Camp Ready: Ultimate Gear for Overlanders
New year, new gear. Whether the products are tried and true or new to market, utilizing great gear for shelter, comfort, recovery or power is paramount. Having the right gear for the right excursions will make adventure travel even better.
These items have been tested in various environments and on numerous trips. There were plenty of pros but few cons; these items are ready for adventure.
SHIFTPOD MINI | $799.00
The Shiftpod Mini tent is basically an insulating igloo. This heavy duty shelter boasts one door with integrated mesh bug screen, as well as four windows and two small air vents with screens. The MINI incorporates a unique multi-layer composite fabric (12 layers total) with synthetic down thermal insulation to keep you warm during cold camping or reflects heat away in desert environments. While the outer layer appears to be something you’d see on Mars, the quilted silver fabric is highly reflective and water resistant. It not only reflects light or heat, it also blocks light so you can sleep in it during full sun. No light intrusion here.
It’s beneficial to keep the air vents open, especially when sleeping or in the tent. Cracking the windows open will also help with air flow and to lower condensation. Our test unit came with a round 3.5” opening at the bottom. This hole is for power cords though it could also be used for ducting if someone wanted to create a DIY air conditioner for cooling purposes. Note: The SHIFTPOD MINI does not have actual AC ports. Cinch this hole shut with the built-in drawstring if not needed.
The MINI comes with four heavy duty 12” stainless steel stakes, a rain fly, carrying bag with backpack straps, a combo lock and even ear plugs and sleep mask. All you need is your sleeping bag and your sleeping mat or cot and you’re ready for adventure!
While the SHIFTPOD MINI packs down to throw over your shoulder for a quick hike to your camp spot, it is heavier than normal 1-2 person tents. It weighs 37 pounds. But, the MINI offers up oodles of stability and steadfast shelter—vs other tents—should wind or heavy rain kick up. My teammate and I used SHIFTPOD MINIs during the Rebelle Rally off-road competition and immediately noticed a difference in sleep comfort. During the first two days of this competition, it was a frigid 14 degrees outside, but it stayed noticeably warmer inside. We slept soundly while other campers froze. Severe wind ravaged all competitors overnight—the MINIs had no issues (we had it staked at each corner but with no guy wires) although others had ripped tents and damage the morning after. The only sound we heard during nighttime hours where other tents flailing in the wind. Ours stood unwavering on the frozen desert floor.
SHIFTPOD MINI tents have taped seams and are super quick to set up (once up they measure 72"x72"x56"). Unzip the supplied bag, unclip two heavy duty nylon straps and lay it flat on the ground (shiny side up). Crawl inside and “pop” out all four sides and roof with your hand until the internal skeleton pops into place. It’s easy peasy. This tent can be set up by one person—in less than 60 seconds.
On its website, the SHIFTPOD claims the MINI packs down to 8"x8"x40” when stowed, although it appears larger in diameter in real life. Tear-down is a bit trickier as the tent takes a bit of arm wrestling to pack into the supplied bag. SHIFTPOD MINIs would benefit from a bag that’s slightly longer and larger in diameter.
Sleeping in the SHIFTPOD MINI takes you into another dimension. Once inside you feel like you’re on another planet. It’s cozy yet spacious—perfect for one to two people. While I’m vertically challenged (measuring in at 5’-4” tall on my good days) I was able to nearly stand straight once inside. The exterior door states EXIT when opened, and an industrial-sized Velcro patch secures it in the open position if so desired. Black nylon zippers adorn all openings. While large and hefty in appearance, the door zipper seemed to get stuck in certain places while opening and closing. This could be due to the dusty conditions I encountered during the rally. A quick clean and zipper lube should remedy this.
Additional accessories are offered on their website. Such items include an LED multi-colored remote controlled party light or storage pouches that clip onto the interior skeleton.
Overall I was extremely impressed with the SHIFTPOD MINI tent. It kept me warm in below freezing temps, kept me cooler when it reached a scorching 111 degrees in the California desert, and was stable, reliable and fun to be in. We were dubbed the team with the “party tent.” Not because of anyone partying inside of it, but because it was just so cool and different. Several people even asked us to give them a tour of it. It’s a solid choice in my book for those looking for a reliable and unique alternative to an average two-person tent.
Creature comforts are important to those who travel. Whether a favorite oversized blanket or even a high-end hand-crank coffee grinder, these things can make adventures better and more comfortable.
Big Agnes Soul Kitchen Camp Table | $129.95
The Big Agnes Soul Kitchen Camp Table may just be your new dinner companion. This sturdy folding table offers up a compact solution to eating-time escapades. This table is folded in a medium-length zippered bag. A single nylon handle gives the ability to easily carry this to your cook site. Upon opening, the bright orange waterproof UTS coated tabletop folds flat after being stowed in a zig-zag fashion. A dark red and silver aluminum base strung together with chock cords pops out and excitedly expands to easily set up. Three other aluminum poles sit freely; two are for tabletop supports on either end while the slimmer one is used to support the tabletop’s underside in the center.
After setting up the base, the two wider poles sit snugly into four clear plastic clips. The slim post slides into a black nylon pocket while the other is caught in a Velcro pocket and holder. Tip: Be sure to put the first end of this pole into the Velcro end, pull it through and then push it back to catch the nylon pocket. If you do it in the reverse order, you won’t get the pole into both pockets.
Although the table has stout aluminum legs and pole supports, its plastic clips up top may be a point of weakness. Accidentally stepping on them or stowing heavy gear on top of them may lead them to being cracked or crushed. Metal clips would have been a better option.
I was impressed with the new Big Agnes Soul Kitchen Camp Table, it’s definitely one to consider if you’re looking to upgrade or purchase a new camping or travel table.
Blue Ridge Chair Works Backpack Chair | $320.00
The Blue Ridge Chair Works Backpack Chair is a comfortable, sturdy and unique chair that also happens to double as a short-term backpack. This US-made wood chair boasts two oversized pockets, as well as thick nylon shoulder straps to allow owners to grab their belongings, stuff the chair’s pockets and throw it on their back on the way to a campsite, beach or even a BBQ.
This chair is comfortable, wide enough to sit upright to work on a laptop or adjust the back and lay relaxed to catch the sun’s rays. Thick canvas material envelopes both upper and lower chair sections.
Upon review, our test model’s shoulder straps dangle from the chair bottom to the ground in a spaghetti fashion. Living in the Pacific NW, the ground is saturated and wet several months of the year—the straps collected a bit of mud along my journey with it. Having a small pocket to stuff the straps in when the chair is set up would alleviate this issue.
Blue Ridge Chair Works is based in North Carolina. A small group of craftsmen carefully make each item they produce. The Backpack Chair offers a multi-positional backrest, wide arm rests to relax against and even a bottle opener underneath one of them! A solid choice if you’re in the market for a great lounge chair that’s also portable.
DMOS Stealth shovel |$119.00
The DMOS Stealth shovel is their original award-winning shovel. This stout unit packs down to 18”x9”x2.25” (its handle nests into the shovel head), is made from durable and non-rusting 6061 aluminum and weighs only 3.3 pounds.
This jagged-toothed mighty might easily stashes under your vehicle’s seat or within your storage system. The Stealth has a slimmer head than some of their other models but can move a great amount of snow, sand, dirt etc. To assemble, simply slip the telescoping, adjustable handle into the opening on the shovel head until the spring-loaded pins click into place. Now the Stealth is ready for use. Note: The shovel handle locks into place at either 57", 47" or 35" lengths.
My Safety Red tester is comprised of a resilient and even powdercoated finish. After several uses shoveling snow and dirt, its teeth were baring silver aluminum. But, keep in mind with DMOS’ choice to use 6061 aluminum—it won’t rust.
The handle’s spring-loaded pins were hard to push in to extend or retract the handle when my hands were cold. Once in place, however, the Stealth was locked and loaded. It was ready to get you unstuck or help you move dirt, snow or other materials.
If you’re looking for a sturdy and portable shovel, especially one that’s as cool as it is functional, then DMOS is a great selection. The Stealth moves most types of material, can fit easily in your vehicle, and is a solid choice. Five colors are available.
Off Grid Trek 200W blanket + K2 solar generator bundle | $2,449.96 (normally $3,349.85)
Off Grid Trek’s 200W solar blanket and Inergy’s Kodiak solar generator are the perfect duo. Easy to set up and use, this powerful pair offers several ways to run or charge your gadgets, equipment and vehicle.
Off Grid Trek’s 200W solar blanket allows the ability to charge multiple devices simultaneously and in most weather conditions—even when in overcast skies or when up to 30% covered. Other company’s solar products stop working. I can attest to it working in overcast scenarios as most of my time with it was during those conditions.
This blanket is waterproof and rugged, and had no issues when tested in dust, rain, full sun and heat as well as wind. This unit weighs a mere 13.6 pounds and folds up to the size of a large laptop, the perfect size for adventurous or remote outings.
The Kodiak solar generator is an ultra-lightweight and heavy duty 1,100 watt powerhouse. Once fully charged and connected to Off Grid Trek’s 200W solar blanket, this power machine has a lengthy charge capacity and can charge up and power items ranging from smartphones, laptops and TVs to refrigerators, freezers and even electric blankets. Output ports are abundant: six 110V AC plugs, one 30 amp 110V RV plug, two 12V DC sockets, four USB outlets and even two base camp LED ports.
This solar generator has a charge time of 11+ hours via 110V wall charger, approximately four-and-a-half hours plus via a 240W car charger and can be charged with a solar blanket (actual time determined upon sun allowances and weather conditions). The internal lithium ion (NMC) battery boasts 1,100 watt hours (90 amp hours, 12.6 volts) and has up to 2,000 charge cycles or up to a 10 year shelf life (if you charge it at least every three to six months). The Kodiak also includes overcharge protection and battery balancing and includes an AC wall charge cord and shoulder strap.
The Kodiak’s dimensions are 14″ wide x 7″ tall x 8″ deep. Weighing in at a mere 20 pounds, this medium-sized platform is easily transportable (especially in your vehicle), can operate in temperatures ranging from -15°F to 150°F and packs serious charging abilities.
During my testing period, I found the Kodiak versatile, durable and powerful. Although it was overcast and raining during most of my review period, Off Grid Trek’s 200W solar panel still charged the Kodiak solar generator and allowed for ample usage opportunities. The Kodiak worked seamlessly for multiple hours when using a halogen work lamp while upgrading my 4x4’s shocks. It also kept our smartphones and laptop charged for the day while relaxing next to the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon.
I also tested the Kodiak indoors with continual success. The supplied AC wall charger plugs in easily, although the AC power adaptor gets pretty hot—be sure to give it and generator enough room for cooling. Each time the Kodiak is turned on it creates a “session.” The blue LCD screen contains three different real-time measurements: volts, amps and watts. This screen blinks tons of information at you: voltage minimum (Vm), wattage peak (Wp), watt hours (Wh) and amperage peak (Ap). It also tells you battery voltage, power consumption in amps as well as power consumption in watts (all in real time). These readings help users understand how efficient their Kodiak is. In addition, there is also a multi-colored battery indicator to help you understand how much battery life is left. Each lighted dot equals approximately 10% battery capacity.
A fully charged Kodiak will indicate 12.3 to 12.6 volts. A completely discharged Kodiak renders about 9.3-9.6 volts. Upon a full day of usage, I started out the day at 9:45am at 12.09 volts (almost charged). I continually charged my smart phone and power-hungry laptop while also charging two headlamp batteries and DLSR camera batteries. Upon finishing my day, the Kodiak registered 10.91 volts remaining. That’s pretty impressive.
While the original Kodiak model is current, a new and improved K2 model will be available in May. The K2 will offer quicker charging capacity, an improved LCD screen, improved lithium compatible expansion and new a three-position power switch to extend charge capacity. A discounted pre-sale 200W blanket and generator bundle is available until May 1st via Off Grid Trek.
Having top-quality products while adventuring is extremely important, especially when you’re off the grid or far from civilization. Solid shelter, reliable recovery gear, your own power—even a comfortable place for downtime—is critical. These items will make future outings even more fantastic.