Make yourself at home outdoors with these essential camp tools.
By Gibbs Milliken
The right camping tool can make the difference between comfort and exasperation. Here are some that will help you meet your basic needs and may even create a little nostalgia the next time you pack them for a new outing.
Primitive campsites often require the use of some very basic tools. Clearing a tenting area is a job for a bush knife like the new Meyerco Machete, designed by Blackie Collins. Sporting a toothy wood saw along the top edge, the sturdy 18-inch blade of rust-resistant stainless steel has a full-guard rubber handle for non-slip hand protection. Inside the grip are unique thumb cutouts for comfortable lateral cutting of bushes, vines and undergrowth. ($29.95, Machete with lanyard and heavy-duty nylon sheath, Meyerco USA, (214) 467-8949, www.meyercousa.com)
A smaller, but substantially sized knife is essential for general use and food preparation. A good choice is the new Buck Alpha Hunter, a folder that opens and closes with one hand. The hefty drop-point design, which comes in several styles and grades of steel, is best carried in a belt sheath. Handle choices vary from black rubber, impregnated rosewood to textured natural stag. Well-balanced in the hand, it is a fast opening, smooth and safe-operating tool. (Prices vary with style and handle choice; shown is the $109.99, Alpha Hunter ATS-34, elk stag handle, #80284000, Bass Pro Shops, (800) 277-7776, www.basspro.com)
In locations with relatively soft ground, a camp fireplace and latrine can be prepared easily with a small shovel. One military-grade compact tool of this type is the Gerber Folding Spade. In areas where digging is prohibited, the Snow Peak Pack & Carry Fireplace with folding grill and grill-bridge can be quickly set up. The 17-inch device is heavy stainless steel, but folds flat into its nylon carry bag. ($39.99, Gerber Folding Spade, #05940, Gerber Blades, (800) 950-6161, www.gerberblades.com; $139.95, Snow Peak Pack & Carry Fireplace, Model: ST-032, Snow Peak Inc., (503) 697.3330, www.snowpeak.com)
The ultimate camp cookware is a set of titanium pots, pans and utensils. Titanium is lightweight, has no metallic smell or taste, and does not ionize food, corrode or rust. A nesting four-piece Titanium Multi Compact Cook Set is specifically designed by Snow Peak for the solo camper. The larger, three-piece Titanium Middle Cooker kit dishes out multiple servings. Both, constructed of very thin titanium, are made durable with a grooving finish at the edges. Also available is the matching Titanium Cutlery knife, fork and spoon set. ($74.95, Multi Compact Cook Set, #SCS-020T. $119.95, Middle Cooker 3600, #SCS-032T. $32.95, Cutlery Set, #SCT-001, Snow Peak Inc.)
The Case Hobo Knife is a classic personal utensil set. It contains a pocket knife, fork, spoon and two bottle openers in one snap-apart unit with a handle of jigged amber bone. This kit fits neatly into its tooled leather belt case, making it readily available for a quick meal in the field. ($99.99, Hobo Knife, Model #CA-052. $17.95, Belt Case #CA1049, Case Cutlery, (800) 523-6350, www.wrcase.com)
A full-size, single-blade axe or good-quality hatchet and log-splitting tool are handy in forested areas. Short logs can be split into kindling or made into more usable sizes for cooking fires. Proven tools of this type are the Estwing Sportsman’s Axe with a laminated leather handle and heavy-duty Estwing Wood Splitting Wedge. ($47.95, 14-inch Sportsman’s Axe with leather sheath, # E24A. $20.95, Wood Splitting Wedge, #E5, Estwing Manufacturing Co., (815) 397-9521, www.estwing.com) Note: Often it is necessary to bring bundled logs to campsites in protected habitats. Check camping regulations for each area before attempting open fires or gathering local fuel.
Given a minimum of care, good-quality camp tools are sure to last and age gracefully through many years of service in the field. For instance, that old coffeepot with the dents and chips carries with it memories of special places, people and times in the outdoors.