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Be prepared: The right equipment makes camping easier — and a lot more comfortable
By Julie Kaiser

There's no need to rough it during an outdoors adventure if your budget can afford the latest in high-end camping equipment and clothing.

Today, you can purchase clothes with built-in SPF protection and bug repellent, lightweight hiking boots and camping equipment that makes cooking meals on a campfire easy and sleeping out of doors practically luxurious.

David McCracken is the specialty shop manager for camping at the Springfield Scheels store.

"Camping is really going through a technological renaissance," he says. "All the old stuff is getting better. Things we never thought could improve are improving."   

Shelter

The sound of raindrops falling through the trees may sound relaxing to some, but no one wants to sleep on wet ground. Tent technology to the rescue. North Face has come out with a new style - a tent made completely of mesh for $259 with what McCracken calls a "bathtub floor."

"This is the latest and greatest in floor technology," he says. "They are nylon, but they have triple-seamed everything, and it keeps out the water."

Many tents now come with a rain fly and vestibule that work for storage instead of having to keep everything inside the tent. For the high-altitude mountaineer and friends who prefer an expedition rather than merely camping, MountainHardwear offers a six-person tent for $2,100 (To order a tent, visit www.mountainhardwear.com). 

Beauty rest

For those accustomed to sleeping in comfort, there's no need to compromise just because you're sleeping in a tent. Therm-a-Rest offers an air mattress that self-inflates to 3 inches. The extra-large version approaches the size of a twin size bed for under $150. Therm-a-Rest is available through Gander Mountain, Scheels, Sears and others.

If you plan to wake with the sunrise in the open air of the Rocky Mountains or Alaskan wilderness, be sure your sleeping bag is ready to brave cold and dampness.

Backpacker Magazine gave its Editor's Choice award for 2011 to the Marmot Plasma 15 and 30 sleeping bags. That's one technologically advanced version for 15-degree temps ($469) and another for 30-degree ($419) overnight temps. To order yours, visit www.marmot.com.

The magazine also gave a nod to L.L. Bean's Katahdin sleeping bag for "knock-around durability, easy-care synthetic insulation, and a no-brainer price." ($139)  

Cooking equipment

Wake up! Your morning cup of joe arrives within a couple of minutes with Jetboil, a self-contained cooking system available at Dick's Sporting Goods, Gander Mountain or Scheels. The Jetboil personal cooking system lights with the click of a button, and within two minutes you've got two cups of boiling water ready for coffee or a quick meal ($55).

Got a group counting on your cooking prowess? Consider the Jetboil's group cooking system ($119). It's great for a variety of meals, including scrambled eggs, chili, rice, pan breads and more. 

Worried about your water supply? The SteriPEN is a hand-held UV water purifier that Outdoor Life magazine named an Editor's Choice for 2011. Stick this into your water bottle with a UV light and swish around for 48 seconds. The UV rays purify water ($79.99). Available at Dick's Sporting Goods and Scheels, or visit www.steripen.com. 

Dressed for success

When you want to look good on the trail but also stave off nasty biting pests and avoid the sun's harmful UV rays, look no further than Magellan's (www.magellans.com). This California-based company offers fashionable insect-repellent clothing through their Bugsaway line. From bandanas ($11.50) to vented socks ($19.50) to short-sleeve crew tees ($30) or the Bugsaway Convertible Pant ($90), this line of clothing allegedly will render you unattractive to mosquitoes, ticks, flies, chiggers and no-see-ums. 

Stay warm and dry in even the sloppiest conditions with Under Armour, well-known for the layering clothing lines designed for hot or cold conditions. Their undershirts ($50) wick sweat away from the body as a base layer and retain warmth when needed.

Forget the drab colors of yesteryear's outdoor fashions. Under Armour also offers more generous cuts and better colors for women. Available at Springfield Running Center, The Sports Authority and Scheels or www.underarmour.com.

Walk this way

You are less likely to lose your footing with today's hiking boots, which provide ankle support suitable for trucking through the woods or around the campground. Wear your lightweight boots 14 to 16 hours a day and still be comfortable.

Many of the top boots on the market (North Face, Vasque) use lace-free technology, which helps provide a glovelike fit.

North Face carries a men and women's Hedgehog Tall GTX ($130), an all-terrain shoe that's lightweight, waterproof, breathable and durable. KEEN Footwear offers boots that sport a waterproof membrane on the inside and outside ($150 and less).

North Face is available at Dick's Sporting Goods, Gander Mountain, The Sports Authority and Scheels or www.thenorthface.com. Vasque is available at Gander Mountain, Red Wing Shoe Store and Scheels, or visit www.vasque.com. KEEN Footwear is available at Dick's Sporting Goods, Luer's, Mosser's Shoes, Scheels or www.keenfootwear.com.

 

Story published Friday, September 2, 2011 ( Volume 6, Number 5 )

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