-$39

Camping hammock.
Wise Owl/Amazon

Even the simplest campground can become a serene oasis with this hammock from Wise Owl. Just attach the straps and carabiners to two nearby trees and climb into the comfortable parachute nylon sling to start your relaxation session. The hammock folds up into a package about the size of a grapefruit, according to the company, which means you can even take it on long trips when space is limited. It’s available in sizes for one or two occupants.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Coleman Camping Chair; Various Prices

Camping chair.
Coleman/Amazon

At least one cupholder is the standard for most camping chairs, but this one from Coleman goes above and beyond. The collapsible cloth chair features a cooler pouch built into the arm that can fit up to four cans at once, so when you take a seat around the campfire, everything you need is within reach.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hydroflask Water Bottle; $42-$90

Water bottle.
HydroFlask/Amazon

This water bottle from Hydro Flask is made from 18/8 food-grade stainless steel and works just as well for hot drinks as it does for cold ones. It’s also a stylish accessory to have on the trail; the bottle comes in a range of sizes, with a powder coating available in 10 colors.

Buy it: Amazon

8. BEARZ Outdoor Blanket; $22

Outdoor blanket.
BEARZ/Amazon

If you aren’t sure what kind of blanket to bring on your outdoor adventure, grab this one from BEARZ. The versatile piece of gear is a beach blanket, picnic blanket, and hiking blanket all in one. It’s even waterproof, so you can attach it to your tent and use it as a tarp when it rains. When it’s not being used, it folds up into a package that fits in your pocket.

Buy it: Amazon

9. TETON Camp Pillow; $15

Camping pillow.
Teton/Amazon

It’s hard to justify bringing your fluffiest pillow on a camping trip when space is limited, but this travel pillow from TETON solves that problem. It compresses into a compact carrying case, and when unpacked, it expands into a soft, comfy pillow that rivals the one you left on your bed at home.

Buy it: Amazon

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10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

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This Insulated Growler Keg Lets You Pour Carbonated Beer, Soda, and Cocktails on the Go

GrowlerWerks
GrowlerWerks

The biggest hurdle for taking draft beer on the go is keeping it cold and carbonated once you leave the brewery. And while insulated travel growlers help keep drinks fresh for longer, traditional glass growlers start losing carbonation once they're opened.

Portland-based GrowlerWerks combats the scourge of flat ales with a line of growler kegs featuring built-in tap handles that mimic a brewery-fresh pour. And with the company's lightweight and affordable uKeg Go ($99) model, GrowlerWerks is making sure your sudsy drink of choice can survive all-day cookouts, lazy nights on the patio, or a week in the fridge.

How is the uKeg Go different from a growler?

The main selling point of the 64-ounce uKeg Go is its tap, which dispenses beer just like you'd be served at a brewery. But it’s not as simple as just filling it up and playing bartender—you’ll first need to install an 8g CO2 cartridge before you even pour your first pint. Much like an actual keg, the CO2 is what’ll actually keep your drink nice and foamy after you've filled the growler. (GrowlerWerks sells its own CO2 charges separately at $12 for a pack of 10. Each cartridge should last for the entire 64 ounces.)

The cartridge itself pops right into a sleeve, which you then screw into the bottom of the cap. Once you've tightly secured the cap onto the growler, you can choose your carbonation setting—first position for beer and cider and the second position for soda and cocktails—and start pouring.

Though the system isn’t complex, you’ll definitely want to give the instructions a once-over before you first use it—I wound up wasting my first CO2 cartridge because I didn’t have the cap in the “off” position when I first installed it, resulting in it emptying out before I could even screw it on.

So, does it work?

My first drink—Coke, because my local breweries still aren’t allowing private growler fills due to COVID-19—came out perfectly chilled and fizzy, as if it had just been poured from a fountain. But time is the enemy of all carbonated beverages, so over the next eight hours I poured a few more glasses to see how both the CO2 and the temperature held up.

I found that there was very little difference between that first cold glass at 8:00 a.m. and that final one at 5:00 p.m. The drink suffered virtually no temperature change, thanks to the uKeg Go’s double-wall vacuum insulation, and never lost any of that bubbly character. Even when the keg was left out in the sun from noon to 5:00 p.m., the soda remained unaffected.

GrowlerWerks uKeg Go
GrowlerWerks

Because we're talking about a keg here, I knew I had to test out beer as best I could, so I transferred a few cans to the uKeg, and the result was pretty much the same—the growler maintained the beer’s temperature and carbonation level all day long, resulting in a consistent pour that never lost flavor or crispness. It’s basically indistinguishable from having beer straight from a brewery tap, and it'll probably be my go-to travel vessel anytime I bring local beer on the go.

While these tests simulated bringing the uKeg to an all-day event, the company claims the growler would be able to maintain the carbonation for up to two weeks.

How's the build?

The whole idea behind the uKeg Go is portability—it's meant to travel with you wherever you go, from a backyard barbecue to a weekend excursion out into the woods. And it sports a stainless-steel body that should be up for the challenge. It's lightweight, but the build is sturdy enough that you shouldn't fret that you've got fragile cargo with you (just be aware that there is a tap faucet to think about, so you might not want to jostle it around too much). There's also a convenient handle secured onto the top, making it easy to carry around with a finger or two while also traveling with beach bags and other outdoor necessities.

In terms of appearance, the uKeg Go is sportier and sleeker than the company's traditional uKeg model, looking more like an insulated bottle from HydroFlask or Stanley than a piece of brewery equipment. And there are two colors to choose from: a uniform tungsten gray model and a slightly bolder chili red, which is what I went with.

You can pick up a uKeg Go for $99 on both the GrowlerWerks website or Amazon. There’s also the company’s standard uKeg growler that ranges from 64 to 128 ounces and features a much more nuanced CO2 system. That'll run you $159–$209, depending on the exact model you get. And if coffee is more your speed, the company recently released the uKeg Nitro ($199) model that dispenses creamy, nitro-infused cold brew with the pull of a lever.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.