Holiday Gear Guide: Camping


NEMO Bikepacking kit (Apollo 3P shelter $250, Moonwalk bag $280, Escape bivy $120)

With very few exceptions, the camping gear that cyclists use during their trips is designed for backpackers. This isn’t a huge problem, but it’s always nice when a company pays special attention to us. NEMO has made excellent lightweight camping gear for some time, but this year it debuted its Bikepacking Kit, consisting of a single-wall bottomless shelter called the Apollo 3P, the Moonwalk sleeping bag with its waterproof bottom, and the Escape Pod bug bivy. All are designed as a system, with the shape of the Escape bivy using angles that match the inside of the Apollo shelter. They can also be used separately or with other shelters and sleeping bags, making them extremely versatile pieces. The Apollo 3P uses a single, vertical aluminum pole to pitch and is large enough for three close friends or a rider and bicycle. The Escape Pod uses NEMO’s airbeam to keep the bug netting away from your face as you sleep or lounge. The Moonwalk bag is a 30-degree Downtek bag with a waterproof tub design, meaning you can use it directly on the ground. We had a chance to use the system on a blustery, rainy night and everything was stable and cozy throughout the evening. The attention that NEMO is paying to cyclists has resulted in a great set of camping kit. –NL

Sea to Summit UltraLight Mat, $100–$120

If you’re looking to save weight, it makes sense to look at items where you can save the most with a single purchase. A sleeping pad is one of those items. If you’re using an older pad or simply up for a change, Sea To Summit’s UltraLight Mat offers a gossamer 395g weight (including stuff sack and repair kit) for only $100 (for regular length). That’s almost as light as the venerable, but noisy, Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite, but a full $60 cheaper. Where the Therm-a-Rest wins a few points back is in its R factor, or the level of insulation it provides. As a final parry though, the Sea To Summit UltraLight Mat is super fast to inflate and deflate, making for quicker camp set up and tear down. –NL

Outdoor Tech Buckshot Pro, $80 

I first wrote about the Buckshot Bluetooth speaker in the December/January 2013 issue. I liked it then, and now Outdoor Tech is out with their Buckshot 2 — however, I’d recommend the Buckshot Pro. The Pro version is much like the original but with a couple of additions that I think make it a perfect gift for the traveling cyclist. Due to its rubberized body, it’s still shock resistant and water resistant to IPX-5 (low pressure water stream from any angle), plays for 10 hours, and throws sound from one end, but the Pro adds a power bank feature in the form of a 2600mAh rechargeable battery as well as a USB flashlight accessory with three settings: beam, lantern (high and low), and strobe. The sound is good, it weighs just 7oz, and the Buckshot Pro also offers a speakerphone, microphone, and bike mount. And you’ll love the video on their website! –MD

Celtic Blu TallBoy Bluetooth Speaker, $100

The Celtic Blu Tallboy is kind of like a Buckshot on steroids. It offers 360-degree audio (the sound is very good!), a 6000mAh power bank battery, will play for nearly 30 hours on a charge, and has Bluetooth connection up to 100 feet. In addition it offers FM radio, a Micro SD card slot, and is rated IPX-4 water resistant (splashing water from any angle). Of course all this has a cost in weight as it comes in at 1lb 5oz.
In addition it features a speakerphone, microphone, a wired remote, and a carabiner clip. And it comes with a water bottle cage that holds the Tallboy very well.
The one drawback is that I haven’t been able to figure out how to control playback from the Micro SD slot, but it does play all popular file types including FLAC. –MD

Kammok Firebelly Quilt, $300

I’ve been on quite a few bike tours where the nights were not very cold, making me wish for a lightweight blanket instead of my too-warm sleeping bag. Well, my wishes have been granted in the form of the Kammok Firebelly trail quilt. Using 750-fill water-repellent down inside an Atmos ripstop nylon fabric, the Firebelly offers the best of both worlds: you can use it as a quilt, or you can create a footbox, a mini sleeping bag of sorts, by connecting either end with the internal Velcro connections and drawcords.
The Atmos outer fabric is proprietary to Kammok and not only offers excellent insulating and durability features but feels delightful. The Firebelly is rated to 30 degrees F, and its dimensions are 80in. x 55in. with a weight of 1.84oz. Without a doubt, the Firebelly has become a staple in my camping arsenal. –MD

Tarptent Double Rainbow, $289

On Tarptent’s website, they state that they have a sole purpose: to lessen the load and lift the spirit by providing lightweight, innovative shelters. With the Double Rainbow weighing in at just over 2.5 pounds, I’d say they’ve achieved most of their purpose. I say most because I can’t speak about spirit lightening. I just can’t.

The Double Rainbow sets up fast. It’s basically a one-pole, single-piece shelter (no separate rain fly), and once I became familiar with it, I got my setup time to just under two minutes. It is designed with backpacking in mind, and to perform best it needs to be staked out. It can be converted to a freestanding tent with the use of trekking poles, but I don’t know too many bike travelers who carry them.

The Double Rainbow offers much a bike camper should want. It’s lightweight, durable, packs up small, and features excellent ventilation, doors on either side, and a hybrid bathtub floor that can be employed for extra protection against water soaking your sleeping bag. Another key feature is the ability to store gear under its built-in vestibules. Other specs include reflective guy lines, a clip-in breathable liner, and dual netting doors for protection against insects. The floor is 88 inches in length and 50 inches wide, and its packed size is 18 x 4 inches. The Double Rainbow is designed to accommodate two average-sized adults, but personally I view this as a one-person bikecamping tent only to be shared with someone you’re intimate with.

Tarptent offers seam-sealing kits and footprints for extra protection; both come highly recommended. Finally, all Tarptents feature catenary curve design, which contributes to strength, sag resistance, and wind shedding.

For those interested in buying American products, all Tarptents are made in the U.S. For more info, visit their website, and to watch a Double Rainbow setup video, go to –MD