Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Upgrade Your Gear with Innovative Camping Essentials that Go Beyond the Basics

camping coffee tent
Julian Bialowas

If you enjoy camping, you probably have at least one friend who shows up to a weekend in the woods with nothing but a flint, a sleeping bag, and an aluminum mug. You’re probably also familiar with the guy who arrives with a SkyMall catalog’s worth of clever outdoor gadgets and gear (and is still setting them all up when everybody else is finishing their s’mores). One is admirable for his hardihood, the other for his resourcefulness. But do you really want to be either of them?

The general rule of camping defines success by an inverse ratio of baggage brought to comfort enjoyed. Whatever you bring beyond the bare essentials needs to really prove its worth through versatility, clever design, and rugged performance.

Related Videos

But the rarest find of all is an essential item that goes beyond what you expect of it.

As it happens, some of our favorite outdoor gear brands have raised the bar on their camping basics. Whether it’s an ingenious design tweak or a barely noticeable addition that takes the experience to a new level, these improved camping essentials are guaranteed to up the ante on your outdoor adventures.

Light: Uco Magnetic Lanterns

Uco Gear has made outdoor lighting more intuitive than ever with the Hang-Out lantern collection. The compact Rhody+ and tabletop Madrona+ feature magnetic lanyards that make them super easy to attach to tent poles, guy lines, tree branches, or any other surface. The lanterns feature “infinity dials” that let you fine-tune your lighting up to 130 lumens, along with a blue Moonlight mode. Just in case that’s not enough for you, these little beauties feature rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, USB outputs, and wood-grain bases that help them blend in with the surroundings.

Sleep: Rumpl Stuffable Fleece Pillowcase

We’ve long been in love with the Rumpl puffy blanket, which provides the perfect lightweight warmth for outdoor nights. However, the new Rumpl Stuffable Fleece Pillowcase really caught us off-guard with its ingenious practicality. Built with tough ripstop nylon on one side and soft moleskin fleece on the other, plus insulation on both sides, all the case needs is a puffy jacket, a hoodie, or a few T-shirts to become the customized pillow of your dreams. Never again will you have to go backpacking without a place to lay your weary head.

Cooking Gear: Bison Rolling Grill

We’ve seen camping grills that were impressively lightweight and even packed down pretty small, but we’ve never seen anything like the Bison Rolling Grill. Built from a series of hollow Teflon-coated aluminum rods strung in a chain, you simply unroll the grill, attach the guards on either side, add the adjustable-height stake stands to prop it over the fire, and voila! Your kitchen is ready … and weighs barely over a pound.

Energy: Goal Zero Nomad 5 Solar Panel

The only thing more obnoxious than being the guy who constantly checks his phone is the guy who brings a giant charging station for the purpose. The new Goal Zero Nomad 5 Solar Panel lets you charge your phone, headlamp, or outdoor speaker anywhere the sun shines. The 12.05-ounce, 5-watt panel clips onto your backpack or positions anywhere with the help of a built-in kickstand. You can even plug in a Goal Zero Flip 12 power bank to store up charge for later.

Tent: Qube Tent

Qube Tent - Connect Anytime Anywhere with the Quick Pitching Connectable Tent

This quirky British import stole our hearts as soon as we saw it on Kickstarter. Not only do these pole-less modular tents pop up (or pack down) in seconds, but they can also be connected through a series of zippered openings at their angles. Simply zip on the Qube’s Tunnel connector and you’ve turned two separate tents into adjoining rooms of an outdoor party pad. The Qube Tent comes in two- and four-person sizes, all of which can be connected with the same size Tunnel, which means you can build a veritable Downtown Abbey of outdoor adventure. You can pre-order your tents now for August delivery.

Editors' Recommendations

Multipurpose Hiking Gear: 8 Outdoor Tools That Do More Than One Job
Best Multipurpose Hiking Gear

How do you, as a hiker, make your wallet, your shoulders, and your outdoor backpack happier? Multipurpose hiking gear. We’re talking about pants that are also shorts, lights that double as phone chargers, and jackets that work as tents. Multipurpose gear means less stuff in your bag. The less junk in your trunk — er, backpack — the lighter it will be. The lighter it is, the happier you are. Rainbows and unicorns will flutter about the hiking trail. (Wait, that was something else in your backpack.) Here are the best high-quality outdoor products that can serve many purposes and lighten your load.
Tent + Camp Canopy
Sea to Summit Telos TR2 Freestanding Tent


Read more
When to Book Your National Park Campsite for 2022
When to Book Your National Park Campsite for Summer 2021

Warm weather is just around the corner in the U.S., and most of us are daydreaming of the return to outdoor “normal.” If you’re planning to hike, camp, kayak, or escape into nature at some point this year, you can expect company. Americans are heading outdoors in record numbers, and campgrounds and hiking trails around the country will be very busy. That’s why now is the time to start booking your National Park campsite for this season. Here are the key dates to know for the most popular U.S. National Parks.
Related Guides

When to Plan for Travel in 2022
Dispersed Camping Guide

Read more
What Is REI Co-Op: Everything To Know About REI’s in-House Gear Brand
rei co op outdoor gear

No U.S. retailer has helped popularize the outdoor and adventure travel spaces like REI. In the States, city dwellers have to come to rely on it as a one-stop outfitter for hiking, camping, bicycling, paddling, walking the dog, or taking the kids to the park. That’s thanks in large part to REI’s massive selection of the best outdoor clothing brands from Patagonia and The North Face to MSR and Arc’teryx.
Related Guides

Where to Buy Cheap Outdoor Gear
Best Luxury Camping Gear
Best Outdoor Stores

Read more