This year's newest, smartest gear for camper van living and car camping
A dedicated camper van, even used, can quickly exceed your budget, and a homegrown conversion project can suck up more free time and DIY skills than you have to give. But you don't actually need a fully converted van to enjoy a #vanlife kind of road trip and camping adventure. Outdoor gear manufacturers have been storming the market with smart, sturdy lifestyle camping equipment that you can use in and out of the vehicle for comfortable nights outdoors. The newest pieces of kit from this year's CES, Outdoor Retailer, ISPO and beyond can turn your everyday car into a functional camper van-lite.
Snow Peak Iron Grill Table
No kitchen block in the back of your van or SUV? Who really wants to cook inside on a beautiful sunny day, anyway? Camping is all about getting outside four walls.
Snow Peak's Iron Grill Table pulls some of the all-in-one convenience of a kitchen block out of the vehicle and into the fresh air. More of a modular cooking and food prep system than a table, the IGT comprises a series of different legs, frames, inserts and add-ons that create a customized camp kitchen built to your personal specifications. Drop-in and tabletop options include a gas burner, charcoal grill, water dispenser, cutting boards and more. You can also hook up worktop segments in various configurations to create the most functional outdoor kitchen for your camp cooking and dining plans.
Snow Peak launched the Iron Grill Table last year and added the latest accessories at Outdoor Retailer in January. The Japanese outdoor gear specialist tends to make very compelling products, but it doesn't price them for everyone. Iron Grill table frames range between US$180 and $220, while drop-in accessories cost anywhere from $400 for a double-burner cooktop, down to $33 for stainless steel or bamboo flat-top segments that basically make your table ... well, a table. You can browse the current Iron Grill range here, and new accessories like the water dispenser ($175) and cast iron grill burner ($275) will launch later this year.
HydraPak Expedition 8L water container
Whether you're packing in your own water supply or collecting and purifying water along the way, the HydraPak Expedition 8L helps you transport your supply. A flexible webbing handle makes it easy to grab and go, and a sturdy dual-baffle design allows it to stand on its own. The wide-mouth cap takes care of large pours, while a plug-and-play spout adds a little more precision. The top is also compatible with screw-on filtration systems like the Katadyn Vario Filter. Integrated measurement markers help you keep an eye on how much water you're going through so you can prepare for refills.
The BPA/PVC-free Expedition 8L is made from an abrasion-resistant combination of TPU, HDPE and nylon, RF-welded at the seams. When the water runs dry, the flexible 3-oz (87-g) Expedition 8L compacts down to a fraction of its size, saving room in your gear-loaded vehicle.
A 2018 ISPO Gold Award winner, the HydraPak Expedition 8L is available via outdoor retailers and HydraPak's website for $60.
Primus Kuchoma Grill
Grills are a great way of upping your campsite cookout ambitions compared to more ordinary propane stoves, but both charcoal and gas grills can be large and awkward to store in a car, especially when you start throwing in bags of charcoal and full propane tanks. That's why Primus gives you the grill without the bulk.
The ISPO Award-winning Kuchoma Grill has a sleek, slim chassis and fold-out legs that make for easy packing, even in camping cars that are full to the roof, while the integrated carry handle makes the 9.9-lb (4.5-kg) grill easy to haul from car trunk to campsite tabletop. The Kuchoma doesn't require a large tank (though an adaptor is available for that), as it's designed to run on small gas canisters, a piezo ignition making lighting quick and simple. The non-stick grill top, direct and indirect heating options, and hinged lid further expand your cooking options.
The Kuchoma Grill will retail for $180 as part of Primus' Spring/Summer 2018 (Northern Hemisphere) line-up.
Goal Zero Yeti Lithium v2 portable power station
Like electric cars and trucks, motorhomes and other camping vehicles have slowly started taking advantage of the superior energy storage capabilities of lithium-ion batteries. But you don't need a hardwired vehicle power system to enjoy on-the-go lithium energy storage.
Goal Zero first made the move to lithium-ion storage back in 2016 with its line-up of Yeti Lithium portable power stations. At this year's CES, it introduced updated v2 models of its 1,400- and 3,000-Wh Yeti Lithium power stations, adding Wi-Fi connectivity to the user interface so that users can monitor battery level and control output via a mobile device. You likely won't have Wi-Fi at the campsite, but Bluetooth capability will follow later this year. Each Yeti can be charged before the trip via an electrical outlet or on the road with available solar panels.
The Yeti 1400 and 3000 will launch this month for $1,800 and $3,000, respectively.
TrailKeg Gallon portable beer tap
We've seen all kinds of unexpected equipment inclusions in camper vans and larger motorhomes, from sports car garages to helicopter landing pads, but built-in beer taps remain quite rare, the kind of thing that seems reserved for bachelor parties on wheels. That seems odd considering the explosion of the craft beer movement and timeless synergy between beer and outdoor recreation.
Long story short, if you throw a TrailKeg Gallon into the back of your car, you'll be one step ahead of even the savviest van lifer. Fill up the growler with your favorite craft brew before heading toward the horizon and rest easy knowing that it'll stay perfectly carbonated for the entire trip. TrailKeg's CO2 regulation system maintains proper carbonation for weeks on end, and the double-wall stainless steel growler design keeps beer cold for about 24 hours, even if it's not chilling on ice. So treat yourself to a perfect pour, no matter how far from your local microbrewery you travel.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign last summer, TrailKeg wrapped up Gallon backer deliveries last month. The new model is available on its website for $200, while the half-gallon version can be had for $127.
BioLite SolarHome 620 lighting system
BioLite's SolarHome 620 is an off-grid solution that switches the lights on in your otherwise dark, dreary van, car, trailer, or even off-grid cabin in the woods. The 6-watt solar panel charges the 20-Wh battery throughout the day (about six hours of strong, direct sunlight), which in turn powers the three daisy chained lights through the evening.
String the three 100-lumen lights up around separate areas of the van and enjoy a multi-room lighting solution adjusted via a single multifunctional control box. With 18 feet (5.5 m) of solar panel cord and 21 feet (6.4 m) of lighting cord, you can get permanent placement just right.
The control box includes a speaker with FM tuner and microSD MP3 playback, two USB charging ports for external gadgets, and a backlit LED display showing relevant system information. The individual lights stay on between 4.5 and 14 hours via three brightness settings, and one includes a motion sensor for work as a security light. The control box also works as its own light.
After a limited holiday release last year, the SolarHome 620 had its full market launch last month and is now available for $150.
Klymit KSB Double sleeping bag
If Instagram has taught us one thing about van life, it's that it's best done with a sexy significant other. Whether on the naked ground, a tent floor or folded Subaru Outback seats, Klymit's new KSB Double sleeping bag helps two committed road trippers snuggle close.
This 30 F-rated 650-fill down bag has individual zippers for personalized comfort through the night, and a pad skirt keeps it in place when used atop a sleeping pad. Undo the full-length zipper and the sleeping bag turns into a down comforter that's perfect for covering up while sitting on the tailgate or next to the fire.
The 4 lb 11 oz (2.1 kg) KSB Double will launch this month for $400.
GCI Outdoor RoadTrip Rocker camping chair
GCI's all-new RoadTrip Rocker combines the comfort of a rocking chair with the convenience of a sling-able folding camping chair. An even more portable design than the company's staple Freestyle Rocker, the RoadTrip Rocker folds just like the average camping chair, carrying to and from camp in a shoulder bag (the Freestyle is more a director's-style chair that only folds in half).
Instead of a set of rocking rails on the bottom, which would prove quite treacherous on uneven camp ground, the chair uses GCI's strut-based spring action rocking tech. The chair also keeps you comfy with a cooling mesh backrest, padded armrests and the ever-important beverage holder. It has a powder-coated steel frame and supports up to 250 lb (113 kg).
The RoadTrip Rocker retails for $60.
Soul Solar Kit
There are plenty of rugged battery backups and solar kits out there to keep your electronic gadgets charged up off-grid. Chinese start-up Soul delivers something more with its Solar Kit, a grab-and-go collection of accessories that'll prove useful, possibly essential, both on the road and at camp.
The heart and soul of the system is the 10,000-mAh power bank cylinder that's also an LED flashlight. The battery has enough oomph to charge a laptop once or twice and, with the included jump starter cables, can even get your car running during those dreaded times when an impotent mutter replaces the hearty engine rev you were expecting to hear. You can keep the power banked charged with the rollable 28-watt solar panel included in the kit.
Solar power, flashlight, jump starter ... we'd say the Soul Solar Kit already earns its place in your trunk, and it still offers another feature just for campers: a remote-controlled LED camping light. Hang the 150-lumen light in your tent, put it in your car or stand it on a table and light it up as you approach with the compact IR remote.
When it's time to ride, the Soul kit packs up into the accompanying carry case, staying slim and organized in the greater chaos of your campsite-loaded trunk. Soul plans to hold an Indiegogo campaign in June, and those interested can sign up for updates on its website. The company estimates retail at $449 for the full kit and will offer the usual early bird crowdfunding discounts.