Between all the Christmas trees, bonfires, hiking weather, and emphasis on getting outdoors, this is the perfect season to give camping gear. And thanks to the merger of high tech and hip design with solid outdoor products, today’s best camping gear makes it easier to hit the road more quickly, and spend both days and nights more comfortably, than ever before. Whether you’re looking for the perfect surprise for a backcountry athlete or a backyard first timer, these top-notch camping products will help your friends and family answer the call of the wild.
More Gift Guides: Outdoor Life’s Holiday Gift Guide
Nemo Aurora Tent
Nemo Aurora Three-person Tent • Price: $300 Nemo
This tent bridges the gap between a true backpacking shelter and a tent large and well-appointed enough for a car camping adventure for two. Packed, it weighs a hair over six-and-a-half pounds, light enough to haul to the middle of nowhere. There are tons of mesh in the walls for ventilation, and in the three-person layout, ample room inside for two people to bring in extra gear. But on the luxury end of the scale is a pre-bent pole design that gives you near-vertical walls for maximum usable interior space, plus two full doors and double vestibules. That’s a lot of crossover power for a tent that won’t break the bank.—T. Edward Nickens
Kelty Cosmic 20 Sleeping Bag
Kelty Cosmic 20 Sleeping Bag • Price: $150 to $190 Kelty
Kelty’s target audience might be all over the map, with a super wide range of price points and build quality, but this sleeping bag is on point: a high-quality mummy bag for solid 3-season 20-degree comfort for less than $200. Some of those savings are in the 600-fill down, which doesn’t have quite the insulating value of 800-fill. But Kelty kicks it up with hydrophobic Dri-Down, which isn’t nearly as finicky about moisture, and some solid design upgrades such as an interior stash pocket and a soft nylon taffeta lining. Add an aftermarket compression sack and this is a winner. —T.E.N.
Camp Chef Tahoe Burner Grill
Camp Chef Tahoe Deluxe Three Burner Grill • Price: $270 Camp Chef
No, this won’t fit on someone’s truck tailgate or a picnic table. If you know someone that’s looking to cook for a crowd, however, this is a one-stop stovetop. It’ll pump out enough BTUs for a full-scale crawfish boil for the extended family, but still simmer down to fry a sunny-side-up egg for one. With three burners, anyone can channel their inner Iron Chef, and the Tahoe is compatible with Camp Chef’s wide array of accessories—pizza oven, grill box, griddles, and more. It’s built like a tank, and it all folds down—burners, wind screen, legs—into a surprisingly stashable bundle. —T.E.N.
Toadfish Stowaway Cutting Board
Toadfish Stowaway Cutting Board • Price: $48 Toadfish
No more slicing tomatoes on the tailgate grimed with mud from the dog or sliming the cooler top with a limit of fish. This full-size 12-inch by 16-inch cutting board folds down into a 3-inch-wide bundle. It locks up solid when extended, and non-slip rubber feet keep it from sliding all over the place. There’s even a built-in 2-stage carbide and ceramic knife sharpener. Simple. Brilliant. And awesome surprise gift for both campers and boaters.—T.E.N.
Luci Solar String Lights
Luci Solar String Lights • Price: $40 Luci
I’m a huge fan of Luci’s compact solar-powered expandable camp lanterns, so I had high hopes for their string lights. Expectations met: I may never camp without them. You get 10 LED light nodes strung along an 18-foot cord, which all packs inside an expandable housing that’s outfitted with both solar panels and a USB port for recharging. The lights are IPX4 waterproof and burn in 4 modes. On low, you’ll get 20 hours of mood-setting warm lighting. On high, you’ll have 5 hours of solid light for camp chores. On any power setting, the cool factor of your campsite will go through the roof. The Solar String Lights come in both a standard white LED lineup and a new hip mulitcolored array.—T.E.N.
SylvanSport Dine-O-Max • Price: $350 SylvanSport
I don’t know how people function at a campsite if they don’t have a truck tailgate. And even with my tailgate, I run out of counter space for stoves, cutting boards, pots, pans, and cocktail glasses. Those days are over. The Dine-O-Max comes with a solid bamboo countertop, removable windscreen, storage pockets, and four large storage cubbies for pots, pans, and other cooking gear. It’s built for serious outdoor use, with leveling feet to keep the pots from boiling over and robust locking aluminum frame. It all folds down and zips into a solid carry case for easy stashing.—T.E.N.
FrontRunner Cutlery Set • Price: $70 FrontRunner
Part of the challenge of camping is simply keeping up with all the gear, and keeping it all together so packing for a quick weekend in the woods isn’t such a hassle. FrontRunners all-in-one 24-piece kitchen tool roll solves both issues. There’s everything you could need for both cooking and serving for a foursome: complete utensil place settings but larger knives, spoons, spatula, campfire fork, and even a chopping board. The utensils have riveted handles, and they’re built to last. It all rolls up in a quality tool-style roll with hanging loops that keeps everything together and in its place. Just grab and go, and the going is definitely easier with this set.—T.E.N.
Nomad Portable Grill
Nomad Portable grill • Price: $600 Nomad
With the Nomad you can BYO fire to any outdoor party—beach, river, campground, or deer camp. This cast aluminum grill/smoker is built with heavy-duty vent sliders for fine-touch temperature control, and a self-sealing lid and quality thermometer that helps make even long-term smoking an option. It’s a bit on the heavy and bulky side for boat and raft use—workable, but definitely something to plan around—but the plus is that it’s probably strong enough that a truck could run up on top of this thing if someone needed a lift to patch a cracked oil pan. And there’s some sort of patent pending architectural multi-layer construction that I don’t understand, but it allows someone to set a smoking hot grill on a tailgate, so that’s all I need to know. It’s definitely in the buy-once-use-forever category, but with 425 square inches of cooktop space (with the optional extra grill top) it’s large enough to sear 30 burgers at a time.—T.E.N.
Field Company #8 Cast-Iron Skillet
Field Company #8 Cast-Iron Skillet • Price: $125 Field Company
I’m a sucker for heritage gear. I was The Last Man Standing in favor of white-gas lanterns versus propane models. And I figured I could stand strong against the oncoming wave of new, easier-to-use cast-iron cookware. But my feet were of clay. I’m all in. Compared to traditional cast-iron pans casted in molds, the machined and polished interior is much smoother. That makes it easier to cook with out of the box, and these pans excel at frying fish as the skin and fillets don’t have a pebbly surface to grab on to. The Field Company skillets are lighter than traditional brands, which definitely makes them more camp friendly. And they’re constructed with at least 75 percent recycled iron. I’m not putting all my Lodge pans on Craigslist. But a few of these Field skillets are headed for heritage status in my camp cooking kit.—T.E.N.
Matador 4Monster Hiking Daypack
Matador 4Monster Hiking Daypack • Price: $17 to $23 Matador
I discovered Matador products not too long ago while traveling down an Amazon.com wormhole looking for an emergency pack blanket. What I discovered was an amazing piece of fabric that downsized into a pouch the size of my palm. But this past year the brand turned my head again with their series of backpacks that like the blanket, pack down to something that fits into my coat pocket. It’s the ideal solution for anyone that’s got an itch for a road trip but isn’t quite sure what they’ll do when they arrive at their destination, or how they’ll carry things like snacks, smartphones, an extra clothing layer, or whatever they might need while they’re out and about. Not only are these shoulder satchels lightweight and compact, the material is water and tear resistant and there are plenty of zippered pockets and pouches for impromptu treks downtown or on a trail. But be ready to buy more than one. After my son saw mine, he asked for his own, which he now uses as his daily school backpack.—Ben Romans
OtterBox Elevation Tumbler Mug
OtterBox Elevation Tumbler Mug • Price: $25 OtterBox
Camping and warm beverages go hand in hand. Whether your poison is coffee, hot chocolate, tea, or maybe even a warm “adult” blend like cider and spiced rum, the best way to stay comfortable on those chilly nights and mornings is to heat the body from the inside out. To prevent drinks from cooling, you and everyone else in your camp need a mug built to keep hot drink hot, and the OtterBox’s Elevation Tumbler does just that. Made of 100 percent stainless steel, there’s an internal copper ring that keeps contents at an ideal temperature, and the outer coating doesn’t sweat or leave rings on countertops. A leak-proof lid is included and it’s available in five different colors so you can assign one to each person in camp for the duration of your adventure, which helps cut down on dish duty.
Coleman Dome Tent with Screen Room
Coleman Dome Tent with Screen Room • Price: $140 Coleman
In recent years, it’s become more difficult to sneak away with my boys on a quick, two-night turnaround camping trip. School, sporting events, and other obligations seem to be soaking up the vast majority of their Friday’s, Saturdays, and Sundays. Thankfully, we’ve been able to adapt by overnighting in the backyard—and it’s a blast! I don’t have to haul gear all over Hell’s half acre, the “outhouse” conditions are five-star, and if the weather turns rotten, we don’t have to suffer through it. We’ve also discovered a big tent, like Coleman’s Dome Tent, makes a big difference. It’s easy to erect and take down, there’s enough room inside for us to move around our cots, and the cost didn’t burn through my gear budget. If there’s someone in your family looking for a solid car-camping shelter, or a kid just begging for more time under the stars, the Coleman Dome tent is a terrific option.
Campfire Defender Protect Preserve Pop-Up Fire Pit
Campfire Defender Protect Preserve Pop-Up Fire Pit • Price: $120 Campfire Defender Protect Preserve
Now that you’ve got someone all set with their next best backyard camping tent, help complete the scene with a roaring campfire. No, I don’t mean gifting them a crate of river rocks to create a fire ring. Instead, help them practice the fine art of “leave no trace” camping with a portable Pop-Up Fire Pit from Campfire Defender. This table-like device contains the hot coals and burning wood off the ground so when you’re finished and the ashes are cool, you can easily clean up and nobody would ever know marshmallows were roasting the night before. Made from rust-proof materials, it weighs only eight pounds, takes just one minute to set up, has a 576-square inch firepan that can support up to 125 pounds of wood, and packs down into a pouch that’s smaller than a common collapsible camp chair. The heat shield protects anything under the pit from becoming too warm or damaged, and the entire setup meets the specs for BLM and U.S. Forest Service approved fire pans, which are often required in designated leave-no-trace areas.
Kid-O-Bunk with Organizers
>Kid-O-Bunk with Organizers • Price: $350 Disc-O-Bed
One of the great things about being a dad is the chance to relive experiences through a kid’s eyes, especially when it comes to things like hunting, fishing, and camping. But I have to say, the gear young people have at their disposal these days does make me want to be 10 years old again. The Kid-O-Bunk is a perfect example. The manufacturer, Disc-O-Bed, has made a name for itself in recent years by creating modular bunk-bed systems with frames that “cradle” heavy-duty cots. The beds are easy to assemble (no tools required), each have a 200-pound weight capacity, and because one cradles atop the other, it frees up all sorts of tent space (though someone can use the cots separately if need be). The steel frame is powder coated so it won’t rust, and each bed includes an organizer to keep things like flashlights, books, water bottles, or anything else a kid might need at night right at their side. The entire setup weighs just over 36 pounds and when it’s not bedtime, the cots can reconfigure into a sitting bench. It’s just a terrific arrangement for kids, even when someone (like grandma) decides not to camp and invites kids over for sleepovers instead.
GoPro Max Waterproof 360-degree Camera
GoPro Max Waterproof 360-degree Camera • Price: $500 GoPro
There’s no question GoPro practically invented the action camera market and it continues to unveil innovative products year after year, but this year’s release, the new Max camera, could honestly revolutionize the way someone captures, edits, and produces footage of their outdoor adventures. What makes it so special? The Max combines a single lens HERO camera with a 360-degree lens so it records everything around it—not just what’s in front of the lens like a traditional camera—which opens up all sorts of possibilities in the editing phase. What’s more, the camera is waterproof, can record in an amazingly high 5.6K resolution, it has four different digital lens options, a rock-solid stabilization setting, and it includes six microphones to capture 360-degree sound that matches the video. I was able to use a Max during a recent fishing trip and have to say that while the video and audio quality was bright and clear, the ability to pan, zoom, and transition to different points anywhere within a single scene was nothing short of amazing. While it carries a hefty price tag, the Max can open up an entire new world to any adventurer with even moderate video editing skills. Finally, if you gift a Max to someone with even a hint of video talent, don’t forget to tell them about GoPro’s Million Dollar Challenge, which ends January 12, 2020.
Pelican Elite Backpack Cooler
Pelican Elite Backpack Cooler • Price: $250 Pelican
I’m a big fan of camping gear that’s able to tackle two (or more) tasks at once. The Elite Backpack from Pelican is certainly one of those products. The upper half is a 13-liter roll-top dry bag, and the bottom is a leakproof, zippered cooler, large enough to carry several cold beverages and snacks. There are also additional outer pockets, caribiner loops, carry handles if you don’t want to double-shoulder it, and cinch straps to tighten down any load. Constructed from a double-coated, puncture-resistant material, this backpack-cooler combo is built to withstand anything you throw at it, but still light enough that it’s not a burden to carry. If you or someone else camp near or around water—likely with a beach or place to swim nearby—the Pelican Elite can certainly free up hands for carrying other stuff, and when you get there, enjoy a frosty beverage from the cooler.
prAna Women’s Charley Top
prAna Women’s Charley Top • Price: $89 prAna
When my wife and I began dating, I didn’t put much thought into the camping attire I gifted her during the holidays or the rare occasions I remembered her birthday. Apparently my logic of, “If heavyweight wool bibs work for me, then she’s going to love this pair that’s on sale and two sizes too large,” wasn’t as spot on as I thought it was. I’ve since learned creature comforts, like comfortable, warm clothing, fitted for females, is a gift she’s much rather receive. The Charley Top from prAna is exactly that. The company took the basic flannel-shirt elements people love, like soft, warm fabric, and modified the cut so it fits the female form. Translation: no more buying your wife or girlfriend flannels in men’s sizes and hoping it fits. In addition to being an extremely comfortable flannel (her words, not mine), this shirt has side seam welded pockets, powder-coated snap buttons, and is made from 100% organic cotton. Trust me, don’t make the same wool-bib mistake I did—go with prAna flannel and she’ll thank you for the next 20 years, rather than remind you what remains on her closet shelf.
Grundéns Women’s Maris Hoodie
Grundéns Women’s Maris Hoodie • Price: $55 to $65 Grundéns
If you can’t wear a flannel in camp, the next best thing is a hooded sweatshirt, and thanks to Grundéns, there are some hoodies fitted especially for females. The Maris Fishing Hoodie is a warm, breathable, 4-way stretch polyester fleece sweatshirt that’s comfortable and soft against skin. Grundéns says the high neck drop hood and cut is intended to fit well under bibs or rain gear, though it works just as well as an insulating layer. There are zippered front pouches to keep smartphones and keys from falling into the water and thumb loops on both cuffs to keep hands warm. This sweatshirt is also a product of Grundéns relationship with the famed Salmon Sisters, so there is an anchor print on one arm, and a leather Salmon Sisters patch on the other. All that said, someone doesn’t have to be camping to enjoy this sweatshirt. It’s warm, comfortable, and ideal for everyday activities.
TrueWerk T2 Work Pants
TrueWerk T2 Work Pants • Price: $80 TrueWerk
Just as there’s something to be said for proper-fitting women’s flannels, there’s also something to be said for a good pair of men’s camp pants. A reliable pair needs to be tough enough to repel the scratchers and stickers in the woods, durable enough to make it through countless camp chores, and yet comfortable and stretchable enough that someone wishes they could wear them every day to work. The T2 Work Pants from TrueWerk are exactly that type of pant and perfect if there’s someone in your family or camping group that likes to tackle tasks like an outfitter. Inspired by military personnel and mountain guides, the pants have a gusseted crotch, articulated knees, seven pockets, double-stitched seams, oversized belt and suspender loops, riveted pocket corners, and it’s all coated with a water-repelling treatment. I highly advise getting a pair for a camper in your life, and then a pair for yourself.
LuminAID PackLite Hero 2-in-1 Supercharger Light
LuminAID PackLite Hero 2-in-1 Supercharger Light • Price: $70 LuminAID
I apologize, I know I’ve already said, it, but I love gear that’s able to tackle two or more tasks at once. The PackLite from LuminAID reworked the idea of what a stereotypical camp lantern can be by not only replacing the fuel with solar-rechargeable batteries and the common string-tie mantle with 300 lumen LED lights, but by also including a 5V rechargeable port (for smartphones), and an adjustable carry handle. If that wasn’t enough, it’s all contained in a waterproof, shatterproof, heavy-duty case. It’s a bright, economical, environmentally friendly way to illuminate the inside of a tent (without any harmful fumes), act as the lightning-bug HQ beacon for kids fanning out to chase fireflies, or make it easier to read your buddy’s worst poker face while playing cards atop a cooler near a campfire.
Jiminy’s Original Cricket Dog Treats
Jiminy’s Original Cricket Dog Treats • Price: $10 Jiminy’s
I know listing dog treats on a camping gift guide seems odd, but as a first-time dog owner with barely a year of experience under my belt, I already see the value of having the latest addition to the family with us off the grid. Once we’re in camp, I continue routines like rewarding treats for good behavior (ie: chewing up grandpa’s hunting socks). For that, someone turned me on to Jiminy’s Original Cricket Dog Treats. Our dog loves them, and I recommend stuffing a pack or two down any dog’s stocking. Each little nibble includes organic, wholesome ingredients like peas, oats, potatoes, and of course, the main protein ingredient—crickets. Not only are those boisterous insects good for singing me to sleep at night in the summer, they’re extremely nutritious, and a sustainable, renewable (and largely untapped) resource. If you’re a dog owner with a separate stocking for your pooch, or know someone who hangs one on the mantle, these nuggets are available in several flavors, extremely nutritious, and delicious—trust me, I sampled the merchandise.
Camp Chef Stryker 100 Isobutane Stove
Camp Chef Stryker 100 Isobutane Stove • Price: $90 Camp Chef
If you can’t have an officially designated camp chef in your group, then the next best thing is having Camp Chef cookware at your disposal. For that, any number of the company’s two-burner stoves or grills are great in base camp, but if you and your family or friends prefer to hunt and sleep amongst the animals, then a bivy-style boiler like the MS200 Stryker will serve someone well. Able to burn either propane or isobutane fuel, it has a matchless ignition switch and can boil ½ a liter of water in under two minutes—perfect if you’re eating a freeze-dried dinner. A 1.3-liter pot, stove, and lid is included in the set, which weighs shy of two pounds—perfect if someone is worried about pack weight. Costing less than other stove/pot combos on the market, it’s a great gift idea for backcountry hunters and anglers, especially if you’re counting on them to prepare dinner the next time you’re all off the grid.
CRKT Black Woods Chogan Tomahawk Axe
CRKT Black Woods Chogan Tomahawk Axe • Price: $70 CRKT
One of the items in my collection of camping gear that I treasure most is my hatchet. My dad bought it when he was in high school decades ago, and when I moved west after high school, I took it with me, and I continue to use it for all sorts of small camp chores. If you’re looking for a similar family heirloom to pass down, the CRKT Black Woods Chogan Tomahawk should be at the top of your list. Designed by Ryan Johnson of RMJ Tactical in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the head is 1055 carbon steel with a black magnesium phosphate coating to resist corrosion. The Tennessee hickory wood handle is slightly burnt, just for overall aesthetics, and at 19-inches long, is suitable for one- or two-hand control. The edge of the blade is extremely sharp and suited for cutting kindling, notching logs, or other tasks, and the hammer head can drive tent stakes into the toughest ground. Replete with a dark leather sheath, this hammer/axe combo just looks mean and makes for a treasured gift to anyone that appreciates traditional tools in camp.