Maryland/Virginia Travel: Equipment - The Best Gear for Safety and Comfort While Camping

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Whether you rough it in a bare-bones backcountry cabin or hole up in luxe furnished digs, these gear picks will offer you the comfort you want and the safety and warmth you need in the great outdoors. Camping items are available through the manufacturer or at such major outdoor-gear retailers as REI.

-- Nathan Borchelt

-- Gregory Wasatch Backpack (; $79)

This 12-liter backpack is your go-to satchel for day-long forays on hiking and biking trails. Weighing in at 1 pound 5 ounces, it boasts the company's new Bio-sync suspension system, which mimics the way the body moves during high-intensity activities. The hip and shoulder straps have two flexible attachment points, rather than the conventional one, so the pack moves in concert with your body, much the way tendons help your body adapt to varying terrain. Other techie details include an integrated hydration sleeve that cinches close to the back pad to reduce sloshing, a water-resistant nylon shell, pocket organization and top and side compression for a streamlined fit. An 11-liter version of the bag for women is called the Navarino.

-- Berkshire Serasoft Blankets (; from $20)

Toss the rough cotton coverlet and transform a cabin bed into a plush cocoon with these cloud-soft blankets, made by a family-owned company in Massachusetts. They're machine-washable, non-pilling, durable and extremely lightweight. You'll be most impressed by the velvet-smooth feel that is soothing to trek-weary bodies. Available in 14 colors in four sizes, from a throw to king-size.

-- Platypus PlatyPreserve (; $13 per bag)

Finally, a way to carry wine into the wild without those burdensome bottles. Just pour your preferred vino into the plastic pouch, remove excess air to prevent oxygen from tampering with the taste and secure the airtight lid. The bag promises full protection from ultraviolet light with zero taste transfer and keeps the liquid fresh for days. When empty, it rolls up to the size of a Magic Marker. It even comes with a place to write the name of the wine, making cocktail hour prep even easier.

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