Goal Zero Yeti 400 Portable Generator
$459.99 | goalzero.com
Taking a road trip doesn’t necessarily mean leaving technology behind. When I’m traveling, I use a creative combination of products to keep my spaces bright and my devices charged.
My go-to is the Goal Zero Yeti 400 Portable Generator. This device holds up to 400 watts at a time, weighs 29 pounds, and runs silently; this means it isn’t very portable, so better left with #vanlifers. It can be charged from your vehicle’s standard 12V outlet (around 13 hours), an AC wall outlet
(around 5 hours), or a solar panel (times vary, but up to 80 hours). Charging from solar can take a while, but all such products do; yet, with a constant stream of energy from a panel, it’s possible to never run out of juice. With the Yeti 400, you can charge multiple devices simultaneously, and control which power output is active at any given time.
Be mindful of the settings so you don’t waste energy. It charges everything from my laptop to my GoPro to my ceiling fan. The display screen tells you exactly how much power you’re pulling in and putting out at any given moment. The main downside is price—at $459.99, it might break your bank, but it’s worth its weight in gold for extended time on the road.
Big Kahuna Portable Shower
$134 to $174 (depending on size) | bigkahunashowers.com
Time on the road often equates to sacrificing cleanliness for adventure. While you can get away without showering on weekend road trips,
anything longer than a couple days will graduate you to true smelly dirtbag status.
Big Kahuna Portable Showers offer an elegant solution to the grime and a great alternative to gravity-dependent bladder bags and awkward “pressure systems.” These portable shower units come in 4.7, 8 and 13-gallon sizes. I roll with the 4.7-gallon version because it is the most compact (12” × 12” × 9”) but if you’re planning extended, mostly off-grid trips, go bigger.
It’s simple, really—the power cord simply plugs into your vehicle’s 12V outlet, then squeeze the handle and voila. At max nozzle squeeze I’m able
to spray about 12 to 15 feet. At full blast it uses about a gallon a minute, so there’s time to take a full roadside shower if you feel so inclined. Once you’re done, the power cord and the 8-foot hose clip to the container for storage. Tip: since the tank itself is UV absorbent, leave it outside or in-line with a window while you’re out climbing to allow the water to warm up. A compatible water-heater kit is also available for $139, but this requires a non-standard 110V connection.
The only issue I ran into was when I completely filled the tank and drove off-road. I found a tiny drip leaking from the small gasket connecting the power cord to the pump as the water sloshed around inside. According to Big Kahuna, this feature is intentional to allow the pressure to equalize inside the tank when using the pump. I opted to coat the gasket with aquarium-grade silicone and just unscrew the lid when using the pump. Success ever since.
Sea to Summit X-Pot, X-Kettle and X-Pan
$134.95 for set | seatosummitusa.com
Cooking well on the go is essential to climbing road trips, and Sea to Summit’s X-Series of collapsible hybrid silicone/aluminum cookware
is a nice addition to any car-camping kit. The X-Set 32, which includes the 2.8-liter X-Pot (also comes in 1.4L and 4L sizes), 1.3 liter X-Kettle and
X-Pan, nests together to the size of a fat Frisbee, saving you space for more gear—or food—in your van or trunk. All three can be bought
as a set for $134.95, or as individual items.
X-Pot (2.8L) I use the most out of the X-Series, from boiling water to cooking pasta or rice and beans. It’s a good size for two to three people, but would likely be too small for larger groups. The X-Pot comes with the all-crucial strainer lid, which can be locked down with the pot’s silicone handles, so there’s no risk of dirtying your macaroni when draining the water.
The X-Kettle is a smaller version of the X-Pot, with tapered sides, plastic handles and a pour spout, like, well, a kettle. It’s great for boiling water
and heating up the sauce/side for whatever’s cooking in the big pot.
The X-Pan completes the set for all of your cooking needs (read: bacon and eggs). Since it is eight-inches in diameter, just larger than the X-Pot, it would be difficult to make a large stir fry in the pan without losing a portion to your tailgate, but the aluminum pan is great for smaller tasks,
such as frying eggs, grilled cheese or quesadillas.
The biggest plus to the X-Set is its space-saving efficiency. With it, I can fit all of my cookware into a single milk crate, with room to spare, so it’s
always packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
– Space saving: collapsible, nests together – More delicate than all-metal cookware
– Strainer lid
– Food sometimes sticks to pan
– Measurement marks on X-Pot and X-Kettle – For stoves only, cannot be used on open fires
Camp Chef Everest
$124.99 | campchef.com
The Camp Chef Everest puts your dad’s old camp stove to shame. This portable propane stove, designed in the classic briefcase style, busts out a total of 40,000 BTUs per hour with two 20,000 BTU burners—double that of most stoves this size. That much power is probably unnecessary, but fortunately the stove also features excellent flame control, which lets you take it from full bore to a simmer at the turn of a knob.
I’ve been using the Everest all spring and summer for weekend climbing trips and love how easy it is to set up, use and clean, and its overall sturdiness. At 12 pounds, the Big E is hefty but it’s perfect for car camping or van life when weight doesn’t really matter. The cooking grate is solid, and I don’t ever worry that boiling pots or dinner will get knocked around while I’m cooking on my Tacoma tailgate.
My only qualm is that the Everest almost cooks too hot. Even at low setting, the stove can boil a full pot of water within minutes, and I usually cook with it set to the lowest possible flame. But other than that, the Everest is the closest you can get to a home stove for car camping—actually, it’s better than the electric stove in my apartment.
– Two 20,000 BTU burners.
– Adjustable flame control.
– Electric lighter.
– Easy-to-clean stainless-steel drip tray.
Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag 19°F / -7°C
$499.00 (regular) | patagonia.com
It’s been said that “Good things come to those who wait.” Patagonia waited forty-five years before launching an official line of bags,
and after testing them this spring in the Sierra’s and in Alaska, it appears the aphorism remains true.
First, about that trademarked front zipper. Most quality sleeping bags feature a two-way zipper, with the bottom zipper opening the foot end for cooling off on a warm night. The 19 F. front zipper bag goes one up with a three-way zipper that allows one to stay completely zipped in but with an opening at chest level to pop out your arms to operate a stove, read a book, drink coffee etc. all while staying fully cocooned in the bag. This little trick also lets climbers sleep in their harness, fully tied in but without the rope having to rub up against your face during those long heinous nights.
But what about that frosty air coming through the zipper? Patagonia’s design prevents this with plump double draft tubes that lock in behind the zipper to insulate it.
The temperature rating of 19F/7C is accurate. I spent nights in the bag with temps in the low teens (summit of Mt. Whitney) to temps in the mid-forties. Below 20 F I added layers. Above that, I along with four other testers, slept comfortably in only long underwear. The thick deep hood and raised foot box offer insulation normally seen on much heavier 0 F. sleeping bags.
For a budget that allows for only one high quality bag, this one is your ticket.
– High-quality down.
– Versatile three-way zippers allow one to tie in on bivy ledges, permits use in a wide temperature range and means you can walk around in the bag.
– Compresses to the size of a cantaloupe.
– A lot of sleeping bag for one kg.
– Comes in three sizes, small 5’6”, med. 6’, large 6’6” and two colors, blue or orange.
– Quality isn’t cheap. $499.00 (size medium).
– A small pocket inside the sleeping bag, near your face, to place an alarm for those alpine starts would be a welcome addition.