There are a handful of items that I use every single camping trip, and have found them to be a fantastic addition to my packed gear. I focus heavily on compact and lightweight, and things that can be used for more than one purpose. Prices range from a few bucks to just over $100. I hope you find my Top 10 trailer camping gadgets and tools to be must haves worthy of consideration.
- OLight iR 2 EOS 150 Lumen Rechargeable Keychain Flashlight $17. This little light is amazing. It is TINY, lightweight, inexpensive, and weighs next to nothing. We use this constantly on our travels. Because it is so small, it is easy to put it on a neck or wrist lanyard, and you totally forget about it until you need a light. It is surprising how much light it puts out. Lots of flashlights that are this small use a disposable battery and sometimes an odd sized battery at that. The fact that this can be easily recharged via USB makes it even better. There are two brightness settings activated by a twist ring. When the top is unscrewed to access the charging port, it remains attached to the light, so you won’t lose it. It is well made, with a metal body. I don’t know the run time, because I’ve never run it dead on a single camping trip. And it is easy to plug in for a quick recharge. The only down side is the size. It is so darn small, it is easy to lose. Recommend putting it on your keychain or a lanyard as soon as you get it. I put mine on this $5 Nite Ize stretch strap wrist lanyard. These make great stocking stuffers! The Light is available on Amazon. Last time I checked it was $17.95.
- 2. Hawk Hunting Sportsmans Rubber Wire. $6. This is just a rubber coated roll of wire….that I use constantly. I found a roll of this at an outdoors store a few years ago and I use it on virtually every camping trip. It is a lot like the rubber covered short twisty wires you would get at your local big box store, but in a roll where you can cut sections to any length you want. I cut sections with ordinary wire cutters to tie any number of things around the campground or onto my trailer. This is a thinner wire than the big box store kind, and the coating is softer. They make a great long term twist tie. They are strong and weatherproof. Note that they are semi-disposable. If you twist and untwist them too many times, they will break and you go back to the roll for a fresh piece. About $6 on Amazon. Hawk Hunting Sportsmans Rubber Wire.
3. Jet Boil Camping Stove Cooking System. $87. Because I already have an excellent camping stove, the Jetboil Genesis Basecamp, I was a bit reluctant to buy another burner unit. But, this is the first thing I get out to make a cup of coffee every morning (I’m a bit of a coffee snob, but I swear by Starbucks Via Instant Coffee!) It will boil a cup of water so fast you have to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over….in a minute or less. It is very compact, and everything you see in the photo folds up and nests together in the cup, including the small fuel canister (fuel is sold separately). Note that the canisters are disposable and not refillable. I have found one small canister lasts most entire camping trips with daily use. (Note: There are larger canister sizes, but only use the small one if you want to nest it inside the cup). Rather than getting out the bigger stove, this is a very quick and easy way to boil water. It is often the only stove we get out for breakfast. This version does not have a piezo electric lighter. There is a sleeve pocket to store a lighter on the cover. Note that the cover stays on all the time, even when boiling water. It stays warm to the touch. To light it under windy conditions, I bought an Optimus piezo sparking tool $10, that works well. There are a variety of different Jet Boil stoves in various sizes and price points. All of the Jetboil stoves have FluxRing technology (that finned looking ring at the bottom) which really makes a fast boil. This one was $87 last time I checked.
4. Goal Zero Crush Light Solar Powered Lantern $19 This simple lantern is super light, folds almost completely flat, and has a little solar panel on the top. If left in the sun, it charges itself and is always ready. It also comes with a USB charger cable to charge it from any USB charger. There are two brightness settings. It is simple, straightforward, and very handy. The diffused light works great on a picnic table. It isn’t bright enough to be your only lantern, but comes in real handy.
5. PARACORD PLANET Parachute Cord $13 for 50 feet. This is the same type cord I had holding me suspended under parachutes in the Army. We call it “550 cord,” because each strand has a 550 Lb. tensile strength. This is super versatile, and, in my opinion, almost always superior to small diameter ropes. Over time, it has made it’s way into camping and outdoor applications as people learned about it. It also works well when wet and holds a knot very securely. When cut, you can keep the ends from fraying by melting the tip with a lighter. To improve on it further, some smart person wove in reflective material. If you have ever walked into a guy line in the middle of the night, you will appreciate why I replaced every one I use on canopies, tents, and shelters with this Reflective Paracord. It is made of 100% Nylon with 7 Inner-Core Strands. The roll on the left in the photo is about 50′ rolled up on PARACORD PLANET WindIt Wizard Cord Keeper $9. The cord keeper has a handy razor cutter, and cutouts to secure loose ends. You can see I have two colors here. They are available in multiple colors. I use the yellow ones as tarp guy lines so they are also easy to see in the daylight. On the ends are Nite Ize CamJet Tiedowns, $7 for a 4 pack.
6. Leatherman Multi Tool $69 I first learned of these tools while at Jumpmaster School at Fort Bragg. For rigging and fitting parachutes before jumps, this portable belt-carried tool combined the three tools I needed the most; a lock blade knife, needle nosed pliers, and a wire cutter. For camping, it is just as convenient, with extra things used frequently at the campsite; screwdriver, bottle opener, saw blade, scissors, and other accessories. This version is mid-sized, there are a wide variety of larger ones with more features, and smaller ones that are compact and lighter weight. I used Leatherman tools during 7 years on jump status and 76 parachute jumps. They are extremely durable and precisely made. There are other versions by Remington, SOG, Gerber and a few other companies, but these, in my opinion are the best. One major feature is that the plier handles leave a gap when the jaws are closed, preventing you from pinching your palm. I learned that lesson the hard way from a cheaper competitor. They make an available Leatherman nylon sheath $15 for belt carry.
7.Hydrapak Expedition – Collapsible BPA & PVC Free Water Storage Bag (8L/2.11 Gal) $60 – You may be thinking that this is a lot of money for a two gallon water bag, and you would be right. But, this is my go to primary water carrier on every trip. It is extremely packable when flattened and rolled when empty. The wide-mouth cap is great for easy filling and pouring, and a quick connect spout connects to the cap. Mine has never punctured, leaked or come unscrewed. It also has a lifetime guarantee. This bag provides 2.11 gallons of water in a rugged, puncture resistant pouch with MOLLE loops, carrying handle and a hanging loop. At about 18 pounds full, it carries enough water for a day or two at camp, but is light enough to carry to and from the water source. I use this almost exclusively for our drinking water needs in camp. The Amazon page isn’t very descriptive of the various features. You need to watch the video on the page to see how good this really is.
8. Estwing Fireside Friend Axe – 14″ Wood Splitting Maul $32 Rather than carrying a hatchet and a stake driving mallet, this splits wood every effectively and and also easily drives tent stakes. The way the cover fits, you can use the hammer side with the cover attached, so you are not swinging the blade at your face. You could cut a small tree down with it, but it is more suited as a splitter. Perfect for splitting the bundled kindling you have to buy at some locations. At 4 pounds, it is hefty enough to carry through a log, but light enough to swing. I’ve found it to be the sweet spot between hatchet and hammer.
9. DOTSOG Portable Outdoor Solar Shower $10. This holds 5 Gallons/20L with Removable Hose and On-Off Switchable Shower Head. Let me start by saying that the solar shower I own is no longer made, but this was as close as I could find. These all work the same way. A black interior on one side, clear on the other. Sun shining through the clear plastic hits the black panel and heats the water. I bought one for my son when he deployed to the Iraq war, and it was his first shower in a month! In the desert sun, a full day heated the water scalding hot. I always use this for two reasons; it provides hot water for dishwashing, and is a 5 gallon backup of fresh water to my 2 gallon Hydrapak bag listed above. When empty, it rolls up to next to nothing. I don’t travel with it full in order to save weight. I fill it up as soon as I get it to the camp site, and put it out in the sun. The more sun the hotter obviously, and it isn’t super hot in the morning, but quickly heats up during the day. If you’ve ever washed dishes with ice cold water, you know even warm is better. The third use for us is actually as a shower, but we seldom use it for that. When it is full, it is heavy. At 8.34 pounds a gallon, this is over 41 pounds. You need a sturdy tree limb or structure to hang it to, and it is difficult to get high enough over your head to put it at normal shower height. Of course you don’t need to fill it all the way, but a full bag of water will retain heat longer than a partially filled one.
10. CGEAR Original Sand-Free Outdoor Camping Mat $64 to $144. If you have read my other blogs, you know I love these mats. Our 10×10 mat is light, easily rolled up, and provides a great ground cover. I’ve used it on the beach, as a tent footprint, as an entry in front of the tent, a carpet next to a trailer, and a floor under our canopy. It really gets you off the bare ground, and dirt and sand sift through the porous layers by gravity, keeping your area pretty darn clean. I first saw these CGEAR mats in tents without floors in the Iraqi desert. I bought one a few years ago for my trailer and to use on the beach. It has been fantastic. They make them in orange and blue. Dirt, water and sand just filter back through to the ground. Sweeping off excess clumps of dirt works really well. You get the chunks swept out, and the smaller granules filter down through the layers. It also has eyelets to stake down if needed, but I don’t remember ever having to do that. It doesn’t catch much air on a windy day. Available in 6×6, 8×8, 10×10 (which is what we have) and 12×12. They are easy to shake out and hose off after road trips.
This wraps up my Top 10! These are things I own and use, all tried and tested, and I have used them repeatedly on dozens of trips. Hopefully this Top 10 gives you some ideas of something to add to your packing list to make your adventures a little easier.