Mike and I are planning on doing a BUNCH of camping this season. The last time we went camping was in 2011 – damn that was a long time ago! It was a random trip, in April, in Yosemite. Highlighs included: wild flowers, snow on the ground, and a large bear trying to eat the food that another campsite didn’t put in the bear lockers (PSA – put the food in the bear lockers!). It was a memorable trip and for the life of me I don’t know why we haven’t gotten our butts in gear to go again. Speaking of gear, this time we decided to do it right and research everything.
We’re by no means backcountry campers, most of all because I think camping is kind of sort of (totally) about the food and backcountry camping with coolers and ice to keep food cold is just not possible. So, in the spirit of all things front country, our research started off with coolers. I wanted two things in a cooler: I wanted it to keep our food cold and I wanted it to look good, ie I wanted a white cooler. Mike wanted two things too: He wanted it to stay as cold for as long as possible and for it to fit in the car.
The Search for the Best Camp Cooler
I lusted after a Yeti because I’m a sucker for pretty, white boxy looking things. Apparently they’re the cooler that all the cool kids buy because they’re rotomolded so they keep your ice frozen for 5 days. Only problem is that it is kinda sort of a behemoth. Yes, there’s a small-ish one (Yeti Tundra 35), but when they say 35, which kind of sort of sounds like how many quarts of ice it’ll hold, they really mean 28. A bonus is that it is bear proof. That bonus comes with a price though because Yetis are hella expensive. And heavy.
Speaking of heavy, this Pelican cooler was another contender. They’re actually the best rated cooler on the internet and they’re kind of sort of already on our radar because they make awesome camera cases that are super protective for when you need to check your cameras.
We looked at Igloos as well. Both Mike and I are kind of nostalgic about them because we both grew up with our parents using Igloo coolers on picnics/camping trips. They have a high end locker that’s rotomolded, highly rated, and massive. I’m talking about at least a weeks worth of food for two people. If you’re not planning on going on a super long trip and you’re looking for a lighter alternative, the Igloo Marine Ultra Quantum is a nice little guy that comes with built in wheels.
I felt like the princess and the pea only obsessing over coolers instead of a good night’s sleep, but I guess food > sleep? Who am I kidding? The next thing we obsessively did research on was sleeping pads and sleeping bags.
The Search for the Best Camp Sleeping Pads
Lots of people (my parents included) like packing an air mattress to go camping. Mike and I, on the other hand, didn’t want the bulk or the hassle of having to bring along an air pump. Plus we like firm mattresses, so it’s not much of a stretch to sleep on a foamie. At first we thought we’d do the classic blue foam pad. It’s lightweight, it’s affordable and kinda camp (both literally and kitschy). We also looked at an egg crate foam sleeping pad – not as compact as the blue foamie, but it’s supposed to keep you warm and they’re really light. Another option was a self-inflatable pad: cushy and kind of lightweight.
The Search for the Best Sleeping Bag
Even more important sleeping pads was a sleeping bag. We knew from the beginning that we didn’t want seperate sleeping bags – I’m a snuggler and sleeping solo in a sleeping bag just wasn’t going to fly. So, even though serious campers don’t really do this, and therefore there isn’t a huge amount of double sleeping bags, I did a massive amount of research to find the perfect couples sleeping bag.
This one from Nemo looks pretty fun because it has a sort of comforter thing that acts like a blanket. Plus in the world of double sleeping bags, it’s actually kind of light and it’s rated down to 30°F/-1°C. This one is kind of similar, but a bit more narrow, slightly more affordable, and looks a bit better – something about the fabric of the Nemo doesn’t sit well with me. The Sierra also is rated down to 27°F/-3°C, incase you run cold when you sleep. We also looked at this guy. He’s quite a bit more narrow than the other two, more of a twin size bed as opposed to the other two, which are more like double beds. And, if you’re planning on going somewhere really cold, he’s rated down to 0°F/-18°C.
The Search for the Best Tent
There’s a wild, wild world of tents out there. When looking for one, what most people want is low weight, just because they’re typically backcountry people. We weren’t as concerned about weight. I wanted something that was cute, of course, and Mike wanted something that he could stand up in. He was pushing for a four person tent, just for extra space, but I really love the look of smaller tents.
One of the first tents we looked at was the Optic 2.5. It’s a super airy 3 season tent with a huge amount mesh for ventilation and 2 full size doors. At 37 sq. ft. tent floor area, it has a bit more room in it than the standard 2-person tent, but it is on the “heavier” side at about 6 lbs. Then again, if you’re not going backcountry, this probably isn’t an issue.
But, if we wanted to shell out a bit more money, there’s the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 Tent which at just under 3lbs, is ultra light, but not quite as big at 29 sq. ft. It also has a lot of mesh (not as much as the Optic) for ventilation and 2 full sized rainbow doors. And, to make up for the smaller tent floor, the walls are a touch more vertical, giving you the illusion of more space – it isn’t quite as tall as the Optic though.
While I was obsessed with researching light weight, small tents, Mike pretty much had his heart set on the REI Kingdom 6, which is for – you got it – 6 people. I don’t even want to talk about how heavy it is. It does have standing room and you have the option of getting a “garage” for your gear, which is pretty cool, I must say. And there’s a awning that you can sit under when it’s raining – perfect for the Pacific Northwest. I’m thinking the Kingdom 4 is much more manageable than then 6, but Mike really wants the 6?
Then again, he was really pushing this barn style tent, and I’m pretty sure he was joking…at least I hope he was.
Whew! That was a long ass post. Stay tuned for the next installment when I chat about chairs, camp stoves, and accessories. If you guys have any camp gear that you absolutely love, I’d love to hear about it.
PS – If you’re ever bored and want a kick, read camping reviews. I don’t know why, but I find them hilarious.
PPS – These photos are really cheesy because Mike made them –minus the lead, which he did too >_<