During my many outdoor experiences with my kids, I’ve found the fondest memories are made when everyone’s had a good night of sleep and the right clothing, footwear and gear to protect them from the elements.
Though I’m no “glamper,” I’ve learned over the years to invest in high-quality gear. You typically just need to buy it once and it can last for many years.
Here are my top picks for tried-and-true items for your next outdoor adventure with kids:
KINGDOM 4 TENT (above)
Why it’s great: Sturdy and weather-proof, this REI-brand shelter features a lot of interior pockets and several venting options. It comes with solid tent stakes and packs into a backpack-style bag. It’s an ideal car-camping tent for families.
Good to know: It might be a little confusing to pitch at first because, unlike most other tents, it needs to be staked it down before you can insert the poles. Fortunately, this type of design and assembly is what yields a spacious interior.
Our family also has REI’s lighter 2 Person Half Dome Tent ($159) and a couple of the Flex-Lite Chairs ($29.95 and up) and a lot of other REI outerwear, including pants, wool socks and shirts.
I’ve been impressed with the value of the products and the benefits of the store’s (optional) membership.
Where to buy: REI (Bloomington, Roseville or Maple Grove) or rei.com
EUREKA CAMP CAFE
Why it’s great: I spent many years using a coffee percolator on camping trips and survived, but this gem is a game changer, especially if you’re like me, and coffee is an essential fuel for parenting.
Good to know: This pour-over set-up makes a great pot of coffee. And because it comes with a FluxRing-style kettle, it also can boil water quickly for tea, hot cocoa, noodles and even backcountry dish washing.
Eureka, which also sells camping stoves, grills, tents, furniture, sleeping bags and sleeping pads, offers a 60-day trial for all of its products.
Where to buy: eurekacamping.com
Cost: $49.95 and up
Why it’s great: Made from high-tenacity nylon or ripstop nylon — which contributes to strength, durability and abrasion resistance — ENO hammocks also have strong carabiners, triple-stitched seams and an attached storage sack.
Good to know: In the package you get everything you need to hang your hammock, but the additional purchase of the Atlas Suspension System ($29.95) adds strength, security and ease for set up.
Where to buy: eaglesnestoutfittersinc.com
Why it’s great: I wasn’t convinced that investing in a high-quality cooler was worth the price until I tried out the Hydroflask 22L Cooler Pack. It kept ice cold close to 48 hours! The cooler is soft sided, but sturdy and leak-proof, and the backpack design makes it handy for parents, who can always use a free hand.
Good to know: I’ve used this cooler camping, on the lake, on overnights and when I’m shopping at the grocery store. It’s $100 cheaper than the equivalent cooler from its top competing brand.
Where to buy: hydroflask.com
Why it’s great: This camping mattress is compact and lightweight and self- inflates to about a 1-inch thickness. It has a compressible foam core, and is constructed from quiet, durable and comfortable materials.
Good to know: Thermarest offers a range of lightweight mats that are compact for hauling when backpacking on BWCAW trips. Their thicker and cushier mats are bulkier and better suited to car-camping trips. They all seem to last forever.
Where to buy: thermarest.com