Arch2Arch Gear Grades: Car Camping

Last summer I took the kids on a cross-country exploration to commemorate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. We stopped at a bunch of NPS sites, state parks, recreation areas, and generally just had a blast. Don from accompanied us the trip. You can check out the trip reports of our day-to-day adventures here: Day 1 of Arch2Arch. Anyway, a week-long car camping trip meant taking a lot of gear that I wouldn’t otherwise use, since I’m usually backpacking. And using “new-to-me” gear is always kind of fun. To make a long story short… here’s a list of some of the gear we used in Nebraska and Wyoming during our six straight nights of car camping.

Mountain Hardwear Supermega UL1 –

My daughter wanted her own tent on this colossal road trip. I can’t say I blame her. This Mountain Hardwear tent is the smallest and lightest I own, so it seemed like a good choice for her. I’ve had it for a number of years now and it has held up well, and I’m used to it and that familiarity is convenient. Setting it up and taking it down is really simple. I showed my daughter how to do it on the first night and the rest of the trip she was pretty much doing it by herself on the second night. On the one night that it rained, she stayed dry. It is starting to show its age, though. While using it on this trip, I found a few small rips in the floor. I knew I was trading some durability for weight when I bought it, so it wasn’t totally unexpected. It’s been great tent, but it’s old. I think Mountain Hardwear has replaced it with the new Ghost tents. It’s probably time to move onto a new backpacking tent. GRADE = C+


The SuperMega at Yellowstone’s Canyon campground.

Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy –

This is the Sierra Designs bag that has holes for your arms. You can stick your arms out of the holes and your legs out of the bottom of the bag so you can wear it around camp. I didn’t do that on this trip simply because we were never in camp long enough for me to lounge around in it. As for sleeping, however, it did really well. Despite the cold nights in Grand Teton and Yellowstone, I stayed pretty warm. The arms holes didn’t draft air, and the middle zip worked well. It’s tight on me through the shoulders but the length is wonderful. And the hood was nice and warm. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. GRADE = B+

Travel Chair Furniture –

I was glad we took these items with us. The chairs kept us from having to sit at the campsite picnic tables, which were far colder, more damp, and less comfortable. The Classic Bubba was the chair most in-demand. It resembles a typical camp chair, except it’s deeper, more relaxing, and has an adjustable pillow. The TravelChair Roo and Joey chairs are smaller, but still sturdy and a better option for the campfire the the picnic table or the dirt. The Grand Canyon table was easy to assemble in camp and provided us with a cleaner surface than the campsite-provided option. All things considered, the three chairs were in much more demand than I thought they’d be. And that speaks volumes for TravelChair. GRADE = A

The Joey and Roo

Jetboil Flash –

I’m glad I invested in a JetBoil right before leaving on this trip. I normally cook with a lightweight titanium setup that takes awhile to get going. I knew I’d want coffee quick, and the Flash got things boiling fast. Since we were car camping, we didn’t cook in it; only using it to boil water for hot chocolate and coffee. I was really impressed with the speed. Still, it weighs about 10 ounces more than my backpacking stove, so I’m not sure it’ll translate for me onto the trail. For the what we used it for on Arch 2 Arch, though, it worked fine and kept our caffeine levels acceptable. GRADE = B+

Teton Sports Mountain Adventurer 4 –

My son and I shared this big tent and had plenty of room to spare. This Teton Sports tent has been serving as my go-to car camping tent for a couple years. It’s done a good job. It’s kept me comfortable in many conditions, and it kept us bone dry on this trip. We didn’t even have any condensation on the cold nights, which surprised me a little. It did a good job in the high winds of the Wind River Canyon. My biggest gripe is a lack of quality zippers – I’d like to see them beefed up a little. Also, if you want to blow up a big air mattress, make sure it inside the Mountain Adventurer 4 before blowing it up (pro tip!). Regardless of those small gripes, it’s the biggest tent I own, and I haven’t seen anything out there that gives me an impulse to replace it. GRADE = B


The Mountain Adventurer 4 under Devils Tower.

OOFOS Camp Shoes –

Best camp shoes ever! This is even more true for car camping trips. When the driving and sightseeing and exploring was done each day, and we found ourselves in camp for good, the OOFOS came out. They’re insanely comfortable no matter how much you’ve been on you feet. My kids sometimes wore them during the day as well. They served as excellent shower shoes at Yellowstone. The whole family are big fans. As a matter of fact, they’ve replaces most of our other sandals and flops. GRADE = A

Intex Classic Downy Air Mattress –

I picked a couple of these up right before we left at a local big box store. One was a twin (for the Mountain Hardwear tent) and the other was a queen (for the Teton Sports tent). I figured I’d rather inflate these two mattress with a pump than blow up three sleeping pads manually for six straight nights. We were car camping, after all. Plus, these were pretty cheap; less than $30 for the two of them, I think. They did okay. These Intex mattresses were far better than sleeping on a pad, and I was glad the kids had the extra comfort. On the last night of camping I noticed the queen had a leak. I found it but there wasn’t much I could do about it. We did the best we could and woke up with no air in the morning, so we got five nights out of it. I might slap some duct tape on it. They aren’t very durable, but I didn’t treat mine gently either, so some of it might be on me. GRADE = D+

Under Armour Big Shot Sunglasses –

There isn’t a piece of gear more important on a cross country road trip than sunglasses. I was glad to have these stylish Under Armour shades with me.  Almost every day was sunny. The Big Shot Storms are big enough to fit my head; I often have trouble finding glasses that fit properly.  The adjustable features were convenient and they look sharp. I dropped them on concrete a couple of times. I was sure they’d be scratched, but they survived unscathed. I’ve been historically wary of Under Armour, but these are good sunglasses and I’ll keep them in the truck. GRADE = A-


He is indeed a Big Shot

Merrell Moab Rovers –

I didn’t think much of these shoes before the trip. I took them because they looked pretty durable and I figured the trip would be a pretty good test for them – and I didn’t really care about have fashionable-looking shoes while driving 2,000 miles. Without wearing them much prior to the road trip (just a couple days at work), they ended up being a pretty good choice. They were super-comfy (as most Merrells are) on earth and asphalt. We were usually driving or car camping, and although we didn’t hike much, I got the feeling I could use them for future day hikes. They were durable for the easy tests I put them through. Plus, they are decent casual shoes for the office. I’ll be wearing them more often in the future to getting a better feel for them. GRADE = B+

*I paid for the Mountain Hardwear tent, JetBoil, and Intex air mattress myself. The remaining items were sent to me for review. There are no affiliate links on this page.

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