Summer 2020 outdoor gear that pivots from backyard to backcountry
This time of year, we're usually taking inventory of our summer outdoor and adventure gear while looking forward to the new innovations from shows like Outdoor Retailer and Outdoor by ISPO. But 2020 is quite different. There'll be no strolling the aisles of those trade shows, and the summer travel and outdoor recreation season remains an ever-changing question mark. Some people are lining up to get in RVs and burst out of the houses they've been trapped in for months on end, while others are taking a more cautious approach and will continue hunkering down throughout the summer months. Whatever your destination, or lack thereof, this new and established gear will support a summer's worth of rest and relaxation, in the yard, hundreds of miles out into the wild, or somewhere in between.
Primus Kamoto Open Fire Pit
A typical home fire pit is too large and heavy to carry back and forth to camp, and many a portable fire pit is kind of small and flimsy for using at home. The Primus Kamoto strikes the right balance. Its powder-coated and stainless steel construction is sturdy and attractive enough for regular at-home use, and its fire basin large enough for actual logs up to 16 in (40 cm) long – no need for relying solely on twigs or mini-logs. Using the simple scissor-style closing mechanism, one can pack it down to a flat, 2.4-inch-thick (6-cm) package that slides conveniently between or below other gear in a car trunk. A handle integrated into the ashtray base makes it easy to carry the 21-lb (9.5-kg) pit back and forth from camp. On the road, it's a great solution for backcountry car camping, rafting and leave-no-trace activities in which you can't build a fire pit or ring on the ground. The included grill fits neatly atop the Kamoto body for wood or charcoal cooking. The large version discussed here retails for US$150 on REI, and Primus also offers a smaller version for $130.
Yeti Tundra Haul wheeled cooler
Whether it's a backyard BBQ or holiday camping trip, a cooler is an indispensable part of comfortable outdoor living. The Yeti Tundra Haul makes a seamless transition between home and hinterlands thanks to rugged wheels and an integrated handle. It powers over rocky trail nearly as easily as it rolls to the far corner of the deck. Its 18.6-in (47-cm) wheel track (overall width) is slimmer than other wheeled coolers, like the 20.8-in (53-cm) Rollr Rovr 60 or 20-in (51-cm) Pelican 45QW Elite, which can make a big difference when squeezing it between camping boxes and luggage. As always, Yeti's heavy-duty rotomolded construction provides for hardwearing use and lets the Tundra Haul double as a nice bench or step stool. Comparable to the non-wheeled Tundra 65, the Haul holds 45 beers or 55 lb (25 kg) of ice, but you'll probably be happier to arrange a comfortable mix of the two. Find the $400 Tundra Haul on Amazon.
Planetary Design BruTrek Ovrlndr coffee press
A French press is an instant way of upping the flavor of your morning cup. Planetary Design has spent three years optimizing the new Ovrlndr Press for smooth, robust coffee brewing anywhere in the world, from the familiar comfort of home to the disconcerting unfamiliarity of parts unknown. The no-nonsense 28-fl oz (828-ml) tumbler press holds up to the bumps, drops and rattles of road life and makes brewing the simple art it should be. Planetary's Bru-Stop double filtration keeps grounds fully isolated after the plunge, for coffee that tastes the way you made it, with no loose grounds floating around. The Ovrlndr doubles as its own vacuum-insulated mug, keeping coffee warm and ready to go, a snap-close lip preventing spills and retaining heat. Come cleaning time, the removable bottom helps get every last ground out with ease. Planetary Design will launch the new Ovrlndr Press in July for $50.
Snow Peak Campfield Futon
One of the most versatile pieces of outdoor furniture money can buy, the Snow Peak Campfield Futon is chic enough for backyard entertaining and compact enough for overlanding. This ingenious piece of flex furniture works as a sofa, cot, or pair of chairs and table, easily rearranging into whichever configuration you need. When it's time to stop relaxing and get a little work done, the Campfield even stacks up into a triple shelf for holding cookware, stoves and other gear. Using that same flexible architecture, the 32-lb (14.5-kg) Campfield breaks down into an easy-carry array of cushions, base plates and poles, riding cozily in the trunk before building back into shape when you've sufficiently social-distanced yourself. Always interesting, never cheap, Snow Peak gear tends to be best-suited to buyers who aren't opposed to paying a premium. For the Campfield, that means a retail price of $750.
Sonos Move Wi-Fi/Bluetooth speaker
One of Sonos' latest speakers, the Move is also its first battery-powered speaker meant to venture beyond the property line. It's the perfect speaker for those who shuffle quickly between terrace and terra incognita. Out in the wild, beyond the reaches of electrical outlets or Wi-Fi, the Move relies on its built-in battery for up to 10 hours of music playback. Pair it with a mobile phone via Bluetooth and amplify playlists anywhere. Back at home, the Move serves as the indoor/outdoor component of the greater Sonos system, seamlessly connecting with other Sonos speakers and tapping into the service's more than 100 streaming options. With Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, the DJ doesn't even need to put down beer or bocce ball to skip a song. Find it on Amazon for $399.
Stanley Adventure Happy Hour Cocktail Shaker Set
Does hot summer weather sharpen your thirst for a proper cocktail? Any shaker will do at home, but the Stanley Adventure shaker is also a go-anywhere cocktail kit perfect for everything from martinis to mojitos (and all those drinks that don't start with "M"). Outside, it's a fairly standard 20-oz (591-ml) stainless steel shaker, but inside, it neatly nests a pair of 7-oz (207-ml) rocks tumblers and a citrus reamer. A jigger cap and strainer lid complete a mini-bar that's light and sleek enough to carry anywhere, even via backpack. The double-walled insulated design of the tumblers means there's no reason to water the drink down with cooler ice to keep it chilled. For $35, it's all but guaranteed to bring some serious bang for the buck.
Mpowerd Luci Solar String Lights
Whether lighting up a camper van awning or deck umbrella, Mpowerd's Luci Solar String Lights offer one of the easiest ways to splash a little ambient flair onto the outdoorsy backdrop. Other LED strands leave you hanging with a dangling USB requiring a separate power source, but Mpowerd integrates a 2,000-mAh lithium-ion battery right into the Luci roll. When the alpenglow fades away, simply switch the Luci on and enjoy 18 feet (5.5-m) of warm, dazzling LEDs. A single charge gets 20 hours of light, and the integrated solar panel and USB charging make it easy to power up during daytime hours. Four modes manage up to 100 lumens. Amazon has them marked down to $40.
Leatherman Free P4 magnetic multi-tool
It doesn't matter if you're on the deck, at camp, on the roadside, at work or anywhere else, a good multi-tool is always nice to have on hand when an unexpected task requires more than a pair of naked hands. So why not make that multi-tool Leatherman's "most advanced multi-tool ever?" Launched last year to much fanfare, the Free series relies on a magnetic system for fast, flickable one-handed operation. The range-topping P4 packs in 21 tools, including always-handy serrated and straight blades, pliers, screwdrivers, and can and bottle openers. From plier-grabbing a hot lid off a pot, to sawing a branch into kindling, to tightening a loose screw on the grill, the Free P4 will fast earn a permanent place in your pocket. You can find the Free P4 on sale for $125, and if that seems like too much price for too much tool, Leatherman offers other Free multi-tools down to the $40 eight-tool T2.
Rovr Keepr picnic cooler bag
Rovr's Keepr is more than just a basic cooler bag. Described as a "modern-day picnic basket," this cocktail caddy keeps liquor, mixers, hors d'oeuvres and serving ware neatly organized. Whether it's an intimate wine-and-cheese sunset or rowdy post-ride happy hour, the Keepr brings the supplies and keeps them close at hand. Drop the bag down on its flat base, and it becomes the centerpiece of a dining table or a deck-top mini-bar accessible from inside the hot tub. The ice bucket in the center can hold a bottle of champagne or dish out ice into glasses. Rovr is offering $119 Keepr pre-orders now and plans to start shipping by the end of June.
Snow Peak Smokemeister mini-smoker
We tried not to double up on brands, but Japan's Snow Peak really lives and thrives in the middle ground between backyard and backcountry. The Smokemeister is another case in point. Unlike smokers that are simply too huge or grid-dependent to ever take to camp without a dedicated smoker trailer, the sleek, 11-lb (5-kg) Smokemeister brings the smoky BBQ flavor wherever the chef wants to experience it. Simply drop in a few hot coals and some wood chips, and the shiny stainless steel cylinder becomes a mini barrel smoker. The net stack inside holds all the food steady and easily pulls out via the wooden handle. The Smokemeister lists in at $245 on Amazon.
Kammok Swiftlet portable hammock stand
No suitable hammock-slinging trees around the yard? Want to hammock on the beach? No problem with Kammock's Swiftlet portable hammock stand. The easy-travel aluminum stand weighs just 17 lb (7.7 kg) when broken down into 50 x 8.5 x 8.5-in (127 x 22 x 22-cm) packed size and loaded in the travel bag. It builds up into shape with tool-free buttons and push pins, adjusts between lie-flat and chair modes, and works with hammocks from kids' size to XXL. Give it a permanent corner of the deck or keep it in the back of the pickup, ready for any and all tailgates, road trips and adventures that'll play out so much better with a hammock in which to retire. Kammok is now offering its third pre-order round for the $229 Swiftlet (hammock not included). Deliveries are planned for August.