My Favorite Camping Gadgets

Distinguishing between nice-to-have, incredibly useful, and totally useless camping gadgets can be tough. You don’t know what you don’t know, sometimes!

Here are a few gadgets I have found to be super useful.

Coal Chimney Starter

A coal chimney is a simple device where you stuff kindling (newspaper works great) into the bottom of the chimney. You then dump as much coal into the top of the chimney as you want to burn. It might take a couple of tries and a bit more newspaper to get the coals going, but it is far easier than messing with lighter fluid and lighting the coals in place.

After ~15-20 minutes, the coals should be burning and exhibiting some of the white, glowing coals that are awesome for cooking. If you are planning on cooking in the firepit (make sure your park doesn’t have restrictions on burning coal briquettes), then a chimney is incredibly valuable.

These are a commodity, so it likely won’t matter which one you will buy. Here is a link to a well-rated coal chimney starter on Amazon.

Some Quick Tips:

  • Ensure you don’t start burning the paper kindling when you have food out… the paper ashes can gets everywhere and will fly into your food
  • Ensure you have enough airflow. I like to sometimes pack the paper in tight enough so that I can lift the chimney while I’m lighting it to get as much air in as possible to get a quick light.

Pocket Bellows

So, inside every man is the subtle belief that they are the most rugged, adventurous, and adept campfire pyrotechnic genius man alive.

The reality is that sometimes we can spend 30-45 minutes to light a fire when we were thinking it would have only taken 5.

An extremely nifty, and very effective tool is the pocket bellows.

The Pocket Bellows focuses the air from your mouth to the fire. This does two things. First, it creates a constant stream of oxygen to your fire material which is pivotal to getting a fire started. Second, it keeps your face out of the fire, which is a much more pleasant fire-starting experience.

You don’t have to turn in your man card. You are still, technically, starting the fire without using starter fluid or gasoline, so it still counts.

Battery-powered Fan

I would have scoffed at the idea of bringing a battery-powered fan camping 10 years ago. My perspective has changed over the years. Actually, it might have changed in one night of sleeping in higher than 80 degrees Fahrenheit weather.

Having a fan you can put in your tent makes the heat bearable. It’s completely worth it if you are car camping in hot weather, and I can’t recommend it enough.

There are tons of different offerings for portable fans, and we opted for one we could buy at Walmart, similar to this one: O2COOL 10-inch fan

This is one I wish we’d gotten, since it can be recharged and doesn’t need those huge D batteries. OPOLAR Battery Operated Rechargable Desk Fan for Home Camping Hurricane

How big of a fan do I need?

Honestly, the bigger the fan, the better, as it can move more air. 10 inches for a fan was good for us since it is relatively portable but still was able to cool us down while we sleep in really hot weather.

Cottonelle Wipes

This isn’t really a gadget, per se, but I felt I owed to the world to mention it. We love our Cottonelle wipes enough that we bought a subscription. They haven’t caused a problem in our sewer system at home (although some report they have had problems) for the few years that we’ve used them. That’s your own choice if you want to use them at home, but these wipes are awesome for car camping.

In fact we took them on a backpacking trip, and though it was extra weight, it is is just so nice to be able to wash your body especially in the sensitive regions.

They’re great for washing hands, your body if you need to, and for going to the bathroom, especially when you’re faced with toilets with no toilet paper, or even if you are in the back-country. Make sure you follow all Leave No Trace guidelines on this subject if you need to go #2 in the woods.

Platypus 4-liter Gravity Water Filter

I just purchased an awesome water filter. I have always loathed filtering water because of how much effort it takes–but this water filter takes out much of the work out, and makes gravity do it.

Check the price on Amazon.

Before you start feeling sorry for gravity, remember that gravity makes us drop our phones and our pizzas, so we shouldn’t get too upset about it.

The filter comes with two reservoirs (plastic bags essentially). One made for the dirty water, and one for the filtered water. The dirty water is just held above the clean water reservoir, and gravity does the rest.

This is so much better than sucking water through a straw to get enough water to drink, and is so much better than laboriously pumping to get enough to drink. The trip I went on recently, we had someone with a Lifestraw, and we had someone with a pump water filter.

Everyone was super glad I brought my Platypus gravity filter since it filtered water faster and easier. It was super cool because it came with two reservoirs, we were able to have a base-camp source of water. We could fill up the dirty reservoir again after we got a clean reservoir-full of water, and then filter the dirty reservoir again when we needed it. Super convenient!