Happy Campers: What to Take When You Take Your 4x4 Camping
The word “camping” carries a broad definition. For some it’s a tent in the wilderness after a day of wheeling. For others it’s a camper in a campground. Some may even consider it a luxury RV in a RV resort. We’re not sure that last one can ever be defined as camping.
No matter how you camp, everyone has a list of what they want to bring. Some are minimalists, while others want everything including the kitchen sink. We polled members of the Four Wheeler team to see what they like to take camping when they go wheeling and here’s what they had to say makes them happy campers.
John Cappa, Editor
I travel light and I can eat beef jerky and rabbit turds for days, but I’m a wuss and I hate being cold at night. I’ve even been known to curl up in the dirt around the campfire. A proper sleeping bag is essential. Right now I have a 0-degree-rated (Fahrenheit) mummy bag and a standard down sleeping bag. If it’s a warm weather trip I’ll bring the down bag and typically sleep on top of it. If it’s sorta cold (40s-50s) I’ll bring the 0-degree mummy bag. And if it’s gonna be the kind of cold that freezes a water bottle solid overnight, I’ll bring both bags and stuff the mummy bag inside the down bag. As an added bonus, this also provides some extra padding and insulation on the hard ground.
Ali Mansour, Technical Editor
Being a very compact wheeler (little guy) has always made camping a bit easier for me. For the longest time I wheeled a small SUV (Grand Cherokee) and I would usually just fold the seats down and sleep in the back of it. I like to have an air mattress, inexpensive camping bag, REI hiking pillow, and at least one heavy jacket. If I can’t sleep inside of the vehicle, I will grab a cheap tent from Wal-Mart. I just can’t bring myself to buy a really nice tent. I’m a grumpy guy when I am hungry, so I always carry trail food (peanuts, beanie weenies, PowerBars, etc.). Oh, and I probably carry more water than anyone I know, but I’ve been dehydrated and had a few vehicle fires, so yeah….
I usually laugh at how much junk people bring with them on camping trips. Maybe I don’t go on enough overland adventures, but I rarely find that I need a stove top or portable shower to have a great camping trip. You would be surprised how clean you can get from a few baby wipes and how well your engine bay can double as an oven.
The most important thing I can have with me camping is ear plugs. Nearly everyone I wheel/camp with snores (some sound like they are getting dry-humped by a teenage bear). I can deal with cold, sleeping in the front seat, and even the occasional wet weather camping, but I hate listening to snoring all night long.
Ken Brubaker, Senior Editor
The older I get the more I want to be comfortable when camping. Point and laugh if you want, I don’t care. My body is aging and sleeping on cold, hard ground, in the open, is a recipe for the ol’ bod to revolt. Anyway, recreational camping is supposed to be fun. Being sore and uncomfortable is not fun. That said, I’ve found that being comfortable doesn’t require a lot of stuff. I pack along my 10x8 Coleman Sundome tent, which I’ve had for years. It has ample room to move around and it keeps our Midwest mosquitoes and flies away so they’re not in my nose or ears while I sleep. It also keeps rain and dew off me and my sleeping bag. And speaking of sleeping bags, I have two Coleman Colossal bags zipped together so I have room to thrash around when dreaming of fighting off cello-playing rabid hedgehogs (it’s a recurring dream). I also have a Coleman double-high air mattress, which I can’t say enough about, so I won’t. When it comes to camp food, I like my food warm. Hence, I carry my small Weber propane Go-Anywhere grille. In minutes I can be cooking grub and I don’t have to fiddle with firewood and all that. My gear fits in the back of a 4x4 quite nicely and doesn’t take up much room.
Agustin Jiminez, Associate Online Editor
I’m really bad when it comes to camping. I’m usually ill prepared for most situations and end up freezing my butt off, usually on top of someone’s empty trailer after a few cold ones or near the campfire next to Cappa who’ll insist on telling me what my problem is and why I’m wrong. And he’s totally right, but regardless, I’ll never admit that to him! I’ve gotten better at camping recently and have been sleeping out of my truck on weekend trips. I’ve gotta say—it’s much nicer sleeping in on lazy mornings inside of my mildly warm truck than waking up at the crack of dawn to fireworks going off near my sleeping bag. That one really blew! If I had to boil it down to one thing, though, I’d say tools! Without fail, I inevitably end up fixing broken trucks on camping trips so I tend to always pack a killer set of tools with me. Camping is only fun if you can drive back home when the weekend is over.
David Hamilton, Media Executive
I look forward to an icy cold beverage after a long day on the trail, but old-fashioned coolers can only keep them frosty for so long. That’s why I don’t leave home without my plug-in portable refrigerator, such as an ARB Freezer Fridge. The beauty of the portable fridge is you can store your food in the same ice chest as your drinks and not end up with a slushy mess in your cooler when you arrive to camp. The drinks stay cold and the refrigerated food remains fresh all weekend long. Ah, “glamping” at its finest!
Mary Hamilton, aka “David’s Boss”
The most important thing I pack for a camp trip is my “bug-out box.” It’s a 36x18x8-inch Rubbermaid tote packed full of stuff I may need. Thirsty? Boil some water in a camp cup with the WhisperLite burner. Hungry? Catch some fish with the tackle pack or snap into a Slim Jim. Cold? Make a fire with the strike-anywhere matches and chop some wood with the hatchet. Or, crack open a hand warmer pack and wrap up in the emergency blanket (you know, the ones that look like aluminum foil). Sleepy? Tie up the hammock and tarp shelter complete with 20 feet of rope. When nature calls, take a hike with the folding shovel and TP. Scared of the dark? Grab the headlamp or small lantern or LED flashlights; spare batteries are packed, too. Other essential items include a Leatherman, zip ties, duct tape, a first aid kit, and baby wipes. I won’t leave home without this box, not even for a trail ride. But if you just want to hear about a single item, my rooftop tent is the one.
The tent is literally weatherproof. It has withstood the windstorms of Truckhaven near Anza Borrego, California. It kept us dry after 2-plus inches of rain in a severe thunderstorm near Yosemite. It kept us warm (enough) when temperatures dropped to 17 degrees in Johnson Valley. Most importantly, the foam mattress has never deflated in the middle of the night like the air mattress always seems to do.