Camping has always been a favorite pastime of mine, going back to childhood. My parents instilled a great love of the outdoors in me, and it is one that I want to make sure gets passed on to my kids. So I decided we needed to revamp our old and outdated camping gear to make it easier for everyone. Another layer to the problem is I struggle with the balance of finding the right equipment to make the most of our limited space in the rig and the overall functionality of the item.
We did loads of research and read a lot of reviews to finally come up where we did: swapping out 1980s hand-me-downs to new and better options. Here is the rundown of the changes we made.
Note: Before making any modifications to your vehicle, you’ll want to perform due diligence; make sure your intended changes are within the electro-mechanical capabilities of your vehicle and doublecheck to make sure nothing you do will alter or negate your insurance policy. If you’re not confident in your insurance coverage (within the confines of your intended activities) then some research on good car insurance.
The first principal component was the tent. The tent we had previously was one my immediate family used for backpacking in the early 1990s. I’m not joking. It held up like a dream, though. We picked up a Slumberjack Roughhouse 6 for its replacement. The Roughhouse 6 is terrific and easy for one or two people to set up. Not super light-weight, but has a decent enough footprint for our family that we’d have extra space for our bags inside and large rainfly for full coverage. Another significant plus is that the tent has a mostly mesh-upper for maximum airflow. The tent was put through its paces the very first trip out. We headed up into the mountains and unbeknownst to us it was Morman Cricket migration season. Just the Children of the Corn, the bugs came crawling, and the tent did its job perfectly. Seriously, if you don’t know what they are or what the swarm is, see for yourself.
Inside the tent, we upgraded from old sleeping pads to new Big Agnes Cot Lites for us. We initially tried out the Disc-O-Bed bunks and liked them, but they were too big for our needs. Our sleeping bags are still in good shape and relatively new, so we haven’t upgraded them yet.
The next place to get updated was the cooking items. We went from one over-sized fry pan and saucepan that I received at my high school graduation to a beautiful new Lodge cast iron saucepan/frypan set. Now, I know that cast iron is heavy as hell, but you can’t beat the way it cooks on both a stove or a campfire (our preferred method).
Also, we swapped out the old plastic cooking utensils for more durability with stainless steel on open flames. The cooking utensils were also out of control, from lack of attention. In our old set, we had three whisks, two wine openers (because of priorities) and no coffee pot (ridiculousness). We rectified that with one whisk, a large coffee pot, and a GSI Outdoors French Press, stainless steel cooking utensils, and a spectacular three knife set also from GSI Outdoors.
Our tableware wasn’t much better. In looking through our old gear, we found enough silverware for a service of 8 because I apparently planned on hosting a dinner party in a campground. Not to mention we were using disposable plates and melamine cups and thermo cups. We swapped all of that out for 3-piece silverware sets and a GSI Outdoors Infinity table set that is color coordinated with plates, coffee and drinking cups, and bowls with lids. My family particularly enjoys this, so each person has their own full set of tableware in their preferred color which speaks to my family’s OCD tendency.
For our vehicle, we added a new low-profile roof rack from PrinSu, an upgrade from the stock rack that came with my 4Runner. On the rack, we added an ARB awning with attachable sides, extra gas cans, and traction boards. Inside the rig, we have been using our ARB fridge/freezer but updated the battery and solar array from GoalZero. Also updated were all-terrain tires for better off-road use and air bladders for the shocks to help offset the additional weight during our overloading trips.
This is still very much a work in progress as we are fine-tuning all the parts. Overall, we are pleased with the results and look forward to all the adventures we’ll be going on.
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