One of our favorite things about camping is how cheap a getaway it can be. No hotels, no expensive restaurant tabs. No one begging for overly-priced souvenirs. Camping is a cheap and rewarding vacation for the whole family. Quality camping gear gets very expensive, that’s why we appreciate gadgets designed to serve more than one purpose. These cool camping gadgets are multiple purposes and are all very affordable.
Cook dinner and charge your USB devices like your cell phone, tablet or light at the same time with this nifty little camping stove. It burns wood, so you don’t need to worry about carrying along canisters of gas with you. An internal starter battery kicks things off when you first light your kindling, so you don’t have to wait for a flame. The stove will soon start generating its own power. With high and low settings, an internal fan helps stokes the fire and as long as you keep feeding it plenty of wood, you’ll get a really good flame going for hours if you need it. It weighs 2 pounds and is about equal in size to a 2-liter Nalgene water bottle. It is compact, but not as compact as other hiking and backpacking stoves, so it’s better for shorter trips or primitive camping. It took us a little over five minutes to boil water. Don’t depend on its power to be the only way to charge your phone and other devices. Charging is slow and requires hours of adding fuel to get a good charge; however, this feature is fantastic in an emergency. The legs are sturdy, and the insulated construction helps the unit cool down quickly after cooking, so you can pack up quickly if you are in a rush. Overall, the BioLite wood burning camping stove kit is an innovative idea. It works like it says it will, except for charging, which we feel the company was a little over generous in the product’s description. Our number one tip to you would be to collect a lot of kindling and wood before starting your fire. Gather what you think it will take, and then gather double that! It takes a lot to cook dinner. Price: $235.98
These sure are a fun way to pass the time when you don’t want to use light to give away your position or during a power outage. The set includes 28-pieces of traditional double six dominoes. They are smaller than a regular set and made of flexible, lightweight silicone, which makes them perfect to pack in your backpack without adding weight or taking up much room. Once settled in camp, we took them out of our pack, so they could charge. The mesh bag they come in allows light in, but not enough. To get them really going, remove them from the carry bag and set them out in the sun to charge. Sometimes glow-in-the-dark things are more of a novelty item, and these might be, but you don’t need them to glow to play a round of dominoes, plus they are more compact than a hard-plastic set. They quickly became a staple in our bug-out bag and on camping trips. Price: $19.95
Talk about space-saver. This water bottle slash dry box slash lantern is a really cool way to make use of multiple purpose camping gear and emergency supplies. Unlike other camping lantern/water bottle duos, this one is made from collapsible food-grade silicone, so it takes up virtually no room in your pack. It includes a carabiner, as well, so you can hang it from your backpack if you need to. The internal light has three modes: high at 100 lumens, low and strobe. It is USB-chargeable or will light using power from the built-in solar panel on top of the lid. When full, it is six inches tall. Stick your valuables in it when rafting or during bad weather. It is IPX7 waterproof rated and will keep contents dry even when fully submerged up to three meters. We like this 3-in-1 camping lantern, dry box and water bottle a lot. Price: $13.66
These are a genius idea, combing a match-like, strikeable tip with integrated tinder to start a fire quickly and easily. It’s made of non-toxic material—a mix of vegetable wax and sugarcane bi-product. Once lit, it will burn for seven minutes, giving you plenty of time to get your kindling aflame. These are essentially waterproof. The box has a striker on the side and extra strikers inside. The striker is not waterproof, so you must keep the box dry. There are only eight in the pack, so these are good for a weekend camping trip. We’ve also put a pack of the Sweetfire tinder/fire starter in our bug-out bag. Price: $7.39
Originally designed for bicycles, this 3-in-1 wireless Bluetooth speaker and flashlight will also charge your cell phone and other USB devices. It’s pocket-sized—depending on the size of your pockets—and lightweight at 0.42 pounds. The light has three modes and is removable from the speaker. 100 lumens on high, lantern mode with bright and dim and then strobe for emergencies. The wireless range is 32.’ The speaker is pretty powerful and has a decent sound, especially for its size. The quality of the bass will surprise you. It’s IPX5 water-resistant and made rugged since it’s got to handle bumps and shock from bouncing around on a bike. Fully charged, it will charge a cell phone once and play music for 10 hours. There is also a built-in microphone and a bicycle mount. There are speakers with better sound out there, but they are more expensive. You can’t expect it to do all three things at once without draining the battery. We use it for a speaker, then as a light to walk back and forth to the bathroom and see in the tent. The Buckshot Pro is another multi-use device that is perfect for camping, as well as emergencies. We’re pretty darn impressed. Price: $79.95
Because of its size and heft, this camping lantern from Coleman isn’t made for hiking or backpacking. We use this lantern strictly for car camping, RVing, while at the cabin and lake and for blackouts. It’s an ingenious design. The lantern has a base that holds 8 D-Cell batteries and 4 individuals, removable lights. Together the lantern has a 190-lumen output. Each individual light has 47.5 lumens with 26-foot beam throw. When docked on the base, the lights charge. Once removed, they run for 1-1/2 hours. As a lantern, you get 360-degrees worth of bright, white LED light which is plenty to cook by and for playing games. Individually, the lights are perfect for walking to and from the bathroom and for use as a tent light. The biggest downside to the Coleman Quad is that there isn’t any variety in light output. There are only two modes—off and on. If we could change anything about this lantern, it would be that. We are very pleasantly surprised by the 75-hour runtime. Price: $51.80
Camping showers might seem a bit silly, but they actually serve multi-purpose and we are of the strong belief everyone needs one in their toolkit. Use it as its true intended purpose at deer camp or during a disaster or use it like a portable sink when camping. We particularly appreciate having hot water at the end of the day to wash up dishes from dinner instead of having to boil multiple tubs of water. It’s a simple design, made of heavy-duty PVC with hanging/carry handle and clear back. Fill up the 20-liter capacity bag with water, then just hang it up in a sunny area so the back is facing the sun and let the sun do its thing. We appreciate the added value of the water temperature thermometer for safety and comfort. Price: $31.57
It was difficult picking our favorite camping gadget out of this Best in Bunch, but we settled on the water bottle because it truly serves multi purposes, plus transitions easily from car camping to lightweight hiking and backpacking to survival.
What are your favorite camping gadgets? Tell us about them in the comment section.
Prices here reflect what was listed at the time of original publication and are subject to change.