If you're headed to the lake, woods, or backcountry to do some camping this spring or summer, you're gonna need the right camping gear to make sure you're not only protected from the elements and wildlife, but you don't end up on the news where they're using words like "search grid" and "helicopter rescue."

We've asked the experts, done extensive field-testing (and by "extensive" we mean over the weekend and by "field-testing" we mean in our backyard) and have come up with the best camping gear you'll want packed in your SUV to make you as prepared as Grizzly Adams when you head out on your next outdoor adventure.


    When you've got a ton of gear to haul to the campground, you'll want to cram it into the AIRBAC Wander. This large $149.99 pack doesn't just allow you to stuff whatever you need into its huge 28" open center pouch, 2 side mesh pockets and large front mesh pocket for wet gear, but its patented air support system provides a pillowy cushion for your shoulders and back, letting you carry more, more comfortably. Which you'll appreciate if you've got to hike deep into the woods to get to your campground carrying all your gear… and hers.

  • GPS

    Let the amateurs stay in the campgrounds with the nearby parking and electric outlets. You're headed far off the path, deep into the woods. So your gear will have to include a GPS to find your way there and back without them having to unleash the bloodhounds to find you. Chris Burston, camping expert at Sport Chalet recommends the Magellan Explorist 110 Handheld GPS ($129.99) as "an all-purpose device with a simple, easy-to-use touchscreen, great for any guy taking his girlfriend on a hike, or taking his family camping or fishing." And the battery will give you 18 of constant use, should you wander too far off the trail.

    For the more adventurous, Burston says to step up to the Garmin GPSMAP 62s ($399.99). "Designed for the back country enthusiast, the Garmin has a 5.0 megapixel auto focus camera within the unit, a barometer altimeter and a 3-axis compass. It's designed with enhanced mapping support, for an experienced outdoorsman going to the back country.” And an experienced outdoorsman who wants to get back from the backcountry.


    The right gear for your body is just as important as the right gear for your camp site. And Carhartt has created some rugged, camp-ready clothes made to withstand the punishment a weekend out in the elements can dish out. The heavy-duty Force T-Shirt ($24) is made to wick moisture away from your body, and has a special stain release technology built in, so those fish guts will come right out in the next wash.

    The Ripstop Cargo Pants ($60) should take whatever the outdoors throw at them. Made of hefty 100% cotton specially designed to resist rips and tears, they'll keep you from feeling unexpected drafts after sliding over those rocks, and can hold whatever gear you need in the multiple utility pockets and two large flapped and snapped cargo pockets.

    Not sure if it's going to rain or if the temp will drop into low numbers overnight? Pull the Huron Jacket out of your back pocket, and you're covered. Both waterproof and breathable, the $120 Huron has a feather-weight, 3-ounce, nylon ripstop shell that's waterproof enough to stop every raindrop, but lets your body heat escape, so you're not soaked from sweat as you ride out the storm. When the weather clears, just fold it back into its pouch and stuff it into your pocket.

  • TENT

    Just because you're roughing it this weekend doesn't mean you have to live like an animal. And don't worry if the only tent you've ever pitched was in your pants—the $129.99 Coleman 3-Person Instant Dome Tent practically pitches itself, in about one minute. The poles are already attached and it pops right up, giving you more time to fish and less time worrying about shelter. The leakproof seams and waterproof floor keep you dry even if the weather turns wet, and the 7-foot x 7-foot roomy interior is big enough for you and your girl. And one of her friends.


    Forget tangling inside one of those mummy bags. The Selk'bag is the sleeping bag you wear—and when you move, it moves. Perfect for keeping you warm in temps down to 45 degrees, their $99 4G Lite has double front zippers for easy entry, quick release hand covers, a side zip for pants pocket access, and reinforced soles for those late night walks around the campground. (You might even want to wear it to the office for when you nod off during those endless sales meetings.)


    Sure you're going camping, but that doesn't mean you've got to leave your electronics at home. But to make sure you've got power for your gadgets, you'll want to pack some gear that can provide some juice. The mophie juice pack pro Outdoor isn't just an external battery pack that doubles your iPhone's life, it's also a rugged, protective case in easy-to-spot-if-you-drop-it orange that exceeds military specs for impact, and keeps your iPhone safe from rain, sand, and dust too. And the integrated GPS capability can let you track and share your journey. (pro Outdoor for the iPhone 5 coming later this year.)

    And should you need even more power, the $149.99 Rukus Solar is a sun-powered entertainment center that can wirelessly connect to any bluetooth device to let you rock the campground for up to 8 hours on a single sun-soaked charge. You can also plug your phone or tablet into the USB port and charge it while you plan your campsite Harlem Shuffle video.


    Since your iPhone and iPad were designed for more refined environs, you need to wrap them in some protective gear when you plan on having them outdoors for a weekend. The G-Form XTREME cases are engineered with impact-absorbing Reactive Protection Technology that's so protective, while being thin and lightweight enough to take up next to no extra room in your gear pack, it can keep your iPad operational after a 100,000 foot free fall (video) and your smart phone working after taking a slap shot from a pro hockey player's stick. So it should survive that roll down the mountain you and all your gear suffered after running from the bear.


    Not all campgrounds are neatly manicured and ready for your tent. Sometimes you've got to clear a little brush before you settle down. If that's the case, you'll want to wield the $95) Backcountry Axe from SOG. Lightweight, yet powerful, at only 29-ounces, the raw forged steel head is fused to a glass-reinforced nylon handle for superior strength when chopping (or fending off wildlife), or pounding in tent stakes with the head's flat back. If that doesn't make you feel badass, backwoods man enough, hidden inside the handle is a saw with an auto-deploying hand-guard for cutting your way through whatever branches and brambles get in your way.

    When you're not landscaping your campsite, carry SOG's SEAL Revolver knife ($41.50) in your pocket. The clip point blade is finished in non-reflective black so there's no sun glints to scare off dinner, and the razor sharp edge is dual-finished with straight and serrated edges. A fold-out survival saw is included for emergencies. Hopefully not a 127-hour, Aaron Ralston emergency. (Still too soon?)