Gear Guide 2012: Car Camping Essentials

Games, a cooler, even a pressure shower–these items will make your basecamp super comfy.

[table]
Snow Peak Ozen Solo Table

It looks like a toy, but don’t be fooled. This tiny table proved worth the weight on both car-camping and group backpacking trips, where it served as a stable, level stove platform and prevented the burner’s heat from scorching picnic tables and other surfaces below (can you ever be too LNT?). The anodized aluminum is kick-around sturdy, and in sandy campsites the 16-by-12-inch table keeps cooking ingredients off the ground and grit-free. Packed, it’s no bigger than a trifold brochure. $50; 8 oz.; snowpeak.com

[rechargable lantern]
Highgear SmartLite

Most camp lamps burn disposable batteries at a frightening rate, but this one gets juiced through a USB cable (included). After 15 hours of charge-time at home, it burns for four hours on high (or 10 hours on low, perfect for a weekend trip). A spherical reflector in the lid lets it double as a flashlight or pendant lamp—which imitates candlelight and turns a camp dinner into a romantic date. Forgot to charge the battery pre-trip? A hand crank nets 10 minutes of burn time in three minutes. $35; 7 oz.; highgear.com

[shower]
NEMO Helio Pressure Shower

Luxurious at the end of a long day in the backcountry: 11 liters of sun-warmed water, enough for a seven-minute shower. “It’s the finest I’ve felt after a gritty day of mountain biking,” attests one user, who rigged it to a tree at her basecamp near Moab, Utah. After dinner, she set it on the ground, where it made short work of rinsing dishes (the pressurized chamber forces water out even when the reservoir is not suspended). It’s not for ultralighters, but car- and boat-campers and backpacking groups of six or more found it totable. Compressed, the Helio is cantaloupe-size. $100; 1 lb. 8 oz.; nemoequipment.com

[pump]
Camp-Tek Microburst

Save your lungs for campfire singing—use this palm-size, ultralight pump to inflate air pads. It puffed up a three-inch-thick mattress in about five minutes. Top it off yourself to dial in firmness. (It uses three AAA batteries.) $30; 2.7 oz.; camp-tek.com

[cooler]
Kelty Folding Cooler

This sturdy icebox (made from foam-lined polyester with a reinforced plastic bottom) not only keeps your cold ones cold, it keeps them from spilling, too. In camp, it doubles as a handy cocktail table with four cup holders built into the lid. Back home, the soft sides collapse, making it easy to store. Available in 20-, 35-, and 50-liters. $46-$76; 2 lbs. 2 oz. to 2 lbs. 15 oz.; kelty.com

[game]
Hive

Meet some insects you’ll gladly welcome to camp: the ants, bees, grasshoppers, and spiders of this two-player strategy game. The goal: surround your opponent’s queen bee without getting cornered yourself. “It’s simple but challenging, and totally addictive,” says our tester, who credits the quick-to-learn, quick-to-play game’s elegant rules (each insect moves in a unique way) for many evenings of fun with adult partners and kids age eight and up. And since there’s no board, the hexagonal pieces quickly pack into an included carrying case the size of a bagel. And they’re hefty enough to withstand careless packing, dirt, and other campground abuse. $25; gen42.com