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Bending Branches

Best Summer Camp Gadgets

By Kevin Callan

Yes, I'll admit it, I'm more the type of camper who hangs out at outdoor shops gawking at the latest implements of camping, treating the store like some kind of community center, or worse a kind of strip-mall, and spend time chatting with other obsessed campers like myself about the best pick of gear for that particular year - but then never end up buying anything. But I also find myself, at times, lured in to the high-tech gadget world and go on a spending blitz prior to the summer season, geared up with an assortment of camping stuff that can make life out there more comfortable.

This fixation with new camp gear can't be healthy, at least for the pocket book. But it sure is fun trying out the stuff on trips. Camp gadgets are best defined as luxury items you can do without, but you definitely wouldn't want to. A camp chair for example. Not just any camp chair but one that allows you to sit high up off the cold, wet ground, equipped with a back rest and a cup holder. Now that's the life. A friend once brought a camp chair on our one-month canoe trip in Quetico Provincial Park. I teased him non-stop about packing such a bulky item along; that is until he let me sit in it for five minutes a day. He instantly became my best buddy.

There's no sense fighting it really. We've been trying to improve our comforts and indulge in new technology since our inception into the wilderness. There are the rare campers who prefer the primitive life style out there but that's probably because they're job is gadget related and they're desperate for an escape away from the high-tech world. However, it is quite possible to get carried away a bit. It seems we're seeing a little too many lab-tops glowing around fire rings these days. But if you follow the simple rule of "if you want to use it, then you carry it" then things won't get to out of hand.

Here's a list of what I bought, carried and really enjoyed on trips this season. And for a good laugh, I've attached one of countless television morning shows I was on displaying some of the paraphernalia I obviously became fixed on.

BGAN phone and internet
 - a portable office, about the size of a laptop and weighs less than 2 pounds. It can be set up in minutes, no matter where you are. BGAN will deliver up to 492kbps so you can check e-mails, make phone calls, and send streaming video, simultaneously.

Vital Stove
 - burns just about everything and boils water in 2 minutes ($75)

Therm-a-rest down comforter with bed sheets and pillow
 - Wow! It's a way for your sleeping system to be together as one so you'll never slide off your sleeping pad during the night ($170)

Energizer Lithium batteries and the portable power charger
 - sounds simple but this is the best way to keep your GPS, Digital camera and i-pod powered on trip. I use them all the time because of their light weight and long life - but also because they work in cold temp. ($30)

Flex 3 MRS Cooking Pot set
 - just bought this a couple weeks ago and absolutely love it. Light weight and folds together perfectly ($100)

Gravity filter by Platapus (pictured above)
 - New water system idea that saves you the hassle of pumping the filter - works on gravity ($60)

Eureka's Chrysalis hammock tent
 - only hammock tent that let lets you sleep without sagging. It's a new idea and they can't keep enough on the store shelves ($200).
Outdoor research compression sacs
 - bulk is your enemy, not weight, and these help out considerably - very light-weight, squeezes out air but is completely waterproof ($10-$30).

MSR SimmerLite Fuel Stove
 - It's even lighter (8.5 oz) then the Dragonfly, can adjust its flame just as easily, and best of all, is quiet, thanks to what's called the ported burner ($90).

Outdoor Research SeaVault Cube
 - kept a lot of my important gadgets (satellite phone, GPS) during a kayak trip on Georgian Bay. Designed to withstand being submersed for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter, protecting my vulnerable electronic gear ($80).

Check out Kevin Callan's web site:

Kevin Callan is the author of 11 books including his latest "Wilderness Pleasures" and "The Happy Camper." A regular keynote speaker at major North American canoeing and camping expos for over 20 years, he has received three National Magazine Awards and four film awards, including top award at the prestigious Waterwalker Film Festival. Callan lives in Peterborough, Ontario, birthplace of the modern-day canoe.

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