The first rule of minimalist camping is: leave most of the stuff you were planning to pack at home. Camping luxuries are for the campers who want to be extra comfortable, those who have the space, and those who don’t mind spending a few extra dollars on these unnecessary luxury items.
The truth is, even the most dedicated campers -- even minimalists -- like to have camping luxuries, but what is important to one camper may be insignificant to another.
We have a list of the top modern camping luxuries that you can (or maybe can’t) do without. Some of these items didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago and we were fine without them then. Of course, if you can’t camp without a luxury item or two, then by all means pack it, or maybe go glamping.
1. The Marshmallow Skewer
Sure, everyone loves a roasted marshmallow, smothered in chocolate, smooshed between graham crackers when they are camping. Sitting by the campfire and making s’mores at night about as American as it gets, but you don’t need skewers to do this. Yes, they are nice. Sur La Table makes a nice long stainless-steel skewer with a handle and sells them in a pack of four for only $13.95. That’s not a bad deal. But again, this is one luxury you may want to leave at home.
When I was a kid, half the fun of making s’mores was finding the perfect stick for the job. During daylight hours, my sisters and I searched the woods near our campsite.
We returned with a stick long enough to stay away from the flames and skinny enough to skewer a marshmallow. Then dad cleaned up the end a little with a knife and we washed it off in the creek. The s’mores are going to be delicious no matter how you roast them, skewer not necessary.
2. Portable Speakers and iPod (or MP3 player)
It seems that almost everyone is making a new portable speaker system.
From top electronic companies to independent Kickstarter campaigns, there are many small, yet loud, and great sounding portable speakers systems out there for your purchase. Just plug in your iPod or iPhone and you can have Justin Beber leading the family in Kumbaya fireside. Or maybe you’ll invite the Grateful Dead for a campfire jam.
Either way, do you really need to bring that luxury sound system? What about the bubbling creek, and the chirping birds? Point is, most of us go camping to experience nature, and the natural sounds in the wild are something not to be missed. If you are too busy selecting the next playlist, you might miss out on nature's soundtrack. But we all have a soft spot for at least one camping luxury and if you must bring your portable speakers and iPod, just remember to be considerate of your neighbors and the campground’s quit hours.
For those who love a good tune at the campground, the latest and greatest speaker on the market is the Boombotix camping speaker. It’s small, compact, portable, waterproof and it looks durable too. Speakers range in price from $69.99 – 129.99.
3. The Solar Shower
Let’s face it, solar showers don’t work that well. Sure, the water heats up if you have enough sunshine, but a solar shower is a desperate attempt to stay clean.
Maybe the solar shower is great for a quick rinse, but if you have any amount of hair to wash, forget it. Solar showers just don’t have water pressure for a real cleaning. And where are you going to get that much water to fill your solar shower anyway? If there is plenty of water available in a creek or lake, why not just jump in and scrub down au natural? Of course, don’t put any soap (even biodegradable) directly into the water. A good rinse in a natural water source does wonders for cleaning-up when you are camping.
If water is scarce, the solar shower is a big waste of needed water. A quick splash of the face, may be all you need to feel refreshed. Then again, some people have-to-have a shower when camping. A shower is, after all, one of the most prized camping luxuries. But remember, no one ever said camping is clean.
If you must have a shower and the solar or camp shower is the only way to go, check out the Coleman Camp shower.
4. Hanging Cupboard or Pantry
There are a lot of knick-knacky kitchen gadgets for camping these days. Outdoors companies love to market gourmet cooking essentials for the campground chef, but the truth is -- you don’t need any of it. In fact, you need very few cooking utensils to make a good meal at the campground.
Sure, you want to bring all your favorite spices, and it’s nice to have them organized in a pantry. And it’s even better to have them hanging in a nearby tree so you can see everything you want, but whatever happened to the good ‘ol chuck box. Throw everything into a small plastic storage bin and dig in when you need something. Better yet, leave most of the spices at home. Food tastes better in the great outdoors than it does at home, and olive oil, salt and pepper can season anything.
If your hanging cupboard or pantry is the one camping luxury that you can’t live without, try this one from Cabela’s. It’s weatherproof and collapsible for easy packing.
5. Screen Room Tent
Most people hate bugs, especially the ones that bite. And there are a lot of bugs in the great outdoors. You simply can’t escape them when camping. Introducing the screen room. It’s a large mesh tent designed to keep the bugs out when cooking or hanging out at the campground.
If the mosquitos are biting and you still want to be outdoors, screen rooms are nice, but realistically, screen rooms are a hassle to put up and can be expensive. Not to mention the extra space you’ll need at the campground and the room needed to pack it in your car. If the bugs aren’t too bad, try citronella candles or mosquito coils. Most other bugs are attracted to the irresistable smell of your cooking, so keep your kitchen clean and always wipe down the camp table upon arrival.
But if that doesn’t do the trick and you’d rather stay home than deal with bugs, you might consider a screen room as your one luxury. If you buy a good one, you are also protected from rain, which will allow you to hang out outdoors and be comfortable from rain and bugs. Try the PahaQue 10x10 Screen Room Tent Not a bad idea, though pricey ($485.00).
6. French Press or Portable Espresso Machine
They call it camp coffee or cowboy coffee for a reason. All you really need to make a good cuppa at the campground is coffee grounds, a pot, and water. Add the grinds to the boiling water, stir and steep. Add cool water and the grinds should sink to the bottom. Keep your teeth closed when sipping your camp coffee to help filter any grinds that made it in your cup.
Sounds simple, right? Some people can’t stand the thought of roughing it when it comes to coffee, so there are a number of French or java presses, one cup filters and even portable espresso makers on the market today, but the truth is – you don’t need any of these coffee gadgets to enjoy a cuppa outdoors. But you try to convince a coffee aficionado to leave the French press at home. If you must, have a look at our favorite coffee makers for the campground.
7. Squat Monkey
While the above items are luxury camping supplies that you don’t need, everyone has an item or two, they just want. That’s fine. I love my French press and I really don’t need it. But there are some "camping" supplies that you absolutely don’t need, like the Squat Monkey.
This item, which is marketed to the outdoorsy folk, is the most silly item we’ve ever seen. It’s a strap that you tie around something, like a tree, and loops around your waist. Then you squat. Yes, it is designed to help you squat in the woods and "poop the sanitary way." We’ve declined a review sample of the Squat Monkey, so we have no official comments on the function or construction of this item. But we can safely say -- you don't need it.