Camping is great, but there’s no reason why you can’t bring a little high-tech wizardry to what’s traditionally considered a low-tech, off-grid, back-to-nature experience. From campsite power grids to satellite phones to tent-ready air conditioners, this collection of tech-savvy gear will bring your outdoor excursions into the 21st Century.
This clever LED lantern and portable USB charging system powers up your gadgets while providing plenty of light for midnight ghost stories. With its PowerLite Hub and two sight lights, the $99 Nanogrid enables you to light your entire campsite. The Hub functions as a flashlight or lantern, and includes a metal clip for easy hanging from a branch. It also includes two USB ports (full-size and micro) for charging phones, tablets, and other devices when you’re off the grid
Buckshot Pro Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Sure, Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen. So what makes the $79.95 Buckshot Pro ideal for camping? Well, it’s a versatile, water-resistant device with multiple skills: Speaker, flashlight, and power plant for charging your devices via USB. Its rechargeable battery keeps the music playing for up to 10 hours with the music source (e.g., smartphone) up to 32 feet away.
Helio Pressure Shower
After a sweaty, dusty hike, wet wipes won’t cut it. A conventional camp shower -- the kind you hang from a tree -- is better than nothing, but its low water pressure is kinda wimpy. Nemo’s $99.95 Helio Pressure Shower) sits on the ground and delivers 5 to 7 minutes of steady water pressure. Its tank holds 2.9 gallons of water, and the included 7-foot hose is handy for quick showers, washing dishes, and getting your dog (reasonably) clean.
Iridium Satellite Phone
When roaming the backcountry, cellular reception can be sketchy to nonexistent. The best way to contact civilization? Sat phone. The Iridium 9 offers pole-to-pole coverage, provided you have a clear view of the sky. (Sorry, no cave calls.) Iridium’s network of 66 satellites in low-Earth orbit provide a reliable connection to the most out-of-the-way places. You can’t watch YouTube or snap selfies with the Iridium 9, but that’s a small price to pay for global connectivity. It’s not cheap, though. List price is $1,495, although you’ll find it for under $1, online. Service is pricey too: A 75-minute, 30-day prepaid SIM card will set you back another $130.
Solar Panel Chargers
No AC outlet on the trail? A solar panel charger can power up your smartphone, GPS navigator, or other rechargeable device via USB. There are many choices out there. Two worthy options: the Levin Solar Panel Charger 6mAh (pictured, $24 on Amazon), a durable, water-resistant charger that clips onto a backpack. The Portable Solar Charger by SunLabz ($40, Amazon) is foldable for easy packing, and can be attached to a vehicle’s windshield (using the included suction cups).
Two hands are better than one -- particularly on nighttime hikes and cave excursions -- so why hold a flashlight? A headlamp is a better option. The Streamlight 61304 ProTac HL Headlamp ($57 on Amazon) produces a wide, bright beam that reaches 172 meters. Its shock-resistant LED lamp has a 50,-hour lifetime, the company says. So put your noggin to good use.
Camping is a time to relax. But a sweltering tent or camper can turn a peaceful, easy feeling into a sweat lodge soiree. IcyBreeze may look like a large, run-of-the-mill ice chest, but it’s really a portable air conditioner and cooler powered by a rechargeable battery system. Fill IcyBreeze with a little cold water and ice (and your beverages--it’s still an ice chest), and it will blow cool air for up to 7 hours on a single charge at temperatures as low as 35 degrees below the outside temperature. Prices start at $299.
Here’s a powerful portable charger that not only juices up multiple devices, but also comes with a built-in LED flashlight. The RAVPower 13mAh External Battery Charger ($27 online) stores enough energy to recharge an iPhone 6 almost five times, or a Samsung Galaxy S6 more than three times, the company says. It weighs just under 11 ounces and has two USB ports for charging a pair of devices simultaneously. It’s fast too, capable of charging an iPhone 6 in a little over two hours.
Who says an RV needs to be as big as a monster truck? Jucy RV specializes in small recreational vehicles built for budget-conscious campers. Its fleet of Jucy Champ USA campervans come with all the RV essentials -- fridge, gas cooker, sink, DVD player, and two double beds that sleep up to four people. (Sorry, no toilet.) The vehicles’ minivan base makes them fairly easy to maneuver. Jucy offers 24-hour roadside assistance too.
Airstream Interstate Grand Tour EXT
What comes to mind when someone mentions camping? If a flat-screen TV, heated seats, and Columbian walnut flooring come to mind, don’t be ashamed. Maybe wilderness training isn’t your thing, but you’re a strong candidate (budget permitting) for the Airstream Interstate Grand Tour EXT, a luxury touring coach that brings Four Seasons-style opulence to the road. Starting at $155,060, the Grand Tour EXT -- essentially a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van after an extreme makeover -- packs plenty of four-star comfort with a shower, adjustable LED lighting, LED TV, and other luxuries that redefine roughing it.