There are those for whom ditching the modern comforts of home and roughing it is one of the main attractions of camping. For such people, the traditional tent will likely do. But there is another breed of campers that can’t stand to be separated from their technology, be it digital music, videos, tablet computers, drink blenders, etc. For them, there's a new generation of high-tech tents wired to power all the latest portable gadgetry.
Already an established player in the off-the-grid charger market thanks to products like the Switch 8 and larger solar panel and battery systems, Goal Zero teamed up with Eddie Bauer to develop the Katabatic 2 tent (pictured above).
The tent's roof-integrated 18-watt solar panel takes advantage of all the sunlight that's pouring down on it while you're hiking, fishing or sleeping inside. It's designed to hook up to Goal Zero's Sherpa 50 Power Pack, a 50 Wh lithium-ion pack, or its larger Yeti solar generators. Set the tent up, connect the charger and you can keep your laptop, tablet, smartphone, GPS and other gadgets powered up and ready for action.
The Katabatic 2 will go on sale next spring, but it won't be cheap. Goal Zero told us that it will cost US$499 for the tent portion alone, with pricing for the solar panel system to be announced closer to launch. With that high of a buy-in for the tent, you might be better off just buying a cheaper tent and putting the solar panel on yourself.
A newer player in the camping market, Barebones is Goal Zero's sister company. While Goal Zero builds portable power solutions, Barebones works on portable shelters and accessories. In addition to recreational camping, both companies' gear is useful for humanitarian and emergency response efforts.
More than just an average base camp dome, Barebones' 120-sq ft (11-sq m) Safari Tent is a semi-permanent, off-the-grid shelter designed for extended stays. It employs a sturdy aluminum and nylon frame and a Cordura shell and floor. Not only can you stand up in the eight-person tent, you can do jumping jacks. For those that need more room, Barebones plans to offer expandable segments that zip onto the main tent to provide sleeping space for extra occupants.
Such a wilderness home demands a home-like power system, and Barebones is working to equip it with one. Its prototype outlets include integrated clamps that secure to the aluminum poles inside the tent. They're powered by Goal Zero's Yeti solar system, connecting via integrated extension cords. Assuming Barebones develops various lengths of cords, you could mount the outlets around the interior of the tent to mimic the outlets spread around a given room in the home. Plug in electronics, lights and appliances, to create a true home away from home.
The Safari Tent, which Barebones envisions being useful for hunting, humanitarian efforts, glamping resorts, and other extended wilderness stays, launched earlier this year for $1,999. Barebones is still developing its electrical outlets and plans to bring them to market next year.
Having already introduced its N!ergy line of powered tents, Eureka! has developed a couple of features aimed at getting the most out of in-tent technology. The E!luminate system is a simple but effective way to provide better lighting inside the tent. On either side of the centrally-mounted roof lantern hook, the company has placed two removable, triangular, reflective panels, which it claims combine to increase the brightness at floor-level by up to three times – no more straining to see who actually won at poker.
Joining the E!luminate on Eureka's four-, five- and six-person Sunrise tents is the E! Media Center. Similar to the gear pockets common on tents, the panel is centrally located, touchscreen friendly, and sized to fit a tablet computer. It allows campers to create a sort of integrated entertainment system for watching movies, listening to music, etc.
Another handy, but older Eureka! camping product that we happened across while collecting information on the new tent highlights is the Warrior 230 lantern. Introduced in 2011, the lantern comes with a small infrared remote control so that you can hang it inside and easily light the tent up as you approach in the pitch dark from distances of up to 25 ft (7.6 m). The remote control doubles as a small flashlight, ensuring that you have no problem seeing the obstacles that stand between you and the door zipper.
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