The 5 best backpacking stoves that are lightweight, fuel-efficient, and powerful enough to cook food fast

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  • Backpacking stoves are vital for preparing hot meals and coffee, no matter how far in the backcountry you are.
  • The best are fuel-efficient, lightweight enough to fit in your backpack, and reliable in inclement weather.
  • Our top pick, MSR’s WindBurner, is fast, powerful, and efficient, and weighs less than 3 ounces.

There are few things as refreshing as enjoying a hot meal at your campsite following a long day of hiking. Energy bars and trail mix do well to curb hunger during the day but when it’s time to relax for the night, you’ll want something a bit more substantial. That’s where a reliable camp stove opens up the options for meals, snacks, and hot beverages, making your time in the backcountry much more enjoyable.

I spend much of the year, regardless of season, either out on a multi-day backpacking trip or planning my next one – and I’ve learned that prioritizing how and what I’ll eat is always a vital consideration. This means making sure I’m able to start each morning with a cup of instant coffee and a few bites of rehydrated scrambled eggs so that I’m replenished enough and able to take on however many grueling miles lay ahead.

Refueling at night is just as important, too. A satisfying evening meal goes a long way to making my legs feel less tired and my body less sore, despite having hauled a 30-pound pack for several hours prior. Satisfying those meal needs always comes down to the type of backpacking stove I bring along. Even on shorter trips, it always finds its way into my pack – it’s that important.

Over the years, I’ve tested an array of camp stoves, both good and bad. What I’ve found is that I keep coming back to the same two brands: MSR and JetBoil. As you’ll notice by which stoves ultimately made the following guide, those two brands have the backpacking camp stove market almost entirely covered – and recommending another model just for the sake of doing so isn’t worth it. These are the best for a reason.

At the bottom of this guide, you’ll find some tips on how to shop for a backpacking stove and what else to consider, as well as the testing methodology I used.

Here are the best backpacking stoves:

The best backpacking stove overall

msr pocketrocket deluxe

Ounce counters will love the MSR PocketRocket Deluxe, which delivers outstanding performance in a tiny package. If you want to travel fast and light, this is the stove you need. 

 

MSR’s original PocketRocket is an iconic piece of gear in the outdoor industry, setting new standards for lightweight performance from a backpacking stove. But the new Deluxe model takes things to a new level by adding a push-button starter and a regulator for improved control in cold environments. 

The PocketRocket Deluxe tips the scales at a mere 2.9 ounces, making it one of the more svelte stoves on the market. It also measures just 3.3 inches in length, which is considerably smaller than almost any other model. Despite the small size, it still manages to perform well, boiling water at a rapid clip and offering solid fuel efficiency, too. It even has an integrated simmer control and a solid level of wind resistance, which aren’t common in similar stoves.

With this new generation of PocketRocket, MSR included an onboard igniter, eliminating the need to carry matches or a lighter. The igniter can be a source of frustration at times, though, as it’s not always 100 percent reliable. 

It’s worth pointing out that this stove isn’t a full cooking system, meaning you’ll need to bring a pot to prepare your meal (and possibly to eat from). Those additional items take up space and add weight to your pack, potentially negating any shaved ounces from using the PocketRocket in the first place. Additionally, the stove’s pot supports aren’t very large and can create some instability when used on uneven ground. 

Still, this little stove punches well above its weight class, delivering outstanding all-around performance in a tiny form factor. That alone makes it easy to recommend as the best ultralight backpacking stove available today.

The best budget backpacking stove

BRS

The BRS 3000-T Ultralight stove is a budget-conscious backpacker’s dream. Not only does it weigh next to nothing but it offers solid performance at a rock-bottom price, making it a great choice for those who’d rather spend their hard-earned money on other gear instead. 

Pros: Very inexpensive and lightweight compared to other models

Cons: Not very durable and average performance in all but the best of outdoor conditions 

Budget-friendly backpacking stoves aren’t particularly common in the outdoor industry but occasionally a model comes along that manages to offer solid performance at a great price. Such is the case with the BRS 3000-T Ultralight, a stove that’s compact, lightweight, and easy on the wallet. 

You won’t find a lot in the way of frills on this stove, though. It doesn’t have a built-in starter, nor does it include simmer control or a regulator to help maintain performance in cold or windy conditions. The BRS 3000-T is the very definition of a basic backpacking stove, with just the bare minimum of features. 

With that said, it does weigh less than an ounce and boils a liter of water in roughly three minutes. It also comes with a set of built-in pot holders that do a reasonably good job of maintaining balance even on rough terrain. Best of all, the BRS 3000-T costs just $17, making it an absolute bargain. 

Of course, at that price, this stove does come with a few caveats. It’s recommended that backpackers handle it with care as it isn’t the most durable. The stove can also perform poorly in windy conditions and its small burner head delivers only average performance. 

The best fuel-efficient backpacking stove

msr windburner stove

You’ll always want to consider weight, size, efficiency, and ease of use when shopping for a backpacking stove and none deliver on those as well as the MSR WindBurner, the best stove currently available. 

Pros: Compact, fast, and efficient, the MSR WindBurner is an all-in-one system that backpackers will love

Cons: No built-in igniter and not as lightweight as some other models

MSR’s made excellent backpacking stoves for decades and one of the mainstays in its line-up is the WindBurner Personal Stove System. What makes this particular stove stand out is that it’s an all-in-one option that gives users everything they need in one package. That includes the stove itself, a 1-liter insulated cook pot, a stabilizer, straining lid, and a plastic bowl. The only added extra you’d need is a canister of fuel and you’re set.

Unlike other all-in-one systems, the WindBurner offers a few extras that make it easier to use. For instance, its simmer-control system allows users to dial in exactly how much heat they want to apply to the pot. This also provides a measure of control over fuel consumption. 

The WindBurner truly shines with its versatility and efficiency. Very few backpacking stoves are as good in cold and windy conditions, and most use more fuel when preparing a meal. In fact, the WindBurner often gets twice as many uses out of a single fuel canister as its competition. That performance remains surprisingly consistent, too, even when used in a variety of environments or altitudes. 

Weighing in at 15.2 ounces, the WindBurner isn’t the lightest stove on this list but it is compact enough to comfortably carry inside a backpack, along with each of the add-ons which store inside one another. The entire package is easy to clean and can be set up or taken apart quickly. It also has the ability to boil a liter of water in just four and a half minutes, which is quite fast for a model of this size. 

The best backpacking stove for beginners

jetboil flash

The JetBoil Flash offers excellent all-around performance and great features that make it especially beginner-friendly. Compact and convenient, this is a stove first-time backpackers can quickly learn to operate and continue to use for many years. 

Pros: Fast and relatively efficient, the JetBoil Flash is extremely easy to operate, making it a great choice for beginners

Cons: No simmer control means the stove lacks subtle options when cooking a meal and its loss of efficiency in windy conditions is noticeable

Inexperienced backpackers looking for a great first backpacking stove should look no further than the JetBoil Flash. Like the MSR WindBurner, this model is an all-in-one solution that not only provides a stove but also a cooking pot wrapped in a protective outer shell. That’s essentially all you need to prepare the dehydrated backpacking meals that have become increasingly popular in recent years. 

The Flash’s ease of use is one of its biggest strengths. Simply fill up the pot with water and you’re ready to go. The entire system connects seamlessly to a gas canister, allowing the Flash to bring liquids to a boil in about three and a half minutes. That means you won’t have to wait long to get a warm meal or a hot beverage.

With its built-in heat exchanger, the Flash remains efficient, even in shifting weather conditions and colder temperatures. While not as fuel-efficient as the WindBurner, it still does a decent job of getting as much performance out of a single canister as possible.

At 13.1 ounces, the JetBoil Flash falls into the middle ground concerning size and weight. Smaller stoves, such as the MSR PocketRocket Deluxe, are more compact and less bulky but don’t include pots to prepare a meal, making the weight difference much closer than it seems. The Flash’s modular design only enhances its reputation as an easy-to-use option, too. 

The best travel backpacking stove

msr whisperlite universal

The MSR WhisperLite Universal is easy to travel with and uses liquid fuel rather than traditional gas canisters, making it the best backpacking stove for those going abroad.

Pros: Fast and efficient, compatible with multiple types of fuel which adds versatility and makes it great for international travel

Cons: A bit on the heavy side and requires regular maintenance in order to achieve optimal performance

Another mainstay in the MSR line-up, the WhisperLite Universal is without a doubt the best option for backpackers traveling outside the U.S. This stove comes with its own canister which can be filled with a variety of fuels, including white gas, kerosene, or even unleaded gasoline. It even uses standard isobutane-propane canisters when available, allowing this stove to go anywhere you’re able to find a viable fuel source. 

Compact and easy to carry, the WhisperLite Universal heats up quickly and gets nearly two hours of burn time from a single canister of white gas. Its overall efficiency varies depending on the fuel but it typically boils a liter of water in under four minutes. The stove is also easy to use, supports large pots for feeding groups of campers, and is surprisingly quiet for a liquid gas model.

The downside of using this type of stove is that it requires routine maintenance to keep it performing optimally. This maintenance isn’t particularly difficult but can be daunting and intimidating to newcomers. Additionally, at 14.9 ounces in weight, it’s a little heavier compared to other options. 

MSR ships the WhisperLite with a fuel pump, heat reflector, and a windscreen to help improve performance in windy conditions. It also comes with a few small parts to aid in the maintenance process. Unfortunately, a fuel bottle is not included, which adds an extra expense for international travelers, as well as a few additional ounces. 

How to shop for a backpacking stove

Shopping for a backpacking stove is different than what you’d look for while car camping, where size and weight don’t matter as much. When you’re carrying your entire allotment of gear inside a backpack, it’s vital to go small and lightweight.

It’s also important to find a stove that’s highly fuel-efficient in order to reduce the number of gas canisters you’ll need. 

But those aren’t the only features to consider. You’ll also want to take into account the number of people the stove supports, the kind of fuel it uses, and how durable it is. As with all outdoor gear, your stove should be extremely reliable and easy to use — there’s nothing like arriving at your campsite after sunset, exhausted and hungry, only to find your stove won’t start. 

What else to consider

It’s also important to think about when and where you’ll be using your camp stove. If you go backpacking in cold and windy conditions, you’ll want a stove that quickly boils water without using excess fuel. The same holds true when hiking at higher altitudes, where thinner air has a dramatic impact on efficiency. 

If this sounds too complex or overwhelming, fret not. There are plenty of reliable backpacking stoves to choose from, many of which are lightweight, compact, and fast. In fact, we’ve field-tested a crop of stoves currently available and came away impressed. There are now options available for just about every type of backpacker with any kind of budget. 

How we test backpacking stoves

Each stove featured in this guide went through a series of on-trail tests to see how well it held up across these four categories: Portability, weight, dependability, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into which backpacking stoves ultimately made this guide:

Weight: For literally anything backpacking-related, weight is perhaps the most important consideration. Even if you’re not an ultralight backpacker, counting down to the ounce is common practice, and your camp stove is no different. During each test, we loaded a backpack with roughly 20 pounds of gear (sleeping bag, clothing, food, headlamps, etc.) and would spend one to two days with the stove in our backpack, and at least one day with it in someone else’s. This helped us judge just how much of a difference those ounces truly made.

Portability: Though weight may first come to mind when assessing how portable a camp stove is, we also judged how well the stove packed down, whether into itself or as pieces that were easily packable. A highly portable backpacking stove shouldn’t take up much valuable room in your pack, and also shouldn’t be so many separate pieces that you feel like you’re assembling a jigsaw puzzle each day. 

Dependability: Setting up camp after a grueling day on the trail can turn sour very quickly if the stove you’re about to rely on for sustenance doesn’t work (and this is doubly true when the weather starts to turn wet, cold, and windy). We’ve tested these stoves in hot weather often but also made sure to put them through their paces when the wind and rain picked up. For these, we had to resort to doing so in our backyard, though time spent on trail this winter will allow for further testing.

Value: The value of a backpacking camp stove isn’t just how much it costs but more so a combination of the three categories before it, as well as its final sticker price. You want something that’s dependable and often that means spending a little more for something you can rely on (as opposed to spending less, more often on an inferior stove). 

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5 lesser-known places to look for last-minute campsites this summer

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last minute campsites

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Last year, after hitting another dead end on Recreation.gov, I was just about to give up on my dream of a last-minute, weekend camping trip to Washington’s Central Cascades. Every campsite was either already booked up for every summer weekend, was located too far, or didn’t provide enough amenities to satisfy my camping troupe.

As my desired weekend inched closer, I dug around to find alternative booking sites for camping and my search paid off. Not only did I discover several new places to look for campsites beyond the usual state and federal campgrounds, but I was also able to snag an incredible campsite for my trip via Airbnb.

Though my campsite was more expensive than many of the best campsites found on federal campgrounds, booking with an alternative site also came with some handy perks, including being able to see reviews and the ability to reschedule or cancel my trip, which isn’t usually possible at federal campgrounds.

If you’re eyeing a weekend camping trip this summer it’s important to know that there are many options to consider besides federal sites, including completely private campsites.

Here are the best places for finding a last-minute campsite

Airbnb

Lesser-known places to book campsites Airbnb Sweden

Book Airbnb campsites

Pros: It’s familiar and if you’ve built up a high rating as an Airbnb guest, you might be more inclined to stay on the platform.

Cons: It’s not commonly known as a place to list campsites, so it may not offer a good representation of all the private campgrounds in the area. Additionally, service, cleaning, and occupancy taxes may be applied to the total bill.

The world’s largest vacation rental site is filled with people who are more than happy to let you pitch a tent in their backyard, as well as small independent campgrounds that promote listings on the site, too.

All you have to do is plug in your desired location and filter for campsites specifically. You can still find plenty of the unique experiences that Airbnb is famous for, like camping on a farm in Maine or in a riverside meadow in California.

Although you won’t be able to find a private campsite inside a national or state park, you can still find campsites close to the entrance like this well-stocked campground just 7 miles from Utah’s Zion National Park or this beautiful forest-adjacent field just 10 minutes Washington’s Olympia National Park.

Hipcamp

Hipcamp camping RV- Lesser-known places to book campsites

Book Hipcamp campsites

Pros: Campsite listings are incredibly thorough and they don’t stop at just listing amenities. You can also filter by available activities like swimming and climbing or terrain features like hot springs, waterfalls, and caves. Unlike Airbnb, reviewers are able to upload photographs with their reviews which helps create a realistic picture of what to expect.

Cons: You will have to pay a non-refundable 8% to 18% service fee with every listing.

A site that is touted as the “Airbnb of Camping,” Hipcamp lists hundreds of campsites, RV sites, and glamping tents on its streamlined platform. Built with campers in mind, you can filter specifically for your camping needs from running water to ADA accessibility to equestrian access.

You’ll also be able to find many listings near popular national parks like this plateau plot near the Grand Canyon, or this site at the largest campground overlooking the sweeping views of Shenandoah National Park. Hipcamp is also a great resource for less traditional camping alternatives and you can rent everything from open-air treehouses to shipping containers.

The Dyrt

camping outdoor tent - Lesser-known places to book campsites

Book The Dyrt campsites

Pros: Along with campsites, you can also find information about nearby hikes and other things to do, which can help you thoroughly plan your whole trip.

Cons: You can’t book directly on this website, but you will be able to check availability for state and national parks.

Like Trip Advisor, but specifically for the outdoors, The Dyrt is an incredible resource for planning a camping or hiking trip. It’s full of detailed information, reviews, and user-uploaded photographs that can help provide a realistic expectation of what you find before you head out into the great outdoors.

Although you can’t book campsites directly on the website, you can still use the website to find thoroughly-reviewed cabins and campsites in state and national parks, as well as private campsites. Every campsite listing includes a link where you can book directly, whether it be on recreation.gov, KOA, or an independent campground. 

Glamping Hub

Catskills glamping tent - Lesser-known places to book campsites

Book Glamping Hub campsites

Pros: Glamping Hub’s specialty is in unique accommodations, so if your travel tastes align with the eccentric, this is a great place to find hidden gems.

Cons: Prices for some of the most upscale and decked-out glamping sites will be much more similar to a hotel stay than a traditional campsite.

If you’re not quite ready to rough it at a traditional campsite, there’s always glamping. Glamping Hub has listings all over the world with over 15,000 glamorous camping sites in the US alone.

This booking site is chock-full of unique accommodations from cabins and tiny houses to train cabooses and geodesic domes and there’s no need to pack a sleeping bag. Granted, you’re not going to convince everyone that a weekend in a cabin with running water and Wi-Fi is still camping, but with a little digging, you can still find off-the-grid locations, like this romantic tent on Washington’s Whidbey Island, and hosts that offer traditional camping with a twist like this hanging tent playground in California.

Tentrr

Tentrr tent camping - Lesser-known places to book campsites

Book Tentrr campsites

Pros: Booking a campsite on private property offers seclusion and the opportunity to enjoy landscapes not accessible at any other time. Tentrr also sells its own glamping tents, so many listings will have both a backcountry and signature option.

Cons: At the time of writing, the majority of listings are concentrated on the east coast, particularly in New York. Also, the platform does not allow you to click through to a user profile to see other posts by reviewers.

A site that is exclusive to listings from private landowners, and even includes property in state parks, Tentrr features listings in 41 states and Puerto Rico. You can filter by the website’s “signature” or “backcountry” campsites depending on whether or not you want to bring your own camping equipment or shack up in a glamping tent.

The model of this site offers unique camping opportunities like this abandoned zoo in the Catskills or this quiet forest just five miles away from the Oregon Coast.

Tentrr also lets you purchase extras for your trip right when you book your reservation. These extras are offered by the hosts and vary based on the site. They could be anything from a prepaid firewood bundle and a cooking set to a tour of the on-site apiary or a needle felting workshop.

Read our full Tentrr review here

Additional campground resources

KOA and ReserveAmerica are two good resources to keep in mind where you can easily search a large number of campgrounds quickly for availability. However, many of the campsites listed are the same as those you’ll find on Recreation.gov and other popular aggregator sites — which means they may not help you out when it comes to finding under-the-radar spots to book in a pinch.

Experienced campers can also look to pitch a tent on public lands away from developed recreation facilities on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas.

More outdoors vacation ideas

A glamping yurt in Florida
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The 5 best first aid kits of 2021 to keep at home or take with you on the go

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  • The best first aid kits should have items like bandages, wraps, antibiotic ointment, and pain relievers.
  • It’s smart to routinely check your first aid kit to be sure nothing is expired, low on stock, or needs updating.
  • Our top pick, the First Aid Only First Aid Kit, is compact, carefully curated with essentials, and costs under $25.

As a frequent camper and hiker, I know that having a first aid kit isn’t only a good idea, it’s a necessity. When you’re a three-day hike from the nearest hospital, you’d better be able to count on your own supplies in the event of injury or illness – so long as those supplies cover the basics.

When buying your own kit, it should have at least some assortment of the following: Bandages, antiseptic wipes, medical tape, anti-itch cream, burn relief gels, gauze, and antibiotic ointment, among others. It’s also important to choose a first aid kit that best suits the people and the situations in which they’ll be used. If you need just a small first aid kit for your home, there’s no need to splurge on a larger, disaster preparedness-style kit.

It’s also smart to opt for pre-packed kits whenever possible, especially if you’re relatively new to buying first aid kits, or aren’t entirely sure what all it should have. Piecing together your own is an option but should only be done by those that are experienced, or who have someone experienced helping them.

To help you find the best pre-packaged first aid kits available, I tested a number of options designed for a variety of use cases. No matter if you’re on a budget or just want a small kit for your home office, I have you covered. I’ve also included some insight into how to shop for a first aid kit at the end of this guide.

Here are the best first aid kits:

The best overall

first aid only

The First Aid Only All-Purpose First Aid Kit comes with all the basic medical supplies you need for quick diagnostics and the treatments of many ailments. 

Pros: Compact but comprehensive, great low price, well organized

Cons: Limited shelf life, included tape is not as adhesive as it could be

The First Aid Only All-Purpose First Aid Kit packs 299 doctor-recommended supplies into a soft-sided case measuring just 9.25 by 7.5 inches on its sides and about three inches deep. It’s about the size of a hardcover book but within this kit, you will find the tools needed to assess and treat everything from a scraped finger and heavily bleeding gash to a mild headache or high fever.

This kit comes with comprehensive wound cleaning and closure supplies, including multiple butterfly strips, gauze rolls and pads, and several types of bandages, not to mention the various alcohol, antiseptic, and antibiotic wipes and ointments. It’s the perfect triage kit for a variety of common injuries.

The kit also comes with an array of supplies invaluable to the person administering first aid, such as sterile vinyl gloves, a single-use thermometer, tweezers, and nickel-plated scissors. For all that, it still costs less than a nice meal — and certainly less than a trip to the ER.

The plastic partition pockets keep everything well-sorted and easy to find in a snap, so you won’t be fumbling for the right gear when time is of the essence, either. 

WebMD suggests you should replace your first aid kit once a year and replace any missing or expired items. At its affordable cost, you could replace the entire kit once a year without breaking the bank, maintaining a nice peace of mind in your home or workplace.

The best budget

coleman first aid

The Coleman All Purpose Mini First Aid Kit costs less than a fancy cup of coffee but it helps treat all sorts of minor scrapes, scratches, bug bites, and more.

Pros: Very affordable, lightweight and compact, perfect for travel

Cons: Not at all comprehensive

If you need to treat a compound fracture, you’re probably going to need a more advanced medical kit than this option from Coleman. More often than not, the damage we endure is often along the lines of minor cuts and scrapes, burns and bites, and the occasional puncture wound. For those everyday injuries, the Coleman All Purpose Mini First Aid Kit is the ideal choice.

It costs so little that there’s really no excuse not to buy one, and given the diminutive size of this kit, you can (and should) bring one along whenever your travels might lead you away from ready access to medical treatment.

Into a charming little tin, Coleman packed several antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, sting relief wipes, and a total of sixteen bandages in five different size and shape varieties. There’s also a razor blade for cutting away clothing or trimming medical tape, as well as a pair of safety pins.

The best portable

VSSL

VSSL’s First Aid is the perfect portable kit that’s great for camping, backpacking, or even just keeping around in your car or office, and includes 15 unique items all stored in a waterproof, aluminum container.

Pros: Compact and highly portable, has 15 unique pieces and 46 total items, comes in an aluminum carrying tube that’s waterproof

Cons: Not a comprehensive enough kit for large groups

Ingenuity and convenience are the main calling cards of VSSL’s first aid kit called, aptly, First Aid. Featuring 15 different items (and 46 total essentials) in an aluminum, waterproof carrying case, the First Aid is a highly useful and portable kit that can go just about anywhere. It’s perfect for the campground and the backcountry but also functions well at the job site or in the office. 

As the photo above shows, the First Aid is a tube-shaped kit that has everything packed neatly inside. Contents include a flashlight, compass, variety of bandages, adventure tape, and Steri-Strips, to name a few. It also has some antiseptic towelettes, medical face masks, and antibiotic cream. 

The entire contents of the kit store into a sleeve that conveniently folds up to slide inside the tube. The sleeve itself features hooks on either side so that it can be hung up for easy access, too. 

At just 14 ounces in weight, the First Aid weighs less than a pound and can be easily stashed in a backpack, glove box of a car, or in a desk. As mentioned, the entire thing is waterproof, so you can rest assured nothing will get ruined if it gets submerged in water or you’re trying to use it in the pouring rain. 

I’ve had my own First Aid (and replaced it a few times) for the last several years, and never leave home on a camping or backpacking trip without it. It’s highly convenient, has enough first aid supplies to adequately support one to two people, and is useful in more ways than just administering first aid. — Rick Stella, fitness and health editor

The best for the office

be smart first aid

The Be Smart Get Prepared 250 Piece First Aid Kit is OSHA and ANSI compliant and covers the first aid needs of up to 50 people, making it perfect for the office.

Pros: Great choice for the workplace, comes with a selection of medicines, hard plastic shell protects components

Cons: Case is bulky and not water-resistant, latch is prone to failure

The Be Smart Get Prepared Kit is a large, comprehensive first aid kit designed to meet the needs of several dozen people. It’s a great choice for businesses, retail locations, schools, churches, and even for the home, though it’s not a good choice for travel due to its bulky hard case.

The case helps keep the components organized and protected but it’s not watertight or resistant to moisture or temperature fluctuations which can affect some of the components. Because of this, it should be stored in a temperate indoor environment.

The Be Smart Get Prepared 250 Piece First Aid Kit has all the wound care components you would expect, from alcohol prep pads and antiseptic towelettes to multiple bandages in varied sizes.

What sets this kit apart from the others in terms of suitability for use in the office or at a school are the medicines it comes with. You’d likely already have access to many of these medicines at home — like pain and anti-inflammatory tablets and antacids — but it’s not always a given at work, school, or at other such locations.

It also includes cold packs, another handy feature for use when ice might not be nearby.

The best for disaster prep

Lightning X first aid kit

If you’re cut off from emergency services following a natural disaster or in times of civil unrest, you’ll be glad you have the Lightning X First Responder First Aid Kit.

Pros: Comprehensive supplies, features advanced medical gear, comes with backpack

Cons: Pricier than other options, many components not needed for basic first aid

If you foresee a time where there won’t be anyone on the other end of a 9-1-1 call, or you just like to be prepared for anything, the Lightning X First Responder First Aid Kit is the way to go. This kit certainly borders on overkill for most households but it’s likely the last kit you’d ever need to buy (not counting the items that merit periodic replacement, like alcohol wipes).

Anyone in need of first aid or preparing to administer it will appreciate the many bandages, the rolls and pads of gauze, the antiseptic wipes, the ointments, the tapes, and more. Anyone with actual medical training will also like the included stethoscope, sphygmomanometer, airway kit, and other more advanced medical tools. In the right hands, this kit is essentially a mobile trauma center while also having all your basic and intermediate first aid needs covered.

This comprehensive first aid kit comes loaded in a lightweight, ergonomic backpack with padded straps and reflective stripes, allowing it to be easily taken on the go — it’s even comfortable to carry and highly visible. While it’s a great choice for a well-prepared home, this kit was designed for emergency response professionals to use in the field.

How to shop for a first aid kit

A reliable first aid kit isn’t exactly a mobile trauma center but it does provide the basic supplies you need to mitigate the ill effects of an accident, injury, or sudden illness. Remember, it’s first aid, not final, comprehensive aid.

When choosing a first aid kit, you need to think about who might depend on it (in terms of the sheer number of people and the age and disposition of the user), where it will be stored and/or carried, and in what situations the likely users might endure an injury or illness.

Any first aid kit worth considering should have supplies capable of treating minor cuts, punctures, burns, and other such common injuries. Beyond that, the suitability of a given kit depends on careful consideration of factors ranging from weight to packaging to redundancy of the supplies included.

Check out our guide to the best emergency kits

emergency preparedness supply kit shutterstock_222250729

The best emergency kits

An emergency kit is something you should have around, in case an unexpected dangerous event happens. You can make your own, or purchase a pre-assembled kit that has everything you may need. We’ve rounded up the best emergency kits you can find pre-assembled.

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I used Arrive Outdoors to rent all the camping gear I needed for a weekend trip – here’s how it works and why I’ll gladly use the service again

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arrive outdoors review
  • Arrive Outdoors partners with top brands to rent outdoor, camping, and ski gear.
  • The company offers everything from one-off items like tents to full collections and sets of gear.
  • Prices start from $1 per day, but range depending on season, number of rental days, and popularity.

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Over the last year, there’s been a steep rise in the popularity of camping and other outdoor pursuits that make it easier to practice social distancing.

In fact, according to KOA’s North American Camping Report, 46% of leisure travelers have spent significantly more time outdoors since the start of the pandemic. Even those who typically prefer a more luxurious hotel-style stay have been keen to take up camping, and it’s a trend that’s likely to continue this summer too.

For those who don’t typically do much hiking or camping, investing in new equipment to get started can be expensive. While many campgrounds are quite cheap to book, tents, sleeping bags, camp stoves, hiking boots, and other essentials are not. And for city dwellers who lack roomy sheds, basements, or even closet space, there’s also the question of where to store everything.

Enter Arrive Outdoors, a company that rents camping, outdoor, and ski/snowboard equipment. Customers choose the items they want, the number of days they want to use them, and get them shipped right to their front door. After a fun weekend hiking and curling up by the campfire, just pack it all back up and ship it back.

What is Arrive Outdoors?

Arrive Outdoors is a company that partners with top brands to rent out camping and outdoor equipment. You can rent everything from tents and sleeping bags to ski pants and snowshoes and can choose a window of days to rent the gear. When finished, all gear is easily returned so there’s no need to own or store all your own equipment.

The gear is sent directly to your door via FedEx and comes with return shipping labels to send it back once you’re done. You can rent both equipment and clothes, though most of the equipment is for camping (you can’t rent actual skis, for example).

You can rent one-off items you may be missing, such as just a tent, just hiking boots, or just ski goggles, or you can rent entire sets the company curates. Sets range from camping sets for one, two, or four people to ski clothing sets for men, women, and even kids.

For those who only camp, hike, ski, or snowboard occasionally, want to try gear out before committing to buying it, or just want to save on storage space, Arrive Outdoors is an excellent option.

Arrive Outdoors review - Gear arriving

How much does Arrive Outdoors cost?

Rentals are priced per day so the total cost depends on how long you plan to use it. The prices also fluctuate quite a bit depending on the time of year and how many other people are looking to rent at the same time.

Small items like trekking poles or even hiking boots go for as little as $1 to $5 per day, depending on the season, while a two-person tent typically runs roughly $12 per day. Full sets like ski clothes for men (including everything from base layers to the ski jacket and gloves) costs closer to $80 per day.

If you’re willing to enter your email into the Arrive Outdoors database, you can also receive 10% off your first rental of $99 or more.

Where does Arrive Outdoors deliver?

Arrive Outdoors delivers anywhere in the contiguous United States via FedEx. Delivery is extremely easy and comes right to your door. You can even choose to get your equipment delivered to your home, a hotel, an Airbnb, or to one of over 10,000 FedEx or FedEx affiliate locations.

Arrive Outdoors COVID-19 policies

Arrive Outdoors has new policies in place specifically for COVID-19 that include:

  • Gear and apparel are thoroughly cleaned and treated with CDC-recommended cleaning solutions​;
  • All apparel goes through a​ commercial launder system and gets treated with laundry additives to fight viruses​ and bacteria;
  • All staff who handle gear or shipments are ​required to use disposable gloves at all times and use sanitizer ​frequently and between stations;
  • All ​product surfaces are cleaned with CDC-recommended disinfectants​.

My review of Arrive Outdoors

Arrive Outdoors review - inside Tent View

I’m no newbie to camping and typically have my camping packing list set. However, storing camping gear in my small Brooklyn apartment presents quite a challenge, and since I don’t camp as often as I used to, many of my bigger essentials like tents, sleeping pads, and coolers are currently stowed with my parents in New Mexico.

Because of that, I decided to try out Arrive Outdoor’s Camping Set for Two for my fiance and me (which was comped for review purposes). I also wanted to experience what it would be like if I had no equipment of my own and needed to rely exclusively on Arrive Outdoor’s supply.

The Camping Set prices fluctuate quite a bit. Though they start as low as $23 per day, the kit typically runs closer to $55 per day in the fall season. However, I went over an August weekend when camping was at peak popularity and the set ran $83 per night. For an entire weekend trip, I was looking at $166, plus a shipping charge of $20.

While that may seem pricey to rent gear and sleep on the ground, the set comes loaded with just about everything you need. This includes a high-quality Marmot tent, two Nemo sleeping bags, two Therma-a-Rest luxury sleeping pads, two headlamps, a lantern outfit with charging ports, a small YETI cooler, a camp stove and cooking pots, and two foldable camp chairs. If I bought everything included on the list, it’d run more than $1,600, which suddenly makes the $160 price tag much more reasonable.

The reservation process was also very easy and Arrive Outdoors allows you to reserve for free – it only charges your card once the gear actually ships. I also liked that it gave me options when choosing the sleeping bag for how warm I wanted it to be.

The gear arrived in two large boxes right on time and directly to my door. Everything was neatly packed and there was a note on the top outlining the brand’s new cleaning policy. This definitely helped put my mind at ease about renting gear in the COVID era and true to its word, all the equipment was spotless.

arrive outdoors review - lantern setup

The gear was also in excellent shape. I found no rips or tears in the tent or sleeping bags, and no missing tent poles or required components. I’d still recommend looking everything over and even pitching the tent once before embarking on an extended trip. There’s nothing worse than arriving at an isolated location miles away from home before realizing your tent zipper doesn’t work or your headlamp is broken.

Our campsite was a short, two-hour drive away and we arrived just before dusk on a Friday afternoon. Because it wasn’t my usual tent, I did end up having to pull up a short Youtube video to check how the poles were supposed to connect after some initial confusion. Despite that, I still felt that the equipment was extremely user-friendly, and setting up the tent a second time would’ve taken mere minutes after I’d gotten the hang of it.

All the extra equipment worked flawlessly and nearly everything we needed was included. However, there were a few key items missing that those who have never camped before could easily overlook. I’d recommend bringing some sort of pillow (inflatable or otherwise), a sturdy tarp in case of severe weather, and fire starters, at a bare minimum.

Overall, the equipment made for a comfortable and easy campsite. I particularly liked that the tent was actually a three-person tent, making it a bit roomier for both my fiance and me. The lantern that doubled as a charging port was especially handy and I’m even considering buying the same one now to add to my regular camping kit. We even took the camp chairs down to the beach and it made for an easy way to relax and enjoy the sunset view.

Arrive Outdoors View

When we got back, we made sure everything was packed back up, put it all back into the boxes with the pre-printed return shipping labels affixed, and dropped it off at a nearby FedEx. Do note that the boxes are big and heavy and if you don’t have a car, it can be a serious pain to get them to a drop-off location. I ended up needing to use a dolly just to wheel them to the drop-off.

The bottom line

My overall experience with Arrive Outdoors was an excellent one and I definitely plan to use it again this summer for my outdoor and camping gear needs. The company is very useful for those who are new to outdoor pursuits, want to try out equipment before buying, or who live in smaller spaces and don’t have the storage space for gear like tents or snowshoes.

The prices are especially reasonable for one-off items such as renting a single tent, a set of trekking poles, or a pair of gloves. However, the full sets make activities like camping and skiing more accessible for those who aren’t quite ready to invest in the gear required to get started – and it still offers great value when compared to the full retail prices of what’s included.

If you do plan to hike, ski, or camp often, it’s worth it to invest in your own equipment since rental prices add up over time, but for the occasional outing, Arrive Outdoors is a smart and worthy option.

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Tentrr lets you book private campsites and glampsites around the country – here’s what it’s like to use

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Tentrr review

  • Tentrr connects campers with private landowners and State Parks for secluded camping vacations.
  • Campers can choose fully-equipped ‘glampsites’ or opt for traditional campsites with their own gear.
  • Prices for glamping destinations typically start in the low $100s and campsites start from $35.

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In the last year, camping has skyrocketed in popularity since it presents a way to easily social distance while vacationing. Although vaccine rollouts are well underway in the US, camping and glamping destinations are still expected to be popular options this summer.

However, not everyone knows how to pitch their own tent, and sleeping on the ground isn’t appealing to all. Plus, as camping has increased in popularity, campsites have become increasingly booked up and crowded, which defeats the entire purpose of a secluded getaway in nature (though, if you’re wondering where to book last-minute camping reservations, start here).

Tentrr is a booking site that connects vacationers with private landowners for an upgraded camping experience. Campsites are generally on acres of private land for a truly immersive experience, and users can opt for traditional campsites or glampsites that come with canvas tents or cabins and true beds for a slightly more luxurious night’s rest.

What is Tentrr?

Most Tentrr campsites fall somewhere between camping and glamping. While the campsites aren’t as luxurious as top glamping destinations, they’re firmly a step up from pitching your own tent and sleeping on the ground.

Each spot comes with either a thick canvas tent that’s already set up, or a small cabin. All sites have a Queen-size bed inside with the basics ready to go, and many have extras you can add on for a low fee, such as firewood and fire starters if you don’t want to pack your own. But you’ll still largely be roughing it in the outdoors and you’ll need to pack and cook all your own food.

What truly sets Tentrr apart is the fact that it exclusively connects campers with private landowners and State Park grounds for a far more secluded stay than typical campgrounds. Forget parking your car amidst hundreds of other campers and pitching your tent within earshot of that other family’s crying kids – most Tentrr sites are secluded on 10 acres of land or more, making them ideal both for social distancing and for truly immersing yourself in nature.

tentrr reveiw - field of deer

The service also offers a smaller selection of backcountry sites that are closer to traditional camping. At these sites, campers bring all their own equipment, but can still enjoy a more secluded setup.

Tentrr is a four-season company and when searching for sites, they have an icon designating those that are “winter-ready” and that come with cozy winter extras to ensure you’ll be nice and toasty even in the snow. Campsites specifically designated as winter sites include insulated tent flies and flooring, along with propane heaters and, generally, extra blankets.

How much is Tentrr?

The cost of Tentrr varies depending on the type of campsite you choose and the season. Backcountry campsites with no equipment start as low as $35, while signature sites with tents or cabins start from around $125. Generally, signature campsites start in the low to mid $100s.

The very best signature campsites can cost upwards of $300 on weekends in the summer high season but even these drop closer to $190 in the fall and winter. While that might sound pricey for a bed in a canvas tent, it does allow novice campers to avoid having to invest in their own equipment. For others, the price of total seclusion, especially amidst the pandemic, is more than worth it.

Where does Tentrr have campsites?

Tentrr currently includes listings in 41 states, plus Puerto Rico. You can filter campsites by Signature or Backcountry listings depending on whether you prefer roughing it or more of an upscale experience. Signature sites include canvas tents or cabins with simple beds set up inside. Backcountry sites are more traditional campsites where you bring your own equipment, but are still in a secluded area without other campers around.

My review of Tentrr

Tentrr review - Waterfall Paradise, Walking Distance to River Cabin

Like many travelers, I was recently longing for an outdoor escape but still had safety as a main priority. I grew up camping with my family in New Mexico, but haven’t done as much of it since moving to the East Coast. However, camping felt like a relatively safe way to enjoy a short getaway.

My first venture out was to a campground near a beach on Long Island with rented camping equipment. However, when a nearby car alarm went off at 3 a.m. followed by someone accidentally turning on their headlights right into our tent, I knew crowded campgrounds were not the peaceful commune with nature I was dreaming of.

So, when I first learned about Tentrr I lept at the chance to stay in a secluded spot. My fiance, who is a novice camper, was thrilled by the idea of not needing to pitch our own tent and having a slightly comfier stay. I did a quick search for fully-equipped campsites within easy driving distance of New York and was drawn to the checkbox that let me search by those by a river or stream. When I saw a site that was called “Waterfall Paradise, Walking Distance to River,” I was sold. It came with a small cabin, a fire pit, and was set directly next to a peaceful stream.

We arrived in the afternoon after following the driving instructions we’d been sent and drove down a long dirt road past a small house and into a wooded clearing with a yellow sign marked “Tentrr” nailed to a tree. The cabin came into view and we parked right next to it. While the campsite was actually just a short drive from the small town of Port Jervis, it felt like we were a world away immediately.

Fresh air filled my lungs and the forest symphony of the stream and small waterfall was the only audible noise. The tiny wood cabin was minimalist but extremely cozy. The bed came with linens and a colorful blanket for added warmth. There was a tiny wood-burning stove in the corner (which proved very necessary once the sun went down), as well as two kerosene lanterns on either side of the bed. The ceiling was made of a thick, see-through plastic so I could gaze up at the trees or night sky from bed.

There was also a little porch with two Adirondack chairs, a fire pit, a picnic table, and a wooden platform built right over the waterfall with a table made out of a tree and an umbrella. A sink for washing up was just across the river and there was a simple shower set up right at the river for the ultimate outdoor bathing experience. The listing was not exaggerating when it called this spot “paradise.”

Our hosts, who lived in the small house we passed on our way in, left us a nice note explaining where everything was, plus their phone number in case we needed anything. Cell service, however, was mostly non-existent, making that a challenge if we actually did need something.

Tentrr review - Waterfall at tentrr Site

We followed a map our hosts left for us to a large waterfall just a short 10-minute walk away. The entire area was stunning and we had it all to ourselves – a serious treat for city dwellers.

Because we were only staying for one night, we didn’t do much cooking and instead brought on-the-go meals and snacks. However, we ate them at the picnic table while enjoying the scenery and even built a fire in the fire pit to keep warm and roast some marshmallows.

At sunset, I walked to a nearby field and found a family of deer nibbling on the tall grass, truly making for a fairytale experience. The night was perfectly capped off when solar-powered twinkle lights on a few of the trees slowly began to turn on, adding to the enchanting setting.

Tentrr review inside cabin

We did run into a brief issue trying to light the kerosene lanterns, as neither of us had ever done this before and there were no instructions, but eventually we figured it out. The wood-burning stove and extra blanket proved extremely useful since it did get cold but when I woke up the next morning, all I wanted to do was stay longer.

The bottom line

While Tentrr is certainly more expensive than traditional campgrounds, it’s on par with or less expensive than many glamping sites. For those seeking private campsites, an upgrade from a sleeping bag, or novice campers who just want to experience an outdoor escape without needing to bring major equipment, Tentrr is an ideal option.

For those looking to save on costs or who already own all their own gear and prefer the typical camping experience, Tentrr’s backcountry sites still provide an alluring and peaceful alternative to crowded campgrounds. For me, camping is really about reconnecting with nature, and the private campsites truly achieve this regardless of if you opt to stay in a traditional tent, a canvas tent, or a small cabin.

However, I found the fully-equipped campsite to be well worth the cost during my stay. My waterfall campsite was nothing short of magical, and I’m already planning on booking another stay. In an undoubtedly taxing year, escaping for even one night with Tentrr was a true highlight.

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The 8 best sleeping bags to keep you warm while camping or backpacking

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A sleeping bag is a vital part of anyone’s camp kit, no matter if they’re backpacking or car camping.
  • The best should be comfortable, provide enough warmth when needed, and have either down or synthetic insulation.
  • Our top pick, REI’s Co-op Magma 30ºF, has a great weight-to-warmth ratio and packs down small for easy transport.

Whether you’re camping with your car or trekking across the Himalayas, your sleeping bag might be the most important piece of gear in your kit. A proper sleeping bag keeps you comfortable throughout the night, ensuring you get a good night’s sleep. Conversely, the wrong sleeping bag leaves you feeling tired and miserable, which makes for a long next day on the trail.

Because of their importance to not only your well-being but to the success of any camping trip, picking out the right sleeping bag is vital. Since many of the best options aren’t exactly cheap, it’s important to not go through much trial-and-error.

Having crawled into a sleeping bag in just about every setting imaginable – in the backcountry, at a campsite, on an overlanding trip, and even in my backyard – I’ve developed, through much trial-and-error, a keen sense of what makes a quality sleeping bag. And with as much variety as there is, narrowing down a selection deemed “the best” isn’t always an easy task – but nevertheless, I’ve rounded up 8 of my absolute favorites below.

The following sleeping bags are great for a range of use cases, too, whether you prefer shoulder season camping, braving the frigid conditions of winter, or just want some casual to relax in while roughing it. At the bottom of this guide, I’ve also included some tips on how to shop for a sleeping bag and what to keep in mind, as well as some insight into the testing methodology I used in deciding which bags to feature.

Here are the best sleeping bags:

The best overall

Big Agnes sleeping bag

The REI Co-op Magma 30 offers an excellent weight-to-warmth ratio, good all-around comfort, and packs down small, giving it outstanding value for the price. 

Pros: Warm, comfortable, and provides high value for the price

Cons: Small stuff sack, 30ºF temperature rating might be generous

Very few sleeping bags offer as versatile a combination of features as the REI Co-op Magma 30º. Warmth, comfort, packability, value; it manages to do it all and at a reasonable price, to boot.

Made with 850-fill hydrophobic goose-down insulation surrounded by a water-resistant Pertex shell, the Magma 30º is a sleeping bag built for use on the trail. It manages to perfectly balance performance and weight, while also providing plenty of interior space. There’s even a customizable hood for added comfort and heat retention.

The bag does feature unique bio-mapped baffles which often provide more insulation in the torso area and less in the legs and feet. This could very well lead to some cold toes on frostier nights. 

One of the Magma 30’s best features is an easy-pull zipper that runs the length of one side. This provides campers the option to unzip the bag for improved venting in warmer weather, allowing them to stay more comfortable in a variety of environments.

When the mercury takes a plunge, the bag fully zips in order to keep things warmer. This holds true despite the fact REI gave the Magma 30 a generous amount of interior space — which is nice for all-around comfort but sometimes leads to cold air sneaking in.

There were a few times when this bag didn’t quite live up to its 30ºF temperature rating but to be fair to REI, it does say it’s best used at 39ºF and above. It can be used in colder temps in a pinch, though — and we’d recommend layering up if you need to.  

The REI Co-op Magma 30 is a great all-around sleeping bag with plenty of features and good performance. It’s lightweight, comfortable, and doesn’t take up much room in a backpack, all of which are features that should make it a popular option for backpackers and car campers alike. 

The best budget

Kelty sleeping bag

The Kelty Cosmic 20 isn’t only affordable, it also offers solid all-around performance, making it the best option for backpackers and campers on a tight budget.

Pros:  Very affordable for a 20ºF down bag

Cons: Not as durable or well constructed as more expensive options

Make no mistake, you can buy sleeping bags that cost less than the Kelty Cosmic 20. However, they won’t offer anywhere near the same level of performance. Finding a down sleeping bag for under $200 has always been somewhat of a challenge but Kelty managed to accomplish this feat, bringing a great entry-level option for those who don’t have a large sleeping bag budget.

To hit the Cosmic 20’s $170 price point, there were a few compromises that had to be made. Kelty used 600-fill down in the bag to keep costs down, although that insulation is still highly water-resistant. The bag’s outer shell is made from a soft 20D nylon material and while this is adequate, it doesn’t exactly scream high-quality.

The Cosmic 20 is also fairly heavy at 2 pounds, 13 ounces and doesn’t offer the same level of compressibility you’d find in more expensive bags. 

With that said, this sleeping bag still manages to provide plenty of comfort and functionality for campers on a budget. It performs reasonably well in cooler conditions and even delivers on its 20ºF temperature rating. It also features PFC-down and fabrics, which are better for the environment and your health, proving that even budget outdoor gear can be eco-conscious. 

Having spent a few nights in the Cosmic 20, I can tell you it’s a perfectly good sleeping bag that comes at an outstanding price. There are other bags that offer better performance and build quality, but those run nearly twice the price. If you don’t have a lot of cash to spend on your outdoor gear, you’ll be extremely pleased with what Kelty delivered. 

The best for backpacking

Therm a rest sleeping bag

The Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 32 weighs less than a pound, yet still delivers excellent performance for those who like to go light and fast in the backcountry. 

Pros: Extremely lightweight, packs down incredibly small, includes sleeping pad attachments

Cons: Not particularly warm, narrow design, expensive

Backpackers who count every ounce need the Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 32. This bag weighs a mere 15 ounces, making it one of the lightest sleeping bags on the market. That alone should make it a favorite for ultralight hikers, although the Hyperion 32 dazzles with its compressed size and all-around comfort, too. It even comes with a built-in sleeping pad harness that helps keep your pad and bag from separating while you sleep. 

In order to get the weight of the Hyperion 32 down so remarkably small, Therm-a-Rest went extra light on insulation. The company used 900-fill hydrophobic down but only in limited quantities. As a result, the bag isn’t quite as warm as some of the others on this list. It also has a narrow, somewhat confining cut, which won’t endear it to side-sleepers or those who aren’t fans of mummy bags.

Thanks to its focus on being extremely lightweight rather than warm, the Hyperion 32 is best used in warmer weather conditions. From my own experience, using it from late spring through early fall is a fantastic option for backpackers looking to shave ounces off their pack. At other times of the year, it won’t be warm enough to meet the conditions — though most ultralight sleeping bags have this exact common criticism. 

Of course, ultralight gear does come at a price and the Hyperion 32 is no different. The bag sells for $340, which is on the spendy side for something with this temperature rating. When you factor in its weight-to-warmth ratio, the value of the Hyperion comes into focus. It’s a sleeping bag that appeals to a specific crowd but those who buy it will undoubtedly appreciate what it brings to the table. 

The best for kids

Big Agnes duster sleeping bag

Kids will love the Big Agnes Duster 15º sleeping bag because it’s warm and cozy but it’s the parents who will be most impressed with its clever design that allows it to grow as their child does.

Pros: Made specifically for kids, unique design allows bag to grow with the child, affordable

Cons: Not as warm as it should be, relatively heavy, doesn’t pack as small as some bags

One of the biggest drawbacks of buying outdoor gear for kids is that they outgrow it after only a few uses. The same holds true for most sleeping bags, although the Duster 15 from Big Agnes looks to change that.

The designers at Big Agnes set out to create a sleeping bag that could somehow grow along with the kids using them. It came up with a system of hooks and loops that give parents the ability to shorten the length of the bag when their kids are smaller, while gradually increasing the length as they grow. As a result, the Duster 15 is made to accommodate campers who fall between 4’5″ and 5’6″ in height, providing a level of versatility not found anywhere else.

Just because this bag is aimed at kids doesn’t mean it doesn’t the same features you’d find on an adult bag. For instance, Big Agnes included a no-draft collar, zipper, and wedge, which help to keep cold air out. It also comes with built-in liner loops and the ability to attach it to a sleeping pad. A contoured hood offers a comfortable fit to go along with added warmth, while the bag is built to keep insulation close to the body, even when adjusting to a growing child. 

Unfortunately, the synthetic insulation may not be efficient enough to actually live up to the Duster’s 15ºF rating. Considering how easy it is for kids to get cold, it’s likely they’ll start to feel uncomfortable even at warmer temperatures. 

Compared to other sleeping bags for kids, the Duster is a bit heavier and doesn’t pack down quite as small. This is due largely to its ability to resize, however. Considering that feature keeps you from buying a new bag every year, it seems like a decent trade-off. The $109.95 price tag is also quite affordable, particularly since the Duster should be useful for many years. 

The best shoulder-season

GetDown1

The Get Down 35 from Sierra Designs is a comfortable and lightweight sleeping bag that works well for shoulder season camping when temperatures aren’t quite warm but not entirely frigid.

Pros: Made of 20D polyester ripstop for durability, features 550 fill power down, warm in temperatures down to roughly 26 degrees Fahrenheit, has a cinchable hood for added warmth, packs down easily, lightweight

Cons: Might be too warm for summer camping

Shoulder season camping is one of the most desirable times to rough it for a number of reasons; there are likely smaller crowds at popular camping sites and the weather should be a comfortable mix of not too hot and not too cold. However, considering just how unpredictable weather truly is, a shoulder-season camping trip could start out sunny and 65 but end with pouring rain and temps hovering around 40 degrees.

This makes packing for a shoulder season camp trip difficult — do you bring your summer bag and chance it, or pack a thicker, winter-specific one and potentially sleep warm? The happy medium, I’ve found, is a bag like the Get Down 35 from Sierra Designs. It stays warm enough on cool spring nights and can cinch up tight to create a cozy interior when temps drop. 

The Get Down 35 features 55 fill power down, is made with durable 20D polyester ripstop nylon, and has a soft polyester taffeta interior liner. It weighs roughly 1 lb. 13 oz. making it lightweight enough for backpacking trips and easy to throw into a car when camping at a campsite. 

What I liked most about this bag is its versatility (i.e. performance during random shoulder season weather). With a comfort rating of 35 degrees Fahrenheit and an ISO limit rating down to 26 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s able to handle fluctuating spring weather with ease. Even if it got a little warm, I’d just unzip the bag a bit to let in some air and never felt too hot. 

It also has a reasonable price tag. Often retailing for around $160 for the regular length version (the long length is $180), it’s not that far off from the budget pick in this guide which sells for $150. That means you’re getting a quality bag without the typical premium price tag. — Rick Stella, fitness and health editor

The best for comfort

Zenbivy sleeping bag

Great for side and stomach sleepers, the Zenbivy Bed offers unmatched comfort and versatility by mimicking the bed you have at home. 

Pros: Very comfortable, great for side-sleepers, sleeping pad integration, versatile

Cons: A little complicated at first, doesn’t pack down as small as other options

The result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Zenbivy Bed brings comfort and versatility to the backcountry by mimicking the bed you have at home. It does this by using a unique design that incorporates both a top quilt and a sheet designed to fit over a sleeping pad. This creates a sleep system that allows campers to freely move about in their sleep and to settle into more natural positions — it’s unlike anything else on the market. 

When using the Zenbivy Bed, campers attach the included sheet to their sleeping pad and then independently connect the blanket to the sheet. This allows each piece to act separately from one another, while still working together to provide comfort and warmth. The end result is a sleeping bag that offers more freedom of movement, while still retaining solid overall performance. 

Having used the Zenbivy Bed on multiple occasions, its biggest drawback is that it takes a bit of practice to get everything to work together. Once you’ve done it a time or two, it gets easier but the first time you set it up just might leave you scratching your head about how everything works. Once you bring it altogether, you end up with a sleeping bag that’s quiet, comfortable, and cozy. And since you’ll feel less constricted and confined, you might just wake up more rested the next day. 

Zenbivy’s innovative design lends itself well to increased versatility, too. Just like the blanket on your bed back home, the Zenbivy bed’s blanket can be turned down or bundled up as needed, allowing it to stay warmer in colder temperatures or vent excess heat when temperatures rise.

It even opens at various points to improve airflow in general, allowing it to be used in a surprisingly wide range of climates. 

The best women-cut

Sea to Summit bag

Built specifically with female campers in mind, the Sea to Summit Flame Ultralight 15º sleeping bag is contoured to work efficiently with a woman’s body, while providing extra warmth and comfort where it’s needed most.

Pros: Female-specific design, cozy, good weight-to-warmth ratio

Cons: Expensive, short zippers

It used to be extremely difficult for women to find a sleeping bag that met their specific needs. Thankfully, those days are long gone and it’s now possible to find a number of options built from the ground up with female campers and backpackers in mind. The Sea to Summit Flame Ultralight 15 is a good example of this, as it takes into account a woman’s shape, as well as their need for more warmth, to deliver a comfortable night’s sleep.

The bag uses high-quality 850+ fill-power hydrophobic goose down as its insulator, which not only makes it warm but soft and lofty, as well. But it takes more than just good insulation to make a sleeping bag comfortable in cold conditions. In order to achieve that, Sea to Summit did extensive research to learn exactly where the down should go, using body-mapping techniques to improve performance. 

The Flame Ultralight’s design was influenced by body mapping in other ways, too. For instance, the bag is narrower in the shoulders compared to most men’s sleeping bags. It’s also shorter overall and offers more room between the hips and knees in order to facilitate side-sleepers. These simple yet well-thought-out changes help keep cold air from reaching the interior while also providing a generous amount of space.

If there’s a knock against the Sea to Summit Flame 15, it’s definitely the price. At $529, it’s quite a hefty investment, even though it’s a sleeping bag that should continue to perform at a high level. If you can get past the price tag, you’ll be buying one of the best women’s sleeping bags ever made. 

The best for winter camping

Nemo sonic sleeping bag

Extremely warm and comfortable, yet still lightweight with a relatively small pack size, make the Nemo Sonic 0 a great option for cold-weather outings. 

Pros: Warm and spacious, has innovative features such as “Thermo Gills” to help improve temperature control and venting, good for side-sleepers

Cons: A little bulkier than most other bags and it’s expensive at $500

If you’re camping in a cold environment or during winter, you’ll need a sleeping bag designed to keep you extra warm. That’s exactly what you get with Nemo’s Sonic 0, a sleeping bag that offers a blend of traditional sleeping bag features with unique design elements that provide a high level of versatility. 

The Sonic is insulated with 800 fill-power, hydrophobic down that provides plenty of warmth in temperatures dropping as low as 0ºF. The bag also comes with integrated draft tubes and a newly-redesigned draft collar, both of which help to keep cold air out and warm air in.

The designers at Nemo took things even further by using both waterproof and breathable fabrics, along with a thin layer of synthetic insulation. This provides extra comfort and protection from the elements, and the result is a sleeping bag that doesn’t have any weaknesses in its armor when it comes to protecting campers and backpackers from the cold. 

Other unique design elements include the brand’s Thermo Gills and the Toaster foot box. Both were created in order to maintain a high level of comfort. The Thermo Gills are the most impressive as they help vent excess heat so efficiently that it actually raises the Sonic’s temperature rating up by as much as 20ºF. The Toaster foot box was incorporated in order to improve warmth and breathability around the feet — a common cold spot in most other bags.

Priced at $500, most campers may find the Nemo Sonic 0 to be on the high end of their budget or out of their price range altogether. But that price is fairly competitive for a cold-weather sleeping bag that offers this level of performance and innovation. If you like to backpack during the winter, this is the bag you’ll want.

How to shop for a sleeping bag

When it comes to selecting a sleeping bag, there are a number of factors to consider, including weight, size, and temperature rating. Most sleeping bags come in different sizes to accommodate different people. Generally speaking, those sizes are small, medium, and large, and most manufacturers charge different prices based on size.

For instance, if you’re taller, there’s a good chance you’d pay more for a tall-specific bag. Larger sleeping bags also tend to weigh a bit more, although in most cases the differences are negligible. 

Temperature ratings and insulation

A sleeping bag’s temperature rating is arguably more important than either size or weight when it comes to comfort. The rating is an indicator of the absolute lowest temperature the bag should be used in. In other words, if a sleeping bag has a rating of 35ºF/1.6ºC, it’s generally safe and comfortable to use in weather conditions that drop to those temperatures. Anything below that and you run the risk of being too cold and uncomfortable. 

Temperature ratings also have an impact on a sleeping bag’s weight and size. The lower the temperature rating, the more insulation it needs to maintain comfort levels. As insulation is added, the bag gets heavier and thicker, adding bulk to a hiker’s backpack at the same time. That’s the trade-off that comes with having a warmer bag for use in more extreme conditions.  

Insulation types

Down

Another consideration when searching for a sleeping bag is whether or not you want down feathers or synthetic insulation. Down is widely considered to be the warmest and lightest form of insulation, providing plenty of warmth while staying fairly light. It also compresses down to a relatively small size, meaning it won’t take up much space in your pack.

The downside, however, is that when down gets wet, it tends to lose its loft and much of its performance. The introduction of hydrophobic (aka water-resistant) down has changed this a bit but there are still plenty of traditional down options on the market. 

Synthetic insulation

The other popular sleeping bag insulator is synthetic insulation. Bags with synthetic insulation don’t perform as well in cold conditions but also don’t lose any performance when they get wet. These types of insulations are also less expensive, though they do tend to be heavier and less compressible.

How we test sleeping bags

Each sleeping bag featured in this guide went through a series of tests to judge how well they compared based on these four categories: Comfort, warmth, portability, and value. Here’s how each of those categories factored into which sleeping bags ultimately made the guide:

Comfort: You wouldn’t want to sleep on an uncomfortable mattress at home, so why settle for anything less in your sleeping bag? No matter if you need an ultra-warm four-season bag or something lighter for the warmer months, the sleeping bag you choose should be a comfortable place to catch some Zs at the end of a long day. This category was particularly easy to figure out, too. Is it comfortable or not? 

Warmth: Warmth isn’t exactly something that every bag is able to compete in as some are made specifically for shoulder seasons or the heat of summer. What we were able to judge in this category is if the bag lives up to its specific rating. If it says it’s able to keep you warm down to 25 degrees, then it should certainly not start feeling cold at 30 degrees.

Portability: Even if you’re just car camping, it’s still ideal to have your sleeping bag excel in terms of portability. Thankfully, most (if not all) modern sleeping bags come with their own pack bag that makes for easy storage and hauling. For backpackers, the choice sleeping bag is one that not only comes in its own bag but can pack down extremely small so as to nestle nicely into the bottom of their bag. 

Value: Quality sleeping bags aren’t cheap though most are certainly worth the investment for what they can offer, namely comfort and protection in the backcountry. It’s better to spend a little more on a product designed to perform than to either spend less on an inferior product that negatively affects your cam trip or doesn’t hold up in terms of durability.

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The 6 best lanterns, for use at a campsite or during a power outage at home

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A lantern lights up your tent or cabin while camping, and can also help you see during a power outage.
  • The best should offer a high lumen output, have a battery that lasts several hours, and be highly durable.
  • Our top pick, the CORE 500 Lumen CREE LED Lantern, is compact with a long-lasting battery and a bright output.

In the event of a prolonged power outage, a lantern creates a room-filling light that allows for easier cooking, reading, and other basic activities that you can’t accomplish with the directional beam of a flashlight or headlamp.

A lantern is also immensely helpful in emergency situations should you need to administer first aid, repair a piece of equipment, or find your way around in the dark. The long battery life (or fuel burn time) of a good lantern is another bonus when compared with most flashlights, which tend to consume batteries more quickly.

For the camper, a lantern makes a tent, cabin, or the campsite itself more comfortable and inviting. The beams of headlamps and flashlights can be unpleasant and blinding, leaving most of the surrounding area dark while often washing out the spots on which they fall. Lantern light, on the other hand, is softer, filling a space with illumination and allowing all in its proximity to enjoy the glow.

To help make your shopping experience easier, we’ve tested a selection of lanterns from brands like Coleman, Goal Zero, and CORE Equipment to find the best currently available. At the end of this guide, we’ve also included some tips on how to shop for a lantern and what to keep in mind.

Here are the best lanterns:

The best overall

lantern 1

The CORE Equipment 500 Lumen CREE LED Lantern puts out enough light to fully illuminate a midsized room or to light up your campsite, porch, or picnic area.

Pros: Super bright output, great battery life, good price for the quality, durable construction

Cons: Uses pricey D batteries, needs dimmer setting

The CORE Equipment 500 Lumen CREE LED Lantern casts a halo of light that brightens an area measuring 60 feet wide — and that’s on its low setting. When at full power, the lantern’s beam stretches out 45 feet, illuminating a space 90 feet across.

Equally impressive are its run-times, too, as the lantern’s able to shine for 19 hours at full power and for a whopping 65 hours at the lower setting. Its diffuser tube ensures that its light is evenly distributed and is bright but not harsh.

The CORE Equipment 500 Lumen lantern weighs a little less than a pound and is small enough to tuck into a backpack. While it’s slightly heavier and larger than the distance trekker or the climber will want to carry, it’s a great choice for use on shorter hikes or for the car camper or RV enthusiast.

Despite its small size, the power of this lantern also makes it a fine choice for use in equipping an emergency preparedness kit or for more mundane, everyday tasks like grilling after dark or just hanging out in the backyard. 

The best on a budget

lantern

The Etekcity Collapsible LED Lantern is small, bright, and built to last, but best of all, it comes in a two-pack for $20. 

Pros: Great low price, compact and lightweight, durable construction

Cons: Short run time, light quality rather pale and harsh

What can you get with ten dollars? Quite a lot, really. You can get a decent cocktail or a fine sandwich, a month’s worth of streaming video and TV programming, or a compact and capable lantern that will shine for hours at a time and last for many years of regular use. The Etekcity Collapsible LED Lantern costs only $20 for two, but it is backed by a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty.

When fully collapsed, the Etekcity LED lantern is less than five inches tall, and it weighs well under a pound. That makes it a fine choice for the trekker who is watching gear weight.

The intensity of light output is regulated based on how far you extract the globe section from the outer casing. The more of the 30 individual LED bulbs that are exposed, the more light that the lantern emits. This is a pleasantly simple way to regulate brightness, but there’s also a drawback in that the bulbs that are hidden away are still glowing, thus draining a bit of power needlessly.

The lantern is powered using three AA batteries and runs for 12 hours on its lower intensity setting and eight hours at maximum output. That’s not a laudable runtime, but the money you save on the unit can be applied to some extra batteries.

The best propane-powered

coleman lantern

As long as you planned ahead and stocked up on fuel, the Coleman NorthStar Propane Lantern can provide you hours upon hours of amazingly bright light.

Pros: Amazingly bright, long run time, wide range of brightness settings

Cons: Slightly loud while operating, not suitable for indoor use, large and heavy

LED lanterns are all the rage these days, and for many good reasons: They produce no appreciable heat, making them safe for use in confined spaces and around pets and kids, they tend to be compact and lightweight, and they’re easy to use. But that doesn’t mean there’s not still a place for a propane-powered lantern at the proverbial table — or at the actual campsite, in your yard, at the RV park, and more.

The duration of burn time you can expect from the Coleman NorthStar Propane Lantern is entirely dependent on the size of the propane bottle you choose. With a compact one-pound tank, you can expect about eight hours of super bright light and as much as 20 or even 24 hours on a low setting. With a 20-pound tank, you could leave the light burning for a week straight.

While shopping for a propane tank and connecting one to the unit are both more involved tasks than buying and replacing batteries, the sheer volume of light this lantern creates beats out almost every battery-powered electric lantern money can buy. Its top 1,500-lumen setting matches the light output of a 100-watt incandescent light bulb.

Once you have the propane tank connected and the lantern securely placed on a flat surface or hung from a branch, you fire it up, using a simple push-button ignition system. Brightness is controlled with an easy-to-use dial on the front of the unit. And that’s that. This is a durable, reliable lantern that works much the same as devices people have trusted for many generations.

The only real drawback here is that indoor use is ill-advised, not because of the fire hazard, but rather because propane burning equipment should always be operated in open-air environments.

The best for emergencies

lantern

The HeroBeam V3 LED Lantern is water-resistant, rechargeable, and can function as both an omnidirectional lantern and as a flashlight with a focused beam. 

Pros: Versatile light output, water-resistant, rugged and durable, rechargeable 

Cons: Some units malfunction with heavy use

Whether you’re searching the nighttime forest for a lost loved one or jacking up a car as the rain slashes down, lighting up the kitchen so you can prepare a meal during a power outage, or shining light over the shoulder of an EMT treating an injury, if you’re using the HeroBeam V3 LED Lantern, you’re doing it right.

This light can fill a room or outdoor area with a large pool of light or throw a beam out dozens of yards into the darkness. Just to make things easy for you, the handle even flips around to allow for easy carrying in both the lantern and the flashlight configuration.

The HeroBeam V3 lantern is rated as IPX4 water-resistant, which means that even if you need to use this lantern in a downpour or if it gets splashed by waves coming over the side of a boat, it will still work just fine. And thanks to its durable ABS plastic body, it won’t break if you drop it or knock it off a table, either. This is good, because, in emergency situations, things rarely go smoothly.

The newer V3 model is also an upgrade from our previous choice, the V2, and is now rechargeable from any USB port. Easily charge it up from any laptop, phone charger, or car. Alternatively, it can also take AA batteries so you can double the operating duration.

The best solar-powered

lantern

The Survival Frog Solar Pocket Light Lantern offers hours of soft, steady light with each charge, no batteries or fuel required. 

Pros: Charges with sunlight, strobe light option, very light and compact

Cons: Not very bright, depends on sunshine or access to USB port

If you expect a compact solar lantern to be bright enough to illuminate a large room or fill a campsite with light, you’re going to be disappointed. If you count on the diminutive Survival Frog Solar Pocket Light Lantern to fill your tent with light or to illuminate a few square feet around your campfire or picnic table, however, you’re going to be quite pleased.

What this little lantern lacks in hundreds of lumens of output, it more than makes up for in weighing less than a half-pound, in folding down into a package you can tuck into a pocket, and in using nothing more than sunlight to power its internal rechargeable battery. When the sun isn’t shining but a USB port is close at hand, you can also power it up via USB cable.

This Survival Frog lantern can be hung from the roof of a tent or from a branch or perched on a table or on the floor to fill an area with light, or it can be used as a directional flashlight. The pool of lantern light is on the smaller side and the beam fainter than a top-quality LED torch, you should know that going in.

You should also know that the lantern has three settings: bright, dim, and flashing (a great option for helping people locate you from afar in the dark).

The best for backup power

goal zero lighthouse 400

The Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 offers more than just bright lighting. It can also recharge your other electronic devices, and recharge itself with a hand-crank when in a pinch. 

Pros: Backup battery for recharging electronic devices, hand-crank for quick charging, bright LED light that can be adjusted

Cons: Pricey, solar option requires additional accessory  

The Lighthouse 400 from Goal Zero provides a bright, omnidirectional LED light at 400 lumens. But lighting is just one of its great features. Goal Zero is a company that specializes in portable power, and with its built-in 4,400mAh battery, you can use this lantern to recharge a phone, tablet, or camera. The battery capacity is enough to recharge a smartphone at least twice.

On the front, you’ll find a standard USB port for recharging a device. The lantern is also powered via the battery, which has a run-time between 2.5 to 6 hours, depending on the brightness level and how many LEDs are turned on (there are two). The battery recharges via its built-in USB cable, which takes about five hours, according to the company.

But what if an electrical outlet isn’t available? The lantern has two other recharging options: solar (with an optional Goal Zero solar panel) or a hand crank. Just one minute of cranking produces about 10 minutes of light — ideal for an emergency. Solar charging takes about 7-14 hours. So, even when its battery is completely drained, you have other options to recharge it.

The Lighthouse 400 is easy to store and operate. When not in use, just fold up the legs. In my experience in testing portable batteries, Goal Zero makes some of the better options. I also like the company’s portable solar panels and find them to work well, although it’s an extra premium if you were to add it to the purchase (it would push this lantern beyond the $100 mark). Overall, it’s a great accessory that does more than just lighting, but I do wish the product had a sturdier plastic construction. — Les Shu, senior guides editor

How to shop for a lantern

When figuring out which lantern best suits your needs, consider its weight, size, power source, brightness output, and special features. You’ll also want to give equal thought to where and how you’ll use it most often.

For instance, if you plan on doing a lot of car camping, it’s smart to opt for one that’s easy to transport over one that’s bulkier. If it’s just for use around the house, you can then use one that’s less portable but more powerful to light up a larger area.

A lantern’s power source is also an important consideration. If a lantern comes with a rechargeable battery, and you want to take it on the road, make sure the charger is compatible with a port in your vehicle (or you bring a portable power station along to recharge it). If the lantern takes batteries, it’s smart to stay stocked up on that particular battery type, no matter if you’re on a multi-day camping trip or just have the lantern stashed around the house. 

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The 7 best camping stoves for backpacking trips or car camping

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Camp stoves let backpackers and car campers alike brew fresh coffee and prepare their daily meals.
  • The best should be highly portable and easy to light with a lighter or match, or have their own ignitor.
  • Our top pick, MSR’s PocketRocket Deluxe, is compact enough for backpackers, easy to operate, and has a built-in igniter.

A warm sleeping bag and dependable headlamp are certainly vital for smart and comfortable camping, but when you’re sleeping on the ground and haven’t showered in days, there really is nothing like a hot cup of coffee on a brisk morning (with the exception, perhaps, of a hot meal at the end of a long day).

Neither of these is possible, however, without access to a reliable camp stove.

With the right camp stove, not only can you expect fresh-brewed java in the morning or a warm meal at night but you can rely on it for a range of uses; maybe you want to grill some fresh fish minutes after you’ve pulled it from the stream, or you want to whip up a mug of hot cocoa (or a hot toddy) to sip by the campfire. If you’re in the backcountry, a stove can save you as boiling stream water is one of the best ways to ensure it’s safe to drink.

Having spent over two decades car camping, backpacking, and everything in between, I’ve grown to rely heavily on my camp stove. No matter how far off-grid I might find myself, a camp stove helps keep me nourished and ready to take on whatever the day has in store – be it 20 miles of hiking to my next campsite, or a day spent relaxing around a campfire.

My reliance on making sure I have a proper camp kitchen setup means I’ve tested my fair share of camp stoves through the years – and some remain a fixture in my camp kit today. Below, I’ve rounded up seven of my favorites from brands like MSR, BioLite, and Coleman, all with their own advantages across a variety of camp styles and use cases.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some tips on how to shop for a camp stove, as well as the the testing methodology I used in deciding which made the cut.

Here are the best camp stoves:

The best overall

msr pocketrocket deluxe 1

The MSR PocketRocket Deluxe is a compact and lightweight stove that fits inside a coffee mug but has a convenient auto igniter and simmering capability.

Pros: Lightweight and compact, self-igniting, simmers well

Cons: Not the best in high-wind without a screen

You shouldn’t need to carry an extra piece of gear to make a spark, yet, many camping stoves still rely on matches or a lighter for a flame. One of the best features of the MSR PocketRocket Deluxe is that it has a built-in automatic piezo igniter that’s cased in steel for reliability.

Despite its small size and weight (two other key pros), the PocketRocket Deluxe is no slouch. It can boil a liter of water in less than four minutes. The burner is adjustable, so you can lower the heat for a simmer — something that’s hard to achieve with a one-setting burner. There’s also a built-in pressure regulator to ensure you get reliable and fast cooking until the gas canister is depleted.

As long as you place the stove (with gas canister attached) on a level surface, it supports anything from a frying pan to a small cup. Like all lightweight backpacking stoves, the PocketRocket Deluxe will only run on self-sealing isobutane fuel canisters.

If you’re flying to a destination, just pack the PocketRocket and stop by a local outdoors retailer after you’ve arrived to pick one up (you can also get advice on where to camp, hike, and climb, if you aren’t familiar with an area).

I’ve used this stove extensively, as well as other PocketRocket variants. I like the simplicity of the design, and with the deluxe version, I now have the convenience of a push-start igniter; the igniter adds an extra 10 grams when compared to the standard PocketRocket, but it’s totally worth it.

What I also like is MSR’s warranty: Even after years of abuse, MSR stands by its products and offers extremely economical repair or replacement options.

Whether I’m camping in my car or on a complicated thru-hiking trip, the PocketRocket Deluxe’s excellent durability and the convenience of the built-in igniter make it one item I now bring along.

The best on a budget

coleman

The Coleman Bottle Top Propane Stove acts like a standard stovetop burner, and it’s powerful, rugged, and well-priced.

Pros: Low price point, long burn time, easy flame output adjustment

Cons: Very heavy and bulky

With camp stoves, it’s easy to look at the price and think that’s a steal — but you have to also factor in camp stove fuel, which some gas stations and outdoor retailers like to gouge you on. But the best field stove in the world is just a paperweight without fuel, so buy it you will, regardless of the price.

With the Coleman Bottle Top Propane Stove, those canisters of propane fuel are surprisingly low-priced — you can often get a two-pack of the 16-ounce fuel cylinder for less than 10 bucks. One such tank will burn for two hours at full blast and as long as eight or nine hours on a low setting. So if you want to make campsite risotto, go for it. Oh, and the stove itself is affordable, too.

Flame control is remarkably easy with this stove, just twist that large plastic knob all the way open for a roaring 10,000-BTU output or dial it back for hours of simmering. And thanks to the deep bowl shape and generous wind baffles, this stove will maintain a consistent burn in all but the most powerful gusts of wind. The burner is large and stable enough to accommodate an 8-inch pan or pot, so you really can almost treat it like a standard stovetop.

I used one of these stoves for several years and still keep one on hand in case the stove in my house ever has a problem or for some sort of apocalyptic nightmare during which I still wanted to cook pasta. But you’ll probably never see me bringing this stove along for another hike or climb.

Why? Weight and size. This stove weighs more than two pounds, with the canister adding another three pounds or more when filled. That’s heavier than some tents and sleeping pads combined. So while I highly recommend this stove for car campers or emergency preparedness, it’s a poor choice for climbers or trekkers. — Steven John

The best charcoal-burning

HeroGrill1

The Hero Grill System is an easy-to-use charcoal-burning grill that heats up in under 10 minutes, comes with a non-stick ceramic cooking surface, and allows for up to an hour of grilling. 

Pros: Charcoal pods have instant light coating that makes them easy to ignite, comes with its own carrying case, bamboo cutting board, and bamboo spatula, coals stay hot for up to an hour

Cons: Requires more cleanup than a normal camp stove, single-use charcoal pods are $40 for a two-pack

Almost all camp stoves use some sort of gas like propane or butane for heat, but the Hero Grill System leans on one of the most traditional forms of fuel: charcoal. And if you’re a fan of using charcoal to grill at home, this is the stove you want for car camping.

The Hero Grill System relies on two main parts for operation, the grill itself which is a non-stick ceramic grill with foldable legs to prop it up, and a box of charcoal pods that slides underneath. The pods can be lit using a match or lighter and take just 10 or so minutes to completely heat up. I found that lighting just two of the corners worked well in igniting the entire box (instead of needing to light all four). 

It does need to be placed on any non-combustible surface, though I used one of the picnic tables that are often placed at a campsite and it worked just fine. However, this means you shouldn’t just place it on grass — I recommend packing along a small table or something similar that you can place on the ground to set the stove on top of. 

Being as used to normal camp stoves as I am, I was quite impressed with the Hero Grill. It’s not often you’re able to make charcoal barbecued food while camping (unless you bring actual charcoal, which can be a mess), so it was a nice change of pace. I liked how easy it was to light the grill and how well it cooked everything from burgers and hot dogs to grilled vegetables.

Although cleanup is a little more involved than a normal propane stove, it still was relatively easy to just douse the charcoal before throwing the box away. I will say that a downside would be to have to replace the charcoal pod box after every use, and replacements cost $40 for a two-pack. You do have to replace propane and charcoal for a normal grill, but spending $20 for one hour of grilling can get expensive.

The best wood-burning

biolite camp stove

The BioLite CampStove 2 cooks your meal and charges your phone at the same time thanks to a built-in, thermoelectric generator fueled by heat.

Pros: Charges small devices, built-in fans regulate heat, works with myriad accessories

Cons: Getting initial fire burning can be frustrating

When you’re out there in the wilderness, you shouldn’t be staring at your phone; you should be looking at the stars, the mountains, or the valleys and such. That said, keeping a charged phone is important for safety — and the occasional photo.

Keeping a rechargeable flashlight fully powered is always a good idea, and those GoPro camera batteries always seem to need recharging, don’t they?

Maintaining battery life in all your devices while camping means carrying battery packs, using a solar charger, or firing up something you’re already likely traveling with: Your stove.

The BioLite CampStove 2 is a wood-burning stove that has a built-in generator capable of producing 3 watts of electricity while the fire is hot. That’s enough power to charge small devices, illuminate a Biolite lamp, or to charge the unit’s internal battery for later use when the fire isn’t burning.

Besides providing power, it’s also a damn good stove. With a decent fire built up, the BioLite CampStove 2 brings a liter of water to boil in less than five minutes and produces plentiful heat for cooking. In fact, there are compact fans inside the burn chamber that you can set at four different speeds to increase or decrease the intensity of the heat.

The best fast boiling

jetboil flash camping stove

The Jetboil Flash gets a lot of water really hot, really fast. If you primarily rely on your stove to make hot drinks and rehydrate meals, this is the stove for you.

Pros: Boils water quickly, contains all the parts inside the pot, push-button ignition

Cons: Can be hard to clean, can’t be used with other pots or pans easily

When I get back from a long day on the trail, I want the most food in the shortest amount of time. This means pouring hot water onto couscous or a dehydrated meal. If it’s the mornings, then it’s coffee posthaste.

For these moments, I rely on the Jetboil Flash. Using a cleverly designed pot that’s attached to a large burner — it looks (and sounds) like a jet engine — the Flash can boil 16 ounces of water in less than two minutes. It is so fast that the first time I used it, it began boiling over while I was still prepping my meal.

This is a product designed with backpackers in mind. The whole thing packs down into the provided pot and even has space for a small fuel canister. Not only does this mean it takes up very little space but it also makes it hard to lose or forget a part of the stove.

If you want to sear, sauté, and simmer, the Jetboil Flash isn’t for you. Although there are accessories that will let you use a frying pan, this is really a stove for heating your water fast, which is all most backpackers need.

The best for travel

msr whisperlite international stove

The Whisperlite International from MSR can go anywhere and burn almost anything. If you’re traveling to remote locations, this is the reliable and rebuildable stove to take with you.

Pros: Compatible with various types of fuel, excellent longevity

Cons: Not the lightest stove

Isobutane is great for cooking fast with a steady flame and comes packaged in convenient canisters. Unfortunately, you can’t fly with it, which could be an issue if you’re going to some remote area where there isn’t a camping store nearby. In this type of situation, the MSR Whisperlite International is a better alternative. Not only can the stove burn white gas, kerosene, or unleaded gas, it’s also incredibly robust.

This reliability combines with MSR’s clever shaker jet design, which prevents the fuel jet from getting clogged by using a needle inside the jet — cleaning it out when the stove is shaken. All of this makes the Whisperlite International the go-to choice for big expeditions.

With some practice, you’ll be able to quickly light the Whisperlite International (you do need to bring a lighter). Advanced users can regulate the flame enough to simmer water if required. I’ll admit that most of my uses have been limited to heating water and making oatmeal and coffee, but more adventurous cooks will be happy with the Whisperlite, especially when the alternative is going stove-less or using a wood or alcohol stove with pitiful heat output. — James Stout

The best high-powered

mr steak cmap stove

The Mr. Steak 1-Burner Infrared Portable Grill cranks out 14,000 BTUs and can heat up to an astounding 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pros: Amazing heat output, large cook surface, electric ignition system

Cons: Expensive, not suitable for hauling on foot

If you’re pushing for the mountain summit of Denali or the Eiger, then it’s probably best to leave the Mr. Steak 1-Burner Infrared Portable Grill back at base camp.

At around 30 pounds and measuring 25 by 16 by 16 inches, this is most definitely a car camping grill. But with that size comes 165 square inches of cooking space, below which an immensely powerful ceramic infrared burner can heat up to as much as 1,000 degrees. Not that you will need that much heat most of the time, but hey, it’s there for you.

The Mr. Steak 1-Burner Infrared Portable Grill works with a standard one-pound propane cylinder (the squat green ones, like the ones the Coleman stove uses) and has an electronic ignition system.

When you’re not using the grill, you can fold its legs up for easier storage or transport, and when you are using it, you’ll appreciate the cool-to-the-touch silicone cover on the handle and a latch that can hold the cover open while you’re flipping burgers. — Steven John

How to shop for a camp stove

Although all camp stoves largely have the same overall goal (i.e. heating food, boiling water, etc.), they’re not all necessarily created equal. Some function better for rapidly boiling water while others are light enough for backpacking trips or pack a more powerful cooking punch.

Any decent stove produces plenty of heat and resists the elements, but beyond that, there are all sorts of differences between various brands and models that make a given unit ideal for one user but a poor choice for others. In discussing the six camp stoves on this list, we’ll cover not only each option’s inherent qualities but will also talk through why each model is well suited to specific activities, as well as why a given stove may be a poor choice for other scenarios.

How we test camp stoves

Each of the camp stoves featured in this guide went through a series of tests to see how well it compared across these six categories: Boil time, ease of setup and use, wind resistance, heating power (total BTUs), fuel type, and value. Here are the main features to consider when shopping for camp stoves (and the criteria we judged when doing our own testing over many nights spent camping, backpacking, or just taking to our own backyard): 

Boil time: How quickly a stove can bring water to a boil is one of the most important features for anyone who wants to quickly prepare food that only requires hot water, campers who want the ability to reliably purify gathered water, or those who need their coffee brewed mere moments after they wake up in the morning.

Ease of setup and use: Being able to easily set up your stove when you need it is vital. Most stoves are intuitive once you get the hang of them but it’s still nice to have one without steep learning curve. 

Wind resistance: Depending on where you plan to do the bulk of your camping, a stove that’s able to not only light but stay lit while it’s windy is highly useful. While most stoves won’t have a specific wind-resistant rating, many should list how well they’ll work in blustery conditions.

Heating power (and total BTUs): Lighting the stove is one thing but how powerful it ends up being while lit is something else entirely. After all, you don’t want to be sitting around for upwards of an hour waiting for a simple can of soup to heat up. The higher the BTUs (British thermal units), the more powerful the stove will be. Look for a stove between 10,000 and 30,000 BTUs. 

Fuel type: There are generally two kinds of camp stove fuel: Gas fuel like propane and butane or liquid fuel. Propane and butane canisters tend to be easier to use in terms of lighting the stove and don’t require priming before being lit. Liquid fuel stoves require a bit more work (such as priming) but perform better in colder weather. They’re also liable to be more dangerous to use. If possible, we recommend using propane or butane canisters as they’re far easier to manage.

Value: The importance of a camp stove’s price point is completely up to you. If you have the budget to buy a more full-featured stove, by all means, go for it. If you’re looking for a budget option, there are plenty of those, too, and many have negligible differences to more expensive options. 

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The 4 best truck bed tents, perfect for use at a campsite or while overlanding

  • Truck-bed tents are designed to help campers sleep off the ground and rest more comfortably.
  • These tents create a sleeping area using the entirety of a truck’s bed, and are compatible with most truck sizes.
  • Our top pick, the Napier Outdoors Backroadz, has a sewn-in floor, lots of headroom, and sets up quickly.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

While the popularity of camping continues to grow, the methods by which people enjoy the activity has steadily evolved, as well. Gone are the days where the only option for sleeping is a ground tent that takes 30 minutes of fumbling with poles to set up. Campers today have many options for how they sleep including travel trailers, roof-mounted tents, or, the latest craze, truck-bed tents.

As the name suggests, truck-bed tents sit in the empty bed of a truck to create a similar structure to that of a ground tent. Like the size of the truck beds themselves, these tents vary in size, shape, and ease-of-use. The best models feature a sewn-in floor to offer added protection, while others have large awnings to provide added shade or an area to keep dry while it rains.

Even before I first used one, it was easy to see their benefit. Like rooftop tents, they allow you to sleep off the ground, protecting you from animals, insects, and an uneven sleeping surface. Most are designed to have plenty of interior space as well, creating a roomy sleeping area that affords campers enough room to store additional gear.

After spending just one night in a truck bed tent, I was hooked – it delivered on the perks I mentioned above and then some. Though using one does require all gear in the bed of a truck to be cleared out (which can admittedly be a bit annoying), the sleeping area it creates made me wonder why I ever slept on the ground while truck camping.

If you’re still on the fence, that’s understandable. Not only is it an odd way to camp but knowing where to even start looking for a tent can be difficult – not to mention knowing all the features one should have. To help, I’ve compiled a few of my favorite truck bed tents that are perfect for warm-weather campers, owners of compact trucks, and everyone in between.

At the bottom of this guide, I’ve also included some insight into how I tested each of the included tents, as well as some key truck bed tent terms and FAQs.

Here are the best truck-bed tents:

The best overall

Napier Outdoors Backroadz

The Napier Outdoors Backroadz fits a wide range of truck bed sizes, has a full floor, can fit around truck-bed toolboxes, and features an easy-to-pitch design that can be set up in roughly five minutes. 

Though the market for truck-bed tents continues to grow, no brand does it better than Napier Outdoors. With the Backroadz, Napier delivers a tent with quality materials, thoughtful design, and a fully-covered floor that’s easy to assemble. Not only is it our favorite tent we’ve tested, but it’s one of the least expensive. 

The tent features 5.5 feet of headroom which may not allow most people to comfortably stand up but does give the interior a roomy, spacious feel. Its fully-covered floor means that it’s able to sit on top of even the dirtiest truck beds without bringing any of that dirt or grime inside. It also helps keep rain from dripping down the sides and into the tent. 

Its color-coded tent poles make it incredibly easy to pitch, and it can even be done with just one person, though we recommend getting a second person to help. The tent is also versatile enough to be pitched on the ground and moved into the truck bed, or constructed in the bed itself.

The Backroadz comes with an included rain fly to protect against rain or snow, and its entryway extends to the end of a bed’s lowered tailgate, providing extra space to store luggage, gear, or pairs of shoes. One downside, however, is that it doesn’t come with an extended awning, which would offer even more protection in inclement weather.

With a price tag under $200, a roomy interior, and an easy-pitch design, the Napier Outdoors Backroadz is not just our favorite truck tent but one of the best on the market. 

Pros: Inexpensive, color-coded poles make pitching easy, 5.5 feet of headroom, and fits many truck bed lengths

Cons: Doesn’t feature an extended awning

The best durable

Kodiak Canvas Truck Bed Tent

Gear takes a beating while camping but the Kodiak Canvas Truck Bed Tent is designed to withstand whatever the outdoors throws at it, thanks to its watertight, waterproof 100% cotton duck canvas exterior.

One of the most important qualities of any type of camping gear is its durability. Regardless of its use, you want it to last. For the Kodiak Canvas Truck Bed Tent, durability is its best asset.

Constructed out of a 100% cotton duck canvas shell (Kodiak Canvas calls it Hydra-Shield), the tent is tough enough to withstand a beating. Its heavy-duty materials don’t limit the tent elsewhere, however, as it’s still highly breathable and offers a watertight fit into the bed of a truck.

The actual design of the tent differs from the others in our guide in that it’s shaped like a tunnel, and less like dome. This helps maximize the amount of interior space and helps it feel much roomier, even though it only has a 5-foot tall ceiling. It also has an extended awning that helps prevent rain from getting inside and creates a sort of staging area for getting in or out of the tent.

Its interior features gear pockets to stow headlamps, smartphones, or other smaller pieces of gear. Since it extends to the end of a truck’s tailgate, the opening creates a small area to store backpacks or duffle bags, as well.

One downside is that it doesn’t come with its own floor. This means the bed of the truck stays exposed the entire time. It also isn’t as comfortable as a tent with a built-in floor. We brought along a sleeping bag to help with this.

It’s the most expensive tent on this list, but for anyone who camps often and wants something capable of holding up in extreme conditions, the Kodiak Canvas Truck Bed Tent is the best pick.

Pros: Has a durable canvas exterior, its awning adds protection from the elements, able to be used in nearly any weather condition

Cons: Expensive, doesn’t come with its own floor

The best for rain

Napier Outdoors Sportz truck tent

When the inevitable rainstorm hits, the Napier Outdoors Sportz tent has you covered with its 6-by-6-foot awning and rear access door, which lets you get inside your truck’s cab without having to step outside. 

Camping in the rain doesn’t have to be a miserable experience, so long as you’re prepared. With the Napier Outdoor Sportz truck bed tent, being prepared is as simple as pitching a tent. Featuring a nylon exterior, tape-seamed rainfly, and a huge extended awning, this tent offers plenty of protection from inclement weather. 

Measuring 5.6 feet in length with 5.5 feet of headroom, the Sportz offers enough interior space for two people plus gear. It even has a built-in gear loft which helps free up valuable floor space. The Sportz also comes with a sewn-in floor, which is considered a luxury for truck-bed tents. 

Its tape-seamed rainfly and nylon exterior work well in keeping moisture like rain or condensation out, yet still provide enough ventilation to keep it from getting too stuffy. Its best feature is its 6-by-6-foot awning, which works well at keeping the entryway dry while also creating a sort of staging area directly outside. This is great for changing into dry clothes or having an area outside the tent for fresh air. 

Napier color-coded the tent poles to allow for easy setup, though pitching the tent is much easier with two people. Expect the process to take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes depending on if there’s help or not. 

The Sportz is well worth the investment for anyone who camps in areas with frequent rain, or who enjoys camping in either spring or fall. Napier makes some of the best truck-bed tents available and its Sportz is no different. 

Pros: Has a large, 6-by-6-foot awning, features a rear access door for entry to a truck’s cab, has a built-in gear loft, and comes with a sewn-in floor

Cons: Setup can be difficult with just one person 

The best for small truck beds

Rightline Gear Compact Truck Tent

Rightline Gear’s Compact Truck Tent features smaller dimensions so it can fit inside a smaller truck bed, but it still feels roomy and comfortable.

One of the biggest factors to keep in mind before buying a truck tent is knowing the length of the truck bed you’re shopping for. You don’t want to be stuck pitching a large tent on a short truck. For smaller trucks, Rightline Gear’s Compact Truck Tent is the best option available as it’s compatible with a wide range of compact trucks from brands like Nissan, Toyota, or Ford. 

The tent is constructed of water-resistant fabric with fully-taped seams, making it viable in both warm weather or rain. Setup requires just a few color-coded tent poles and can be done with just one person, though we recommend two to make it easier. 

Its interior is noticeably smaller than other picks on this list, but Rightline Gear does a good job with the design to make it feel roomier. The tent’s shorter length and headroom is easily noticeable for taller people, but for a short truck bed, there aren’t many viable alternatives. 

The tent features a large D-shaped entryway, a sky view window for stargazing, and several mesh windows which allow for increased airflow. Interior storage pockets flank either side of the tent and are good for storing smaller gear like smartphones or headlamps. It also features glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls and a lantern hook.

The Rightline Gear Compact Truck Tent is small without being inconvenient, and it’s one of the most cost-effective options for anyone who owns a shorter truck.  

Pros: Fits shorter truck beds easier than a standard truck tent, weighs just 10 pounds, features glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls, and has fully-taped seams

Cons: Less than five feet of headroom can feel cramped for taller campers 

FAQs

The qualities that make a good truck bed tent aren’t entirely dissimilar from what you’d find in a standard tent, though there are some key differences. Here are some answers to the questions I hear asked most often:

What makes a truck bend tent different from a normal tent?

The name “truck bed tent” is no play on words; these kinds of tents are literally designed to be pitched in the bed of a truck. Aside from that major difference, truck bed tents are mostly carbon copy replicas of their on-ground kin. There’s a zippered door for getting in and out of the tent, likely a few windows for air circulation, and various other features like storage compartments, rain flys, and awnings. 

What features should a truck bed tent have?

Most quality truck bed tents come with the same selection of features including a durable footprint (i.e. the bottom or floor of the tent), an entryway that sits at the tailgate of the bed, a set of windows that can zipper open and closed, and some form of storage.

More advanced truck bed tents may also come with some sort of extended awning that can act as outdoor shelter in inclement weather. It’s also recommended that you look for a tent that comes with an included rainfly. Even if you don’t plan on camping in the rain, it’s always smart to have a rain fly with you just in case. 

Are truck bed tents harder to pitch? 

The pitching process of a truck bed tent is probably its most glaring difference compared to on-ground tents. Though you’ll still use a series of poles to erect the tent, there are also a number of straps that you’ll need to use to actually secure the tent to the truck. This process can be a little tricky, especially for first-timers, but it’s always a good idea to follow any included instructions on how best to secure the tent.

What do I do with gear I’ve packed along in the bed of my truck? 

One of the major downsides of a truck bed tent is having to clear out all gear or equipment you’ve packed along that’s in the bed of your truck. Though some campers may very likely already have everything unpacked and set up around camp, I’m the kind of person who leaves at least a cooler and a bag or two floating around while camping.

It’s certainly a hassle to have to essentially unload your gear from the bed of the truck and then reload it into the cabin, but it’s your only option when camping with a truck bed tent. Of course, you could leave any unloaded gear around your campsite, though I do recommend taking extra precaution and locking it up inside your car when you’re asleep.  

How we test truck bed tents

Each of the truck bed tents featured in this guide went through a series of field tests to see how well they stacked up across these four categories: Ease of setup, durability, comfort, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into which tents made the cut:

Ease of setup: Setting up a truck bed tent certainly isn’t a walk in the park but you don’t want to be fumbling with tent poles and straps for 30 minutes. What I looked for when testing was both how intuitive the pitch process was and how clear the manual laid out each required step. Truck bed tents by nature are hard to set up but a clear explanation for how to do it can make a major difference.

Durability: Truck beds aren’t exactly soft, cushy areas to lay a tent — though, they are a bit less harsh than the actual ground. This means that any truck bed tent (namely, its footprint) should be able to withstand being in constant contact with the hard surface of a truck bed. This includes during setup, but also while you’re actually inside the tent and moving around. The tent should also be able to hold up to a variety of weather conditions (rain, wind, maybe even light snow). 

Comfort: The exact comfort level of a truck bed tent can be improved upon based on the kind of sleeping bag, sleeping pad, or mattress you use, but comfort as it relates specifically to the tent deals more with how much available interior space there is. Cramped tents don’t make for many happy campers, and since there’s really no reason for a truck bed tent to not be at least as big as the bed it’s going into (along with what’s essentially an infinite amount of vertical space), a quality truck bed tent should never skimp on comfort. 

Value: Value among outdoor gear is most often subjective to how you plan on using it, how often you plan on using it, and when you plan on using it. Truck bed tents are no different. While the tents I recommend aren’t exactly inexpensive, they are worthy investments that offer a great deal of value for anyone interested in doing more truck bed camping. 

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The best rooftop tents

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When you’re car camping, gear weight isn’t an issue, so you can choose a tent with plenty of space and all the extra features you and your camping buddies could want in a home away from home. We rounded up our favorite options.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 4 best air mattresses we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • An air mattress is a convenient and comfortable option for unexpected visits, sleepovers, and camping trips.
  • Our top pick from SoundAsleep is comfortable, provides great back support, and comes with excellent customer service.

An air mattress is a great investment for those who like to be prepared for unexpected visits, sleepovers, spontaneous trips, or even camping. It can be set up quickly and stored easily, but still comfortable enough for a good night’s rest.

As a researcher with two years of experience studying sleep, running a sleep lab, and reviewing sleep products, I’ve seen firsthand the importance of getting a good night’s sleep – no matter the circumstances. Well-rested people experience a better mood, more energy, and enjoy their surroundings more; something we can all appreciate while traveling or staying the night away from home. Improper sleep could potentially have an impact on your guests’ social interaction or even ruin their mood for the rest of the day. As the host, you’ll want to provide your guests with an enjoyable option to make them feel right at home so they can wake up feeling their best. The same applies to nature-lovers who need to wake up feeling refreshed and ready for their camping adventures.

To find out what makes a good air mattress, I interviewed sleep expert Bill Fish, president of OneCare media, which runs several major sleep product review sites like sleepfoundation.org, sleep.org, and tuck.com (of which he is founder). Fish has tested thousands of sleep products over many years. “Spinal alignment is key to getting a good night of sleep, and an air mattress is no different,” Fish said. “If you can achieve spinal alignment, you will wake up feeling refreshed.”

The key with an air mattress, he said, “is finding a product where the quality is enough to maintain enough pressure so you do not ‘bottom out’ either when stationary or rolling over.” According to a scientific systematic review, a medium-firm air mattress tends to result in better sleep quality. With that in mind, we tested four of the most popular air mattresses on the market and evaluated each of them on firmness, comfort, durability, and ease of use. You can read more about our testing methodology, as well as tips for caring for and cleaning your air mattress below.

Here are the best air mattresses

Best overall

Best Air Mattress_sound asleep_Suzy Hernandez

Sleeping on the SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress (Queen) feels like you’re resting on a giant soft pillow; it’s a durable, comfortable option for in-home use.

Pros: Raised 19 inches off the ground for easy access in and out of bed, extremely comfortable, inflates quickly, built-in pump, comes with storage bag and patch kit, great customer service 

Cons: Not designed for everyday use

The SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress (Queen) is one of the most popular air mattresses on the market because of its comfort, high-quality materials, and great customer service. The mattress is designed with 40 discs on the surface that the company calls “air coils,” since they’re meant to mimic the firmness and bounce of a spring mattress. The “coils” ensure a balanced distribution of air throughout the mattress as it inflates. It’s made with eco-friendly polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which makes it extra durable, waterproof, and long-lasting. It can hold up to 500 pounds; a good size for two people to comfortably sleep on. 

The Queen-sized air mattress inflated relatively quietly and in under four minutes. The pump is built into the mattress, so all you have to do is plug it in and set the dial to inflate until you’ve reached your desired firmness.

The bottom of the air mattress has a grippy material to make sure it stays in place, and the whole mattress is made with puncture-resistant material. While it did have the new mattress plastic/chemical odor that I’ve encountered with most air mattresses, the smell disappeared after only a couple of hours of airing it out. 

It feels like any traditional mattress; it was so comfortable that I almost forgot I was sleeping on an air mattress until I woke up. Its soft, velvety surface prevented my deep pocket sheets from slipping off, and also helped maintain the right temperature throughout the night; I never got too cold or too hot, as can sometimes be an issue with air mattresses since there isn’t much insulation between you and the air. It’s raised 19 inches off the ground, which is a good height for easily climbing out of bed in the morning.

I had to give it a brief top-up before bed on the last night of testing, but I didn’t notice any air loss during the first couple of nights. Deflating the mattress after the last night took approximately four minutes, and the integrated cord storage and carrying bag are convenient additions. 

Overall, the SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress is a fantastic option for in-home use; it was the best air mattress we tested because of its simplicity and the extraordinary level of comfort. 

Best for camping

Best Air Mattress_REI_Suzy Hernandez

The REI Co-op Kingdom Insulated Sleep System 40 (Queen) is extremely well-insulated and made with high-quality materials that will keep you warm and comfortable while you’re camping. 

Pros: Easy-to-use hand pump, insulated system for warmth, firm, does not deflate during the night

Cons: Very bulky compared to typical camping items, which might limit how and where you carry it

If you don’t want to give up quality sleep while camping, the REI Co-op Kingdom Insulated Sleep System 40 (Queen) is definitely the best option for a camping-specific air mattress. This air mattress is intended to keep you warm through temperatures as low as 40 degrees. It’s made from 100% polyester with an eco-friendly thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) laminate and the bottom contains a polyurethane coating for high durability and weather resistance. It includes a machine-washable mattress cover and top sheet made of polyester so you don’t need to worry about bringing a sleeping bag. It also has a 600-pound weight capacity and an included hand pump for electricity-free inflation. 

Although it’s completely PVC-free, it still emits a mild odor when first unpacked, but the smell dissipates once it airs out for a few hours. Inflating it with the hand pump was a little laborious considering I have very little upper body strength, but it honestly wasn’t as difficult as I expected and only took 12 minutes to fully inflate (including a couple of breaks between pumping). The inflation hose is conveniently long enough to pump from outside of your tent, in the chance that the air mattress occupies your entire tent footprint. 

I slept surprisingly well on this air mattress; it’s very comfortable and cozy. The sheets are soft and warm and the quilted mattress cover has a durable water-repellent finish. This air mattress is firm, which is great for proper spine alignment and a good night’s rest, even outdoors. It didn’t make any noise when I moved around and it lost very little air, if any, during the four nights that I slept on it. The hand-pump has an option to deflate the air mattress, but I found it easier to open the valves and let it deflate as I rolled it up and packed it into the included storage bag. 

The rectangular-shaped air mattress is only six inches thick and very lightweight for an air mattress at just 15 pounds. However, while this may be light compared to other air mattresses, it’s on the bulky side for camping gear and is probably too heavy for hiking and backcountry camping. I recommend investing in this air mattress if you enjoy backyard or car camping, but don’t want to have to give up a good night’s sleep. It’s also a good system to have around for situations where you might not have access to electricity, such as in a rural cabin.

Best on a budget

Best Air Mattress_Intex_Suzy Hernandez

The Intex Pillow Rest Raised Airbed (Queen) is an affordable option that will still provide great support and comfort for occasional use. 

Pros: Comfortable, affordable price, lightweight

Cons: Low to the ground, built-in pillow bar might be uncomfortable for some, limited 90-day warranty, takes a few days for the chemical smell to dissipate, moves a bit during the night

At less than half the price of any other mattress we tried, the Intex Pillow Rest Raised Airbed (Queen) is quite inexpensive, but will still provide your guests with a solid surface to sleep on. This mattress is made with a built-in pillow bar and composed of thousands of high-strength polyester fibers which provide stability and support. The top is covered in a velvety material for extra comfort and the mattress has a weight capacity of 600 pounds, so two people can sleep on it. It has an internal electric pump, but can also be inflated manually with a properly-sized hand pump. 

The mattress comes with easy instructions and inflates with the switch of a button. It took less than four minutes to lay out and inflate and I was able to adjust it to my desired level of firmness by turning the dial. The indented sides are positioned to keep sheets in place, and my deep pocket sheets did not slip off during the night. The new mattress plastic/chemical odor was stronger than the other air mattresses I tested but slowly decreased after a couple of days. It’s only about 16 pounds; one of the lightest we tested. However, since it’s so lightweight, it also moved a lot during the night. 

Sleeping on this air mattress for the first two nights was actually very comfortable. The firmness is good and the surface is very cushiony. It’s raised 16.5 inches from the ground, making it slightly more difficult to get in and out of than some other models we tried. By the third night, it had lost a noticeable amount of air so I had to re-inflate it again. The ambient temperature also dropped significantly on the last night and I noticed that the air mattress, even with the sheets on, felt colder than usual. The built-in pillow rest sounds like a great idea, but it creates too much elevation and is too firm; it definitely does not compare to the comfort of a real pillow.

Deflating the Intex Pillow Rest Raised Airbed took less than four minutes and it also comes with a convenient storage bag. Considering the price, this is the best option for occasional use; it’s very comfortable for one or two nights, just make sure you provide your guests with a couple of pillows and an extra blanket.

Best with an automatic pump

Best Air Mattress_Instabed_Suzy Hernandez

The Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress is built with two internal pumps that constantly adjust the air pressure throughout the night to ensure that you never wake up flat on the floor. 

Pros: Pump automatically shuts off when the mattress is inflated, secondary pump makes sure the air mattress stays inflated through the night

Cons: Larger and heavier than most air mattresses, automatic pump makes noise throughout the night 

The Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress (Queen) is constructed with a top layer of pierce-resistant PVC, making it water-resistant and extra durable. It’s built with 35 circular coils to provide a balanced and supportive surface. Its weight limit is 500 pounds and can hold up to two people. 

The primary built-in pump inflates the mattress to your preferred firmness, allowing you to choose from three different options — plush, medium, or firm. The primary pump automatically shuts off when the air mattress has reached your desired inflation. What makes this air mattress particularly unique is the secondary pump system that monitors air levels and quietly maintains the air mattress at your chosen level of firmness throughout the night. 

Setting up the Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress was the most effortless experience of all the air mattresses I tested. All I had to do was unpack, plug it in, and turn the dial to my desired firmness level — I chose medium. The pump is loud compared to the other air mattresses, but I was able to leave it alone and wait in a different room thanks to the auto shut-off feature. It only took around four minutes to completely inflate. 

My sheets fit well on this air mattress and I had no issues with them slipping off during the night. It had a very strong and supportive surface that was comfortable to sleep on. I slept really well on this air mattress without ever having to worry about it deflating, and it’s raised 19 inches from the ground, so it was easy to climb in and out. That said, it’s also a little on the heavy side, weighing 22 pounds. 

Some users might find the secondary pump somewhat bothersome when it’s plugged in. I didn’t have an issue with it but I recommend sleeping on the opposite side of the pump if you think you’ll be disturbed by a subtle buzzing, or you can also choose to unplug it completely. Deflating the Insta-Bed works the same as inflating; just set the dial to deflate, wait around three minutes for it to completely collapse, fold it, and pack it inside the included carry bag.

Our methodology

Methodology air mattress

In order to determine the best air mattress on the market, I used my knowledge of sleep science from two years in sleep research and implemented what I learned from sleep expert Bill Fish, president of OneCare media, on how to properly test air mattresses. I slept on every air mattress in this guide for at least four consecutive nights.

During the testing period, here’s what I looked for in the best air mattresses: 

Inflation: I took notes of the unboxing process for each air mattress, including how easy it was to assemble (if necessary) and whether or not the product came with instructions. I also timed how long each air mattress took to inflate and noted whether or not the air mattress emitted any strong chemical odors.

Firmness: This was the most important factor since a good air mattress should be firm enough to support you throughout the night. I paid close attention to any air loss over the course of four nights and took notes on my own sleep quality and how refreshed I felt after waking up. 

Comfort: I noted how comfortable each air mattress was to sleep on over four nights, including any major issues with temperature regulation. I also recorded whether or not the air mattresses made any noise when I moved, or whether my pillow and sheets fell off during the night. I also considered how easy it was to climb in and out of each mattress.

Durability: At the end of the four days of sleeping on each air mattress, I used an uncapped pen to test the durability of the air mattress by poking it in three different places and noting if it punctured. Fortunately, all the air mattresses passed this test. 

Deflating/packing up: I recorded how long it took for each air mattress to deflate. I assessed the difficulty of folding up and packing the air mattress into its respective carry bag, and also noted the ease of storage considering its weight and size. 

Size and special features: In addition to testing out any special features, such as insulated sheets or double pumps, I also noted the dimensions of each air mattress, including length, width, and height, both when fully inflated and when packed up and stored. I also noted each mattresses’ weight and method of inflation.

Air mattress care and cleaning

Care and keeping air mattress

An air mattress won’t last you as long as your regular mattress, and you shouldn’t expect it to — most air mattresses are designed for occasional use and should not be used to replace an actual mattress. Here are some tips to extend the life of your air mattress: 

Store in a mild, dry place: Most manufacturers advise against using or storing your air mattress in below-freezing temperatures to avoid tears and cracks. You should also avoid exposing your air mattress to direct sunlight for long periods of time. 

Be gentle: As fun as it might sound, avoid jumping or flopping on your air mattress, as it could damage the material or cause tears. When you’re setting up your air mattress, make sure to lay it out on a clean floor or carpet and look out for any sharp objects on the floor that might puncture it.

Expect a break-in period: Due to the elastic materials, you might think that the air mattress is losing air during the first couple of uses. There’s nothing wrong with your air mattress: it usually takes a few inflations for it to completely stretch to its full shape. Manufacturers recommend inflating your brand new air mattress a few hours before using it and then topping it off before sleeping on it. 

Keep it clean: In order to keep your air mattress clean, it’s always a good idea to sleep on it with a fitted bed sheet. However, accidents are bound to happen, and air mattresses can get dusty during prolonged storage. To clean your air mattress, first lay it out flat on the floor and use a handheld vacuum to remove any crumbs and dust on the surface. To remove stains, you can inflate the air mattress, unplug it, and then use a soft cloth and a mild soapy solution to wash it. Don’t use any harsh chemicals or cleaning products as they could damage the air mattress. 

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