High-tech camping gadgets

For some, camping is all about roughing it: living off the land, communing with nature and getting away from the hustle and bustle of every day life. However, building a fire by rubbing two sticks together or fishing for dinner is not everyone's idea of a good time. For those who like the idea of camping but would prefer a few luxuries, here are a few high-tech gadgets that will make your camping experience a little less rugged:

CamelBak All Clear Bottle
If you're going to be camping for a couple of nights, you usually need to bring a way to purify water. This can be a fairly time-consuming task through the use of iodine drops or boiling. However, CamelBak has released a water bottle with a UV cap that takes just 60 seconds to purify water.

Handpresso Wild Hybrid Espresso Maker
For some campers, morning coffee is not option. It's a necessity. Those who prefer espresso over filtered coffee will love this handheld espresso maker.

Camp Chef Outdoor Camp Oven Stove
When camping, most of your food is roasted over a campfire. If you're craving something a little more domestic, bring along this propane-powered stove-oven combination and enjoy freshly baked meals just like you would have at home.

Eureka Nergy 1310 Electric-Powered Tent
Sure, you've got the great outdoors at your feet when you're camping, but what if you're really itching to catch up on the last season of Parks and Recreation? This high-tech tent has a 12-volt harness system that lets you use all your favorite electronics while sleeping up to 10 people.

Brunton ADC Pro Weather Instrument
Few things are more important to a successful camping trip than good weather. This instrument will not just give you the current temperature, but a humidity rating, wind speed, heat index and a wind-chill alarm.

LifeProof Braven BRV-1 Waterproof Bluetooth Speakers
Whether you're at your campsite or the beach, music is almost always a welcome addition to any outdoor excursion. This particular set of speakers is wireless and waterproof, so you don't have to worry about the elements damaging the electronics.

Tuffy's Portable Safe
With all your new gadgets and gizmos, you'll want to be sure your belongings are safe if you step away from your campsite or leave them in your car during the trip. This mini safe is the perfect place to keep small electronics, important paperwork, cash or even your firearm.

10 camping essentials

Whether you've been camping all your life or this is your first time sleeping out under the stars, there are a few things every outdoorsman needs. Here are your 10 essential items for camping:

  1. Tent: Let's start with the obvious. You'll need to bring along a tent to protect you from wind and rain, insects and to give yourself a little privacy if you're camping with friends or at a busy campground. A tent is one of the best ways to customize your experience – if you're feeling rugged, you can get something simple and small, while those looking for a little more luxury should be able to find a tent that lends itself to a more comfortable experience.
  2. Sleeping bag: Another basic necessity, make sure you bring along a sleeping bag that is appropriate for the time of year you're going to be out camping. 
  3. Backpack: It's a good idea to bring a backpack along even if you're driving right up to the campsite. If you're going to set out on day trip or even a short hike up the trail, you can bring supplies with you.
  4. Food: Even if you feel ambitious and expect to fish for your lunch and dinner, bringing along your own food is a must. Consider granola bars for an easy breakfast, trail mix for a snack and dehydrated meals just in case the fish aren't biting.
  5. Water: Bring along as much water as you can, especially if you are driving to your campsite and don't have to haul it over miles of trails. You should also have some kind of water purification system with you at all times.
  6. Fire: There are a few ways to start a fire, so make sure you are prepared for at least a couple. Whether you bring waterproof matches or a fire starter, be sure to know how to properly and safely get a fire going.
  7. Security: Any electronics, important documents or firearms need to be kept secure, especially while you're away from your tent. Bring along a mini safe or small lockbox to keep in your tent or car.
  8. First aid: Always bring along a well-stocked first-aid kit for emergencies.
  9. Light: Whether it's a head-lamp, a flashlight or a lantern, make sure you have some kind of light for dark nights.
  10. Layers: Even if you're camping in the middle of the summer, nights can get chilly and you never know when a cold front can move in – bring plenty of layers just in case.

Camping safety checklist

Whether you are going on a hike for an hour or two or a week-long camping trip, safety is always key. From carrying a mini safe for your fire arm for proper storage to being sure to have a source of clean water, when it comes to spending time out in the wilderness, you should always expect the unexpected. Being prepared for anything also means carrying a well-stocked first-aid kit in your bag with you at all times. Here is what yours should have:

  • Bandages: Keep a variety of sizes and shapes of disposable bandages for minor cuts, scrapes and blisters that you may run into on the trail.
  • Antiseptic towelettes and ointment: Use these to clean any wounds before dressing them.
  • Butterfly closure strips: These are better for larger wounds that need to be kept closed.
  • Dressing pads: In the case of bleeding that needs to be stopped, 4 inch by 4 inch sterile dressing pads should be used.
  • Gauze roll: This will hold the aforementioned pads in place without adhesives.
  • Pain relief medication: Generally, ibuprofen is a good all-around pain reliever and anti-inflammatory drug. Keep some around in case of injuries as well as for minor aches and pains.
  • Antihistamines: These are available in both pill-form – good for general hay fever and pollen allergies as well as relief for some insect and stings – as well as a topical ointment, which is meant for bug bites or skin irritation from things like poison oak.
  • Tweezers: For splinters, ticks and removing debris from wounds, pack a set of fine-point tweezers.
  • Cotton tip swabs: A great tool for a variety of uses, like applying ointment to wounds or removing foreign objects from eyes.

Your first-aid preparations should also be dictated by where you will be and the time of year. For example, hikers in cooler weather should also consider a Mylar blanket, while those heading out on a hot day should bring rehydration salts to protect against dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Day hiking checklist

Now that spring is officially here, many outdoors enthusiasts are ready to strap into their boots and hit the trails. Before you do, make sure you have everything you need to have fun and be safe for your hike. Here is a checklist of must-have items before setting out:

  • The right clothing: Check the weather and make sure you are dressed appropriately. Bring along a waterproof later and an extra pair of socks just in case. As always. dressing in layers is the best way to ensure you're comfortable.
  • Navigation: If you're setting off an an unfamiliar trail, a map is an absolute must, though you should get in the habit of carrying one at all times, even if you know your path well. A GPS and a compass will also help ensure you don't get lost.
  • Fuel: Always bring along a water bottle or hydration pack with enough water for your planned hike. A water filter or other kind of treatment system is also an important tool in case you are out for longer than you expect. Also, keep a couple of granola bars or other easy-to-carry snacks with you at all times.
  • Light: A flashlight or headlamp is always a good item to have on hand – just make sure it's got plenty of battery life.
  • Emergency supplies: As always, keep a first-aid kit in your bag at all times. It will come in handy for everything from bandages for small cuts and wraps for rolled ankles to gauze pads for more serious wounds. A fire starter kit is also handy in case of an emergency.
  • Security: Whether you're bringing your valuables with you on the trail or leaving them behind in the car at the trailhead, it's important to make sure they're secure at all times. A portable safe is the perfect solution for electronics, important papers or small firearms.

Putting on your Jeep soft top in the rain

Whether you didn't check the weather before hitting the road or a fast-moving storm caught you by surprise, almost all Jeep owners have been caught driving a convertible in the wrong weather. Once the sky starts looking ominous or you feel those first few rain drops, you have to act fast to get the soft top of your Jeep in place, lest you, your seats and any of your belongings that have the misfortune of being exposed to the elements. Here's the best way to get the soft top of your Jeep on in no time:

Be prepared
It's essential to have an attack plan well before you ever spot rain clouds. Make sure you know how to put the top on by yourself – you can't bank on having a passenger in your Jeep when an unexpected storm hits. Many people struggle with getting the top up solo, so either practice a few times so you can do it in an emergency or have your phone charged and ready to call for help.

Find cover
Unless you are actually within sight of your dry garage, chances are you're not beating the storm home once you start seeing those first drops. Your best bet is to find the nearest outdoor. This might be an underpass, a gas station or even a nearby business that has a covered parking lot or drop-off point.

Consider a window roll-up bag
If you're one of the aforementioned people who struggles with putting up your soft top alone or you just ride with the top down on a regular basis, you may want to invest in a window roll up bag. It can be put up quickly and easily, even when you're by yourself, and because it's compact, it won't take up much of your Jeep storage.

Tactical equipment demands tactical storage

For police officers out on patrol, squad cars and tactical SUVs are both their home and office. That's why Tuffy Security Products offers a full line of security accessories to help police officers organize and protect their belongings and equipment – both personal and professional – every day.

Lockable storage console
For smaller items like documents, a lockable storage console can keep your belongings safe while allowing them to remain portable and accessible. 

Laptop lockbox 
As one of your primary information assets, it's essential that you keep your laptop safe and secure. A laptop lockbox will not only protect your computer from theft, but the padded interior and durable construction will help guard it from damage. The lockbox will cost you just $190, while replacing your laptop will usually run you $800 or more.

Tactical security lockbox/drawer
It's essential to keep your tactical equipment secure, but you also need to access it at a moment's notice. A lockbox with a gear drawer is the perfect solution, as it's both incredibly safe and infinitely customizable. A lockbox with a custom gear draw runs at just under $2,000, but it will protect equipment like your $575 Remington Model 870 Express Tactical Shotgun, a Colt Advanced Law Enforcement Carbine – worth about $1,700 – and your Point Blank Dragon Fire Body Armor, worth $2,350, keeping them safe from theft and damage.

Conceal carry tote
Though you may feel safer keeping your firearm within reach at all times, it's also important to make sure it's secure. A conceal carry tote is the perfect solution for this. The tote will run you just $129, which is a steal, especially when compared to the average $600 it would cost to replace your standard issue pistol. 

Getting ready for your first solo camping trip

Like most hobbies, camping can be tailored to just about anyone's preferences. If you're looking to rough it in the backwoods, you can set out with just your pack and a map and see where the path takes you. If you're looking for something a little more upscale, there are plenty of tents and campgrounds that will cater to your needs, as well. 

Similarly, the perfect camping trip for a lot of people involves a partner or group of friends or family to share the experience with. For others, the solo camping trip is the best way to be alone with your thoughts and with nature. Here are a few tips if you're thinking of setting off on a camping trip alone:

Go with a group first
While you may feel mentally prepared to spend a night or two out on your own in the woods, you may not have the skills needed if you've never been camping before. Avoid running before you can walk. Your first time camping should always be with a partner or a group – preferably with at least one person who has experience. This way, you can learn some tips and tricks about picking the right spot to set up camp, starting a fire, cooking food and staying safe. 

Take it easy
Your first solo camping trip shouldn't be the one where you finally tackle that difficult trail in the backwoods. Not only might it be potentially dangerous to risk getting in over your head or even losing your way, you may find that you don't enjoy all of the alone time. Stick with what you know at first, or even consider starting out with a day trip alone to get yourself used to striking it out on your own. Even if you're the kind of person who values alone time, spending an entire night on your own may be a bit much for you to handle. 

Consider your safety
While safety is always a concern when camping, it's important to be extra careful when you're by yourself. When it comes to spending a couple of nights outdoors, there are a few considerations to make to ensure you're safe:

  • Theft: If you set out on a hike for the day or take a quick run to the lake, you'll usually leave your tent and most of your possessions unattended. Whether you're in the middle of a busy campground with dozens of other campers nearby or in the middle of nowhere, you always risk a passerby wandering into your site and grabbing things that don't belong to him or her. Consider bringing along a portable safe. If you only have a few items of value – some cash, your mobile phone or a small firearm – a mini safe should be plenty of space. However, if you have a lot of expensive electronics, hunting gear or a solar panel charger, you may need something a bit bigger, especially if you drove up to the site. In that case, leave a larger lockbox in the vehicle.
  • Animals: When you're out camping, you're sharing the woods with countless animals both large and small. Depending on where you are in the country – or the world, for that matter – there are different dangerous creatures to worry about, from snakes to bears to alligators. The risk may be greater for solo campers, as groups tend to chat and make noise, while individuals aren't as likely to hold a conversation with themselves. If you're entering a new area, make your presence known by yelling or even singing. Avoid picking up large rocks, as snakes and dangerous insects may be making their home there. This is also a good time to mention that you should always let your friends or family members know when you're going camping, where you'll be and when they can expect you back. 
  • Health: You should always bring a first aid kit with you when you go camping, and this rule is especially true if you are by yourself. Make sure it is fully stocked and that nothing has expired – if you've had the same kit for the better part of the last decade, it may be time to review what you've got and add some fresh items. 
  • Stay alert: With a partner or a group, there are extra sets of eyes and ears to keep track of any potential hazards that may be heading your way. While you're on your own, it's all up to you. Make sure you check out your immediate surroundings by taking note of the closest trail or road, and be aware of any nearby facilities. If there is an emergency, it will be up to you to keep your head on straight and get yourself to safety.

Picking the perfect tent

When you're planning a camping trip, there are few pieces of equipment more important than your tent. The right one can mean the difference between shivering all night and feeling warm and cozy. While a tent can be as simple as a couple of poles holding up a piece of tarp, technology has come a long way, and there are some products on the market that are fancier than a lot of houses. Whether you are looking for something simplistic or luxurious, here is a guide to picking out the perfect tent for your camping trip:

One of the first decisions you'll have to make is determining what size your tent needs to be. This will depend on a few factors. First of all, how many people do you plan on fitting in your tent? Will you be doing most of your camping solo or do you tend to go with a partner or in large groups? Generally, tent manufacturers will mark their products by how many people will fit, though it's worth noting that these measurements tend to be a bit snug – a tent that says it sleeps one to two people is likely to fit two people and little else, which can be a problem when you consider the gear you may want to keep in the tent with you at night.

Another consideration to make when picking your tent is how much you want it to weigh. This is mainly a concern if you are planning on hiking a long way with your tent. On the other hand, if you are just going to drive up to the camp site, weight isn't a terribly pressing issue.

Tent shape
There are a few basic styles of tents, all with their own benefits and drawbacks:

  • Dome tent: This shape is most common, especially for backpackers who need to tote their gear from site to site throughout the course of the trip. One of their best features is that they are aerodynamic. While inexperienced campers may not think to look for this benefit, once you've spent the night in a tent during a storm, you'll be grateful for the feature. Dome tents are also reasonably simple to set up. When picking one out, the listed height indicates the highest point in the tent, and the walls slope sharply from there.
  • Cabin tent: Though a cabin tent is somewhat less aerodynamic than a dome tent, you'll get a lot more head room. The walls are nearly vertical which, coupled with the high ceilings, makes the tent feel quite roomy on the inside. These types of tents are best for established camp grounds or base camps where you will be leaving it set up for a few days at a time.
  • Hoop tent: Blending the benefits of the dome and cabin styles, the hoop tent's shape is both easy to set up, aerodynamic and maximizes interior space. They also tend to be quite compact and easy-to-pack.

Other considerations 
Even after you've settled on a general size and shape, there are plenty of other considerations to make. Here are a few factors you'll need to look into when buying your tent:

  • Security: Whether you're camping in the backwoods or a heavily populated campground, security should always be a concern. Make sure you pick a tent that can fit a mini safe or small lockbox where you can keep valuables like cash or your firearm.
  • Doors: If you're going to be in and out of your tent all day, it's important to have doors that are user-friendly. Generally, cabin tents are your best bet, as they often have multiple doors.
  • Ventilation: If you're planning on doing most of your camping in the summer or in a place that tends to get humid and muggy, ventilation is a major concern. Mesh panels come with most warm-weather tents. Look for larger ones to allow for cross-ventilation, which will help prevent condensation from building up. They will also offer more light to get into your tent and for you to see out more easily.
  • Rainflies: A rainfly is an additional tarp that is fitted over your tent to offer protection from the elements. A full-length rainfly will cover your tent almost completely and will offer almost total protection from the wind and rain. A partial rainfly, on the other hand, just covers the mesh panels at the top of your tent, which still allows some light and air through. Generally, partial rainflies are better for campground camping tents, while wilderness campers may want to invest in the full-length option.
  • Headroom: While all tents will have a "peak height" listed, not all tents are made the same. Though cabin-style tents have a relatively flat ceiling, domed tents slope down sharply. If you are tall or just prefer not to have to stoop over in your tent, consider getting a taller tent or one with a wide ceiling. 

Tips for preparing for your first camping trip

While camping is a great pastime once you get the hang of it, it can be intimidating to give it a try for the first time. There's a lot of equipment you'll have to buy, you may not know how much food you need or where the best spots are. Here are a few tips to make sure your first camping trip is a success:

Team up
One of the best ways to ensure you enjoy your first camping experience is to tag along with a more-experienced friend. That way, you can test run their equipment before deciding how large a tent you need or whether a sleeping pad is necessary. You'll also learn plenty of tips and tricks for your own trip. When you do get ready to plan your own expedition, plan on going with a buddy. Camping trips with a partner or small group are usually more fun than solo ones, plus you'll have a second person to help problem solve and improve the new-camper learning curve.

Do your research and be prepared
Don't just pick a spot at random and set off. Talk to experienced friends, read books and visit websites to find scenic campgrounds that lend themselves to beginners. It's also a good idea to choose a spot that isn't too far from civilization in case of an emergency. Don't forget to get ready for your trip physically. Walking a half-dozen miles lugging a heavy backpack when you're out of shape is going to be a challenge. At least a month before your trip, do some cardio training. If possible, go for a few practice hikes and bring the backpack you will use to get used to the weight. This will also give you a chance to break in your hiking boots if you bought new footwear for the trip – the last thing you want to deal with is blisters while you're hiking.

Make your purchases
There's no way around it – your first time camping is almost always your most expensive one. If you're building up your collection of gear from scratch, you'll have to drop a couple dollars on it. Here are some of the most important purchases you'll have to make before your trip:

  • Tent: One of the biggest purchases you'll make for camping, a tent is also among the most important. The size of your tent is going to largely depend on how many people are going to be sleeping in it, though personal preference is also a factor. There are some massive models that are closer to a small house than a pup tent. While you may not need a lot of trappings, make sure you find one that is big enough for the campers and their gear and will keep the weather and bugs out.
  • Sleeping bag: A lousy night's sleep is a sure-fire way to spoil any camping trip. Because of that, make sure you pick out a sleeping bag that is warm enough. If you're planning on doing most of your camping during the summer, you can pick up a sleeping bag that's rated for temperatures down to 20 or 30 degrees. If the weather is warmer, you can always unzip the bags to ventilate air. If you prefer, a sleeping pad is the best way to add extra cushioning as well as keep you farther away from the cold ground.
  • Food and drinks: Though you'll be camping, it's not expected that you'll be catching fish to fry up for dinner or foraging for berries in the woods. Instead, pick up some dehydrated meals – you'll just have to add boiling water and dinner is served. Granola bars, beef jerky and trail mix are all good snacks to keep with you as you hike. Bring along a fire starting kit so you can cook and keep warm at night. A filtering water bottle is also essential so you can stay hydrated.

Don't overpack
Sure, there are plenty of things you'll need to bring along on your trip. Tents, sleeping bags and food are all musts. However, avoid the temptation to overpack if you need to fit everything into your backpack. Of course, if you're driving up to your camping spot, feel free to go crazy with the fun extras. Try to keep your pack reasonably light – say, 30 pounds or so.

Even if you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere, it's likely that there are people nearby, especially if you're at a popular camping spot. Because of this, it's important to keep security in mind. If you are bringing paperwork, cash, electronics, a firearm or other valuables with you, it's a good idea to invest in a small lockbox to keep it all safe. There are plenty of portable safes available that won't take up your entire backpack but are big enough to secure your valuables.

Picking your hiking backpack

Picking out a good hiking backpack should be as important as choosing your boots. The right one will fit comfortably and help you carry even the heaviest loads with relative ease by distributing weight evenly. A low-quality or ill-fitting backpack can give you back pains, may not fit everything you need and generally make your hike unpleasant. Here are a few tips to make sure you pick out the best backpack for your needs:

Consider what you are using the bag for
Sure, you're probably using your hiking backpack for, well, hiking. But really consider what kind of activities you'll be engaging in. Do you just need a light bag for water, snacks and a spare pair of socks while you go on short hikes? Will you be walking or running? Are you going to be on the trail for days at a time? Will you be on a scrambling trek or climbing rock faces? All of these will dictate the size and shape of the bag you pick for yourself.

Panel loader versus top loader
While this does depend, in part, on what activity you'll be engaging in, whether you want a front or top loading bag also largely depends on your preference. For example, if you're going to need to get gear or supplies out of your bag or you like to keep your belongings organized, a front load backpack may be up your alley. Because the zipper is U-shaped, the front panel completely opens up, which means you can have access to everything from the top to the bottom of your bag. On the other hand, top loaders have a little more flexibility in terms of space. Many come with an extendable top lid that gives you a bit more space, which is handy for climbers who need to bring a lot of gear that they'll end up using for the climb and don't want an over-large bag. 

Different types of backpacks
Once you have a good idea of what you are going to be using your backpack for, it's time to explore your options. Here are a few basic types of bags

  • Day pack: These are mostly standard backpacks, similar to those you might have used in school. If you're just planning on day trips, one of these should be more than enough for you. A bag that holds about 30 liters should be enough space, but also keep an eye out for one with side pockets and compartments, which can make organizing your gear easier.
  • Multi-day backpack: If you're going to be camping overnight, you'll want something a little bigger to carry the supplies you'll need. Generally, between 35 and 40 liters should be adequate. Though they are handy for all backpacks, you'll especially want a hip belt to distribute weight when you start looking at bigger bags. Keep security in mind, as well. If you're spending the night somewhere, you may need room for a portable safe for your valuables.
  • Hydration packs: These are bags especially designed to hold water. If you're a biker or will be using trekking poles, having a backpack that allows you to take a drink without using your hands will be convenient. That said, you may not need to buy a bag specially designed to hold water – many newer bags can hold a hydration reservoir. However, if you don't need much space, these specialty bags may be a good option. 

Pairing activities with the right bag
If you know you'll be engaging in a particular activity most of the time, here's a guide to pick up the best bag for you:

  • Climbing or scrambling: You'll need a fair amount of space to carry your climbing gear, so look for a bag that can hold at least 40 liters. Top load bags are great for this kind of equipment. The backpack should also have a narrow profile so it stays out of your way as you climb. Because climbing gear tends to be fairly heavy, look for a bag with a padded back and hip straps. You'll also need some specialized features, like an ice ax loop and a daisy chain.
  • Trail running: Picking a small, narrow bag is the best way to keep it from bouncing all over the place. Hydration packs tend to be a good choice, as they are just enough to carry water and a couple other essentials without weighing you down. Consider a lumbar or waist pack, as keeping your back clear may be more comfortable. 
  • Skiing: There are specially made bags for ski touring that allow you to attach your skis for easy transport. Look for one with a narrow profile along with sternum and hip straps.

There are also a few other considerations you may want to make. For example, there are bags especially designed for women, as they feature more contoured shoulder straps and a narrower design. Messenger bags are also popular among cyclists.