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The best camping gear: Tech to help you get away

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.

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

Well, this year, I had the opportunity to go to Scotland for two months, so I jumped on the chance. At the time of writing, I've got a few weeks left before I leave Scotland behind me, but I still have a number of trips -- both short and long -- planned for the summer and early autumn.

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

And, if you're reading this, chances are you're someone who finds tech fun!

This is my opportunity to talk about some of the kit I took with me, why I took it with me, and how it performed. 

Jackery Explorer 1000

Solar generator

Jackery Explorer 1000

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 have 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 in far-from-ideal weather conditions. 

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Solar panels not waterproof

Thermacell Backpacker

Insect repeller

Thermacell Backpacker

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 importantly, works!

Far more effective and less hassle than mosquito coils, this is a must where there are biting or annoying 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!

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • Not 100% effective
  • Can emit a small that some people find annoying

Goal Zero Lighthouse 600

Rechargeable lantern

Goal Zero Lighthouse 600

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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

Trangia 27

Cookset with gas burner

Trangia 27

Not really tech, but the Trangia is a great cookset for one to four people. The Swedes 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 a bit that I've used a lot!

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • Rattles when packed

Tile Mate Essentials 4-pack

Item locator

Tile Mate Essentials 4-pack

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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

Here's a video I shot with the Mavic Air 2 of Talisker Bay, on the Isle of Skye.

How did we choose these camping gear options?

This is all equipment that I've been testing for the weeks and months in the run up to my off-grid trip, and then have been relying on daily while on my trip. Forget unboxing and 5-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.

Which is the best camping gear for you?

What works for me may very well not work for you. Your needs may be different to 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 luxury!

Product

Price

Waterproof

Power

Jackery Explorer 1000

$1550

No

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

Thermacell Backpacker

$39

Comes with water-resistant travel bag

Heat activated, lasts for up to 4 hours

Goal Zero Lighthouse 600

$69

N/A

Solar, USB, or cranking 

Trangia 27

$128

Yes

Gas (butane)

Tile

$94

Yes

Battery lasts up to one year

Do solar panels need really bright sunshine?

No, I found that the twin 100W Jackery panels could deliver 50-70W on overcast days, and 130W in clear, high-latitude Scottish skies. They are the best portable solar panels I've used. I only wish that they were waterproof (although 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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