Hey, Winter, screw you! We’ve had it with your crap. Our best pal Summer is here chilling out, and we’re going camping to enjoy our tents, consume beverages, cook questionable meats on an open fire, and fend off swarms of hungry skitters with smiles on our faces, because it’s not 30-below and dumping snow.
Of course, we’ll be taking our favorite rides along for the trip, as well as our favorite features and accessories – all of which will help us do an even better job of celebrating the fact that you’re not around to make us question why we don’t live in Florida.
Summer time is camping time, and here’s a look at some rides, features and accessories that help make camping a little easier, a little more convenient, and a little less stressful on us Canadians trying to forget about winter for a while.
Favorite Camping Rides
This handy-as-heck pickup rides like a big car, has passenger space on par with a minivan’s two front rows, and packs a handy in-bed trunk that’s big and weatherproof and drainable, meaning you can load it full of ice and beverages, soggy towels, sandy beach gear, or any other sort of stuff that you’d rather keep locked out of sight – and then park your dirt-bike on top of all of that. Plus, Ridgeline’s lockable four-wheel drive allows it to tackle light to moderate trails, there’s at-hand storage galore in the cabin to help keep organized, and the flip-up rear seats leave a monster cargo hold in back with a flat floor, making a perfect lounge area for your canines, a place to store your bike, or a heap of room to keep your sleeping and cooking gear out of the rain. When it comes to absolute all-around flexibility, the Ridgeline is an all-around superstar.
What beats the Subaru Outback for all-around confidence, traction and heaps of cargo space to haul you, the special someone, the offspring, and a load of camping stuff around? Almost nothing, that’s what. This crossover-ute-wagon-thingy, however defined, offers great manners, a ton of space, and proves a fantastic middle-ground that does everything related to camping well, while driving great on the highway and around town the other 350 days a year. Add in the tremendous aftermarket support for accessories and gear to tailor the Outback to any lifestyle or outdoor sport, and a gleaming reputation for long-haul reliability and residual values, and you’ve got a camping-ready family hauler that’s packed with the warm and fuzzy stuff that sensible shoppers love.
You’re going camping, and you’re going to do it big. For those shoppers planning on heading to camp with the whole fam-jam and in-laws on board, all associated gear, a grand worth of groceries, and a big-ass boat in tow behind, machines like the Chevrolet Suburban make it easy and comfortable. We love the smooth, quiet and effortless sense of capability and performance, the luxurious and whisper-quiet highway ride, and the big and highly-effective V8 that drinks less gas than you think. Plus, have you seen a Suburban? They’re massive, so expect no issues with space, even if you pack heavily. Camping as a couple? Forget bringing a tent, waking up soggy and fiddling around with zippers and poles like a sucker. Suburban is more than big enough to sleep two people, off of the ground, on a comfy air mattress.
Dodge Grand Caravan
Nothing on the road packs a size-to-price ratio as appealing as the Grand Caravan – and with motorized sliding doors, rear-seat DVD players and four captain’s chairs in top trims, this one doubles as a mobile living room if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Load heaps of gear into the Stow-n-Go floor bins to maximize on-board room, and fill the deep rear cargo well with the heavy stuff as needed. Grand Caravan offers up the room and flexibility to handle any camping voyage with ease. Fold all seats flat into the floor, and you’ve got a cargo van that’ll sleep two on an air-mat, and the rear seats can tumble backwards for luxurious tailgate seating arrangements, too. There’s even a built-in rechargeable flashlight, in case you’ve got to go for a whiz at 4 am.
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Favourite Camping Features
Household Power Outlet
You’ve got stuff to bring camping with you, and the proper operation of plenty of that stuff requires delicious electrons. Whether you’ve got to keep a laptop charged, want to keep your camera batteries juiced, need to plug in a stereo system or even a hair-dryer, having a household power outlet in your ride is a fantastically handy thing, and you’ll find new uses for it every day at the campsite. This feature is available on a wide variety of makes and models, so whatever car you’re considering next, check out which trims provide this choice camping aid.
Face it: if they don’t have the internet, your children will turn into screaming, data-deprived goblins and ruin your trip. The folks at GM have a solution though, in the form of OnStar driven in-car WiFi. Buy a data package, and you get a faster and stronger data signal than what’s typically available on a cellular phone, and it’s delivered to nearby devices with ease since the vehicle acts as a mobile hot-spot. The packages provide data that covers both north and south of the border, and keeps everyone connected with ease.
Ford F-150 Auxiliary Spotlights and Bedlights
LED lighting is everywhere – in your fancy cellular phone, in your household light bulbs, and now, even dotted around the outside of your new F-150. Optional auxiliary lighting uses compact and powerful LED bulbs in the F-150’s bed, and another set on its side mirrors, to provide plenty of illumination options for a dark campsite. Need to light up an area for late-night tent setup, or to see where that pesky beer-pong ball bounced off to? Just switch on the side-mirror mounted LED spotlights. Using the tailgate as a late-night cooking station? Flick on the bed-lights. These two features turn your F-150 into a mobile flashlight, and provide surprisingly bright illumination that works with minimal energy draw, so it won’t kill your battery.
Trailer Backup Assist
Mankind is capable of some remarkable feats, including those relating to the employment of cameras, radar and mathematics to make it easier to hook up to your trailer. Numerous models are adopting various technologies to that end, with Land Rover and others already offering systems that build on self-parking functionality to make trailer hook-ups easy when you’re by yourself. Plug in some info relating to trailer tongue measurements, give the system an idea of the size and shape of your trailer, and save that trailer to memory. Then, back up towards the trailer, engage the system, and the vehicle handles the rest, hands-free. Forget bribing someone to spot you in exchange for access to your grown-up beverage supply. Hands off the wheel and eyes on the backup camera, and the vehicle handles it for you.
Favourite Camping Accessories
Cyntur Jumper Pack Mini
This handy little gizmo is a camping must-have. It weighs less than a pound and recharges at home (or via your ride’s household power outlet), but packs enough stored juice in its compact battery to boost numerous engines, keep your cell phone battery topped, and even power your portable Bluetooth speaker for hours while you’re chilling in the sand and taking in a nearby beach volleyball game. The Jumper Pack Mini is a compact and highly effective source of electricity for all of your stuff, and it’ll jump-start anything with a battery – even if said battery is more barren than Whoville on Christmas morning.
Don’t let the name confuse you, this is actually a trunk organizer… This simple and highly effective bin might just be a lowly organizer, but it’s ultra-handy. In addition to keeping annoying clutter to a minimum in your trunk, its dividers snap into place to set up compartments that perfectly fit all of your stuff – whether it’s for the beach, cooking, playing some games, or even hauling a family’s worth of towels and wash gear off to the shower building. Need a compartment for each kid? No problem. Non-slip ribs underneath keeps your stuff upright and planted, and carrying straps make it easy to move it from the car to the picnic table, to the beach, or wherever else it’s needed.
This vacuum really, really sucks! It’s got a digital pulse motor that spins at 110,000 rpm thanks to a neodymium magnet, fits in your hand, and can be stored in the centre console with ease. Why a vacuum for camping? Easy – your kids and pets will track gross things into your tent, and this little battery-powered powerhouse sucks it all up with ease. Light, compact and packed with power, neat-freaks will love the ability to keep tents, trailers, vehicles and food-prep areas clean with minimal effort.
Bring your own shade with you, wherever you go! This handy bit of kit from Rhino Rack mounts a slim and sleek retractable awning to the side of your ride’s roof, meaning campers can erect their own shelter from the sun and rain in mere seconds. Folded up, it takes up nearly no space, and extended, the Sunseeker 8-Foot Awning turns the area beside your ride into a totally kick-ass chill-zone.
MotoMaster Eliminator 1000
Here’s something you should leave in your ride at all times – though it becomes super-handy at the campsite. The MotoMaster Eliminator 1000 Booster pack can boost a dead battery, recharge your electronics, blow up your kids’ floaty beach toys or your big air mattress, inflate a low trailer tire and plenty more. A built-in battery means it’s ultra portable, though you can run it on plug-in power too – meaning it’s handy in the garage when you’re not at the campsite. There’s a built-in pivoting work-light too, so you won’t be fumbling around in the dark trying to inflate and recharge stuff like a sucker. There’s even a 12-volt car-style outlet built in for all those converters that have accumulated in your car’s door pockets.
Roof and Hitch-Mounted Storage
Roof and hitch-mounted cargo solutions are awesome, because the more stuff you carry outside of your ride, the more space you’ll have left inside for comfortable lounging and socialization. Available for anything from generic hauling of luggage and gear to specialized racks for kayaks, bikes, canoes and more, your local auto accessories dealer has a selection of products that’s perfect for your ride and lifestyle. Look for racks, boxes, bins and even bags, covering a plethora of price-ranges and functionalities. With a cargo carrier locked into your hitch, and another on the roof, you could virtually double the cargo space of your ride while improving comfort on the move.