The best new camping gear and gadgets for 2016 and beyond
With the long, balmy days of summer coming to an end in the world's most populous areas above the equator, it might seem like an odd time to be looking at camping gear. But many all-new camping gadgets are just shipping now or being introduced with Spring 2017 release dates. So we're jumping ahead of the curve and looking at these handy pieces of kit now so you can be ready for next summer ... or for fall, winter or summer south of the equator, if those are your favorite times to jaunt into the wilderness.
Camping may be all about unplugging and letting the lithium-ion drain completely so you can focus on simplicities like babbling cricks and crickets, glimmering stars and crackling fires, but that doesn't mean a few carefully selected gadgets can't enhance the experience. Following on from our favorite camping gadgets of 2015, here's a look at the latest campsite and trail-friendly gadgets that promise to make your time in the outdoors more enjoyable.
DreamWave Survivor speaker
The DreamWave Survivor speaker is part of a small wave of recently introduced electronic multi-tools that also includes the Survivolts and Touch 1K. During camp-outs, the Survivor is both a 30W Bluetooth speaker and an LED light, relying on a 12,000-mAh lithium-polymer battery to play up to 16 hours of music and/or shoot 110 lumens up to 400 feet (122 m) into the darkness. It can also use that big battery to do something that other Bluetooth speakers will never do: jumpstart a 7.0-liter V8-powered car. Sure, you probably won't need this feature at the local glamping resort, but if you plan to make camp farther off the beaten track, it could save your hide ... or at least a painful towing bill.
The DreamWave Survivor is available now for $280.
NoZipp Sleeping Bag
The only thing worse than the realization that you have to pee at 3 a.m. during a camping trip is making it happen. It means wrestling your sleeping bag zipper open, fighting your way to the door over backpacks, lanterns and fellow campers, working another zipper or two while half-asleep, stumbling around to find a spot and freezing in the chilly early-morning air while doing your thing ... which always seems to take just a little longer than usual.
The new NoZipp Sleeping Bag won't completely rid your life of those ills, but it will definitely help. Instead of a snag-prone zipper, this bag closes via magnetic strip - so you can basically just rip it open and get out. Beyond that, it also includes an expandable shape for more comfortable tossing and turning and a ventilation system to keep you comfortable should you run warm. The 850+ fill water-resistant down keeps weight of the 15° F (-10° C) bag down around 2.5 lb (1.1 kg).
The NoZipp Sleeping Bag is available now for $399.
Ravean Wearable Heated Sleeping Bag Liner
The wearable heat specialists at Ravean have a slick way of keeping you warm, both in the tent and around camp. Their heated sleeping bag liner adds up to 20 degrees to your bag for a warmer night of sleep. It also cinches higher and steps out through the tent door as a battery-powered heated hoody, so you can take that warm, cozy feeling out into the biting-cold morning air.
Ravean smashed its Kickstarter goal earlier this year and is now offering the Wearable Heated Sleeping Bag Liner for preorder ($199.95), with a listed March 31, 2017 release date.
Zero Breeze portable AC
Maybe staying warm isn't your problem; maybe it's avoiding lying awake through the night in a pool of your own perspiration. At home, you can crank up the AC or turn on a fan and get back to sleep, but it's not quite so simple when you're in a tent with no power supply.
Luckily for campers that sleep hot, the latest portable air conditioner may just be the most convenient out there. With an available 40,000-mAh battery pack, the Zero Breeze brings frosty coolness (down to around 45° F/7.2° C, if you can handle it) to your tent with no need for shore power or a generator. It also works as an LED light, Bluetooth speaker and portable phone/gadget charger. The Zero Breeze team has raised five times its Kickstarter goal, and the campaign is still live, the Zero Breeze with battery on offer for pledge levels of $568 and up. Shipping is listed for March 2017.
Yecup 365 hot/cold mug
Coffee gets cold very quickly on crisp, high-mountain mornings, and drinking water warms up just as fast in exposed stretches of hot desert. If you want to guarantee a more optimal temperature for your beverages, the Yecup 365 is the gadget to pack next to your propane stove. Not only can this electronic cup keep warm beverages warm and cold beverages cold, it can actively heat and cool beverages to better sipping temperatures, 158° F (70° C) at the high end and 50° F (10° C) at the cool end. You can adjust the temperature exactly how you like it with the accompanying smartphone app, and the battery pack can be used to charge that phone in a pinch.
Yecup wrapped up a successful Indiegogo campaign earlier this year. In recent campaign updates, the company says it has begun mold production and started work on Yecup 365 components.
Beartooth off-grid communicator
You don't need a stinkin' smartphone to chat with friends and family gathered around the campfire, but you may find you need one during days when different activities pull those friends and family members in different directions. You may also quickly find that you have no cell signal whatsoever.
Designed for use in off-grid locations like forests and mountains, the Beartooth turns your smartphone into a two-way radio. It connects up via Bluetooth and gives you up to 10 miles (16 km) of peer-to-peer communications for texts and 5 miles (8 km) for voice. Make sure your group is hooked up, and you can quickly contact all the hikers, anglers, paddlers and loungers, whether you need help in an emergency or just want to check to see who needs what at the store.
The Beartooth is still available for preorder at a promotional price of $149 per pair, and shipping is listed as December 2016.