The best camping gadgets in 2023

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Published Jul 3, 2023 5:30 PM

You have your tent and sleeping bag packed—now all you need are some camping gadgets to ensure you’ll be extra prepared. Not every piece of gear needs to be state-of-the-art, and some of the most basic essentials are often the coolest (who hasn’t been wowed when using flint to light a fire?). Sometimes, your favorite items on the packing list are the ones on there that simply make your life easier, from compasses to help you navigate to a solar generator to power your laptop to edit drone footage. Never be left in the dark—literally—with the best camping gadgets.

How we chose the best camping gadgets

We decided to keep our choices limited to techy camping items—it’s what “gadgets” implies, even if it’s just using simple mechanics like striking metal to flint. Thankfully, we already dedicated guides on camping tents and sleeping bags, so we feel OK not including those items here. We also made sure to consider various items for all kinds of trips, including proper backpacking and casual RV-ing. Finally, we looked at reviews and recommendations and conducted testing ourselves to create our list.

The best camping gadgets: Reviews & Recommendations

The best camping gadgets can completely change your trip and make your time roughing it a little less rough. At least one of our choices should be a welcome addition to the packing list.

Best overall: Gerber Gear Suspension-NXT 15-in-1 Multi-Tool Pocket Knife Set

A Gerber Gear multi-tool on a blue and white background

Specs

  • Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Dimensions: 4.25 x 1 x 4.25 inches

Pros

  • Portable
  • 15 tools in one
  • Slim design

Cons

  • A little stiff when opening, but it gets better over time

Leave the unwieldy toolbox at home with this stainless steel multitool, which is great for camping, fishing, hunting, and even everyday life. Don’t let its 4.25-inch closed length fool you—it packs 15 tools in its slim design, including a file, ruler, pliers, a wire stripper, a pocket knife, a cross driver, an awl, two different sizes of flathead driver, scissors, a bottle opener, and a can opener. It locks when not in use, and a pocket clip means it won’t budge. Broken gear and cracking open a cold one are inevitable on a camping trip—a multitool makes both an easy fix, and this one will surely last for many adventures.

Best flashlight: Anker Rechargeable Bolder LC90 LED Flashlight

Anker Rechargeable Bolder LC90 LED Flashlight

Specs

  • Weight: 6.2 ounces
  • Dimensions: 6.22 x 1.57 x 1.57 inches

Pros

  • Zoomable
  • IPX5 durability rating
  • 900 lumen light

Cons

  • Doesn’t indicate how much charge is left

What could be more important on a camping trip than a flashlight? Anker’s LC90 can create a 900 lumen light beam, and allows you to switch between five different modes to widen or concentrate the light with the click of a button. One of this flashlight’s distinguishing features is its rechargeable battery, which can last up to six hours at medium brightness. Anker includes a MicroUSB cable with the flashlight, so all you need to provide is a power source. One of the unforgiving parts about camping is the weather, and the LC90 has an IPX5 durability rating, which means it can be used in the rain without being damaged. Similarly, the flashlight can be used in temperatures as low as 14 degrees so that you can keep it in your car during the winter in case of an emergency. We understand that many people have started using their phone’s LED instead of a flashlight, and while that’s better than nothing, a stronger, dedicated flashlight is a better light source that won’t run your smartphone’s battery down.

Best power bank: UGREEN 145W Power Bank

UGREEN 145W Power Bank

Specs

  • Weight: 1.11 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 6.3 x 3.18 x 1.05 inches

Pros

  • Supports fast charging
  • Can charge three devices at once
  • High capacity

Cons

If you’re going for a short camping trip, a power bank is all you’ll need to keep your gadgets topped up for a few days. Yes, the point of camping is to unplug for a little while and experience nature, but keeping a charged phone in case of emergencies, recharging your flashlight, or powering a Bluetooth speaker are all sensible uses. We like UGREEN’s power bank because of its high capacity, ultra-fast maximum charging speed, and LCD screen, which displays how much of its battery is depleted. UGREEN says its battery can fully recharge an iPhone 14 over five times. Thanks to its pair of USB-C ports and one USB-A port, you can use the power bank to charge up to three devices. Additionally, these features make UGREEN’s 145W Power Bank useful for charging your laptop and other gadgets while traveling anywhere (especially internationally), not just camping.

Best solar generator: Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro

Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro

Specs

  • Weight: 51 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 15.1 x 10.6 x 12.1 inches

Pros

  • Solar charging
  • Great capacity
  • Can power small appliances

Cons

Anyone going on a week-long camping trip should think long and hard about picking up a solar generator. Jackery’s Solar Generator 2000 topped out in this category thanks to its outstanding capacity, port selection, durability, and ability to simultaneously work with six 200W solar panels. Jackery outfitted its generator with three AC outlets, two USB-C ports, two USB-A ports, and a DC jack. The Solar Generator 2000 holds enough juice to fully recharge a smartphone several times over or run small appliances while you’re out exploring nature.

An LCD panel on the front of the Solar Generator 2000 offers immediate access to its battery level, how much power is drawn from connected devices, and how much energy is absorbed via an outlet or solar panel. Speaking of, we’re recommending a bundle that includes both the Solar Generator 2000 and a single solar panel to ensure you can use this eco-friendly (and helpful in a pinch) feature. Even better, the bundle is $900 cheaper than normal thanks to an Amazon sale and coupon. If you’re a serious camper who wants to spend weeks living the van and tent life, this is a worthwhile investment.

Best Bluetooth speaker: House of Marley Get Together 2

House Of Marley Get Together 2

Specs

  • Weight: 6.65 pounds
  • Dimensions: 17.99 x 8.27 x 15.75 inches

Pros

  • IP65 durability rating
  • Made of eco-friendly materials
  • 20-hour battery life
  • Connection for a strap

Cons

If you’re the type of camper that wants to severely limit their screen time outdoors, a portable waterproof Bluetooth speaker can offer great entertainment. Simply create a playlist on your phone, connect it to the speaker, hit play, and put your device screen-side down on a table or in a bag. We like House of Marley’s Get Together 2 because of its 20-hour battery life, IP65 durability rating (rain won’t ruin your camping trip or speaker), and the company’s use of eco-friendly materials.

Bringing hunks of plastic into nature can feel a little embarrassing, but the Get Together 2 is made out of bamboo, recycled silicone, aluminum, and stainless steel; even the packaging this speaker comes in is 100% recyclable. In addition to playing music, this speaker’s USB-C port can charge smaller devices like smartphones, which means it can be used as a power bank in emergencies.

Best appliance: COMFEE Portable Dishwasher

COMFEE Portable Dishwasher

Specs

  • Weight: 36.6 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 17.13 x 16.5 x 17.24 inches

Pros

  • Can accommodate lots of items

Cons

COMFEE’s portable countertop dishwasher is an incredible luxury for RV campers, but it’s worth the indulgence for its time savings. The cube-shaped dishwasher weighs 36.6 and is roughly 17 inches tall, wide, and deep. It can accommodate up to 30 items, plates up to 9.5 inches around, and is compatible with any pods or detergents. You must hook it up to an outlet, but the dishwasher doesn’t need to be connected to a main water line to operate.

Instead, you can pour water into its 5-liter tank through a hole in the top. Once the tank is filled, select one of six cleaning modes and let the dishwasher handle the rest. There’s even a drying feature to avoid encouraging the growth of mold. If you don’t have a dishwasher at home, COMFEE’s portable model is an even easier recommendation because you can use it all year long.

Best mosquito repellent: Thermacell Mosquito Repellent E-Series

Thermacell Mosquito Repellent E-Series Rechargeable Repeller

Specs

  • Weight: 12 ounces
  • Dimensions: 3.5 x 3.5 x 4.25 inches

Pros

  • Small
  • Rechargeable
  • Odorless and silent

Cons

Forget sprays and bracelets; if you want to keep your camping area bug-free, Thermacell’s repellent is the best solution. The soda can-sized device runs on a rechargeable battery and works just like a scent diffuser. A cartridge full of liquid insect repellent fits into a chamber inside the device, which automatically sprays at regular intervals. The repellent is odorless, and the device is virtually silent so that it won’t disturb gatherings—especially mealtimes. Thermacell says this device can run up to 5.5 hours per charge, creating a 20-foot barrier to prevent bugs from creeping in. No system is perfect, but if you want relief from most bugs on your next camping trip, Thermacell has you covered.

Best water filter: LifeStraw Peak Solo

LifeStraw Peak Solo in a hand in front of a forest

Specs

  • Weight: 1.7 ounces
  • Dimensions: 3.95 x 1.6 x 6.7 inches

Pros

  • Helps keep you hydrated safely
  • Clips easily to pack or belt
  • Can be fitted to a standard water bottle

Cons

  • Can only filter up to 2,000 liters of drinking water

Lifestaw’s smallest filter is also its most versatile and easiest to use, thanks to 28mm threading. That means you can attach the filter to a standard water bottle and drink through it like a straw. Or, you can use it as a squeeze filter to filter water into a different container. Using the Peak Solo, you can fill a 1L bottle in 20 seconds—that means more time hiking and less time corraling everyone’s water bottle to fill. If you don’t want to throw it in your backpack or glove compartment, it comes with a loop to attach a carabiner to clip to a keychain or pack. Our favorite feature is its effectiveness: it protects against It offers protection against 99.999999 percent of bacteria (including E.coli and Salmonella), 99.999 percent of parasites (including Giardia and Cryptosporidium), and 99.999 percent of microplastics. It also meets the US EPA and NSF P231 drinking water standards for removing bacteria and parasites. Read more what we have to say about it.

Best firestarter: überleben Zünden Fire Starter

An überleben Zünden Fire Starter on a blue and white background

Specs

  • Weight: 3 ounces
  • Dimensions: ‎4.6 x 0.9 x 0.7 inches

Pros

  • Feels great in the hand
  • Multiple thickness options
  • Creates lots of sparks

Cons

  • Less durable than flint-and-steel

Learning how to build and start a fire is one of the first things you should do if you want to go camping. This firestarter from überleben is made from ferrocerium and hardwood. Ferrocerium produces more sparks than flint and steel, making it easier to start a fire, and the hardwood handle gives you a natural textured grip as you strike it. It comes with a paracord lanyard and a six-function multitool that you can use as a tinder scraper or straight edge striker. It comes in three different thickness options: The Trad at 5/16-inch(12,000 strikes), The Pro at 3/8-inch (15,000 strikes), and the Fatty at 1/2-inch (20,000 strikes). Although flint-and-steel is more durable, a ferro rod is better in rainy or windy conditions since it creates more sparks at a higher temperature.

Best headlamp: BioLite HeadLamp 800 Pro

A black BioLite headlamp on a blue and white background

Specs

  • Weight: 150 grams
  • Dimensions: 2.05 x 1.97 x 8.27 inches

Pros

  • IPX4-rated
  • Bright
  • Rechargeable

Cons

  • UI a little hard to navigate if you haven’t used a BioLite headlamp before

If you want to keep your hands free, this lightweight headlamp from BioLite is one of the best investments you can make when starting your camping journey. It’s also a hearty upgrade if your current battery-powered headlamp has seen better days. The lamp delivers 800 lumens for 150 hours on low; seven hours on high; and eight hours on reserve. A Run Forever cord lets you connect a power bank for even more runtime. A moisture-wicking headband keeps you dry and cool, and integrated electronics prevent slipping and bouncing. A push on the back gives you 30 seconds of max brightness, and Constant mode gives you full illumination sans auto-dimming. There’s a bit of a learning curve if you’ve never used a BioLite headlamp, but it’s one of the best on the market once you get over it.

Best budget: Coghlan’s 1985 Carabiner Compass

A Coghlan's 1985 Carabiner Compass on a blue and white background.

Specs

  • Weight: .6 ounces
  • Dimensions: 1 x 1 x 1 inches

Pros

  • Clips to belt or backpack
  • Body made of metal
  • Luminous directional markers

Cons

  • Doesn’t work if tilted more than eight degrees

A compass is one of the most important camping gadgets using some interesting-yet-simple tech. Compasses determine where “north” is thanks to its attraction to Earth’s southern magnetic pole, which is near its most northern geographic point. Magnets! They’re cool! Anyway, we love this simple and cheap compass for its durable aluminum construction and luminous directional marks to navigate in low light. Throw it on your pack or attach it to your belt loop to help determine where you’re going. It’s a tool you’ll most likely always bring with you on a trip, and you can’t beat its size and price.

What to consider when buying the best camping gadgets

Camping is all about being the perfect combination of prepared but not overpacked. Here’s what you should consider when prepping for your next trip:

What kind of camping are you doing?

If you’re doing some hiking while tent camping and plan on setting up camp at different spots, you may not be able to bring heavy, wieldy items, since you can only bring what you can fit in your pack. This means you should prioritize smaller items, like compasses, flint, and a multi-tool. However, if you’re staying in one place and can stow things in a car or camper, you can bring bigger items like a solar generator or Bluetooth speaker, since you’ll be able to stow larger items in your car or tent while you go out on your fun outdoor adventures.

Experience level

Is this your first time camping? Or are you an experienced camper? You may need to invest in small essentials like water filters, fire starters, and a multitool if you’re new to camping, and keep it easy—no wild hikes for you. If this isn’t your first time at the camping rodeo, you can get a bit more adventurous and make some upgrades to your packing list, like a portable generator to power an extended trip.

FAQs

Q: What is glamping?

“Glamping” is a portmanteau of “glam” and “camping.” It’s when your accommodations are more luxe than your typical camping trip.

Q: What should I never forget when camping?

Regardless of your camping experience level, you should never forget a first aid kit. You never know when you’ll accidentally cut yourself or scrape your knee while hiking.

Q: How much do camping gadgets cost?

Depending on the gadgets, camping gadgets can cost between $10-$2,000.

Final thoughts on the best camping gadgets

Roughing it doesn’t have to be rough with a few extra items in your pack, the car, or the RV. Some are better suited for tent camping, and others are great for a stay in a cabin. Regardless, there are some items you simply can’t leave behind when abandoning all creature comforts for a weekend. Answer the call of the wild—and walk in the woods with a little more pep in your step—with the best camping gadgets.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.