One of the best parts of overland travel (other than the awesome adventure vehicles) is spending time in camp. Relaxing with friends, eating great food, and getting a good night’s sleep makes great memories.
Some of the best camping gear you can invest in is things that provide a bit of comfort after a long day exploring. Sure camping gadgets are cool, but nothing beats a comfortable place to sit, a nap in a swaying hammock, or a plush sleeping pad. Here is a camp and kitchen gear list to help you invest in the right gear to build an awesome campsite.
- Comfortable folding chairs. It’s difficult to find a durable, lightweight, and compact camp chair. We spent a decade or so sitting on cheap big box store chairs, but eventually got sick of replacing them and trying to find a place to store them. We highly recommend that you invest in some high quality, packable camp chairs like Big Agnes’ Helinox.
- A hammock. If you don’t have one; get one. Nothing beats reading a good book in a hammock. We have an ENO DoubleNest in each vehicle and pack one in a carry on bag no matter where in the world we travel. There are a lot of awesome hammocks out there. Pick one up and give it a go… they’re pretty affordable, lightweight, and super packable.
- Sleeping arrangements. Whether you end the night in a plush safari tent, a lightweight backpacking tent, or under the stars. Two of the best investments you can make are sleep-related. First get a good sleeping bag. Our favorites are from Big Agnes and Nemo. Second get a quality sleeping pad to separate you from the cold-hard ground. Lightweight backpacking sleeping pads work, thicker versions from REI or Exped are better, cots can take it to another level, and if you really want the best night’s sleep get a foam mattress (usually found in roof top tents, truck campers, Earth Roamers, etc.).
- Lighting. Keep a headlamp in your vehicle at all times. If you’re a backpacker; always keep one in your pack. In fact, maybe the first camping gadget you buy should be a headlamp. They’re affordable and make life around camp so much easier. Current favorite; the ReVolt from BlackDiamond. For ambient lighting we highly recommend UCO Candle Lanterns, Luminoodle, MPOWERD Luci inflatable lanterns, and more recently Rhino-Rack LEDs.
Food Storage & Preparation
If you’re a freeze-dried backpacking meal-fueled camper find the best camping stove you can afford, a nice pot, and a spork. However, if you’re camping in a vehicle – use it. Vehicle-based adventure allows you to splurge a little. Meals around the campfire turn mediocre chocolate bars, stale graham crackers, and oversized marshmallows in to comfort food. And, breakfast… a camping breakfast would probably be my last meal if I ever find myself on death row. Although, the warden would definitely deny a camping request from an inmate. Back on track; make sure that your meals are memorable. They don’t have to be gourmet, but don’t force your friends and family to eat every meal from a bag.
- A Fridge-Freezer. Portable fridge-freezers, could possibly be one of the best investments you can make for vehicle-based travel. Coolers and ice chests are great lower cost options, and they’re especially well-suited for adventures that involve rafts or other small boats. However, when it comes to ease of use 12V fridge-freezers (not to be confused with a low quality car fridge) beat even the best coolers, hands down. We use an ARB 50 quart model.
- A Good Camp Stove. If you’re looking for a good camping stove; we can attest to the Camp Chef Everest’s efficacy (but on the road it rattles like crazy). However, if you want to buy the very best camping stove look no further than Partner Steel. You’ll find their Cook Partner stove in use by professional guides and experienced overlanders. Another option is a backpacking stove. It’s compact, lightweight, and dovetails with other outdoor activities. While those are great options, we think the Snowpeak Giga Power is the best backpacking stove, but the multi-fuel models from MSR are outstanding (just a little cumbersome and noisy).
- Cutlery. A good knife around camp accomplishes many tasks well. Preparing food is one of them. We do not recommend dragging your kitchen knives into the wilderness, but we strongly urge you to find a quality blade. Make sure it holds an edge well, resists rust, and has a reasonable blade thickness (not too thick… not too thin). A full-tang fixed blade will be easier to handle in the camp kitchen, but there are some good folding options as well. Our favorite fixed blade is this Fallkniven F1 and our everyday carry Spyderco Endura is a great folding knife that performs double duty at mealtime.
- Cookware. This is one of the areas where using what you have in you home kitchen makes sense. At least until you figure out exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to camp cookware. Some swear by cast iron. Others go with ultralight titanium. Our advice… use something from home first, see what you like, and go from there.
- A Solid Work Surface. Preparing a meal on a rock or log is definitely not ideal. Or incredibly safe. Make sure that you have a good place to prepare and cook a meal. The tailgate of a Landcruiser works well. As does a custom drawer system. However, your best bet is to get a folding table. Front Runner makes a very, very nice one that can even stow in a Front Runner roof rack. We use an Alps Mountaineering Guide Table, it does an incredible job for without breaking the bank.
Ultimately we’re here to help you make educated decisions and save you a bit of time. After all, we don’t want you to spend hours online trying to figure out where to find comfortable folding chairs. We want you to go on overland adventures rather than sifting through the FCC’s website to figure out the difference between MURS and GMRS. In fact, would be incredibly disappointed to hear that the best camping stove you just bought, is driving you mad… rattling around in the back of your Wrangler. Most of all, we love to research cool camping gear and have used way more camping gadgets than we care to divulge. We hope you find our research, trial and error, and updates useful.