With the winter melted away and in our rearview mirror, the summer camping season is rapidly approaching, and with the warmer weather comes a host of new possibilities for outdoor adventure and exploration. Fully capitalizing on the season does however require amassing the right collection of gear, and with the host of unique factors pertaining to summer camping, it can be tricky to wrap your head around what pieces of camping kit genuinely lend themselves to summer use.
Like all outdoor equipment, summer camping gear needs to be durable and hardwearing enough to stand up to the rigors of repeated backcountry use, while still being lightweight and adequately breathable to keep its user cool. The hotter temperatures mean an increased need for hydration, as well, though it also means being able to more efficiently utilize certain items such as solar chargers and sun-heated camp showers. So, whether you’re looking for a summer camping shelter, sleeping accommodations, camp kitchen equipment, summer-appropriate off-grid garments, campfire tools, or anything in between, this guide to the 20 best pieces of summer camping gear has got you covered.
Gamehide ElimiTick Long Sleeve Tech Shirt
One major downside to the summer months is the increased insect activity, and while there are bug sprays and citronella candles to combat these creatures, we’d argue ElimiTick clothing is a far superior alternative. Born out of years of research and development, ElimiTick garments utilize an “Insect Shield” technology in which the active ingredient in bug repellent is tightly bonded into fabric fibers, resulting in an odorless material that will ward off ticks, mosquitos, chiggers, flies, and midges for a lifetime. You can also throw this base layer in the wash along with the rest of your clothes like you would with any regular garment, without mitigating its ability to ward off insects. This ElimiTick long-sleeve shirt is popular amongst hunters, too, covering the entirety of the arms and offered in multiple colors, including two camo options.
Deus Ex Machina Fisher Bucket Hat
Having the midday sun beating down on you isn’t just uncomfortable, it also quickly depletes your body of its water and natural energy reserves. Popularly utilized by armed forces in tropical locales, Boonie hats provide relief from the sun’s powerful rays, while also adding a dose of style to your camping getup. This particular military-inspired Boonie is from Deus Ex Machina and features full cotton canvas construction, the hat’s traditional daisy chain webbing, metal mesh eyelets along each quarter of the crown, and “DEUS CUSTOMS” embroidery as well as the custom motorcycle builder and lifestyle powerhouse’s woven flag label.
Hydro Flask 32oz Lightweight Wide Mouth Trail Series
While Hydro Flask already made some of the best vacuum-insulated water bottles on the market, for the Spring of 2020 the Oregon-based outfit has taken its vessels to the next level with the Trail Series. Building on its existing lineup, the Trail Series is just as durable as its predecessors while managing to clock in at 25% lighter than the outgoing version. This was accomplished by implementing Hydro Flask’s TEMPSHIELD tech into an 18/8 professional-grade stainless steel construction that uses much thinner walls, while still keeping cold drinks cold for a full 24 hours. The Trail Series is available in three earth-toned colors, as well as in a smaller, more EDC-friendly 24oz size.
Lander Kiva Headlamp
Once the sun goes down, being armed with adequate lighting is an absolute must, and while there’s no shortage of available models on the market, we’ve become extremely fond of Lander’s newly-released Kiva headlamp. At the core of the product is a 150 lumen LED emitter that offers three modes — Beam; Lantern; and Strobe — and a USB-A rechargeable Lithium-ion battery that affords up to 40 hours of battery life. IP65 waterproof and completely impervious to dust, the lamp can easily be operated with one hand, even when wearing gloves. Tipping the scales at only 2.3oz, the low-profile headlamp is paired with a band made from recycled ocean plastics and equipped with a quick-release mechanism.
Chrome Industries Cully Crew Sweatshirt
While nowhere near as harsh or unforgiving as the winter months, summer nights can still get a bit nippy, especially if you’re out in the desert or up in the mountains. And while a full-size parka is certainly a bit overkill, it’s nonetheless wise to be prepared with an appropriate second layer to keep warm, and when shopping in this space, it doesn’t get much better than Chrome Industries’ Cully Crew sweatshirt. Boasting a classic old-school crew silhouette, this garment is made from a thin yet cozy performance fleece comprised of a merino wool and poly blend that’s machine-washable, heat-regulating, and odor-resistant (antimicrobial). Also offered as a hoodie, the Cully sports a hidden zippered pocket for accommodating wallets, smartphones, or other small essentials, as well.
Prometheus Design Werx Odyssey Cargo Pant ATC
Producing quality summer outdoor clothing requires a delicate balancing act, as the garment needs to be lightweight and breathable enough to keep its wearer comfortable, while still being rugged enough to stand up to the abuses that come with off-grid adventure. The Prometheus Design Werx Odyssey Cargo Pant ATC accomplishes this in spades, with a tactical cargo pant design brimming with features and constructed from PDW’s All Terrain Cloth. Inspired by the utility pants worn by American and British paratroopers in the Second World War, these pants were engineered for adventure, resulting in their articulated knees, PDW’s signature three-point cargo flap closure system, no-twist custom D-rings, no-loss para-smock-style slotted buttons, diamond gusset and double seat, dedicated knife-multitool pockets, and slots in the knees that can accept a pair of moto armor-style knee pads (which are sold separately).
Lit Solar PowerBank
With the right gear on hand, heading into the backcountry doesn’t necessarily mean having to forgo the conveniences, entertainment, and/or utility offered by your smartphone or tablet. The Lit Powerbank bestows the traditional mobile battery unit with a built-in Qi-compatible wireless charger, integrated solar panels, and an LED flashlight — all in a shock and waterproof shell shrouded in a protective silicone cover. With a whopping 20,000mAh on tap, this power bank can recharge an iPhone X a full seven times and still have juice left over. Furthermore, on top of being able to wirelessly charge devices, this camping-friendly gadget also packs two Fast Charging USB ports (and a regular USB port). And it does all of this while still weighing in at only 0.25lbs.
Husqvarna Steel Splitting Axe
Enjoying a campfire first requires sourcing the necessary fuel, and doing that requires a solid camp axe. And while it may lack the classic appearance of wooden-handled heritage items, this contemporary splitter from Swedish firm, Husqvarna, brings a host of updates and amenities to the age-old tool. While only 28” in length, the fiberglass composite handle on this quality outdoor axe is mated to a 5lb steel head that provides plenty of mass for splitting timber. Just below the steel head — which features a special coating that enables it to cut more efficiently – is a metal handle-guard, further fortifying the already rugged item. Though, should it somehow break, Husqvarna stands behind its product with a full lifetime warranty.
Danner Mountain 600 EnduroWeave Boots
Danner Boots’ Mountain 600 is an incredibly popular hiking boot with its attractive, heritage-inspired design, all-day comfort, modern Vibram technology, and robust protection. Not only does Danner Boots carry an insulated, winterized version of the Mountain 600, but the Pacific Northwestern company also makes a lightweight version for the year’s warmer months that sees the 4.5” boot’s regular suede or leather construction replaced with uppers made from EnduroWeave: an extremely lightweight and breathable yet still immensely-durable textile material that’s finished with an additional carbon wash. Retaining the regular version’s Vibram SPE midsole and Fuga outsole, the EnduroWeave version of this vintage-style hiking boot also gets a moisture-wicking air-mesh liner for bolstered breathability on hot days and a durable PU-coated, abrasion-resistant leather heel guard for added protection.
Kizer T2 Knife
With more strength and leverage than folders and no moving parts to get dirty or gunked up, fixed blades knives are fantastic for camping applications. And if you’re looking for a solid, reliable full-tang blade that won’t break the bank, Kizer’s T2 knife is a fantastic option. Designed by renowned German swordsmith and knife-maker, Uli Hennicke, the T2 is an ultra-sturdy fixed-blade with a 3.75” CPM S35VN stainless drop point blade that’s been treated to a stone-washed finish and paired with a set of OD green G10 handles. Running the entire length of the 7.88” knife, the bottom of the full-tang boasts a lanyard hole and a slight contour for added thumb support when carrying with a reverse grip, edge out. This trusty camping knife also comes with a custom-formed black Kydex sheath, for easy attachment to your belt, vest, or bag.
Jetboil Flash Java Kit Cooking System
Whether you’re at home or in the bush, a freshly-brewed cup of coffee is a great way to kick off your day, and Jetboil’s Flash Java Kit allows for this, with a compact French press accessory that attaches to the company’s ultra-fast Flash boiling system. On top of making coffee, this impressive camping gadget can boil water in under two minutes, plus it has a color-changing thermochromatic heat indicator so you know when your water is up to temperature, and a push-button electric ignition for easy, flame-free lighting. Weighing less than a pound in total, the system’s coffee press also stows away inside the cooking vessel itself, while the bottom cup was designed to double as a measuring cup.
Snow Peak Titanium Flask
Though it’s existed for over 60 years, it wasn’t until the turn of the millennium that Snow Peak started offering its Japanese-designed outdoor gear to the US market. Since then, the outdoor brand’s premium takes on traditional camping staples have heavily resonated with off-grid enthusiasts, and an item that wonderfully encapsulates this is Snow Peak’s flask. Aside from the screw-down stainless steel cap that secures the flask’s 5oz cell, this Snow Peak product is entirely constructed from high-grade titanium. Not only does this make it markedly lighter and more durable than steel or aluminum flasks, but the use of titanium also completely eliminates the gross metallic tinge that can be tasted with flasks comprised of inferior metals.
ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr 3-Person Tent
Breathability and airflow are of the utmost importance when shopping for a summer camping tent, as a tent with a lack of proper ventilation will feel comparable to waking up in a sauna each morning. ALPS Mountaineering’s Zephyr 3 tent is pretty much the closest thing there is to sleeping out in the open, directly under the stars, while still having the ability to shelter its occupants from potential rain and protect from pesky insects. Built around a lightweight frame comprised of aircraft-grade 7000-series aluminum poles, the tent boasts a 75D 185T polyester taffeta floor with a 3,000mm coating — the same material used on the tent’s rain-fly only with half the coating thickness – that’s mated to top-to-bottom flyscreen-style walls, as well as two massive doors secured via extra-large #8 zippers, 7075 aluminum stakes and guylines, factory-sealed fly and floor seams, and a gear loft.
NEMO Helio LX Pressure Shower
It’s a bit easier to get away with not showering on camping trips during the colder or more mild parts of the year, but when the temperature and humidity pick up, it’s great to be able to wash away the dirt, grime, and sweat from a summer’s day. NEMO’s Helio LX Pressure Shower replaces traditional gravity-based units with a brilliantly-simple foot-pump system that pressurizes the shower’s 22-liter (5.8-gallons) reservoir (which is colored black to absorb more sunlight). This translates to 7-to-10 minutes of consistently-flowing showers, which are made all the easier by the system’s 7’ neoprene hose. With polyurethane-coated polyester and thermoplastic urethane construction, the shower is incredibly durable, though should something happen to it, NEMO offers a lifetime warranty.
VSSL Camp Supplies Suunto Edition
The VSSL Camp Supplies kit is undoubtedly one of the most innovative camping gadgets released in the last decade, with a cylindrical military-grade aluminum housing (with an integrated 200-lumen flashlight) that stores a plethora of mini puck-shaped containers full of basic camp and survival essentials like a signaling mirror, razor blade, emergency whistle, rope, fishing gear, waterproof matches, a wire saw, and water purification tablets, just to name a few. Available in black or silver, this special edition version of the VSSL (pronounced “vessel”) was done in collaboration with Finnish hiking watch outfit, Suunto, and replaces the standard version’s budget compass with the most accurate mechanical compass in on the planet: the KB-14.
Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D Sleeping Pad
While most people don’t associate camping with wildly-comfortable sleeping accommodations, most people haven’t experienced Therm-a-Rest’s MondoKing 3D Sleeping Pad. The thickest pad the company makes by a wide margin, the MondoKing 3D calls on 4.25” of stabilized loft and a unique construction technique that sees a continuous layer of foam shoehorned in between alternating ridges of foam and air. Further comfort comes from the pad’s plush and breathable stretch-knit top. Made in the USA, this newly-released sleeping pad also features an included pump sack that allows for shorter inflation/deflation times. And while this Therm-a-Rest item provides ultra-comfy sleeping accommodations year-round, it’s also a stellar choice for winter camping due to its robust insulation and padding (and low-temperature rating).
Big Agnes Camp Robber Down Bedroll
While you can’t bring your mattress and bedspread with you on camping trips, you can still take Big Agnes’ Camp Robber Down Bedroll, which we’d argue is undoubtedly the next best thing. The Camp Robber can be used as a traditional down sleeping bag, or have its sides unzipped allowing it to act like a regular down comforter (albeit one with 650-fill DownTek). There’s also a “pillow barn” that can fit a compact travel pillow or a full-size bed pillow. This unique sleeping system is also offered in a double-wide two-person variant for couples, or for individuals who really want to stretch out and live it up. We would also recommend rolling a non-fitted/top sheet up with the bedroll for the ultimate summer camping sleeping accommodations.
NEMO Stargaze Recliner Luxury Chair
A long favorite for barbecuing, tailgating, and beach days, folding camping chairs have existed for decades, and other than the addition of armrest-integrated cupholders, there really hasn’t been much innovation in the space. That was until NEMO did what it does best, and came along and improved upon this classic camping staple, delivering a suspended design that pivots and reclines. Built around an aircraft-grade aluminum frame with a wide stance and quad-footed base, the swinging chair is made from a water-resistant nylon mesh that boasts padded armrests and a supportive headrest. When folded up, the 6.375lb Stargaze Recliner — which can support 300lbs — measures just 7” x 24”, allowing it to conveniently slip into its included padded carrying case for easy mobility.
Osprey Aether AG 70 Pack
Having the vessel that carries all of your gear fails is not an option when off-grid, which is why it’s so important to opt for a quality backpack. Osprey’s Aether AG 70 is a robust and dependable backpacking and hiking backpack that offers tremendous comfort and storage capabilities. The bag features enormous J-zippered access to the main compartment, supplemented by pairs of the upper side, internal, and front compression straps, zippered hip-belt pockets, and stretch-mesh side pockets. All of this is built around a 3.5mm LightWire peripheral chassis with a suspended mesh back, and supported via Osprey’s heat-molded Anti-Gravity hip-belt and harness. This built-for-adventure backpack also boasts a “Stow-on-the-Go” trekking pole attachment, a pair of ice-tool loops with bungee tie-offs, removable sleeping pad straps, and a removable top lid that can double as a daypack for shorter treks or summit ascents while the main bag is left at basecamp.
YETI Hopper Flip 18 Soft Cooler
Coolers are without a doubt one of the most essential pieces of summer camping equipment, preserving perishable foods and affording you the ability to crack a cold one while in the wild. Part of the company’s Hopper lineup of soft-side coolers, the YETI Flip 18 is absolutely bulletproof, with a mildew-, puncture-, and UV-resistant high-density DryHide fabric shell housing an FDA-approved food-grade liner and closed-cell rubber foam insulation which offers thermal retention that’s significantly more effective than traditionally-insulated coolers. The Flip 18’s exterior also features MOLLE webbing for attachments, while the cooler’s flip-up top is secured via a HydroLok zipper, which is the highest-performing and toughest waterproof and leakproof cooler zipper in the world.
The 18 Best Camping Sites in California
Now that you’ve got all the gear you need for your next summer adventure, you’re going to need to find somewhere to camp, and during the warmer months, the state of California happens to offer some of the best camping in the country. But with the Golden State covering more than 160,000 square miles, it can be overwhelming even knowing where to begin. Luckily, we’ve put together this handy guide to the best camping sites in California, so you can spend less time researching your trip and more time enjoying the great outdoors.