The Wild South

Making Camping More Comfortable

The days of so-so sleeping pads and cumbersome gas lanterns are long gone. Here’s the latest gear to keep you cozy in the woods

Opinel's Nomad Cooking Kit.

The glamping craze has helped usher in a new era for gear with an emphasis on luxury and comfort, while high-tech materials and elevated design have made it easier—and cozier—than ever to take on the woods in style. From a highly engineered lightweight firepit to down outerwear that lets you laugh at the rain, this checklist of modern camping must-haves looks nothing like the one in your old Scout manual. And you might find a few of these envy-worthy items on your wish list even if your outdoor adventures rarely extend beyond the backyard.

Cozy Up

Squeeze this scrunchable, wearable camping blankie and the comfort almost oozes out. Filled with 600-fill power duck down treated for water repellency, Kammock’s Bobcat 45° trail quilt is the perfect weight for snuggling around a campfire or adding a layer of toasty atop a sleeping bag. The quilt has a buttoned opening so you can wear it like a poncho, or it can cinch into a sleeping bag. It packs down to nearly nothing, but you’ll want to pack it last. It might be the first thing you reach for when you finally make camp. $200;

Sweet Dreams

Roots, rocks, divots, sticks, dirt clods, grass clumps—they all conspire to turn a good night’s sleep outdoors into a Princess and the Pea experience. The plush Klymaloft sleeping pad from Klymit takes care of those issues. It’s topped with a layer of foam and bolstered with air chambers built in an I-beam design. Together, they create two-and-a-half inches of snooze-worthy loft between terra firma and your tush. The pad is a bit large and bulky for backpacking, but for car camping, it’s the cat’s meow. From $160;

Hot Ticket

When it comes to trends that look like they’re going to stick, the smokeless fire pit craze is perhaps bested only by the pickleball craze. It seems akin to magic—a fire without smoke—but these double-walled backyard fire pits really do work. The problem is they usually weigh a ton. Enter the Breeo Y series, a full-featured smokeless fire pit that’s light enough (thirty-one pounds) to toss in the SUV and easily haul to the lake or beach or mountain with its built-in handle. And the Y series is compatible with Breeo’s wide array of open-fire cooking accessories. $495;

A Cut Above

The French-made, birch-handled, one-hundred-thirty-year-old Opinel folding knife is as classic and elegant a campsite accessory as you can find, and it plays a starring role in this nifty camp bundle. The Nomad Cooking Kit includes a No. 12 serrated folding knife for slicing breads and dense salamis, a No. 10 corkscrew knife with bottle opener, a No. 06 folding peeler for veggie prep, and a sleek cutting board that doubles as a charcuterie platter for two. It all fits into a microfiber cleaning cloth that serves as a folding carry pouch. No more pork and beans trail lunches. $89;

Keep in Touch

A two-way satellite messenger brings a whole other kind of comfort to a camping trip. With Garmin’s next-generation inReach Mini 2, you can text family and friends from practically anywhere on the planet. Let your loved ones know you’ve arrived safely to the middle of nowhere. Track your hike with electronic breadcrumbs, so you’ll always be able to find your way back to the car or campsite. And if things get snakebite ugly—or broken leg ugly—you can instantly send interactive SOS messages to Garmin’s 24/7 response center. Anywhere you don’t have cellphone coverage, the inReach Mini 2 delivers peace of mind. $400;

Take a Load Off

Yes, it is spendy for a folding seat. But rest your weary bones around a campfire for a couple hours on a picnic bench, rock, log, cooler top, or cheap beach chair, and YETI’s Trailhead camp chair will suddenly seem like a bargain. It’s a little bulky, but it is that comfortable. The synthetic fabric molds to your body’s natural curves and springs back into shape, the frame is built tough, and it includes a stout carry bag with backpack straps. It’s a splurge item, at first. Then you won’t want to be without one. $300;

Campfire Companion

Hauling firewood is one of the more aggravating aspects of modern camping. You have to tote wood from the backyard to the car, then hump it from the car to the campsite, burning valuable twilight hours you could be using to sit around the fire with brown water in hand. Filson’s chic log carrier will cut your toting time significantly. It’s lightly waxed, so it won’t get soaked, and overbuilt in classic Filson style, tested to carry 1,400 pounds. That should be enough to keep the coals glowing till dawn. From $175;

Tame the Chill

The upcoming El Nino–inflected Southern winter could be a doozy. Stio’s Pinion women’s down parka will have you covered from head to knees. The 800-fill down is top of the line, and the coat is incredibly packable. The down is treated with a natural wax-based hydrophobic compound to help it shed water, so you’ll have no excuse to stay indoors even with a light mist—or Southern snow—falling. Extend the comfy by pairing it with the Colter Mid Shoe ($149), built for the elements with a rubber sole, waterproofed leather upper, and baffled wool-blend lining. Parka $299;

Bright Idea

I miss the hiss and warm glow of an old white gas lantern, but I don’t miss the smell and hassle of keeping one lit. At the touch of a button, the Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 puts out enough LED light to fill every corner of a campsite and easily toggles from a three-hundred-sixty-degree light to a one-hundred-eighty-degree floodlight. The lantern includes collapsible legs in addition to a handle for hanging, and the built-in USB outlet lets you charge phones or tablets. If the rechargeable lithium battery runs out, a crank handle keeps you out of the dark. $70;

Dinner Time

You usually have two basic choices when it comes to camp cookware. There’s the lightweight, stackable minimalist stuff for backpackers and the like. Or you can cram a plastic bin with the battered and scratched pots and pans from the back of the kitchen cabinets. The Japanese-designed Field Cooker Pro set from Snow Peak finds the happy medium. The large pot, rice cooker, and sauté pan are made of a thicker, more cook-friendly nonstick aluminum, with removable handles, and the handsome trio weighs less than nine pounds and fits into a compact storage bag. $430;

Follow T. Edward Nickens on Instagram @enickens and find more Wild South columns here.

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