Camping provides a wonderful way of escaping everyday life and its ringing, buzzing and blinking gadgets. That doesn't mean campers need to go completely old school, though. Much of the camping gear and gadgetry we saw throughout 2015 uses smart design and tech for the betterment of campers everywhere. We've already looked at the big stuff – motorhomes and caravans – so here it's all about smaller, simpler car camping gear.
The Austrian-designed Camp Champ is an example of the type of product you'd build if money, both in terms of what you put into it and what you planned to sell it for, was no object. And when you're selling to an overland market full of folks that spare no expense on their travel and camping hardware – the insane (and insanely expensive) vehicles from Overland Expo serve as evidence – maybe you don't have to worry so much about price.
Entirely unnecessary for a successful camping trip, but sure to be the highlight of every trip on which it is present, the Hydro Hammock combines two of the most relaxing things you can do outside. The overbuilt hammock holds 50 gallons (189 l) of water and keeps temperature just right with an available propane heating system. If you don't like the idea of dangling from the trees in a big, soft-bodied tub of water, you can also dig a hole and have an "in-ground" hot tub experience.
Princeton Tec Helix Bluetooth Lantern
Princeton Tec stuffs its Helix Bluetooth Lantern full of user-friendly features, making it one of the most versatile lanterns we've seen. The collapsible combination of fold-out legs and accordion-style globe let you pack it small to save space in the car or backpack. The 250-lumen lantern can stand straight up on its legs, point in different directions by readjusting those legs and hang from the integrated grooves. The globe removes to turn lantern into spotlight.
Camper-in-a-box systems let you efficiently turn your car cabin into a cozy place to sleep, prepare meals and wash up, all without the expense or work of more permanent conversions and dedicated camping vehicles. Over the years, we've seen a number of these systems sprout up.
Mollusc Nano tent
An interesting twist (or flip) on the ubiquitous dome tent, the Mollusc Nano features unique side hubs that allow its exoskeleton frame to retract back. The tent quickly switches between three different positions: fully enclosed sleeper, partially open sun shelter and fully open barrier wall. A retracting dome isn't a necessary feature for a tent, but there's something compelling about waking up, flipping the tent open and letting the fresh air in while watching the sun rise over the treetops from inside a sleeping bag.
Oomph coffee brewer
A good cup of coffee enjoyed in the unbounded scenery of the open outdoors is one of the true pleasures of camping. The Oomph portable coffeemaker looks absolutely perfect for the task of making that camp cup. A super-fast press brewer built into an insulated mug, the Oomph brews a 13-oz (384 ml) cup of coffee and saves dishes by doubling as your drinking cup. Whether you plan to sit at camp and enjoy the sunrise or get moving onto a hike or canoe trip, you have a quick, all-in-one solution for making and sipping your morning joe.
Jetboil Genesis Base Camp
Known for its lightweight, all-in-one backpacking cooking solutions, Jetboil turned some attention to base/car camping this year. The Genesis Base Camp includes a folding two-burner propane stove, 5-liter pot and non-stick frying pan in a neat, nesting package. The stove folds in half and stores inside the pot; the frying pan sits on top like a lid; and that whole package slides into the accompanying case for compact storage and easy transport. Compare that to how much space a typical two-burner box stove and camping pot and pan take up, and you can quickly see the advantage of Jetboil's design.
The multi-award-winning Genesis series will hit the market in late January 2016.
Sea to Summit Comfort Plus sleeping pad
The new Sea to Summit Comfort Plus sleeping pad, which has won several awards including an OutDoor Industry Award and ISPO Gold Award, boasts independently-inflated upper and lower layers meant to increase comfort and safeguard against failure. You can adjust each layer to get just the right feel – for instance, fully inflating the lower layer to guard against hard, uneven ground while keeping the upper layer soft to provide a comfier night's sleep. The dual-layer design also protects against leaks and punctures. If one layer deflates, you still have a second layer between you and the ground.
Ultimate Ears Boom 2 Bluetooth speaker
Need some music at camp? Ultimate Ears combines high-end Bluetooth audio with outdoor-ready construction in the new Boom 2. Like the original Boom, the UE Boom 2 holds a place on a number of "best Bluetooth speaker" lists thanks to its convincing audio. Its tough, IPX7 waterproof design makes it perfect for camping and other potentially wet, dirty outdoor activities.
Tentsile Flite tree tent
Since 2012, Tentsile has been teasing our imaginations with beautiful photos of tents suspended in tree canopies, on bluff edges and over glistening water. In those few years, we've watched the company's offerings move from cool but expensive outdoor novelties closer and closer to affordable ground tent alternatives, from the $675 Stingray, to the $595 Vista, to the $495 Connect.