In 1527, a Spanish military expedition set out from Cuba to conquer Florida because, back then, everyone knew that Florida was the site of fabulous gold mines. The expedition was eradicated. Six hundred men perished, most punctured by the arrows of first nations people who did not like them, their horses, or their war dogs. Just four survived. After years of captivity, the men banded together, snuck away, and started walking west. Walking. From Florida to Mexico.
Few outside a small cadre of scholarly nerds have read the first hand account of what could be argued to be the most amazing camping trip of the 16th century. La relación y comentarios by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca is a brief read, penned by the expedition’s highest-ranking survivor in answer to the royal question: “What happened to my army?”
These guys were tough in a way that 21st century people can’t begin to imagine. Conversely, those 16th century explorers could never imagine that hiking, camping, and the great outdoors could be fun…or done just for fun. Indeed, for many Coloradans, it is a passion.
We’ve scoured mountains of outdoor gear to come up with an eclectic array of outdoor items to make your time outside just a little more comfortable than was for Cabeza de Vaca and his crew.
From portable fire pits that generate electricity to down jackets that weigh only slightly more than a paper napkin, we’ve taken a look at the new, the cool, and the crazy for you to consider when choosing gear for camping.
The chief axiom of camping is to know thyself. And know your needs. The needs of an athletic climber scaling Meeker Peak is vastly different from the needs of a family of four living out of a fifth wheel. An offroad biker has needs that are different from a fisherman with a cooler in the back of a nearby pickup truck.
What you need shapes your decision of what to buy. Before acquiring any gear, here are a few things to consider before heading out into the great unknown.
Your comfort depends on how well you have thought things out.
It seems like a contradiction, but the more carefully you consider the mundane details of your camping trip, the more spontaneous it will be. How will you sleep? How will you eat? How will you keep dry when it rains? And if you’re out for more than an overnight, how will you empty your bowels? If you figure out this stuff in advance, you’ll have more time for fun. Failing to consider the details can make your camping trip a drag.
Expect the worse, enjoy the best.
Expect snow in mid July. Expect your headlamp batteries to go dead. Expect a twisted ankle. Expect bears. When these things happen, and you’re prepared, you’re all set. And when they don’t happen, you’re all set. It’s like defensive driving, but for camping.
Recognize that nature has its own agenda.
You camp as a vacation or a break from the real world. The real world for insects, birds, mammals, and reptiles in nature is a daily struggle to survive. Respect this dynamic. No matter how little, string trash from a high tree branch well away from your sleeping area. Ideally, cook 100 yards from where you sleep. If you’re in a tent, resist the urge to nibble a late night snack in the sack. Food, and the smell of food, will bring animals to you. Guaranteed.
“If a man carries with him a head full of sense, He can bring nothing better.”
Adjust the pronouns of this 10th century Viking proverb to be gender neutral, and you’ve got a saying that rings true today, especially in the woods. Recognize there are no security cameras out there, few if any patrols, rarely EMS within easy reach, and, quite often, no cell signal at all. You’re responsible for your own security and safety, ranging from bee stings to raging moose. Know what the stakes are, and behave accordingly.
Eighty five percent of camping is enjoying the nature of nature. The other 15 percent is having the right equipment, and knowing how to use it. So without further adieu, YS presents our annual Outdoor Issue Camping Guide: an array of camping gear to make your outdoor time safer, more enjoyable, or more comfortable.
Biolite CampStove 2 Bundle
REI, LL Bean
A biomass rocket stove with a twist. Includes a steel grid grill, a stainless steel pot, a serving bowl, a coffee press, and a battery pack that clips to the stove and generates electricity through the use of elder magic, or something. Use the USB port to recharge your devices. $199.99
Boulder Sports Recycler
4949 N. Broadway Suite 113, Boulder, CO.
Snowboards, sunglasses, bike components, climbing gear– you name it– and pick it up at a fraction of the retail price. Boulder Recycler is a consignment store that uses a three-tier pricing system: first price is usually about 60 percent off full retail. After three months, the price drops again. After five months, the item is donated to charity. Good karma.
Backpack Light 50
My Trail Company
Feather weight gear is prized by long-distance hikers, and Boulder-based My Trail Co. specializes in rugged equipment that seems to weigh less than a paper napkin. Especially impressive is the Backpack Light 50 quart pack weighing in at just 32 oz. Also cool: a seven ounce poncho that doubles as a shelter ($50). $210
Garmin InReach Mini
So much in such a small device. The Garmin InReach Mini is a satellite transmitter and receiver that pairs with your phone to pull up maps, fetch weather reports, get GPS coordinates, send texts, and more. The SOS feature sends your exact coordinates to local search and rescue operations in the event of an emergency. $349.99
LEKI Micro Trail Vario
The straps are a big hit with trail runners. It’s like a fingerless glove that keeps the pole’s cork grip at just the right place for running. A pair weighs just 14.2 ounces and can adjust between 43 to 51 inches tall and folds up into a 16.5 bundle. $249.99/ pair
Dometic CFX 75DZW Electric Cooler | REI
A dual zone deep freeze/fresh food fridge that plugs into a 12 volt power socket, AC outlet, or a solar power system. A thoughtful battery protection feature keeps the device from draining your car battery. Compact. Efficient. Just like a real fridge only smaller. $1230.00
Pakems | Pakems.com
No longer feel guilty about carrying camp shoes with you. Pakem’s ultra-light weight offering of shoes fold flat, feature durable rubber soles, a rip-stop waterproof upper, and a small zipper pocket for stashing valuables. Three styles: mid-calf, ankle, and heel-height slip ons. Comes in kids, women, and men’s sizing. $64-$80
The Electric Survival Filter PRO X | Walmart
To their storied line of three-stage filtration technology that removes protozoa, viruses, bacteria mercury and lead from water comes a new system that is even easier than the old one. Adding a battery pack to the Survivor PRO X means no manual pumping. Two AA’s filter up to 95 gallons of water. $125
Kora Yak Wool Base Layers
Base layers—formerly known as underwear—are critical in maintaining a comfortable body temperature.. Kora’s crew top and leggins are made in the UK of Yak wool imported from Tibet and reportedly feels as soft as cashmere netxt to the skin. Very lightweight and excels in cold weather, yet can still be worn up to about 75 degrees.Crew: $145. Leggings: $145
Off Grid Elite Survival Axe
Hatchet. Hammer. Pry claw. Bottle opener. Can opener. Seat belt cutter. Glass breaker. Six saw blades that fold out of the handle. The Off Grid Elite Survival Axe is a great tool to throw into your car. And at 11 inches long and just over 1.5 pounds in weight, you could throw it into your pack, too. $33
Wolf and Grizzly M1 Grill Kit
A cunning design with myriad height settings, the Wolf and Grizzly Grill Kit measures just
11 inches x 11 inches and weighs in at a little over 2 pounds. The grill surface rolls up into a cylinder and will support up to 30 pounds. $99.95
Luci Pro Outdoor 2.0 + Mobile Charging
Improve on perfection? Luci Light just has. Its new Pro Outdoors 2.0 + Mobile Charging not only incorporates solar recharge technology to illuminate an inflatable lantern, but nowincludes four light settings and a USB port to help recharge your devices. Still about the sizeof a hockey puck and just an inch thick when deflated. $34.95
Boulder-based Colorado Teardrops fabricates top-of-the-line fifth wheels, durable enough to ascend Mammoth Gulch and insulated for four seasons. Back opens up to reveal a world-class galleywhile the sleeping space in the popular Canyonland model easily accommodates a queen-sized mattress. Dry weight: Around 1,150 pounds. Base price: $15,500
KUHL Outsider Pants
Old Town Outfitters
KUHL manufactures clothing with secret powers. Understated enough to wear as everyday casual but rugged enough to endure the rigors of outdoor life. The Outsider pants line employs a gusseted crotch and articulated knees for free movement. Tough material is coated with synthetic wax to shed water. $89.00
REI, Amazon, MyTrailFork.com
Eating vegan or vegetarian while hiking is kind of tricky. Any peels, seeds, cores or rinds left over from cooking should, in good conscious, be packed out, and carrying around food trash will attract animals. TrailFork based in Broomfield makes freeze-dried food packets that cater to vegans and vegetarians. Problem solved.$11.50
Ruffwear Dog Life Vest
Some dogs just can’t swim. And even good swimmers can become dangerously fatigued in the swift currents of Colorado rivers and streams. Put you mind at ease while kayaking, canoeing, or just walking on a lakeshore with the Ruffwear Doggy Life Vest. Comes in three bright colors adorned with reflective tape. $79.95
Solar Power Bluetooth Nuboom Outdoor.
What a powerhouse. Fifty-five hour playtime. Ten watt stereo subwoofer bass. Multiple charging options, including built-in solar panels. And doubles as a 4400 mAh power bank, to boot. And as a flashlight, too. Weapons-grade solid and covered in silicon to fend off shocks from drops. Bluetooth connect to your devices and the sound is sublime. $56.99
Spyderco Delica4 Folding Knife | Cabela’s
With Spyderco, it’s all about the blade. The Delica4 evolution of this classic has a stronger tip, and a larger 13 millimeter thumb hole for opening the knife one-handed. Skeletonized stainless steel liners adds to overall rigidity. Deeply textured fiberglass reinforced nylon handles help keep you hand in place in rain and snow. $120
Jack’s Plastic Welding Paco Pad | jpwinc.com
From a small outfit providing waterproof, puncture-resistant sleep pads for river guides in the early 1980s, Jack’s Paco Pads have become recognized as the gold standard in outdoor sleep comfort. The self-inflating Guide Pad is our choice, a full 72 inches long and 28 inches wide, with two inches of foam. Guide Pad: $255.95
Tecsun PL880 Portable AM/FM Longwave & Shortwave Radio | Amazon
This compact unit covers a full range of frequencies including shortwave, giving you access to stations even hundreds of miles away. The plethora of buttons on the face can be intimidating but once mastered provides unparalleled sensitivity and a host of features. Powered by a single, rechargeable lithium-ion battery. $159.98
Camping is a series of moments composed of finding out you need something that you don’t have. With this credit card-sized collection of survival necessities, at least you’ll always have nine fishhooks, five arrowheads, an awl, two sewing needles, three saw blades, a pair of tweezers, and more. $12.99
Rumpl Puffy Poncho
In general, down garments doubling as ponchos have been comical failures. Then the Rumpl Puffy Poncho came along. Someone has given this careful thought: the hood and shoulders are waterproof and there’s a kangaroo pocket up front to keep your hands warm. Doubles as a blanket. When stuffed into its own pocket it becomes a pillow. $179.00
Mountainsmith SlingBack Chair | Moosejaw
Just because you’re hiking light doesn’t mean you have to sit on the hard ground at the end of the day. At under five ounces, the Mountainsmith SlingBack Chair uses the two treking poles you’re already carrying to support your back. Made from Cordura and rolls up into its own storage pouch. $19.00
Badger Anti-Bug Balm
Years before in invention of DEET—the active ingredient in most insect repellents– people relied on oils based in cedar and herbs to keep mosquitoes at bay. Badger Anti-Bug Balm resurrects the old formulas but has made them better by adding essential oils made from lemongrass, castor oil and olive oil. Fully organic, baby safe. Two ounce tin: $9.99
Socially-conscious sunglasses? Sunski has them. The frames are made of recycled plastic, and the company pledges one percent of their sales to environmental causes. Most models come with fully with polarized lens that can easily be switched out with lens with a more hip hue. All Sunski glasses come with a lifetime warranty. Sunski Treeline: $89.99
Solo Draft Backpack
If you need a pack that can pull double duty in the woods as well as the streets, check out the Solo Draft Backpack. One fully padded pocket accommodates a laptop with another pocket designed to house a tablet. Mesh outer pockets can house water bottles, and the pack’s inner sanctum sports internal organizer for stuff. $54.99