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While camping in Iowa goes all the way from roughing it to glamping, there’s no denying there are gadgets and gear that are must-haves – and then there are some that are just fun!
Enjoy your next camping getaway with these handy gadgets - see if anything on this list sounds like a lifesaver to you, and be sure to check out our Iowa Camping board on Pinterest for more ideas (click the links below to see examples on Pinterest).
1. Tent line lights Who’s ever tripped over a tent guy-line in the dark? Or maybe not even in the dark? Drop by your local outdoor store and pick up a couple of lights specifically designed to secure onto your lines, or do it yourself by tying glow sticks to your guy lines in the evenings.
2. External battery/heat pack For the camper who can’t leave behind their phone or for somebody who just gets really cold, pick up a USB rechargeable combination external battery pack and electric warmer. They can store a charge for days, and can run everything from a desk fan to portable speakers. You can even toss them in your socks in for a minute to warm up on cold mornings.
3. Paracord bracelets If you’re headed someplace rugged, these bracelets can come in handy. They store a useful but manageable amount of paracord, which you can use in a survival situation to help you climb, suspend your gear out of the reach of wildlife, repair clothing and gear, and a number of other things.
4. Center-zip sleeping bags These are great for restless side and back sleepers. Usually there’s a built in section to rest your head on, in some cases with a pocket to hold your pillow in place. Finding the zipper pull is easy because it doesn’t run all the way around the bag, and that also means you don’t have to worry about the zipper digging into your skin all night. Last but not least, versatile center-zip bags work excellently when it’s cold, but some models have mesh vents you can open to stay cool in the summer too.
5. Camp stove A propane camp stove can make all the difference in dinner. While campfires are great for cooking when you have time and materials for a fire, they can be difficult and time consuming to get started in poor weather. While it’s another large thing to lug around, a back-up camp stove can save you from a soggy, smoky dinner in a pinch.
6. Heat reflective foldable grocery bags For a short excursion, heat reflective bags can keep your refrigerator items cool without the hassle or extra weight of ice. For extra cooling power, toss in a re-usable, food-safe cold pack with groceries.
7. Hand crank radio/ flashlight As the old line goes, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. In emergency situations, a combination flashlight and radio can be the difference between getting help and being stranded. Invest in a hand-crank-powered model so you don’t need to worry about batteries.
8. Pop can covers You can buy plastic pop-on tops for aluminum cans that essentially make it into a screw-top bottle. These are a great idea to prevent spills in the tent and to keep bugs out of your beverages.
9. Mobile laundry While there are many approaches to this product, a small load washing container is great for extended camping because you can stay fresh without bringing half your closet. Especially cool are the soft, shakable bag versions that can fold down for storage.
10. Retractable clothesline Because forecasts aren’t always right and paddles down the river don’t always go smoothly, a clothesline is a good thing to have on hand in case your gear needs drying out (or if you’ve brought along that handy mobile washing container). A plastic housing and crank spool make this low-tech gadget even better by protecting the cord during storage and preventing tangles.
11. Collapsible kitchenware If every last ounce or inch makes a difference in your packing (or even to stuff it all in a small RV cabinet), consider foldable dishes and combination silverware. They’re light, easy to clean and can stow away neatly in a backpack when not in use.