We’ve never been big fans of the standard camp chair—the awkwardly folding, bulky canvas gigs with the even bigger carry bags. Even with drink holders in both arm rests, they’re never as good as we want. Well, San Fran-based Alite Designs must’ve heard our quiet dissatisfaction, because their Mantis Chair really hits every sweet spot. The chair employs the same pole assembly tech found in tent frames—a simple, but genius design solution—to create a ridiculously strong, breathable 210D ripstop nylon chair that holds up to 250 pounds. The frame assembles in seconds, and the four corners of the seat slide seamlessly into the tips of the aluminum poles (color coding keeps things easy, though our testers hardly needed the guidance). The chair sits about eight inches above the ground on four cylindrical legs, providing all-day comfort, whether you prefer to keep your feet flat, sit Indian-style, or contort into some other quasi-yoga pose. Plus it fits into a carry sack that’s a modest 17.5 inches long and five inches in diameter. The two-pound chair is ideal for car camping, but a bit hefty for backcountry applications. To address the needs of ounce-scrimping backpackers they’ve developed the Monarch chair ($70; pictured, right). Built off the same design as the Mantis, the Monarch boasts only two legs:your feet offer the additional stability, which lets you slowly rock as the chair takes the bulk of your weight. The Monarch provided the same body-hugging comfort and support as the Mantis (with the same 250-pound weight limit), but weighs in at a feathery 1.3 pounds, packing into a stuff sack that’s 12 inches long and only 4.5 inches in diameter. The Alite designer refers to the Monarch as the “six-beer chair” because, after six beers, balancing on its two legs can be…challenging (and potentially humorous for those around you). We see this a challenge, but some might find it an insurmountable obstacle. Both of these chairs are as at home at outdoor concerts or on the beach as they are tent-side. The thin diameter of the chair legs means that the feet can sink into wet dirt or sand, leaving the sitter off balance (or in a slow-motion fall). But on dry land, both chairs proved to be admirable outdoor thrones. And a bonus: one three-year-old car camper even figured out how to wear the Monarch.
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www.hydroflask.com, 27 ounces
It’s hard to over-exaggerate our enthusiasm for the continued success of the craft and microbrew scene in the States (and not just because we have a field office in beer-rich Bend, Oregon). The advent of interesting, artisan beers has happily changed America’s rep as the…beer water capitol of the world. And with that recognition, we salute another tradition that’s re-emerged: the Growler. Originally named for the sound of CO2 eeking its way out of the bottle, traditionally heard while walking home with a jug of beer fresh from the tap at your local watering hole, today almost every city with a brew pub offers growler filling. Typically these vessels are made of glass, but our go-to choice is undeniably the 64-ounce HydroFlask Growler. Cast from 18/8 stainless steel, the double-wall vacuum insulation technology will keep cold contents cold for about 20 hours—which is enough time to fill it up with your favorite brew, go an overnighter or day hike/trial run/climbing spree, and then have cold, delicious beer waiting when you get back. The 2.19-inch-wide mouth assures easy access, and a lifetime warranty means this’ll be our go-to growler for as long as our liver holds out. Of course the growler can also be used to store other cold liquids and hot stuff like coffee, hot chocolate, or soup. It’s a bit too heavy (especially when full) to haul into the deep backcountry, but it definitely qualifies as a go-to reservoir for car camping and picnics.
Available with screw-off or flip-top lids
www.etoncorp.com, 3.75 pounds
Bluetooth-compatible speakers aren’t new, but we’d be amazed if you can find a system that’s as sleek and outdoor friendly. We first tested the Eton Rukus during a backyard barbeque—it works so well we brought it along to use as base camp audio source for a multi-day outing. The wireless speaker with any Bluetooth-enabled device—including most smart phones and tablets. Set the Rukus on a picnic table and head out to collect firewood—the device says it has a 30-foot radius, but we found it to be effective at more than 40 feet. If you want to change playlists, your phone or iPod is as close as your pocket. A nine-inch by five-inch solar panel bridges across the dual torpedo-styled 2.5-inch speakers. On a sunny day, you can play and charge while the sun’s out, then party late into the night with eight hours of reserve power. There’s also an AC adaptor to charge the device when the weather doesn’t cooperate and you’ve got access to a power line. Included in the package is a USB cable that will charge your other electronics—great for powering up while camping, tailgating, or on a picnic. An e-INK display keeps you up-to-date on the battery and solar charge status. There’s even a convenient elasticized pocket on the bottom to secure your phone or iPod when not in use.
www.jetboil.com, one pound
Jetboil aficionados read no further—just know that you’ll love the Sumo for its increased boiling capacity. “This is the coolest stove I’ve ever used,” raved one tester who camped during Central Oregon’s rainy season. Our team applauded the stove’s efficiency in harnessing the heat from the flame. On one wet Willamette Valley weekend, in 20-mile-per-hour winds and near-freezing temperatures, the stove consistently boiled 1.25 liters of cold lake water in less than four minutes. The new Sumo Group Cooking System comes with a 1.8-liter cooking cup, an insulating cozy that lets you to handle the hot pot without getting burned, a pot support to help stabilize the heavier load, and, of course, the fast, seeming weather-impervious Sol burner, with its dependable, one-touch igniter. Our backcountry chefs loved the stove’s ability to move fluidly from a boil to simmer, a welcome adjustment when you’re cooking up a worthy feast.
www.eurekatent.com, one pound, 14 ounces
One if by land, two if by sea. A reliable lantern should be part of everyone’s essential gear. For modern-day emergencies that can cut your power supply off for days, the Warrior 230 provides 200 hours of light on the low setting. The high setting limits the output of the three D-size batteries to 50 hours, but our testers only used this ultra-brint light (230 lumens) while cooking gourmet dinners on a Rogue River trip. Otherwise they used the remote control dimmer function that adjusts the light output from 100 percent to 10 percent. The versatile lantern is great for river trips, car camping, and even illuminating a backyard barbeque. The water-resistant case can be carried with a collapsible handle, or hung upside down via a small, fold-away hook. For roadside or backcountry emergencies, the lantern has a flashing SOS function that’s good for 200 hours with fresh batteries. Testers loved the remote control with its 25-foot range, as it allows you to leave the lantern in its most effective position (suspended on a tree branch near the kitchen or pit toilet), with the ease of turning it on and off from your warm, cozy sleeping bag.