Five Camping Essentials for the Soft City-Dweller



Camping. Man at one with nature, free of the chains of modern society, living off the land and enjoying a simpler life. Bull. Unless you want to starve, get bitten to death by insects and come home from your hiking weekend with more chafing than a gimp who forgot the talcum powder, you’re going to need some gadgets. Not the electronic kind. We’re talking about high-tech thinking applied to low-tech gear, well thought-out designs that will save both time and pain, although not always cash.

These tips are from first-hand experience, garnered over this previous weekend. I’m an armchair hiker, and the people I traveled with were far more experienced woodsmen. Which is probably why, as a novice, I noticed all their cool gear. I did, though, manage to bring a few useful widgets:


I ignored the usual advice that says you should break in your hiking boots before you leave. I picked up the cheapest pair I could find the day before leaving. I got lucky. The €60 ($93) McKinley boots I picked up were soft textile instead of leather and were comfortable, light, tough and didn’t rub at all. This was just as well, as what I though would be a quick one hour jaunt turned into a six hour hike, including some hairy 60 degree slopes.

The cheap boots did, however, breathe. Which, in combination with the next item in the list, quite literally saved my soles.

falke_tk2.jpgTechnical Underwear

Day One: New, breathable, cooling, stay-dry socks from Falke. Result: Dry, comfortable feet, no blisters, no rubbing. The socks even have L and R embroidered on them to help with dressing. Day Two: Normal, thick sports socks. Result: Sweaty feet and a heel blister after half a mile. I quickly swapped back to the Falkes from the day before, which had conveniently stuck to the side of my pack after being thrown there the night before. These socks were the best thing I bought for the trip, including the bottle of Single Malt Whisky.

Next time, I also would consider some breathable underwear. Chafed cheeks, known to English restaurant workers as “Chef’s Arse,” are a terrible curse that can be cured only with a handful of corn flour. Avoid.

Product page [Falke]



A Leatherman would be nice, but they’re expensive and I wasn’t planning to complete a Makeshift Challenge. I took an Opinel, the classic French wood and steel folding knife with a locking collar. Cheap, sharp, beautiful to look at — the only time you won’t find one of these in my bag is on the way to and from the airport.

Product page [Opinel]

42681_PE137685_S4.jpgFrisbee/Plate combo

You need a plate, even while you rely on your more professional fellow campers to bring the actual cooking gear. And if you’re going to carry plate, why not make it a plate that flies? The solution was found at Ikea. The Reda set of mixing bowls comes with lipped lids, the largest of which flies at least as well as a real Frisbee. Sure, you could eat your food off an actual Frisbee, but this was already in my kitchen.

Product page [Ikea]

9004-1.jpgBar Blade

The bar blade is the Rolls Royce of bottle openers. A simple strip of steel with a slot and a hole punched into it, the bar blade has many more uses than merely opening beer (although it does that remarkably well). In the past, I have used mine as a screwdriver (it fits the coin-sized slots used in many consumer goods perfectly) and to break into my own car (I left the keys inside). On this trip it pulled out tent pegs and stirred the cooking pot. And if you’re wondering what the circular hole is for, it’s for swinging the blade around your finger. Really.

Product page [Bar Gizmos]

A few other things to consider. Take ready-made cigarettes. The lungs of a smoker are already delicate, and the extra speed and effort needed to catch up to your companions after rolling a fag only makes things worse. Also, take ground coffee. Your more experienced fellow campers will undoubtedly have a small stove. They will also only have instant coffee, which is not coffee at all.

If you really can’t tear your mouth away from the electronic teat, we suggest you check out BoingBoing Gadgeteer Joel Johnsons’ account of his pampered foray into the wilds, where he survived rattlesnakes and WiFi deprivation using only an iPhone, a laptop, solar panels, a current inverter, an Amazon Kindle, a nerdy homemade bracelet and, for all we know, a pizza delivery service.

This time, the comments are the place for your camping hints and tips. Not the specs on your quarter-pound, carbon-fiber and space-nylon tent, but the little camping hacks that get you through a trip. Go.


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