Life

Putting this year's hottest camping gear to the test

By Daniel Barron, Special to Postmedia Network

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When it comes to camping, I fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes - you won't find me hunting wildlife with a Swiss Army knife and cooking whatever I catch over an open fire, yet you also won't catch me "glamping," which is essentially luxurious camping for the ultra-casual crowd.

I love being away from the hustle and bustle of the big city I live in, but if I'm spending a weekend in the woods, I'm not too proud to use some modern day equipment to make things a little more comfortable.

With that said, Canadian Tire recently provided me with some new products to try out during my annual long weekend camping excursion. I had a specific reason for choosing everything that I requested from Canadian Tire, as I wanted to test drive stuff I knew I would get a lot of use out of.

I put six items to the test, and for the most part, everything made life in the campground's quasi-rustic setting easier.

Coleman Microburst Lantern - They call this a lantern, but it's more of a lantern/flashlight hybrid. This product consists of four small light pods that attach to a larger base via magnet. When attached to the base, the four pods run on four AA batteries, but when detached, each pod runs on two smaller batteries.

When combined on the base, the pods do a solid job of illuminating a small area - in my case a table playing host to a card game - but what really makes this product worth the cost is its ability to be split up into four separate lights. Each pods includes a clip and a plastic rubber loop (along with the aforementioned magnet), meaning it can be attached to just about anything.

It's great for when someone needs to visit another area of the campground but doesn't want to carry a bulky flashlight. I also envision it being great for parents who want to keep track of their kids.

The only downside to the product is that the battery cover on some of the individual pods can accidentally open, making it an easy way to lose batteries. There are also special coloured lenses for each pod, but beyond the initial novelty, I found they muted the brightness of the lights too much. Best to keep the lenses stored.

Coleman 50 Can Cube Collapsible Cooler - It's no fun digging through layers of food just to get to the soda pops in your cooler, or vice versa depending on your priorities during a camping weekend.

This cooler aims to avoid that problem, offering a space that's large enough to hold several bottles or cans, while easily folding up when not in use. When in use, the cooler is both spacious enough to keep you from having to constantly get up and refill it with ice or drinks, while still being small enough that it doesn't become excessively heavy, even when completely filled.

The most notable downside with this product is that it suffers from the same issue most coolers have, which is that it isn't particularly good at keeping ice from melting. Drinks still stay nice and chilled for hours, but I had to keep the cooler in the shade as much as possible to help slow the ice-melting process. The zipper is also slightly difficult to close due to the collapsible nature of the cooler, but that isn't a deal breaker for me.

At the end of the day, I was able to have two separate places for my food and drinks, and when it came time to pack up, I wasn't left trying to fit two full-size coolers into my vehicle, which is a huge bonus.

Turbo Campfire Starter - Give it whatever name you want, this thing is essentially a blowtorch for your campsite fire - and that's not a bad thing!

This product's premise and setup couldn't be simpler. You attach a 1 lb propane tank to the starter, turn the nozzle to "high," and the starter releases a small but powerful air/propane mixture. Point the end of the starter at an already-lit section of the fire, and it ignites the contents of the fire quickly and effectively.

Although it does its job well, I'm not convinced this product suits my needs. I tried it out several times during my camping weekend, and while it did give each fire a quick jumpstart during the initial lighting, it won't help you any when you run out of wood. If anything, it seems to be an answer for the impatient camper who doesn't want to wait five minutes for a fire to really get going. If that's you - have at it!

Coleman Suspension Chair - Camping chairs are typically as generic and forgettable as the logs that burn in the average campsite fire, but I kid you not - this chair is straight-up awesome.

Unlike most camping chairs that use fabric that does nothing to help cool you down while sitting down under a hot sun for hours, the Coleman Suspension Chair is made up of flexible nylon mesh fabric that not only allows the breeze to pass through and keep you cool, but is just plain comfortable over long stretches of time.

I wasn't sold on the thin, foam-covered armrests when I first saw them, but like the rest of the chair, they're plenty sturdy and comfy. A cupholder - a staple for any camping chair - easily folds away when not needed, but when it is being used, it sits below the right armrest, so cans and bottles don't impede on your arm comfort.

Camping chairs often don't stand the test of time, and while I can't comment on that specifically with this chair as I only used it for a weekend, I can confidently say it's the best camping chair I've ever used. The biggest problem with this thing is keeping other people off of it when you eventually have to get up!

Cadac Safari Chef Stove - What this product lacks in sheer size, it more than makes up for in usability and convenience. This stove essentially offers five different cooking surfaces, including a wok (that doubles as a lid), a grill plate, and good old fashioned wire grid for burgers and hot dogs.

It is admittedly small, and I wasn't able to cook more than a few food items at a time, but as long as you're not in a hurry to cook for a small army of people, this stove is great for a number of reasons.

It folds up easily and compactly, and even comes with a carrying bag (no need to use a cardboard box that starts falling apart after one use). It uses a 1 lb propane tank that fits out of the way underneath the stove itself. Lighting it is a cinch, and the stove quickly heats up whatever cover you're using.

I wouldn't suggest this for a large family going camping, or as the only cooking apparatus for a large group, but for two-to-four people, it's a fantastic choice.

Broadstone Enamel Cookware Set (16-piece) - There's really nothing fancy about this product, and it's the one I was least impressed with.

It does what it's supposed to do for all intents and purposes, but I noticed that there was already a bit of rust developing on a few of the pieces by the end of my long weekend camping trip. It makes me worry about how the pieces will hold up in the long run.

My brother and sister-in-law did point out that the Broadstone kettle's exterior doesn't heat as fast as their other camping kettle, which is a good thing, as anyone using the kettle won't burn themselves if they accidentally touch a part of it that isn't the handle.

All the pieces of the set clean easily, and it's clearly a more environmentally-friendly choice compared to using paper plates, plastic utensils, and Styrofoam cups. I'm just not sold on how it'll presumably hold up after years of use and abuse, based on the rust appearing after one weekend.

 


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