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The 5 best camping gear and tools: Tech to help you get away

What is the best camping gear? ZDNet chose the Jackery Explorer 1000 solar generator. Whether it's a weekend getaway to a campsite or weeks away off-grid, having the right kit can make a huge difference -- not to mention it's a lot of fun.
Jackery Explorer 1000 | Best camping gear overall
Jackery Explorer 1000 review | Best camping gear
Jackery Explorer 1000
Best camping gear overall
View now View at Amazon
Thermacell Backpacker | Best camping gear for repelling insects
Thermacell Backpacker review | Best camping gear
Thermacell Backpacker
Best camping gear for repelling insects
View now View at Walmart
Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 | Best lantern for camping
Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 review | Best camping gear
Goal Zero Lighthouse 600
Best lantern for camping
View now View at Amazon
Trangia 27 | Best cookset for camping
Trangia 27 review | Best camping gear
Trangia 27
Best cookset for camping
View now View at Amazon
Tile Mate Essentials | Best camping gear for lost items
Tile Mate Essentials review | Best camping gear
Tile Mate Essentials
Best camping gear for lost items
View now View at Walmart

Summer is here, and that means the return of camping and road trips. The thing I missed the most over the past few years was not being able to get outdoors for extended periods of time and just chill. 

While it's perfectly possible to venture into the outdoors with a bedroll and a haversack containing some food and water -- I've done that a few times on some of my past trips -- technology can enhance the experience and make it more enjoyable, doubly so for kids and those who aren't so used to being outdoors. 

This is my opportunity to talk about some of the kit I've taken with me on recent trips, why I took certain items with me, and how they performed. 

Features: 1000 watts | 3 standard pure sine wave AC outlets | Supports pass-through charging

I was more than a little concerned about going off-grid in Scotland, a place more known for its rain than blazing sunshine. However, the Jackery Explorer 1000 along with the twin 100W solar panels has been superb. I've been able to use the panels to keep the Jackery charged up, and the Jackery has been able to keep my laptop, power banks, phone, and drones charged too.

This kit, while pricey, has performed flawlessly under far-from-ideal weather conditions. 

Read the review: Jackery Solar Generator review


  • Lots of power
  • Robust
  • Very reliable for off-grid use


  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Solar panels not waterproof

Features: 15 feet of protection | Lasts up to 4 hours | Travel bag included

A great way to keep insects at bay. It's quiet, doesn't stink, takes the same gas cylinders that my cookset does, and, most important, it works.

Far more effective and less of a hassle than mosquito coils, this is a must where there are biting or bothersome insects. While it hasn't done away with the need for skin-applied repellents (in Scotland I've found picaridin-based repellents to be the best), it offers a way to clear tents, cook areas, and chill spots of flying nasties.

Read the review: We tested Thermacell Backpacker


  • Small
  • Easy to use
  • Lasts for hours (pads last 4 hours, a gas cylinder will last many repellent pads)


  • Not 100% effective
  • Can emit an odor that some people find annoying

Features: Up tp 600 lumens | Foldable design | USB output to charge devices

A nice rechargeable lantern that offers a choice of low light or bright light (along with a red warning light on the top), this has been perfect alongside my Jackery Solar Generator setup. 

There is a crank-handle on the top for charging, but I think that's something I'd leave for an emergency, or if I needed something to amuse children.

A robust lantern that's capable of putting up with the rigors of camp life, it lasts for weeks between recharges -- though I've been using the low setting.


  • Nice, adjustable light
  • Long battery life
  • Charge cable built-in (so it can't be lost)


  • Crank handle is only practical in emergencies
  • Charge cable built-in (so if it gets damaged, you have problems)

Features: 2100 watts | Holds 1 liter of water | 2 pounds

Not really tech, but the Trangia is a great cookset for one to four people. The Swedes [<-- I this reference acceptable?] know how to put together good outdoor gear.

Everything is robust, lightweight, and you can use a gas burner or alcohol stove (I have both, and use the alcohol burner as a backup or when backpacking).

The kettle is particularly good, and it's an item that I've used a lot!


  • Robust -- will last a lifetime
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to clean
  • Packs down small


  • Rattles when packed

Features: Up to 3 years of battery life | 4 sizes included | Up to 250 feet Bluetooth range

Bottom line, this is how I stop myself from losing things like keys and wallets when outdoors. Yes, I use them a lot, and for me they are an essential part of my outdoor kit.

Also: Best Bluetooth trackers: AirTag and other alternatives


  • Waterproof
  • Long battery life
  • Never lose anything in camp again


  • Can't replace the battery
  • AirTags might be a better choice for Apple users

What is the best camping gear?

Our pick for the best camping gear is the Jackery Explorer 1000 solar generator. Even though it has a high price tag, it is an essential camping item that provides power for everything you need off the grid. 

Camping gear




Jackery Explorer 1000



Solar (1002Wh (46.4Ah, 21.6V) capacity)

Thermacell Backpacker


Comes with water-resistant travel bag

Heat activated, lasts for up to 4 hours

Goal Zero Lighthouse 600



Solar, USB, or cranking 

Trangia 27



Gas (butane)




Battery lasts up to three years

Which camping gear is right for you?

What works for me may not work for you. Your needs may be different from mine, especially if you are hiking more or only going out for a weekend. 

Also remember: If you are car camping, you have a portable charger on wheels, so you might not need hardcore stuff like solar power stations.

Start small, and see what your needs and interests are.

Remember, if you have shelter, food, water, and something to sleep under, your basics are covered.

Everything else is a luxury.

Choose this camping gear...

If you want...

Jackery Explorer 1000

The best overall option. 

Thermacell Backpacker

Something to repel insects from your campsite. 

Goal Zero Lighthouse 600

A lantern that also can charge your devices. 

Trangia 27

A quality and lightweight camping cookset. 

Tile Mate

Something to help find your lost items. 

How did we choose these camping gear options?

This is all equipment that I tested for the months in the run up to my off-grid trip, and I relied on them daily while on my trip. Forget the unboxing and five-minute reviews, because everything listed here has been an integral part of my day-to-day life for the past few weeks.

If anything failed, my gadgets could run out of power, or I could go hungry or be sitting in the dark.

Do solar panels need really bright sunshine?

No, I found that the twin 100W Jackery panels could deliver 50W-70W on overcast days, and 130W under clear, high-latitude Scottish skies. They are the best portable solar panels I've used. I only wish they were waterproof (though they survived exposure to light rain on many occasions).

Can water or rain be a problem for camping gear?

It rained quite a bit, but I made sure that everything that didn't like water was stored in dry bags.

Is there other camping gear worth considering?

I could go on and on about the kit I took with me. Here is some more gear that I found useful: 

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