Camping is one of summer's sweetest indulgences. Finally you can flee your hectic daily life and escape to the great outdoors, into Mother Nature's welcoming bosom.
Thing is, that "welcoming bosom" also brings with it unwelcome things, like rain, ants, mold, mosquitoes, dirt, rocks, poison ivy, cold nights, hot afternoons, and nary a place to plug in the microwave, much less the hair dryer. Roughing it is...kind of rough. But it doesn't have to be. As we discovered on a recent trip to Dick's Sporting Goods, people far more creative (and possibly lazy) than you have invented some ingenious items to make camping a lot more comfortable, even (dare we say it?) fabulous. What follows is not a rundown of camping essentials. It is a list of camping inessentials. But if you've ever spent a night unwittingly parked on a craggy stump, the Ultimate Folding Bed might be more "essential" than you think.
Northeast Outfitters Vacation Home Tent ($199.99)
Yes, it's called the "vacation home" tent --- and there's a reason. This 10'x10' tent comes with one permanent divider and one pull-back curtain that can be used to create up to three "rooms," affording you a modicum of privacy from the rest of your camping party. But that's not all! The screened in "porch" area allows you to chill in the shade without fear of bug bites. Your puny pop-up tent looks positively plebian in comparison.
Coleman's Sleeping Diva sleeping bag ($24.99)
Camo is so five seasons ago. Rough it and work it with this 75"x33" sleeping bag in shiny, bright pink polyester and faux white fur trim. The Sleeping Diva bag combines camping practicality --- three pounds of thermal insulation makes it perfect for 50 degrees or warmer --- and fierce runway style. Now if only we could find those stiletto hiking boots we've been craving....
Northeast Outfitters Portable Folding Table ($24.99)
Fitting an entire picnic table into the back of your Windstar is a pretty tall order. Unless, that is, you snap up this item, which folds down into a 33"x16"x4" case complete with handle, and weighs less than 15 lbs. The manufacturer claims it seats four, but to be fair they'd have to be a pretty petite group. Still, you're not so spoiled that you can't take turns eating lunch, right?
GST Outdoor Margarita Glass ($15.99)
Frat parties aside, mixed drinks were never intended to be sipped from a disposable plastic cup. Put a stop to the barbaric imbibing with this 8 oz. glass in the classic martini/margarita style. We use the term "glass" loosely as it's constructed of hard, durable plastic and even unscrews into two parts for easier knapsack packing.
Nissan Thermos Beer Glass Holder ($14.99)
Even the most insulated coolers can only keep beers chilled for so long. And after they get warm, it's a short trip to SkunkCity. This vacuum-insulated cup promises to keep brewskis cold for up to three times longer than other glasses. Think of it as the next step in beer cozy evolution.
Coleman's Camping Coffeemaker ($44.99)
What truly separates us from the animals is our ability to self-caffeinate. Thank god for Coleman, then, which made the campfire kettle and instant coffee crystals obsolete with this nifty machine. Simply place the base on your two- or three-burner campstove and before you know it enjoy drip-brewed coffee just like you'd have at home. Keeping the cream cold, however, is up to you.
Coleman's RoadTrip Grill LXE ($188.99)
As God as my witness, I will never eat charred, fire-pit-blistered wieners again! If you share similar anti-campfire sentiments, plunk down the change for this slick slice of grilling magic. Behold its 285 grillable inches. Bow down before its insta-start matchless lighting system. Covet its compact, foldable structure. Savor the perfectly prepared delicacies you can serve off this sucker. Bon appetite!
Coleman's Scoop Chair ($14.99)
Sitting outdoors under the open sky: great. Sitting on sharp rocks, ant hills and poison whatsis: not so great. Enhance the former and negate the latter with this blow-up chair, which is guaranteed not to leak (well...that's what it says, anyway) with two different air locks. Sounds more complicated than the International Space Station, which means it should be just fine for your ample bottom.
Coleman's Party Cooler ($84.99)
Many a back has been strained by bending over to grab a soda out of a cooler. No more! Luxury camping forbids such indignities. This thoughtful contraption brings the chilly beverages to you, as its steel stand puts the top 30" above the ground. And you'll have plenty to choose from, since it holds up to 48 12 oz. cans or five 2 liter bottles.
Ultimate Folding Bed ($199.99)
Even ensconced in the fabulous Sleeping Diva bag, sleeping on the ground is no picnic, and cots are a pain in the ass. This single-size bed uses "memory foam" technology (all the rage in bourgeois circles right now), holds up to 300 lbs. and folds down to less that 6" deep. The head of the bed can also be adjusted to a semi-upright position, since reading flat on your back can be such a strain.