As Lola gets older and slowed down by arthritis, we find ourselves car camping more often so she can swim and hang out outdoors without having to hike for miles. Needless to say, our car camping game isn’t quite up there with the RV wielding or even Vanlife set but we’re working on it.
On our last trip to Lake Tahoe, we brought along a bunch of gear that not only allowed us to cook a bit more gourmet than the backpacking meals we are used to, but also made our campsite much more festive.
Jetboil HalfGen and Eureka Gonzo Grill: The HalfGen is a standalone 10,000 BTU stove with full simmer control thanks to the integrated regulator — you can cook pretty much anything you would on your gas burner stove at home. It comes with a ceramic coated 9″ fry pan but will work with practically any pot or pan you choose. The system packs up nice and compact and the carry strap doubles as a bottle opener.
The HalfGen runs on propane and can be coupled to additional JetLink-compatible stoves via its JetLink port, enabling all to run off the same propane bottle. We hooked up the HalfGen to the Eureka Gonzo Grill so we could cook a bunch of different things at the same time.
The Gonzo Grill features a cast iron top with grease-free grilling on one side and a griddle on the other. We grilled up chicken for fajitas and bratwurst in the evening, then turned it over to make pancakes the next morning. If you just want to boil up some pasta water or heat up soup, simply remove the cast iron plate and it functions like a normal gas burner.
The base drip plate is removable so you can throw it in the dishwasher when you get home. The cast iron cooking plate cleans just as you would any cast iron pan — a little hot water and elbow grease goes a long way. The cast iron will season over time so your cooking will only get better.
Orca Cooler: Made in America, these bomber coolers keep your food and drinks cold over an entire weekend. Orca claims 200 hours of cool — while we didn’t test it for that long, we spent two nights and three scorching hot days up in Tahoe and by the time we got home, the cooler was still full of solid ice. A lid gasket ensures a perfect seal every time and the whale tail latches are super easy to open and close. At the end of each day, simply open the drainage spout to let out any water that might have accumulated.
You can buy a basket accessory to keep items that you don’t want to get wet like vegetables out of the base of the cooler. The cooler comes with a cargo net attachment where you can store items such as a corkscrew and cooking utensils.
Alite Designs Meadow Mat: Technically a waterproof blanket meant for all those picnics outside, it serves as a fabulous camping tablecloth. If you spill something, simply wipe it off with a damp paper towel. And it looks fun, too.
BioLite KettlePot: I used this 1.5 liter kettle to boil up tons of water in the morning for tea and pour over coffee (I love my SOTO Outdoors titanium pour over set). You can pair the KettlePot with the BioLite CampStove 2 or it works fine with any gas stove. The BPA-free top seals tightly so you can safely pour hot liquids without burning yourself.
Luminoodle Color Light Rope: Nothing makes a campsite look more cozy than lights strung up all around. This five-foot multicolored LED light rope can be hung almost anywhere with the included ties, straps, magnets, and utility loops. Via remote control, you can toggle through 15 different light settings. When hanging out around the picnic table, the nylon carry bag doubles as a lantern bag for more diffused light. The Luminoodle runs off any USB power source — you can also buy the string of lights with a 3400 mAh battery pack as part of a set.
BioLite SiteLight XL: This collapsible fabric lantern is not only super fun, but provides 300 lumens of dimmable ambient light for your campsite. The 15-foot cord enabled us to tie it off over a tree branch to hang right above the picnic table at camp. The lantern runs off any USB power source but pair it with the remote control Bluetooth BaseLantern XL for a complete camp lighting system.
Kammok Wallaby Hammock: You don’t want to spend the afternoon hanging out in the tent where temperatures can soar. Instead, bring along this lightweight hammock so you can read a book or take an afternoon nap in the shady open air. At one point, I strung up the hammock on the edge of Donner Lake and just hung out while Lola ran in and out of the water for most of the afternoon.