2022 Cool Tears Magazine Gift Guide
The holidays are approaching fast and camping related gifts can help brighten the cold, dark days of the winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Like in years past, we only recommend products that we use and love. None of the companies that have products listed below have paid us for our endorsements nor were any of the products given to us. Please note, we are affiliates for some of the products listed below, but not all. So we may get a small commission if you click a link and make a purchase. This does not affect your purchase price in any way.
We’ve broken our gift guide into four main categories: camp comfort, galley/cooking, awnings, and miscellaneous.
We are year round campers who live in Michigan. The last three years, we have traveled west of the Mississippi River for camping where there are often fire bans. We’ve found that a propane fire pit works well on those cold nights and mornings in Michigan or the mountains of Colorado. We like our Camp Chef Compact Fire Ring for several reasons. First, it puts out a good amount of heat. Second, it doesn’t take up much room in our tow vehicle. Third, the convenient carry bag is included which makes transporting the fire ring easy. A propane fire ring definitely doesn’t take the place of a real fire while camping, but it is nice to hop into bed and not smell like smoke!
I mentioned that we live in Michigan. Some of our favorite camping sites in our home state are in the Upper Peninsula where it seems that mosquitos grow to the size of hummingbirds. Last summer, I finally purchased a Thermacell Patio Shield along with a refill pack. I had put off purchasing a Thermacell for a few reasons. 1. They are pretty expensive and you need another box of fuel and mats to get you through the summer. 2. I thought they were gimmicky, so I was slow to try them out. Needless to say, I spent an extra summer getting bit by mosquitoes because of the above two reasons. Now I know that they do work and they are worth every penny. (There are over 52,000 reviews on Amazon!) We now use two Thermacells if we set up camp in a mosquito prone area, one in the galley area and one on the fender near where we sit for the evenings. We have two different models. We first tried the usual “Patio Shield Mosquito Repeller” which takes the small mats and butane cartridges. The second model is the “Radius” which runs on a USB rechargeable battery. The refills are about the same price as the refills on the “Patio Shield” model, but overall there is less plastic to dispose of which I prefer.
No campsite is complete without having somewhere to lounge around with a good book or magazine. We love to hang a hammock or two if it’s allowed at the campground. It’s really hard to go wrong with a hammock.
Here are a few things to think about before purchasing one. First, decide if you want a one or two person hammock. They aren’t significantly different in size, but the two person hammock has a weight rating over 500lbs. Most come with built in pouches for the hammock to fit into as well as the hanging straps and carabiners. This hammock by Wise Owl Outfitters is less than $40USD (at the time the article was written in October 2022), it includes the hanging straps and carabiners and it has a 4.8 out of 5.0 rating on Amazon with over 46,000 reviews. A few years ago, I was given a MalloMe Camping Hammock in a work gift exchange. This hammock has been on every camping trip we’ve made since then. The MalloMe single and double hammocks have a weight limit of 1000 lbs, so it can hold you and your kids. We not only use the hammocks while camping, but we also use them at home too!
A few years ago, I went on a solo backpacking trip. Prior to taking my first step on the trail, I did a lot of research on the best socks for through hikers. One sock name that kept coming up time and again was Darn Tough made in Vermont. My favorite is the Hiker Micro Crew Midweight Hiking sock, shown below. They have
just the right amount of cushion under your foot and they manufacture them in such a way that you don’t feel the seam. They are 59% merino wool and they will keep your feet at a good temperature in the summer and winter. The best part about these socks is that they have a lifetime guarantee! Yes, a sock with a lifetime guarantee! If they wear, tear, or develop holes, Darn Tough will replace them absolutely free. If hiking is not your thing, they do also make socks for work, running, skiing or snowboarding, and hunting. These might be the perfect stocking stuffer, even if they are socks!
We’re not coffee snobs, but we do like supporting our local coffee roasters. Since our local roasters only provide whole bean coffee, we needed a portable way to grind our beans while away from home. Earlier this year, we landed on the Porlex Mini Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder. You can see it in action in this short video we made while trying to make a cup of coffee using our skottle. We like the size of this grinder because it packs away nicely in our galley. Another nice feature is that it's easy to adjust the grind setting to accommodate different coffee brewing methods. If your preference is an espresso, then adjust the burr by turning nine to eleven clicks. If you use an Aeropress, set it to about 15 clicks. If you like a pour over coffee, then adjust the burrs by counting to about 22 clicks. French press? About 40 - 42 clicks. We have ours set to about 35 clicks and we just leave it there for all. This produces a stronger coffee when we use our french press coffee maker. I’m contemplating purchasing a second one to keep in the house so we can get rid of the electric grinder that takes up valuable cabinet space.
A few years ago, I purchased a travel French press coffee maker for a twenty-something new camper that loves coffee. Once I saw the quality of the build of this vacuum walled French press, I had to get one for our teardrop as well. We’ve been using the OVRLNDR® Travel Press by Planetary Design for more than two years now. The OVRLNDR® will brew 24 oz of your favorite coffee or loose leaf tea. After your coffee or tea is brewed, there are two great features of this travel press that make it stand apart from the others. First, you can enjoy your drink straight from the OVRLNDR® with the no-spill lid if you’d like. The second unique feature is related to cleaning the travel press. When you depress the plunger fully, there will be a few ounces of coffee in the removable base of the travel press. This is so you don’t need extra water to clean the press. Swirl the slurry of grounds and water and then quickly dump in your trash and the cleaning is mostly finished! The only drawback of this travel press is that it has to be hand-washed, it is not dishwasher safe. I would imagine that the OVRLNDR® Travel Press will likely last a lifetime.
Roasting marshmallows or hotdogs over a campfire is enjoyable whether you're five or ninety-five. Portable, telescoping stainless steel roasting forks are definitely a step up from using a dirty twig that may buckle under the weight of a hotdog. Two brands that stand out are MalloMe and Jolly Green. Both brands have telescoping roasting sticks that extend to 34 inches and collapse to about ten inches in length. Both also include a carrying bag to hold all of the roasting sticks which makes storage convenient.
Most campers could use a refillable butane lighter. A good quality refillable lighter with a long neck would make a great stocking stuffer and it would help cut down on the amount of plastics going into the landfills. These come in handy when lighting camp stoves, fires, or lanterns. These refillable butane long lighters can be found at most local grocery stores and hardware stores.
Our last recommended galley item is for knife storage. For as long as we’ve owned a teardrop, we have always used a magnetic knife strip mounted in the galley to hold our knives. We usually travel around ten thousand miles per year with our teardrop on highways, country roads, and National Forest roads. Our knives have never fallen off the rack yet despite the kind of traveling that we do. The first magnetic knife rack we used was actually a magnetic tool holder that we purchased from a large DIY store. It worked well, but aesthetically, it’s lacking. This spring, we purchased a Woodsom magnetic knife holder. These wooden
magnetic knife holders come in lengths from 8 up to 36 inches and you can choose the wood type that you’d like. They come in birdseye maple, butcher block, cedar, cherry, hickory, maple, oak, walnut, wenge, alder, knotty pine and purpleheart, so it’s easy to find a wood grain that will match or compliment your galley. The neodymium magnets are strong and embedded in the wood from end to end, so there is no dead zone on the wooden bar, although it is slightly less strong over the mounting holes. The manufacturer even provides the wooden plugs to fill the mounting holes. We have the ten inch alder magnetic knife holder and it easily holds a few knives as well as a few sets of tongs within easy reach of our cookstove. The alder wood has a similar wood grain to Baltic birch, which many teardrops are made from.
There are two awnings that have absolutely changed the way we camp in the last year. The first is the MoonShade by Moon Fabrications is a portable awning that sets up easily with one person and attaches to nearly any sturdy structure, even if you don’t have a roof rack. Every awning includes the strut pole, two large suction cups, and two small suction cups which can be used to attach the MoonShade to different sturdy objects. We’ve attached the MoonShade to our car, a flag pole, and a tree just to get some protection from the elements, whether it’s sun or rain.
This awning is about the size of a yoga mat and although it seems to be made for van life, it is absolutely perfect for covering the back hatch of a teardrop. Covering the galley of our teardrop is our absolute favorite use of the MoonShade! We can stay dry or out of the blazing sun while we’re in the galley, which is also our gathering place - just like our kitchen at home. In a recent YouTube video, we did a review of our MoonShade and gave four reasons why we love our awning and also provided a few things that could be improved. To watch the review, click this link. If you’d like to purchase your own MoonShade, use this link to get $30 off. https://moonfab.com/cooltears
The second awning that has changed our camping experience is the shower enclosure by 23Zero. This shower awning mounts to a roof rack and is the perfect spot for our portable toilet. We also use the awning as a changing room and as a true shower enclosure. The shower enclosure is heavy duty and it has weights sewn
into the bottom hems to keep the sides from flapping around. There are also 4 stake points, one in each corner, to help keep the awning in place on those windy days. The awning walls are height adjustable and silver lined for privacy. Even on sunny days, you cannot see the silhouette of anyone inside the enclosure. This has changed our camping experience because now we don’t need to walk to a bathroom or pit toilet if we’re in a campground or set up an extra tent for our portable toilet. We can slip out the door of the teardrop and with one quick movement we enter through the zippered corner closest to the teardrop door. No more late night or early morning trips to the bathroom! We use this awning along with a portable toilet when we stay at Harvest Host locations. We’re very transparent that our portable toilet is in this attached awning and to date, we’ve not been turned down for any stays. Simply legally dump or throw away all waste off site.
As mentioned in our MoonShade review, one of the things that could be improved are the guy lines. We purchased this 8 pack of the 3mm yellow guy lines last year and we use them on the MoonShade as well as on a side awning. These 4 meter (13 feet) guy lines are reflective so they are easy to see when it’s dark. They all come with an attached, easy to use guy line adjuster. This 8 pack of guy lines cost less than $12USD at the time this article was written.
How do you pass the hours when traveling to your camping destination? Our rides can be pretty quiet at times with someone napping or reading a book. That’s great for the passengers, but it’s awful if you’re the driver! Since I can’t read while driving, I listen to books or podcasts instead. I’ve used Audible, by Amazon, for years. I like Audible for a few reasons. First, the books that I put in my library are mine should I choose to stop using the service. Second, I’ve not found an audiobook library as extensive as Audible yet. I know it’s hard to remember Amazon when it started, but it was a bookseller. They offer a free trial and then there are two plans to choose from, one under $8USD/month and the other under $15/USD/month. If paying for an audiobook doesn’t appeal to you, then check out your local library. My local library card gives me access to an app called “Hoopla” where I can find audiobooks and movies that I can download for 3 weeks to listen to or watch. This is a free service, but the book and movie offerings are limited.
A few years ago, I purchased two different products that would help women pee outdoors without squatting. We’ve tried two different products, but one stands above the rest, at least for me. The Tinkle Belle is a female urination device that allows a woman to remain standing and fully clothed while going. This video created by Tinkle Belle says/shows it all. Until a few months ago, we owned two of these and we always kept one in each vehicle, so one was always with us if we were traveling. Somehow, we started our two week, multi-state teardrop tour without one! We realized it when we were about three hours into our trip already. So we ordered a third and had it delivered to a friend's house that we met up with a few days later. We’ll do a review of this in a future issue, but it has completely changed our travel and hiking days. During the pandemic, when a lot of our usual pit stop locations were closed, we were able to use the Tinkle Belle with an empty detergent bottle and we could stop nearly anywhere, tuck ourselves between the front and back doors of our truck and go without being seen and without leaving a mess. Due to the design, there is no toilet paper needed, so we’re not leaving little “paper flowers” outside. This made in the US product is a perfect gift for any woman that enjoys being outdoors.
Lastly, the third annual Cool Tears and Tiny Campers 2023 Calendar is available to ship now. This calendar is made possible by you, our subscribers! Even in the digital age, wall calendars are perfect in your home, kitchen, or office and they help keep track of important dates, contacts, and other events at a glance. It’s nice to see a monthly calendar and events in one quick view, plus it’s a bonus to see an amazing tiny camper!