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8 Pieces of gear to elevate your next outdoor adventure

Walky-talkies, an ultralight tent, and armless sunglasses...no, really.

By: Erin McGrady + Save to a List

Anxiety is my middle name. Sometimes when I wake up, it feels like the walls of my bedroom are already closing in. My response to that? Get rid of the walls and get outside. So when my wife and I were invited to go on a camping trip in Colorado, we immediately said yes.

We flew into Denver and bonded with new friends over pizza and laughs. Getting out of town for a brief stint breathed life back into me. I’d been in a rut but couldn’t tell. Something about a change of scenery and a time zone change set me right again. 

The next morning, after coffee and last-minute gear checks, we pushed off, heading for the small mountain town of Silverthorne. Or, more specifically, the dispersed camping just outside of town. Coming from Asheville which sits at 2,200 feet of elevation (the Blue Ridge Mountains of home are more like big rolling hills compared to the peaks in Colorado) I was a little worried I’d feel the effects of the elevation as the truck started climbing up past 9,000 feet. But we made camp at roughly 11,500 feet in White River National Forest where we found a dispersed campsite that backed up to North Rock Creek and I felt just fine. More than fine, I felt great; hyper-alive. Nature almost always does that for me. 

Though we were only a couple of miles from nearby Silverthorne, once we got to camp, it felt remote. And peaceful. Without the constant connectivity from our phones (I didn’t have much service at all save for the lone text from my mom that somehow got through) we were able to connect with others and get a much-needed reset.

Here are the pieces of gear that we tested on this adventure that we’re confident will help you take your next car camping or overlanding trip to the next level.

BioLite AlpenGlow 250

These cool lights offer not only a practical solution to illuminating camp at nightfall or making early morning coffee duty possible, but they give off ambiance to reflect your mood. With a little shake or the press of a button, you can access several different features: Cool and Warm White, Candle Flicker, Single Color, Multi Color, and even Cycling Color. 

Plus, if you need to charge your phone or headlamp or other USB device, you can plug into this light and it'll breathe life into your battery. Bonus: there’s a metal hook on it that you can use to hang inside your tent. Love it but want a smaller one? No worries, check out the Biolite AlpenGlow 500, which is a few inches bigger in height and diameter and offers 500 lumens of light.

Biolite FirePit+

If BioLite’s FirePit+ doesn’t make you fall even more in love with camping, we don’t know what will. We say that, because this single piece of gear will elevate your campfire experience. Due to it’s unique, rechargeable, and adjustable airflow system and fan, you and your friends and family can now sit around the campfire for hours without playing musical chairs due to the smoke. 

And like the BioLite lanterns mentioned above, the FirePit+ can also be used as a power bank to recharge your devices. Plus, you can burn either wood or charcoal and the included grill grate can elevate your flame game from just a pretty sight to gather around to something that helps you make the most mouth-watering sausages.

Jack Wolfskin Routeburn Jacket

Puffy coats are not all created equal. For starters, not all of them are made with recycled materials. But this one by Jack Wolfskin is. As they say, it’s like a down jacket - without the down. 

Instead, the Routeburn is warm without being bulky and gets the job done with its Microguard Superloft Ecosphere recycled materials which made it the perfect pick for a summer trip at elevation, particularly once the sun went down. 

Though I didn’t need it during the day, I was grateful to have it once temps dropped. I even had the chance to test it out in a light rainshower and can attest that it dried quickly and without the weird smell.

Motorola TALKABOUT T800 Two-Way Radio

The antidote to my own particular strain of anxiety is planning and preparation. So when I hopped into the passenger seat of the overlanding vehicle we were going to use to access camp, I was delighted to find an easy-to-use walky-talky that kept our vehicle in communication with the others in our caravan. 

It was particularly helpful as we left town and our phones lost signal. This particular model has a range of up to 35 miles and despite the mountainous terrain we were able to keep in contact with one another even when we were out of sight.

Ombraz Sunglasses

One of the first things I noticed on my friend Mary Murphy, an editor at Gear Junkie, were the sunglasses around her neck. They were a cool tortoise shell color but they didn’t have any sidearms. Instead, you’ll find a 100% recycled adjustable nylon cord that comfortably keeps your sunglasses in place on your face when you need them, or stylishly around your neck when the clouds roll in. 

Thanks, Mary, for letting me try them on! (PS. I’ve got a low-bridge nose but these are one of the few pairs of glasses that actually fit my face! The glasses come in Narrow, Regular, and XL to accommodate different face sizes and shapes.)

Sea To Summit Dinnerware

Take everything you think you know about camping dinnerware and throw it out the window. Then, try to imagine what the perfect plate, bowl, or mug looks like and … scratch that. The folks at Sea To Summit have already done that for you. 

We recommend their X-series products which are lightweight, durable, collapsible and come in colors that’ll make your outdoor photos pop. The plates and bowls have a solid base that can also double as a cutting board.

Sea To Summit’s Camp Kitchen Clean Up Kit

When Caroline and I first started camping together, we’d bring everything but the kitchen sink with us on a trip. But, with experience, things have changed. Now, anything that comes into the van for an expedition must have two purposes. The rule helps us keep down on the clutter and forces us to prioritize our gear based on our limited space. 

Though prior to this trip I probably would have taken a hard pass on purchasing a kitchen sink, the 10L collapsible kitchen sink by Sea To Summit has changed my mind. Not only can it help get the grease off your dishes and keep food-borne illness at bay, it can also carry water, or in a pinch, act as a water bowl for your dog.

A stainless steel ring at the top keeps the sink from collapsing and makes doing the dishes not only easier but faster. Paired with Sea To Summit’s pot scrubber, biodegradable soap, and towel, this is a compact solution to keeping your utensils and cookware clean and ready to go. Great for germaphobes like me haha.

Sea To Summit Telos TR3

The Telos TR3 is that rare piece of gear where literally every little detail has been thought of. There are tons of outdoor brands making tents but if you want one that’s not only ultralight but built to last has excellent ventilation and can be used for 3 seasons, this is it. 

Though this tent is designed to sleep three, with just the two of us and our stinky gear there was still plenty of room. Setup was intuitive and easy (read: there won’t be any tent pitching arguments with the Telos TR3). Our favorite feature? Hangout Mode which uses your tent’s fly to turn into a semi-open shelter so you can visit with your friends when it’s windy or drizzling or create some shade for you and your pup.

Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley are photographers, writers, and content creators based in Asheville, North Carolina. When they’re not on the trail running, hiking, riding bikes, or camping, you can find them slurping a bowl of noodles or sipping on a cold beer. Keep up with them online at www.authenticavl.com and on Instagram at @e.mcgrady, @carolineperdue, and @authenticasheville

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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