buying guide/travel/words

Camp Gear: Part 1

Posted June 2, 2016 by Stephanie

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.

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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.

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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 a mattress when we go camping, 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.

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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. The mattress sizes vary a little. 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.

camp gear guide -

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.
xoxo steph

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 >_<


  1. Erikka says:

    Sadly, I’ve never gone camping. (I know I know, I’m totally missing out) So for individuals like me, this post is actually super informative and helpful, because I have been planning a trip for this summer.
    Can’t wait for the second post about the chairs and accesoroes. I can’t find a sturdy, foldable chair that is actually comfortable, so I’m looking forward to it.

    Also, I’m obviiii excited about the campfire food.
    Hope you enjoy your trip Steph!

  2. Erikka says:

    Accessories* it’s too early for proper grammar and spelling lol.

  3. I love camping! I did it all the time as a kid with my parents, a mix of tents and caravans (mice infested one year and there was a bee’s nest in the caravan the next year), oh the camping horror stories I could tell.

    I’ve camped in the UK and in France, Provence was amazing, so warm and sunny, but the crickets at night were insane.

    I think we’ll be camping more this year as we have a dog now, we just need to buy a tent and a travel bbq and we’re all set. I look forward to your next post on the wonders of camping and its accessories.

  4. Darah says:

    After many short camping trips and then most recently a 2.5 week one with our 3 small kids, I can confidently say the most important aspect of your tent is the ability to assemble and disassemble it in the rain after dark without wanting to kill your spouse. ;)

    Have so much fun!! We’re going in a couple weeks and everyone is super excited!

  5. Barbara says:

    I’m going camping this weekend! Up in Maine. Last year when we went, we were totally not prepared and my husband realized that 1) he couldn’t start the fire with just matches and wet wood and 2) he doesn’t own a sleeping bag. Good thing to realize both of these things when we already got to the campsite and had our tent set up and were all ready to make some s’mores! He slept on the floor (no pad) with a spare blanket from our car. This year, we are much more prepared.
    Also, on my list are games, one of those sandwich toasters for over the fire, and s’mores makings. Oh, and a lantern and flashlights, obviously.
    I love the double person sleeping bag idea! I never considered that!

  6. ADRIANNA says:

    umm i never knew coolers could be so expensive GOOD GOD! haha excited to see ur camping posts!

  7. Lisa says:

    As a Vancouver camper, I feel you on the possible awning for rain. We’ve been lucky so far, but as fellow car campers I always rest a little easier that there’s always an emergency nap in the car if the rain won’t quit.

    I wanted to say, with the two person sleeping bag, have you thought of buying two individual sleeping bags that can zip together? I too am a cuddler and my manpanion and I each have sleeping bags with “open” zippers, so we can zip the two together and essentially create a double sleeping bag. It may just give you more options than looking for a straight up double.

    Hope this helps! Maybe we’ll see each other in one of BC’s beautiful campsites this summer!

  8. This was SO useful.

    The first time we went camping we did no research at all and basically almost froze to death and had to go around asking other campers for random things like foil. Through trial and error we’re a bit better equipped but def bookmarked those sleeping pad thingies and the YETI cooler – although given the price I think we need to camp a bit more to justify it #coolergoals

  9. Our friends have the Kingdom 6 and love it with the garage door opener. You can stand up and walk around and even have a little seating area – it definitely makes for more comfortable camping. I’m like you where I wonder if we really need that though my bf also wants it but really if you’re not backpacking size doesn’t matter as much as long as it fits in the car!? . Currently we have a Camp Dome 2 but mostly because we’d like to use it for backpacking!

    PS REI Flex Light chairs are light and comfy – we love them for camping.

  10. craig says:

    if you are car camping skip weight as a criterion and always go for a tent twice as big as you think you need and make sure you get a good tarp or ground cloth to set the tent on

    one tent that seems indestructible is the eureka timberline…when you find a meadow full of green tents and hatchet-wielding boy scouts you will recognize their durability

    a good pad will add 10 or twenty degrees to your bag’s rating

    normally two bags that zip together are cheaper than a two person bag…market forces at work

    good luck

  11. Nikki says:

    I love this post, I spend waaay too much time in the summer researching camp gear. I’ve also been considering the REI Kingdom 4 tent. My bestie and her boyfriend have it and the thing is ridiculously spacious. Having compared the 4 and the 6 myself, I’d personally for with the 4. It’s quite a bit cheaper and the only difference between the 4 and 6 is about a foot and a half of length, not really worth the $100 price jump.

    As far as sleeping pads go, I’ve had my eye on the Klymit Static V Luxe pad for some time now. My sister and friend both have Klymit pads and rave about the comfort. They also pack down so teeny tiny, which is awesome.

    Good luck in your gear hunt, I can’t wait to read the next post!

  12. this post is really cute-ing me out!!! um, your cooler is ADORABLE. last year i went to a friend’s vintage sale and she was selling the exact cooler we grew up with – a light blue Coleman cooler – it is practically my favourite part about camping, hehe!

  13. I love camping gear posts! My hubby and I have perfected our own kit for traveling north to south in Chile this year. One of the neatest things we got for our trip is our Rhino rack which we had customized for our Subaru Tribeca. Who knew the dearth of add-ons for the Tribeca would lead to us discovering this awesome rack. We typically carry a cargo box, a propane tank, a jerry can, and two camp boxes. The rack doesn’t bend or wiggle at all.

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