Muscles Not Motors Camping Gear Review

Ryan James Leclerc
Posted June 29th, 2009

Growing up, my family was a camping family. Each summer, we would load up the car and drive no less than an hour away to spend a glorious week roughing it together at a crowded family campground. It would rain a lot, my parents would argue a lot, and my sister and I would be bored stiff a lot. The mosquitoes living in our tent, however, would be as happy as could be. I still love camping to this day, but a few things have changed…
My parents had a sleeping bag that was nearly as comfortable as their bed. It had a canvas shell, a flannel lining, and in a pinch could double as a boat anchor. When rolled up, and with only a moderate amount of effort, it would even fit into the trunk of the car. These days, I still want a bag that is comfy, but is also lightweight and compact, such as the 23-ounce Sierra Designs Wicked Hot 45. The PrimaLoft Eco insulation, made of fibers spun from recycled soda and water bottles, is earth friendly, highly compressible, and weather resistant. Open the zippered vent near the bottom if your feet need to breathe, or if you so desire, undo the full length zipper to transform the bag into a cozy blanket. This durable, semi-rectangular bag will accommodate folks up to 6 feet tall, and it stuffs down to 8 inches by 18 inches. $179.
Our family tent was a dark behemoth that smelled like mildew and required many hours and many more swear words to set up. The poles were numerous and in a pinch could double as baseball bats. Tents have come a long way since 1984, and a fine example of tent evolution is the three-season Black Diamond Skylight. It sets up in minutes with three shock-corded Featherlite poles and features a mesh inner wall that offers a panoramic view of all the mosquitoes that can’t infiltrate the mesh front panel or the breathable, water resistant, single-wall, EPIC fabric back panel. The Nextec canopy provides protection in inclement weather, while forming a spacious vestibule for gear with which you’d rather not share interior space. Weighing only five pounds, it has plenty of room for two and just enough room for three on its double-silicone-coated, ripstop nylon floor. $469.95.
Our camping stove on which Dad would cook bacon and eggs was rusty, clunky, and could double as our version of the Green Monster for our family whiffle ball games. Another example of how far camping gear has come is the Primus TiLite, a foldable stove that comes with its own titanium pot for a combined weight of just seven ounces. At full power, the TiLite produces 13,500 BTUs and can boil water in three minutes, while the adjustable flame allows for simmering. The stove and fuel canister fit inside the pot and into the included net stuff sack for a total space of only 4.7 inches by 3.7 inches. $165.

Ryan James Leclerc

Ryan James Leclerc used to be single and used to work on the sales floor of Onion River Sports. He is now married and works in the office of Onion River Sports. The creative license he procured in a back alley allows him to occasionally narrate from the past as though it were the present.