Published on July 4th, 2009 | by Greg0
Truly Outdoors: Eating, Napping, and Sitting in Comfort
Throughout July, we’ll be reviewing a wide array of interesting outdoor items for a section we call Truly Outdoors. Yesterday, we checked out some bags for many uses, and we earlier took a look at some hats and a tent/sleeping bag. Now we turn our eyes towards some nifty gear for serious campers aiming to travel with a bit more than the bare essentials- a neat table and bench set from Eureka!, a comfy hammock from a Lawson, and two portable seating options from GCI.
Eureka!, part of Johnson Outdoors, makes a wide range of tents and sleeping bags- and also a fairly unique Camping Table Set. Perfect for those traveling in larger groups (four sit comfortably), and for those with a car or RV, it definitely isn’t aimed at the backpacking set. At 40 pounds, it also stretches the definition of portable, but is actually pretty lightweight considering the stable and sturdy combination of table and benches included. Everything folds up fairly small, and sets up easily and quickly, with the table fitting nicely inside the benches and the unit slipping into an included carrying case.
Fairly easy to clean, the unit also isn’t plastic, so is quite a bit more durable, though it still can get hot in the sun. Certainly, it’s much easier to share a meal or play a game on the table than on the ground or a blanket, and the benches can be used separately for easy extra seating. We would’ve liked the benches to be a bit more stable, and more comfortable, but that is what the next item is for. Available at some online stores for around $120, it’s a great next step for longer-term campers.
Lawson Hammocks is a company that does one thing, and does it well. The make the Blue Ridge Camping Hammock, and we’re not alone in calling it the king of tent hammocks. Designed even to replace tents in areas where they are unsuitable, we didn’t quite run up trees Ewok-style and camp in the canopies… yet. No joke though, folks rave about using this in jungle conditions, and they include some serious netting to protect against flying insects as well as a nylon rain fly to protect against the elements. All that, and a comfortable hammock, in a super-lightweight 4.25 pounds.
This isn’t a conventional hammock- arch poles give you a bit of a roof over your head, allowing you to attach the netting and/or rain fly with plenty of comfort room. Well, not quite plenty, it’s still a bit claustrophobic, but much better than many cocoon-like sleeping bags! Lawson also talks about the smaller, almost non-existent, environmental footprint- preserving underbrush and if carefully setup, harmless to trees. We liked the durability of the materials, and the small size, ideal for single travelers. But we would’ve liked to see a “green” version, made from more environmentally-friendly materials. In addition, it’s hard to get in and out of the hammock when suspended (a common problem), and despite the inclusion of small pockets, it’s hard to fit much gear inside without cramping. Finally, it is fairly difficult to setup, requiring some trial and error and time- unfortunate for a pretty neat and unique product aiming to simplify excursions. Available in camouflage (great for hunters), blue, and green, this mini-tent-cum-hammock runs $140.
For simpler seating than benches and hammocks, it doesn’t get much easier than the Xpress Camp Stool and Xpress Lounger from GCI Outdoors. Both feature a weight capacity of 250 pounds, while weighing 4 pounds and 9 pounds, respectively- heavy, but sturdy. Better yet, both are a nicely attractive coated steel, durable enough that a several-story drop didn’t cause much more than a scratch. They fold up pretty easily (once you get the trick, they also serve as a fun puzzle for determining when your camp-mates may have had too much to drink).
The seats might not be wide enough to be comfortable to those of a larger girth, but should be fine for the majority of folks. And the armrests on the lounger weren’t particularly comfortable (a bit of extra padding everywhere would have been nice). They each collapse down to a quite small size, easily portable if a tad unwieldy, and are available in gray, blue, and green. At $50 or so, the lounger is a solid bargain, and worth the ~$20 premium over the less-comfortable (but more portable) stool. These aren’t the lightest-weight camping chairs we’ve seen, but are the sturdiest folding ones- and for camping, or even sporting events, they can be tremendously useful.