Gadgets bring indoor joys to outdoor stays

Some people go camping to escape, to get back to nature, to get back to the basics, to rough it, to commune with The Great Outdoors.

But . . .

What if you want to get away, but not leave the 21st century behind?

What if you would rather listen to Beatles than crickets, rather sing along with the Rolling Stones than watch moss try to grow on one (other than Keith)?

What if you would rather have a frozen margarita than a warm Milwaukee's Best?

What if you'd rather take a shower than wear the same clothes - all of them! - for four or five straight days?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then gadgets are for you.

Every year, a seemingly endless selection of "New Camping Gear" can be found. (And I'm pretty sure that at least some Texas dads have bought enough gadgets to fill two garages a year for the past 30 years.)

But some of these devices really are worthwhile - and can make camping a little better or a little safer - without turning the trip into a stop at a KOA.

Coleman Radio Cooler


Size: 28" x 15" x 15"

Perfect for campers who can't stand the peace and quiet of the outdoors, this cooler rocks, if you want it to. It has an AM/FM/weatherband radio built in. Or you can plug your MP3 player into the cooler's auxiliary jack and play your own tunes. The 36-quart cooler holds 46 cans. The radio runs on four C batteries, plus one AA battery for the clock.

What else: Coleman also rocks. To see some more new (or classic) camping stuff, go to

Crazy Creek Crazy Legs Leisure Swivel camp chair


Size: 32" x 19" x 13", 9.5 lb.

No picnic table at your campsite? No problem. This very comfortable camp chair has a table that swivels into several positions, as a side table or in front to eat dinner or read a book using the flip up book rest. The table's height is adjustable. The chair, which is made from polyester fabric over an aluminum frame, is rated to hold up to 325 pounds.

What else: Crazy Creek Products' motto is "don't just do something... SIT THERE!" For chairs, hammocks and more, go to

Grundig Emergency radio


Size: 6.75" x 5.75" x 2.25"

With this radio, you can stay informed of weather (seven National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration channels plus weather alert) and news (AM/FM radio plus audio from VHF channels 2-13) - and make a phone call, even if your cellphone battery is dead. It's powered by a hand crank, so no batteries are needed, and 90 seconds of cranking provides up to an hour of radio play. It also includes a built-in emergency light.

GSI Vortex Lexan Blender


Size: 10.5" x 5.75" x 7.25", 5.5 lb.

This hand-cranked blender can make smoothies, frozen drinks, sauces and pancake batter, making it useful for camping and tailgating. The stainless steel blades chop ice well, and the blender comes with a 1.6-quart pitcher, and pour-through locking lid and a clamp to secure the base to any table (or tailgate). The pitcher is made from Lexan® resin, a substance the company says is nearly unbreakable. Packs down to 9 inches for storage.

What else: GSI Outdoors makes great cookware and accessories for camping and backpacking. Visit

Summer Shower


Sizes: 2.5, 3 and 5 gallons

Summer Showers use solar energy to heat the water up to 110 degrees with three hours of direct sunlight. Each bag includes a temperature gauge, and the 3- and 5-gallon bags include pockets for soap and shampoo. The Summer Showers roll up for easy storage. Empty 2.5- and 3-gallon bags weigh 12 ounces; an empty 5-gallon bag weighs 1.25 pounds.

To order: call 707-998-0135 or visit


Almost anything from Coghlan's: Need tablecloth clamps? A hiker's egg holder? Waterproof matches? A clip-on headlight? A bear bell? Anything? Try

Grilliput camping grill: ($29.99 at It was a 2006 holiday gift idea but is worth mentioning again. That's Grilliput, as in Lilliput, as in tiny, so this gadget is probably swift instead of neat. Packed, it is less than a foot long and an inch in diameter, and it weighs 1.2 pounds. It has a grill area of just over 9" x 10".

Katadyn water filters and purifiers: These products range from ultralight systems for individuals to endurance systems for 200 gallons of water. For more information, and to order in the U.S., go to