Whether you’re sweating it out and hoping to find a cool place to camp in late summer, or looking ahead to a long Labor Day weekend spent in nature, it’s likely time to replace those ancient, bulky sleeping bags and that tent. You know, the one that takes an hour to put up and ensures you string together ugly words your kids – or any children nearby – have never heard before.
If you’re hoping to camp out at any of our amazing state or national parks over the Labor Day weekend, act now, as they go quickly, National Park representatives say.
Mac McKeever, a representative for L.L.Bean, is an avid outdoorsman, as befits someone who represents a company known for gear that appeals to the adventurous. But perhaps, not too adventurous.
“As the interest in family camping has expanded, we have noticed that several items – primarily those designed to make camping easier, more comfortable and more convenient – have become very popular. Today, it’s no longer about ‘roughing it,'” McKeever says, adding that retailers have responded by making products that make camping approachable and comfortable.
One thing that will ruin any camping trip? Any camper unprepared for rain.
“You don’t want to forget your rain fly, as you never know what the weather will do next,” McKeever says. “Another thing to ensure you remember is good camp furniture. It can make camping so much more enjoyable and comfortable. There’s nothing better at the end of a long day outside than relaxing around the campfire in a comfortable camp chair or recliner. A sleeping pad or a cot is a good thing to remember. It will give you a much more comfortable night’s sleep so you’re energized and well-rested for the next day’s activities.”
Finally, pros at all sporting goods stores suggest looking for roomy tents that circulate air well. And if you’re camping with the kids? It’s worth investing in a larger tent.
So, step one: Make your reservations for the long Labor Day weekend now. Step two: Invest in a few essentials that will make your weekend memorable – in a good way. Following are a few suggestions from the pros:
• Camp Sleeping Bag ($69.95, llbean.com). The soft, durable nylon shell and fast-drying lining make this bag one of the company’s best-sellers. It’s filled with high-loft polyester insulation to keep you warm on those chilly nights in the mountains. And best, it’s machine washable.
• REI Kingdom Tent ($389-$529, rei.com). It doesn’t much matter whether you’re camping in spring or autumn; REI says this is a tent that will take any season. A center divider creates two rooms, or unzip for one spacious tent. Obviously, the higher the price, the larger the family.
• Camp Futon ($99.95, llbean.com). It weighs just over 4 pounds, and it’s worth every ounce for a great night’s sleep. A layer of foam offers cushioning and insulation, and two valves allow you to easily inflate and deflate the futon.
• Bass Pro Shops Expedition First Aid Kit ($44.99, bassproshops.com). Sure it has the typical bandages, tape and medications you might need in the wild, but it also comes with a book that tells you how to deal with those injuries that might happen out there in the wild. Bear repellant not included.
• King Pine 4-person HD Dome Tent ($379, llbean.com). Unless you’re taller than 6-feet, 3-inches, you'll be able to stand in this dual-hub frame, constructed for easy set-up. A main room has a durable floor and screen room lets in the air, but keeps out the bugs. A full-coverage waterproof rain fly will keep you dry.
• Zero Gravity Lounge Chair ($79.99, Bassproshops.com). A bungee-cord suspension system ensures this chair is as comfy as any you have in your living room. And we doubt your recliner has a built-in cup holder.
• Wildlife fire pit and grill ($159, llbean.com). The critters come to light when the fire is on. Steel walls will contain the fire, and a mesh guard ensures sparks don’t escape. A nonstick grate turns this pit into a grill.
• Poppytalk .45 Liter Beverage Thermos ($18) and Poppytalk Camping Lantern ($15, target.com). This line from Target is available only through the end of the July, so if flowers are your thing, act quickly. If you’re of the opinion that roughing it doesn’t involve pretty flowers, simply look around at the wildflowers surrounding you. The company refers to the word “Glamping” with this line. That is to say – it’s all about “glamorous camping.”
• Poppytalk Serving Bowls (2 for $5, target.com). Why not add a little class to that picnic table? We love the colorful cups in this line. Glamp on, people.
• Poppytalk Picnic Basket ($25, target.com). Toss in the chips, the colorful bowls, napkins, and all the non-perishable items into this classic picnic basket.
• REI Flex Lite Chairs ($69.50, rei.com). The name says it all. What we love about these little easy-to-tote gems is that they weigh next to nothing.
• REI Habanera Sleeping Bag ($279-$289, rei.com). This bag, designed for women, will keep you warm on all of the coldest winter days. It’s filled with water-repellant duck-down and offers an insulated face muffler. That might not sound so appealing in the heat of the summer, but it will when you’re camping in chilly late-summer or early-autumn evenings.