For some people, the hardship of roughing it is part of what makes camping fun. They like pretending to be Bear Grylls or on the set of “Survivor,” pulling their food out of a river and starting a fire by hand. It’s part of “getting back to nature” for them.
But that’s not you. You love being in the great outdoors, but the more convenient and comfortable you can make the experience, the happier you are. You probably have a portable charger. There’s nothing wrong with that (no matter what your survivalist neighbor might say), and there are plenty of gadgets to support that preference. Here are our six favorites.
6 High-Tech Gadgets to Enhance Your Camping Experience
1. Portable Solar Power
Although getting at least a mile away from the nearest power outlet is the whole point of camping for some, access to electricity for light, cooking, and music can make the whole experience more enjoyable. Reliable phone charging can also give an otherwise rough camping site an extra margin of safety.
In the past 10 years, breakthroughs in solar technology have made solar charging and power cheaper, portable, and more reliable, resulting in solar charging stations you can easily pack.
Camping solar units are foldable or rollable for easy portability and come with or without batteries (or with detachable batteries to give you the option). Be sure to get the outdoor or ruggedized models, as opposed to the more fragile units designed for urban or academic use.
Some of the most highly recommended camping solar units for this year include:
- BigBlue 28W
- X-Dragon 40W
- Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus
- Goal Zero Boulder 100
- Renogy 15,000maH
2. Pressure Showers
Camping showers have been around for a long time, but they’ve been far from perfect. Mostly, they consisted of a bag — or, in earlier years, a bucket — attached to a tree above your head, which you filled by hand and let the sun warm up. These showers sort of got you clean and were slightly better than just washing in the nearest river or lake.
A pressure shower improves on this model by attaching a foot pump to the unit. As you stomp on the pump, it fills an internal bladder with air, pushing the water out through the hose. That means you don’t have to elevate your water reservoir, and you can get reasonable water pressure. It also lets you use the shower for other things like washing dishes and winning squirtgun fights with your kids.
As a bonus, most come with a trigger nozzle so you can avoid wasting water between sprays. A few come with solar or electric heating so you can take a hot shower in the wild.
This year’s top pressure showers for camping include:
- RinseKit Portable Outdoor Shower
- NEMO Helio X
- Advanced Elements Summer Shower
- Sea to Summit Pocket Shower
- Reliance Outdoors Flow Pro
3. Water Treatment Tech
If you’re reading this blog, you’ve been camping and hiking enough that we don’t have to go into detail about how heavy water is to carry and how much water you need per day to stay hydrated, healthy, and clean. You already know how convenient it is to be able to use whatever water is on-site.
Water treatment used to mean boiling it or screwing up the taste with iodine tablets, but recent technology has added two new options. Portable, fast-acting water filters have come so far you can drink water you found in a stream through a straw that delivers drinkable H20 by the time it gets to your mouth.
Further along the sci-fi spectrum, you can find UV light water treatment that feels like you’re using something from “Star Trek.” You just insert the battery-powered UV light into your water, follow the directions, and kill all the bugs.
Filter straws for camping we recommend include:
- Sawyer Products MINI
- LifeStraw Steel
- LifeStraw Personal
- Membrane Solutions Water Filter Straw
- Survival Hax Outdoor Water Filter
UV camping water purifiers on our list include:
- SteriPEN Adventurer
- SteriPEN Aqua
- CrazyCap Deep UV
4. Sandless Mats
If you have trouble finding sandless mats in the camping section, look for them in beach gear. These mats and blankets are made with a weave and material that actively repels sand and dirt. If you set one down in front of your tent, it keeps the tent cleaner because you track in less dirt and dust. When you pack up to leave, the mat is grit-free, so you don’t end up with gunk in your pack or gear bag.
For added convenience, most models come with attached pockets you can fill with sand (ironically), dirt, or rocks to keep them laying flat and prevent them from blowing away in the wind. Our favorite makes and models of this simple but helpful camping tool include:
- Wekapo Sand Free Beach Blanket
- WELLAX Sandfree
- Wildhorn Sand Escape
- FUTERLY Sand-Free Mat
- CampMe Premium Beach Blanket
5. Next-Level Tents
For a very long time, tents came in various configurations but with only a couple of basic structures. They all required setup using those bendy poles you slid in through the loops even though you were tired and it was probably already getting dark. They were fine, at best.
Newer models offer multiple other solutions. Some spring out and pop up, fully assembled and ready for use. Some have inflatable ribs you can pump up, possibly using an electric air pump powered by your portable solar unit. And some versions come with hammocks on the inside for extra-comfortable, warmer camping.
The specific features you’ll want will depend on what you like and dislike about your current tent and about how deep into the wild you like to go. The fancier the tent, the bulkier or heavier it tends to be.
Depending on what you want, check out the following prime examples of the various types of upgraded tent options:
- Hemiplanet Inflatable Geodesic Dome Tent
- Vango Odyssey Air 800
- ICOrer Automatic Pop Up Tent
- EDMBG Instant Tent
- Kammok Roo Double
- ENO JungleNest
6. Cooking With Style
We know you love your classic Coleman gas unit. You’ve built a lot of great memories making simple, nutritious meals with it over the years. But there are ways to make cooking and eating much more enjoyable — dare we even say decadent — in the 21st century. Consider the following additions to your camp kitchen loadout:
- Portable electric cook pots like the Biolite KettlePot
- Gelatin-based edible cups so you don’t have to pack or burn the trash
- The Bearbowl, a cooking pot that folds flat for packing
- The Roccbox, a stone bake oven you can fold and pack
Just because this article focuses on high-tech camping conveniences, don’t forget that there are many low-tech camping survival items you shouldn’t leave out of your planning.
If you combine these old-school tools with new-school technology, you can turn your next camping experience into something as easy and luxurious as a stay at a five-star resort. Well, maybe not that luxurious, but it will be very comfortable.
Charles Greene grew up on the East Coast roughing it with his family on camping outings. But as an adult, when he camps, he enjoys some of the luxuries mentioned above.