A recent email from a reader, Barbara, about camping gear for her church group got me thinking about the most versatile options out there. Barbara does most of her camping in roadside areas, but takes at least one canoe trip with a long portage each year. She needs gear that will keep kids and adults comfortable in a roadside setting, but that can still be carried in a canoe or portage pack,
Visit any roadside campsite, especially the ones with a swimming beach nearby, from now through the end of October and you’ll see lots of happy folks enjoying the outdoors. Roadside camping is easy and fun, and a great way to get started camping or to introduce someone else to sleeping without four walls and a night light.
The only thing wrong with roadside camping is that, well, it’s roadside camping. You don’t get to experience the quiet, and the sense of real adventure that’s available only if you leave the road and “civilization” behind.
Lots of folks are tied to roadside campsites by the gear they’ve chosen. Motorhomes and trailers are one thing, but even some tents you see are so large and heavy that carrying them more than a few feet is a burden. It’s almost like people have to take their homes with them when they get away, instead of spending their days outdoors and their nights sleeping in a tent that’s big enough but not too big.
Instead of buying one big tent for your whole crew, why not consider getting as many smaller tents as you need? A four-person tent is surprisingly spacious, even luxurious for two or even three people, but still light and compact enough to load into a backpack, canoe or kayak and take away somewhere. Ditto for some of the new three-person backpacking tents. And smaller two-person tents are even easier to carry and to find a place to pitch.
The same holds true of stoves. You can get a big two-, three-, or even four-burner stove with a mega-fuel supply that ties you to the car, or an equal number of single-burner backpack stoves that will go anywhere.
Do you really need the cot, foam mattress and big sleeping bag, or could you sleep just as comfortably on an ultralight backpacker’s mattress in a cozy mummy-style sleeping bag?
You get the picture. Before you invest in camping gear at least try the portable stuff. Having a really mobile home opens up whole new worlds of active outdoor fun.
We asked our friends at Campmor for some recommendations for youth group camping equipment. We specified that the equipment had to be easy-to-use, durable and affordable.
They came up with three tents that fit the bill (note that all are available in 3/4 person versions):