Ah, the great outdoors. A time to disconnect from social media, reconnect with nature, cook up some s’mores, see some wildlife, and get all itchy!
Yet, today’s world of camping is nothing like when you went as a kid. Thanks to technology, going out into the woods means being able to leave behind the complications of the world without abandoning its conveniences.
New Advances in Tents and Sleeping Bags
Growing up, sleeping in a tent for me meant barely having room to sit up, having to sleep uncomfortably close to a sibling, and waking up in the night fearing the noise I just heard was a bear coming to eat me.
All of these problems can be solved with today’s world of high-end tents. To start, you can buy a tent big enough to easily sleep 10 people, made up of several rooms, and even big enough for the kitchen table. Hate sleeping on the ground? Get a tent to go on-top of your car! No sleeping on rocks or sticks there. Afraid of hungry animals getting at you? There are even hard-shell tents that can discourage even the sharpest of claws.
Maybe your worst fear revolves around not being able to charge your phone while sleeping. Sure, you can walk back to your car and plug it in there, but what if it kills your car’s battery. Or worse, bandits come and steal your phone while you sleep far away from it! Don’t worry, there are also tents that come with built in solar panels. These can provide enough juice to keep all of your gadgets fully charged, and even power the noise maker for that one friend who can’t sleep without his ocean sounds, even when you are 20 feet away from a babbling brook.
Now that you know what you are going to sleep inside of, let’s talk about your bedding. Sleeping bags of today are so much more than just a fancy blanket that makes you into a human burrito. Picking the right sleeping bag can be the difference between freezing, cooking alive, or sleeping comfortably. There are sleeping bags made specifically for winter camping, others that are so lightweight you can go on long hiking trips without feeling weighed down, and even battery powered ones to regulate your sleeping temperature.
Keeping the Bugs Off
For many, including me, the constant threat of mosquitos and other bugs is the worst part about being outdoors. Bites, stings, and buzzing always surrounding your ears can ruin a fun trip, but technology can put those bugs back in their place.
Bug spray has been around for decades, and sometimes get the job done, but technology can do one better. A thermacell lantern burns chemicals that are harmless to humans but repels bugs of all kinds. After you finish setting up your camp, turn one of these on and watch the bugs run away.
Bugs, especially ones that fly, can also be a huge nuisance while eating outdoors. ShooAway spins blades, creating a gentle breeze around your food and making it harder for flies to get close to your lunch. It can’t hurt us though, as the blades don’t spin fast enough to do any damage.
A word of warning; there is no proof that mosquito-repellent apps for your phone actually work. They usually claim that they produce a sound of a natural mosquito predator to scare the bugs away, but all they will do is kill your phone’s battery. You are better off relying on more proven methods, including bug spray and chemical repellents.
Keep Everything Charged
Even if your phone doesn’t have a signal, it’s likely a key tool to your experience as a whole. Smartphones have replaced GPS trackers, cameras, flashlights, books, notepads, and more. That means keeping them fully charged and ready to go at any given notice. Nothing is scarier than getting lost in the woods only to find your phone is also dead.
A good place to start is investing in a power bank. You can get a cheap one for around $30 that can charge your phone a handful of times before needing to be recharged itself. More expensive ones can even charge a phone a dozen times alongside other electronics, like Gopros and USB flashlights.
Maybe though you are planning a long trip away from any source of electricity, but still want to keep your phone at max charge. Solar chargers can harness the power of the sun to either charge your power bank or smartphone. Just be careful where you leave them; one wrong step could lead to a broken screen or solar panel.
Clean Water for Long Trips
Where you’ll get water is always a major concern when going out, whether it’s for a day trip or a week long hike. For the short term, grabbing a few water bottles per person can cover you, but anything longer than a day and you’ll need a plan for getting more. In the old days, that meant long and boring processes to filter and purify local water to something you can drink. Old methods included boiling water (and then having to wait for it to cool down) or using a chemical tab that made it taste funky.
Filtering water from streams and lakes is much easier now though. There are straws, hand pumps, even water bottles that filter and purify the water as you drink or put it into your bottle. That means as long as you have your filter and a body of water, you’re good!
Don’t want to come home smelling like BO, smoke, and whatever you stepped in yesterday? Take a quick shower in the woods too! Shower bags let you fill up a bag with water, let it warm in the sun for a bit, step on the push pad, and you’ve got a few minutes of showering with decent water pressure. Add some soap and shampoo and that long car ride back with your friends won’t be totally terrible!
The Luxuries of Home
With tons of fun and fancy tools, any luxury from home you can’t live without can be available in the wild. Can’t go a day without coffee and can’t stomach an instant blend? A Handpresso lets you make a cup of espresso anywhere — all you need is some ground coffee. Need some popping music to keep your crew hiking hard? Weatherproof bluetooth speakers fit the bill perfectly. If there is something you can’t go without, there is bound to be an outdoor version for you. If you’ve got a strong enough battery, you could even set up a mini-projector, hook it up to your phone, and watch movies on your tent’s wall!
But maybe you can’t stand sleeping in a tent, or enjoy the outdoors in short spurts? RVs have come a long way over the years, many with high-end luxuries and filled with tech. Big screen TVs, wi-fi, a full kitchen, heaters, AC, washer and dryer, and everything else you can think of. Just be careful driving an RV, especially if it’s your first time. They don’t handle like normal cars, and many a person has seriously damaged some trees thinking they can make it through the forest.
Whether you are hardest of outdoor adventures, or prefer to interact with the wilds on your terms, tech can do a lot to improve your experience. You can stay safer, accomplish tasks quicker, and make being outside more enjoyable.