Most of us go camping to get away from the urban chaos that often defines our lives. But there’s no reason you can’t bring the party to the side country, especially when you’re on spring break. In honor of that unofficial holiday, here are a handful of must-haves that lets you embrace the more hedonistic side of mother nature.
1. Big Agnes Rocky Peak 4 mtnGLO, $300; 2. Brunton Lightwave Camp Rocker, $70; 3. Primus Onja 2-Burner Stove, $140; 4. REI Evrgrn Downtime Hammock, $130; 5. Kelty Folding Cooler, starts at $55; 6. GSI Outdoor Vortex Blender, $130; 7. Alite Designs Hot Tamale, $129.
Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).
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A durable strand of LED lights have been woven into the seams of this four-person tent to offer easy internal illumination. They have three settings—on, off, and 50% brightness—triggered via simple push button, powered by three AAA, or via any USB power source. Beyond the atmospheric hands-free lighting, the Rocky Peak also gives you four interior mesh pockets, waterproof protection, reflective guy lines, color-coded webbings and buckles for easy set-up, a 57-square-foot footprint, an additional 13 square feet in its vestibule.
Photo courtesy of Big Agnes
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Now that you've squared away your tent, you can really get the party started thanks to this innovative lantern. Yes, it casts out light—120 lumins. But it also has speakers that lets you play your tunes via Bluetooth, along with a handful of USB outputs to charge your devices. At full blast (both music and light set to high) you get up to four hours of illumination and music, or take it down a notch (read: low settings) and the Lightwave is rated to rock out for ten hours.
Photo courtesy of Brunton
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Most people don't think the word "sexy" could apply to a camp stove—but that's because they haven't seen the Onja. In carrying mode, the rectangular black-and-white construction boasts a sleek, striking profile. The base expands to create a stable surface, and the stove burners are unveiled when you pop off the oak lid, which naturally doubles as a cutting board. The twin burners run on standard gas canisters, and the single grill easily accommodates large pots. Better still, it weighs only seven mounts, and thanks to the shoulder strap, it's something you might start carrying to any sort of outing.
Photo courtesy of REI
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Much of REI's new-ish urban-centric camping Evrgrn products would find a home inthe sidecountry, but in a pinch, go with the Downtime, which lends a bit of plush comfort to the scene. More like a hanging couch than a traditional hammock, it unfolds to offer a palatial sitting space of 91x38x27 inches. Side pockets are deep enough for magazines and smart devices, and a 650-pound weight capacity means it'll handle a handful of your friends without fail.
Photo courtesy of REI
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There are more expensive coolers, and coolers that can probably keep your food and drinks on ice for weeks, but this low-cost option will keep everything cool and fresh for a long weekend without incident. And—bonus for urban dwellers without a lot of storage space—it collapses to be easily stored under your bed. Otherwise…it's a cooler, with a lightweight, semi-rigid construction; side handles; beer coasters molded into its zip lid; and an option of three different sizes: 17, 27, and 55 liters. Better still, the waterproof inner lining can be easily removed and cleaned.
Photo courtesy of Kelty
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We love insulated growlers in the backcountry, but this is spring break—step up your cocktail game by mixing up a dangerous tropical daiquiri or two. The Vortex uses a two-speed gear system and a hand crank to mash up ice (or mix smoothies, sauces, or pancake batter, if so inclined). A c-clamp at the base lets you secure it to the picnic table.
Photo courtesy of Back Country
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After drinking, eating, and dancing under the stars, all that's left is the inevitable wiggle into your sleeping bag. The Hot Tamale eschews that isolated experience by letting you zip two bags together, creating a cozy rectangular refuge from the wild. It's rated down to 20 degrees F, has small stash pockets for must-have overnight objects, and comes with Alite's lifetime warranty.
Photo courtesy of Alite Designs