The kids giggle and smack marshmallow off their fingers. The fire is crackling like crazy. Mom just ducked into the warm, glowing tent to get the beds ready. And Dad – he surveys the scene from the edge of the fire’s light. There’s a multi-tool survival axe on one shoulder, bits of beef jerky in his beard, chips of wood on his flannel, and a calm, faraway look in his eyes.
There is a reason Father’s Day falls at the beginning of camping season: so you can equip Dad with the proper tools for the job. In this round-up, I’m featuring gear for Colorado car camping that is also practical in airports and Central America (where I often travel in between family camping trips). So dig into the ultimate Father’s Day gift guide and outfit that dad in your life with the gear to make this summer an unforgettable one.
Let’s start with the Father’s Day Card. These outdoor-themed, three-dimensional, pop-up LovePop cards ($13) have one scene with a campfire and tent, and another with a canoe gliding across a paper lake. Make it a real gift and slip some plane tickets to Denver in the envelope and/or gift with any combination of the following items.
Traditional gifts work well for the camping dad, starting with this triple-insulated stainless steel 16-ounce METRO tumbler from EcoVessel ($22.95) to replace Dad’s nasty-ass coffee cup. These cups come in different sizes, keep coffee hot for hours, and keep cold drinks cold for longer.
Pair that mug with a Cafflano Kompresso ($92) the self-described “world’s lightest and most compact handheld espresso maker.” It makes super-strong coffee, either at your car camping base, or in the backcountry. Another portable espresso maker is Wacaco’s Nanopresso ($64.90), a small, hand-powered espresso machine, with or without the optional Barista Kit ($29.90) for add latte and cappuccino capability, and an adaptor for mini k-cups.
If Dad’s more of a tea guy, grab him a Cusa Tea variety pack ($9.99), premium organic instant tea (and yet another Boulder-based brand), which comes in single serving packets and contains no chemicals, additives, fillers, or sugar. The tea is grown organically in China, then dehydrated in a special new patented process, then reduced to a powder that can be ready to drink—cold or hot—in seconds. It comes in Mango Green, Lemon Black, Green, Oolong, English Breakfast, and Chai.
This Camp Chair ($88) from Mountain Standard is not too big (33 inches high), comes in a very compact breakdown design (3.5 lbs), and can support up to 300 pounds of Dad.
For card gaming on the go, get a deck of these lightweight, half-size Air Deck Playing Cards ($13) for around camp or in the car or plane.
Off Grid Tools’ Survival Axe ($44.99) combines 14 functions in a small (11 inches long), lightweight (1.5 lbs) design. It has a carbon steel tang blade for splitting wood or shaving kindling, a 6-inch Milwaukee sawzall blade, box cutter, pry bar, can opener, hex sockets, and in case of a car accident, a steel glass window-breaker a seat belt cutter.
If he’d be happier with a straight-up, hand-crafted knife, without extra bells and whistles, get him this stunning Holken Knife ($169), a Limited Edition Father’s Day 2018 blade from Helle Knives of Norway. Helle has issued only 350 Holkens, each consecutively numbered and signed by Torodd Helle. “A traditional Norwegian style outdoor knife for everyday use, camping tasks, or as a collector’s item to be passed down generations,” the handle is carved from curly birch, antler, black leather, and has a metal bolster finger guard. The 3.85-inch blade is made of triple laminated steel and comes with a sewn black leather sheath.
Alright, let’s look at some bigger-ticket items: How about a new four-person tent? Use it for the family, or give it as a spacious one-man exile tent for Dad, so he can go to sleep and get up whenever he damn wants. Big Agnes just released the Titan 4 mtnGLO ($399.95), a three-season, car camping tent with a rain fly that doubles as a free-standing shade structure. String up some Big Agnes mtnGLO To-Go light strips on the inside, outside, or anywhere in camp (or buy the light strips separately at $22.95 for your own tent).
For car camping pros, the Rhino-
Rack Batwing Awning ($699) attaches to your car’s roof rack to provide a built-in shelter providing 270 degrees of shade. The awning material is made from a heavy duty rip-stop fabric, is both water and mold resistant, and has UPF 50 sun protection. The aluminum poles are sturdy, and in windy conditions you can support them with eight extra guy ropes.
How about a cooler that doesn’t need ice? Dometic CFX Series coolers (from $750) are actually compact portable compressor fridges that can be charged in a variety of ways, including from your car’s cigarette lighter. Some models have multiple temperature zones and onboard freezers. The coolers are designed to fit specific vehicles and can hold from 28 to 146 cans, depending on their size.
The camp lantern has finally been modernized. Lander’s Cairn XL lantern ($99.95 at REI; $29.95 for the mini, $49.95 for the medium one) blasts up to 350 lumens of light from a tight, compact design that is supposed to last 250 hours on one charge. It’s a “smart lantern” which can adjust light intensity based on your proximity to the device, and connects with your phone to control power, dimming, color, alarms, and strobe lighting (disco camp, anyone?). It can also re-charge other USB devices.
For extra power, this Foldable Solar Panel ($49.99) is lightweight, works for both IOS and Android devices; just fold it out on top of your pack or anywhere in the sun and it charges your phones and gadgets.
Speaking of gadgets, you know Dad will dig these Cobra 28-Mile Walkie Talkie Radios ($69.99). Give him a set and enjoy the show as he goes into wannabe commando mode, answering “affirmative” when you call from the store to ask if he needs a beverage. The built-in NOAA weather radio gives forecasts at the push of a button and justifies these walkie talkies as a safety item.
You know how Dad likes to poke sticks and things in the fire? This 1571 Fahrenheit Beer Caramelizer ($29.99) works by placing the metal tip in the flames until it’s red hot, then dipping it into your mug of beer. The “flash” of heat reacts with the sugars in the beverage, supposedly creating a richer and smoother taste. I still need to try it out, but it sounds fun.
TRAVEL BAGS AND PACKS
Eagle Creek, an already-reliable bag maker, just partnered with National Geographic Society (NGS) to create a National Geographic-branded Guide Series ($199-$499) of travel bags, built for “dirty, heavy trekking with gear and instrumentation, both photographic and scientific.” The bags are being billed as “mobile base camps” and 27 percent of proceeds go to the nonprofit NGS to support their work.
Dad’s not as young as he used to be. Get that pack off his back and give him some rollers. For car camping, I like a rugged carry-on over a top-loading backpack. This hardshell 90Fun Passport Carry-On ($129) is a good choice for upgrading Dad’s bag, man. It holds 43-liters and weighs under eight pounds. The compartments let him separate his dirty socks from the clean stuff, and also organize all his gadgets and laptop in a front-loading, lockable pocket. It’s made of a crush-proof material with a scratch-proof poly-carbonate film.
The Gregory Divide Travel bags are another crossover line that work well both in airports and also car camping. Specifically, the Quadro 4X4 Hardcase Roller ($169.95) has odor-protective compartments inside to separate the nasties from the clean clothes, and also a pocket for shoes.
If Dad’s a bike commuter, rig up his ride with this McKenzie handlebar drybag ($129), a made-in-the-USA, 100 percent waterproof (and 100 percent submersible) front bag. This company has a whole line of military-grade dry bags for more serious water-based expeditioning as well.
CLOTHING AND APPAREL
Let’s start with the hands: Soundtouch All-Weather Gloves ($39.99) are suave and warm; and feature a mid-weight, windproof and water-resistant design with fleece liner that wicks moisture. They also have touchscreen ability and slightly grippy palms. I use them both to carry my briefcase and to go spring skiing.
Get Dad some Ellume-polarized Matte Smoke Inclines ($149) and watch him go from zero to cool in two seconds. Boulder-based Zeal Optics makes entirely plastic-free, plant-based shades and ski goggles, including prescription lenses. The lightweight Z-Resin frame is made from plant resin, with rubber on the nose and temple tips.
Heading downtown, the SAXX Vibe 2-pack ($56.95) is a perfect intro to SAXX’s potentially life-changing, patented “BallPark Pouch” underwear technology. They describes their innovation as a “3D hammock-shaped pouch designed to keep everything in place,” using mesh panels and special seams. The material is made from wicking viscose fabric (95 percent) and “a splash of spandex,” and the underwear comes in fishing prints and outdoor patterns for Father’s Day. Smartwool makes a similar style—the Micro Stripe Boxer Brief ($45)—with a front pouch, a wide elastic waistband, and made from an “ultra-soft” Merino 150 wool blend.
Mountain Khakis Original Mountain Pant ($89.95) are made of 100 percent organic cotton in a dense, durable “2×2 weave” that resists abrasion and is semi wind and water-repellant. They come in both relaxed and slim fits.
I like pants that are as comfortable and stretchy as sweat pants, but disguise themselves as something else. DUER No Sweats ($129) come in a huge variety of colors and also shorts. Just be prepared—Dad may move into these pants and never move out.
Shorts that double as a bathing suit are handy when camping near a river or lake, like this commission short swim ($88), a durable, stretchy, and water-repellent short from Lululemon, with a secure back pocket and front pockets lined with quick-drying mesh.
For an old-school fisherman style, get Dad this Ahi Long-Sleeve Shirt ($60) from Eddie Bauer, made of wicking, breathable polyester with UPF 50+ sun protection.
For boots, Danner’s keep getting lighter and tougher. This Mountain 600 EnduroWeave high hiking boot ($160) will inspire Dad to hit the trail and maybe take you along. They come in abrasion-resistant brown or black uppers, have removable footbeds for cushioning and air circulation, and the soles are thick and super grippy.
For that outer layer, check out this jacket Outside Magazine called “The Holy Grail of Waterproof Jackets”: Outdoor Research Interstellar Jacket ($299) is lightweight (the men’s large is 11.6 ounces), breathable, air permeable, fully waterproof, soft to the touch, quiet, and stretchy. It has a newfangled 3-layer, “electrospun membrane” fabric that combines the qualities of both a hard shell and a soft shell. Also multiple pockets, helmet-compatible hood, and it bunches up smaller than a water bottle.
Merino Wool Clothing
If there were any trends in this year’s Father’s Day new camping gear selections, it’s Merino. Everyone’s got some patented stretchy-thin, technical merino blend that’s not just for winter anymore. It’s a myth, they say, that wool has to be bulky or itchy and outdoor apparel makers are offering the following products to prove it.
The Glerups Open Heel ($135) is a comfy combination merino and Gotland wool slipper with rubber or calfskin soles. Tell Dad they’re for camping, but he’s allowed to try them out around the house.
For a simple Merino T-Shirt, the TREW Superlight NuYarn Pocket T ($69) comes in earthy colors and has a different textured breast pocket. It’s 85 percent Merino wool and 15 percent nylon. Another smooth-to-the-touch short-sleeve is the Metal Vent Tech Surge ($78) from Lululemon, part of their City Sweat Collection. It’s sweat-wicking, stretchy, breathable, and treated with anti-bacterial/anti-odor technology.
The Showers Pass Trailhead Bamboo-Merino sweatshirt ($125) totally dispels the itchy myth. Its 50/50 Bamboo-Merino “tech fabric” is one of the smoothest materials I’ve ever felt and has served me well in extremely varying spring mountain weather conditions.
Speaking of odors, Mountain Standard’s soft Merino wool blend camp socks ($14) does all that and more for your feet. Warm in the winter, wicking and cooling in the summer. They feature old-school olive green camp colors with red heels and toes.
— Joshua Berman is the author of Moon Colorado Camping: The Complete Guide to Tent and RV Camping and is a monthly travel columnist for The Denver Post. His website is https://joshuaberman.net/ and you can find him on Twitter at @tranquilotravel
Note: The author received product samples from some of the companies in this list for review and photography purposes. He was not paid by any company that was mentioned in this article. Opinions are all his own.