This Top-10 List of must-have outdoor gear includes our most useful and frequently used items. Whether you are new to the outdoor lifestyle or an experienced adventurer, this list is loaded with golden nuggets.
Hands down the outside dad’s most useful item. Quick set-up makes the hammock perfect for quick breaks, naps, resting, reading, sitting, and swinging. Anchor the nylon straps to two sturdy items 10-15 feet apart. Trees are ideal, but with a little creativity you can rig up your hammock almost anywhere. (ENO Hammock $60, Anchor straps $30, https://www.eaglesnestoutfittersinc.com)
Cast Iron Skillet
Outdoor cooking over fire in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet or Dutch Oven is sheer pleasure for a backcountry amateur chef. Meat of vegetables, a cast iron skillet takes outdoor cooking to a whole new level. Take well care of your skillet, and it will last a lifetime. The more you use it, the better it gets. Car camping only, not for backpackers. (Lodge Cast Iron Skillet $40, https://www.lodgemfg.com)
Kids love water and boats. Canoes are portable, large enough for a family 5 (plus gear!), and capable of handling nearly any rapids you may encounter on state water trails. And canoes don’t cost a fortune, like real boats do. Weather you’re doing a day-trip or a multi-day excursion, paddling is great exercise and an activity the whole family can enjoy together. (Old Town Canoes $1,500 new, $600-$900 used, http://www.oldtowncanoe.com)
Carrying a baby in your arms quickly becomes exhausting. Best way of transporting a baby largely depends on the activity you are doing. A basic baby carrier is the most versatile mode of transportation available to outdoor dads, as it allows you to also carry a backpack and still have both hands free in terrains where stroller can’t go. ($30 at Babies R Us)
Ultralight nylon tents are great for backpacking where ounces matter. For family car-camping, no nylon tent can beat a good ol’ canvas tent. Being able to stand up when you put your pants on, enough room to set up an inflatable queen size bed for mom and dad, and bomb-proof shelter from harsh elements is just some of the benefits of a canvass tent. (Kodiak Canvas Tents, $400, http://www.kodiakcanvas.com)
Quality Thermos & Spill-proof Insulated Mug
Worth its weight in gold on long cold winter hikes. Thermos works great for both hot chocolate and soup. Spill-prof mugs is a must-have around little kids. (Stanley Thermos, $25, http://www.stanley-pmi.com, GSI Outdoors spill-proof mug, $15, http://www.gsioutdoors.com)
Ever tried changing a diaper in dark holding a flashlight? Wearing a headlamp you have both hands free. A must-have item for dads camping with kids. Works great for cooking, hiking, and setting up tent after sunset. (Black Diamond headlamp, $30, http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com)
A quality rain jacket is a hiker’s best friend. Shelter from rain and wind, light-weight, and packs down to size of a softball. Works great as outer-shell in winter if layered over an insulating down or fleece jacket. I carry my rain-jacket in my backpack year around. (REI rain jacket, $100-$200, http://www.rei.com)
We love Nalgene bottles, but carrying more than one is inefficient and clunky. During hot summer hikes, 1 Liter of water doesn’t last long. Bladder provide a great back-up supply of water with capacity to fuel a family of four. Bladders come with a faucet, allowing for easy bottle re-fill. We bring the bladder on all adventures; hiking & backpacking, canoeing- even in the car on road trips! (4-Liter MSR Dromedary Bag, $40, http://www.cascadedesigns.com)
This gem is lightweight, durable and packable. Perfect for hiking, picnics, beach, and canoeing. The insulated seat will also keep you warm when taking a break on a winter snow hike. (Crazy Creek HEX 2.0 Original Chair, $50, http://www.crazycreek.com)
What is your favorite piece of gear? Tell us about it!