Determining the best camping gear goes beyond flashy colors and a cool design. The equipment should be made of high-quality materials that are tested, certified, and appropriate to your particular use.
The saying, "you get what you pay for," applies to many areas in life, and recreating in the great outdoors is no exception. Typically, quality comes with a bigger price tag. Durable materials, exhaustive testing, and certified ratings all factor into the pricing. But when it comes to safety and comfort in the mountains, having the best camping gear is worth the additional cost. Further, quality gear is part of being adequately prepared for your trip.
I'm reminded of a camping trip that I took my family on in northeastern Washington. With comfortable daytime temperatures in the 70s, it's one of my favorite areas of the state in the Fall. But by the third week of September, nighttime temps are already dropping into the teens and lower.
Armed with a few cheap old-school foam sleeping pads, cotton blankets from home, and sleeping bags with no apparent rating, the teeth chattering began just a couple of hours after we went to bed. In the middle of the night and pre-hypothermic, my wife and I realized that our then-5-year old son was nearly blue and shivering up a storm.
So, we grabbed him and stuck him in-between us, layering blankets and sleeping bags under and over us. Relying on our combined body heat, the big fabric sandwich we made with chunks of low-grade foam under us, we managed to make it through that first night. But it wasn’t pretty!
Lesson? Don't short-cut where it counts with cheap camping gear. These days, I opt for high-quality products that have certifications like R-values, a guaranteed level of fill, temperature ratings, and such. In addition, these products have been tested under protocols and standards set by organizations such as ASTM International.
I engage in outdoor activities all year long, so gear rated for specific seasons and use is particularly important.
Whether you are car camping or spending extended time in the backcountry of a National Park, quality camping gear rarely steers you wrong. Read on for examples of high-quality equipment that rises above the rest.
Pelican Rugged Sleeping Pad
Memory foam isn't just for premium bed mattresses anymore. It has also found its way into the great outdoors - in the form of camping gear! With a memory foam core and outer shell made of waterproof 190T-PVC, the Pelican Rugged Sleeping Pad from Pelican Outdoor provides ultra-comfort and won't absorb moisture. It is a top contender for anyone's essential camping gear arsenal.
Comfort in the mountains is important. So, in addition to the memory foam core, perhaps the most critical feature of the Rugged Sleeping Pad is the R-value rating. The R-value measures the level of insulation, which can help you decide the appropriate sleeping pad for your intended camping conditions.
The Rugged Sleeping Pad rates at a whopping 5.2! This is significant because your sleeping pad needs to have a rating of at least 5.0 to keep you comfortable in freezing temps. Further, the sleeping pad is only one part of a "sleeping system." For instance, if you have a 0-degree sleeping bag, that temperature rating has a better chance of living up to its rating if the sleeping pad's R-value is 5.0 or greater.
With an appropriately rated sleeping bag and proper mountain sleepwear, the Rugged Sleeping Pad will get you through the coldest of nights in the high country. You can also use the sleeping pad in warmer temps without worrying about overheating.
The well-insulated Rugged Sleeping Pad measures 75 1/2" x 38 1/2" x 5 1/4" and features an integrated inflatable pillow and side-arm rests for maximum security and comfort.
The Pelican Rugged Outdoor Sleeping Pad is an essential piece of camping gear you always want in your pack or truck!
Pelican Civilian Woobie Blanket
Where the term "woobie" came from is uncertain and up for speculation. Some even claim that it came from the movie Mr. Mom, starring Michael Keaton.
One thing is for sure, what started as a Vietnam War-era poncho liner, is often fondly remembered by decades worth of veterans.
Civilians can now reap the benefits of this corps-trusted blanket, whether hunting, camping, or just enjoying a ball game at the stadium in cooler weather. Pelican Outdoor offers our take on the classic battlefield blanket.
A "woobie" should be made warm and tough. So, the Pelican Civilian Woobie Blanket features a rugged ripstop nylon shell with a white duck down, 600 fill power interior.
Fill power measures the loft (quality) of the down, and high-quality down items are typically rated at 550 and higher.
According to Triple F.A.T. Goose, a longstanding down jacket manufacturer, lower quality down items are made with immature duck or geese feathers, which only provide smaller clusters of feathers. These products range between 400 and 500 fill power.
Not the case with the Pelican Civilian Woobie Blanket! Packed with 600 fill power down, our woobie blanket is as toasty as it is durable. However, as is the case with down, it clumps and loses its loft when it gets wet. To combat this, we've treated the tough nylon shell with durable water repellent (DWR). The DWR coating will provide resistance to moisture under normal weather conditions.
Fasten the Pelican Civilian Woobie Blanket to your sleeping bag with the side buttons, or snap it together when you wear it around camp. It also comes with an integrated pouch that the woobie packs right into.
If you haven't thought about a “camp blanket” before, consider adding the Pelican Civilian Woobie Blanket to your gear. Use it for sitting around the fire pit or for getting a good night's sleep by pairing it with the Rugged Sleeping Pad for unparalleled warmth and comfort.
Pelican Multi-Use Towel With Carry Case
A towel may not seem like a critical piece of camping gear when you're putting together your checklist of items. But in the mountains, the little things can be the big things.
I usually throw a bath towel into my hunting gear when I go on an extended trip. For the last several years, I have become dependent on having one at camp. But those are heavy and take up a lot of precious room.
If you’re like me and go the bath towel route; you should pick up the Pelican Multi-Use Towel. After using the microfiber towel on a recent deer hunting trip, I know I'm convinced and will be using one on camping and hunting trips going forward.
For one, the Pelican Multi-Use Towel comes in a compact rubberized, breathable carry case that I roughly measured at 4" x 5 1/2" x 2 3/4". The towel is highly packable with a carabiner clip for easy attachment. If you need to pare down for weight or room, you can also ditch the case. The towel weighs just a touch over a half-pound and measures 29 1/2" x 29 1/2" x 0.38" fully unfolded.
Many microfiber towels have such terrible absorbency that you can't even dry your hands. However, the Pelican Multi-Use Towel rises above the rest with its ultra-thin design and crazy absorbency. In fact, the superfine microfiber holds up to seven times its weight in water!
You will actually feel the water drying off you, as if using a regular towel, instead of just smearing it around your skin.
The Pelican Multi-Use Towel is great for drying off after washing in a backcountry stream, cleaning off gear, or cooling off after strenuous hikes.
Pelican Long Gun and Gear Wraps
Sure, you've seen soft cases and similar types of travel protection. But I bet you've never seen a gun or gear wrap! Innovative and highly functional, the Pelican Long Gun Wrap and Pelican Gear Wraps provide superior protection to rifles, shotguns, laptops, tablets, cameras, and anything else that needs extra padding.
The wraps’ three-layer construction screams quality and durability. Whatever you put in your wrap, you'll feel confident knowing that the smooth 210D nylon inner will keep finishes and screens scratch-free. All wraps feature 210D nylon interior, closed-cell foam padding, and high strength soft plush exterior to keep tech, equipment, and firearms safe.
They are perfect for getting gear to your campsite undamaged.
Pelican Long Gun Wrap
With soft rifle cases, it is obvious what you have inside. The Pelican Long Gun wrap eliminates the obvious shape and provides a discreet method of transporting your firearms. Not to mention, when you're ready to hit the field, you can deploy it very quickly without the struggle of finicky zippers.
Measuring 60" corner-to-corner, it will fit carbines and any rifle or shotgun up to 60" in total length. The high-stretch hook and loop tabs secure your firearm once it is wrapped. There's a bonus too. Completely unfold the Pelican Long Gun Wrap and use it as a shooting pad!
Pelican Gear Wraps
Available in small and large sizes, Pelican Gear Wraps will accommodate anything from helmets to binoculars.
Much like the Pelican Long Gun Wrap, Pelican Gear Wraps protect while also hiding the shape of their contents. Safely transport the items that mean the most to you by placing them on the center pad and folding the corners in. No one will ever know what's inside.
Pelican Field Pack
If you plan on doing some short hikes on your camping trip, make sure to bring along a quality daypack. How will you know if it's a quality pack or not? First, take a look at the design and materials it’s made of.
Excellent craftsmanship should be apparent. For example, the Pelican Field Pack is made from classic 1000D Cordura® Nylon fabric, and Cordura has been in the specialized fabrics game a long time - since 1967. Their advanced materials are used in military packs, boots, and countless civilian applications.
Strong zippers, reinforced stitching in key stress areas, and water resistance are other hallmarks of a quality pack.
The Pelican Field Pack has these things and more! Weighing in at under a pound, it is water bladder ready and features climbing grade rope straps along with a tri-zip system for easily accessing items. Another convenient feature is the dual lash points that provide attachment areas for various external accessories.
If you're looking for a super solid lightweight day bag, strap the Pelican Field Pack to your back on your next outing. It will last you for years to come!
Determining the best camping gear doesn’t have to be difficult. It just comes down to knowing what to look for. Some equipment looks good but may fail after a couple of trips. Or maybe it doesn’t function as you need it to in the environment you’re in.
Look for good craftsmanship in the materials, stitching, and reinforcement in areas subjected to higher stresses. Testing standards that result in ratings and certifications regarding temperature, water resistance, and durability of materials will help guide you to the right gear.
Pelican Outdoor offers the kind of equipment you’re looking for and prides itself on designing premium quality outdoor gear. As we like to say, “be your most active, bold self while keeping yourself and all of your equipment as protected as possible with the Pelican Outdoor line.”
We think you’ll see the difference for yourself!
Can I rely on just the R-Value to compare sleeping pads?
An R-value is an important piece of information but should not be used solely to decide on a sleeping pad. Other factors to consider along with sleeping pad R-values: your shelter, the temperature rating of your sleeping bag, and the clothing you wear to bed, as these things are part of your whole sleep system. Ideally, you already know how warm/cold you sleep and the R-value of your current pad so that you have a baseline.
What's a camping “sleep system”?
A “sleep system” consists of all the components used for sleeping comfortably in camp. Usually, consisting of a sleeping pad, sleeping bag, pillow, and base layer clothing, they work together for one primary purpose. Combinations of sleep systems components can be mixed and matched to adjust for expected temperatures and climate conditions.
How do I know if my camping gear is tested to standard?
Most quality textiles are subjected to testing under organizations such as ISO, ASTM, AATCC, and more. Sometimes it's explicitly stated in the manufacturer specs; other times, the information can be found by researching the material type (1000D Cordura®, for example). It’s important to note that these organizations develop testing standards to ensure quality and reliability. They are not governing bodies that create manufacturing laws.