As we have done for the past few years, my family spent a few weeks camping at MacGregor Point, a provincial park on shores of Lake Huron, near the Bruce Peninsula. One of the big attractions of this particular park—besides its relative proximity to our house (under a three-hour drive)—has been its lack of bears. Well, this year that went out the window, with a mother and young cub roaming the campsites. Despite the added precautions needed (it’s a lot easier to raccoon-proof your campsite than to bear-proof it), it was another successful trip. I brought up a lot of products to test during the trip and, once again, put together a list of great options that will be making it into our regular camping gear rotation.
ORCA Liddup Cooler
First on the list is the ORCA Liddup Cooler. ORCA makes some incredibly tough coolers using rotoscoped-molded construction for added durability. This 35-quart Liddup cooler has integrated insulation and a lid gasket that regularly kept a selection of drinks frosty cold for three days in summer heat, with just two 3lb bags of ice to work with—add a more generous ice allotment and it will easily go for four days. The cool feature that had everyone coming to look was its Liddup LED lighting. Pop the lid in low light and LEDs (powered by four AA batteries) effectively illuminate the contents without blasting in your eyes. The rubber “whale tail” closures were also a conversation point. The made-in-America ORCA Liddup is regularly priced at $349.99, but it’s solid, effective, and likely to be the last cooler you’ll ever have to buy.
ICEMULE Jaunt Cooler
While the ORCA cooler was too large and heavy to be carrying everywhere, the ICEMULE Jaunt was my go-to for carrying drinks between campsites. I’d toss in a half dozen cans, a few handfuls of ice, then inflate the cooler and wear it like a backpack to visit friends’ campsites. It’s light, easy to carry, and rolls up for easy storage. Those few handfuls of ice were enough to keep drinks cold for the evening, and there was usually still unmelted ice left in the bottom off the Jaunt in the morning. My wife was pretty fond of the “Devoe” color as well…
Moment iPhone Lenses
Last year I reviewed the Moment lens system for iPhones, and this year I brought along the latest offering from the company: the Anamorphic lens. This one is really intended for use shooting video, bringing a 2.40:1 cinematic aspect ratio and lens flare to the iPhone. However, it also makes a great wide-angle lens for shooting photos using Moment’s Pro Camera app. I used it to snap some lake shots like this one, using my iPhone XS Max.
BioLite HeadLamp 330
BioLite is one of those go-to names for camping, especially when you have to carry all your gear in with a backpack. Ultra-light and ultra-efficient stoves that burn twigs to cook and power your electronics? Very cool. But those days are long behind me—we camp in a trailer with AC, memory foam beds, and other creature comforts. However, that doesn’t mean BioWare doesn’t make something that we found really useful. The company sent me its new $49.95 HeadLamp 330 rechargeable head lights.
These things are great for wearing around at night and are nothing like the head lights you find in the camping section at big box stores. They are incredibly light, super slim (the front light panel sticks out only a third of an inch), dead easy to put on, and very comfortable thanks to the use of elastic, moisture-wicking headband fabric. The light charges via USB, can be toggled between high and low, and goes for up to 40 hours on a charge at that low setting. It’s not as bright or far-reaching as a good hand-held flashlight, but it’s perfect for walking between campsites or to the bathrooms at night—especially when you need your hands free to carry things. The angle of the light is adjustable, which also makes the BioLite HeadLamp 330 really useful for working with tools in low light conditions. And it comes in a choice of funky colors!
Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 2
The original WONDERBOOM was a great little speaker for taking camping or to the beach, and the all-new WONDERBOOM 2 is even better. Just a shade larger, but IP 67 waterproof and dustproof (it also floats), 360-degree audio with more bass, more volume, a longer 13-hour battery life, and a family-friendly $99.99 price tag. If you bring two, you can easily wirelessly pair them for true stereo sound.
PHOOZY XP3 Phone Case
The PHOOZY XP3 smartphone case is a surprisingly useful accessory, especially if you’re spending time at the beach.
Have you ever brought your smartphone somewhere very warm and sunny, only to have it shut down because of overheating in the sun? The PHOOZY case is designed to prevent that from happening. It incorporates a Chromium thermal barrier that reflects 90% of solar radiation to prevent overheating when your phone is left in the sun. I kept my iPhone XS Max in this case at the beach and it was streaming music all day without any temperature-related issues. Of course, I had to remove it from the case to view the screen, but there was no fussing to find a shaded spot to store it.
The PHOOZY XP3 also protects your phone from drops, it floats (with the phone inside) if accidentally dropped in the water, and also has a hidden stash pocket to store cash and cards.
Forsake Maddox Hiking Shoes
Finally, I brought along these Forsake Maddox hiking shoes to try out. They are the rare outdoor shoe that has a casual style (especially this Brown/Navy combo) instead of looking aggressively rugged or athletic. They are designed for a wide range of hiking terrains from city streets to forest trails, with a “Peak-to-Pavement” outsole, breathable nylon uppers with leather trim, and a compression EVA midsole. They’re not meant for slogging through swamps or climbing rock faces, but make for a solid all-terrain walking shoe. I wore them for a hike to Southampton and back (20 miles) that consisted of a mix of dirt paths through the forest, roads, paved trails, and a little beach thrown in the mix. They were very comfortable and supportive, and my feet did not overheat. I did get a blister on one foot, but I can’t blame the shoes—that was on me for not wearing proper socks…