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20 Common Useless Things People Take Camping

Camping area with tents, folding chair, wooden tables, and kitchen equipment.

I’ve taken all kinds of things camping that were useless – a compass, too much food, old matches, small children. The small children were so cute and had so much fun that I don’t regret taking them, but otherwise more careful packing could have made the trips smoother.

There have never been more choices for every kind of camping item imaginable. A quick trot through online camping supply sites will provide you with hours of giggling pleasure – there are that many ingenious, imaginative, utterly useless products. Here’s a sampling of 20 of my favorites:

Downright Scary…

Camping can mean many things, from a small tent on a primitive site to a tricked-out luxury RV, but it’s hard to imagine some of these items being a good idea in anyone’s camping world:

1. Flashtorch by Wicked Lasers 

Let’s just get this one over with. It’s a flashlight so powerful it can also light a fire or fry an egg. Talk about blazing a trail! Pointing this beauty in the wrong direction could mean the incineration of your breakfast, your tent, or your left eye.

2. Inflatable Transparent Bubble Tent by Loyalheartdy 

LOYALHEARTDY Inflatable Bubble Tent Camping Tent Transparent D-Ring Single Tunnel Bubble House Dome Camping House with Blower, for Indoor/Outdoor Family Backyard Camping Festivals Stargazing

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Imagine a whole campground full of these entirely see-through bubbles when it’s time to get dressed for the day! Do any of us need that much exposure to nature?    

3. Trailkeg, by Trailkeg

TrailKeg - Gallon Stainless Steel Growler For Beer - Vacuum Insulated Double Wall Design - Chrome Tap And Dual Stage CO2 Regulator - Keeps Drinks Perfectly Cold And Carbonated - Portable And Durable

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Really, it’s a keg for the trail. For all those craft beer drinkers who need it fresh from the tap, while they’re hiking. Anyone prepared to add 12.8 pounds to their back to hike with this stainless–steel–encased gallon of liquid gold, is probably overdue for an intervention.

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Outdoor Kitchen Fantasies

Some of us, when we go camping, tend to do a little aspirational packing, hopefully stowing items we may not actually use. Inexperienced campers especially can have a hard time realizing how much harder food preparation can be outdoors.

1. Collapsible Camping Whisk by GSI Outdoors

GSI Outdoors 74126 Collapsible Whisk

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For instance, omelets over the campfire might seem like a great idea from the comfort of home. And that idea may well lead you to the purchase of this collapsible camping whisk.

 It looks like a great option, compressed as it is in its compact handle, ready to spring forth at the touch of a button to make your culinary dreams come true. But seriously, who feels like making an omelet when they’ve already had to hike to the bathroom and build their own fire? If we’re going to retract something, let’s make it a fork!

2. Portable Propane Deep Fryer by R & V Works

R & V Works Cajun Fryer 4 Gallon Propane Gas Deep Fryer with Stand and 2 Baskets

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I guess after you pay $519.99 for it and wheel it up into your trailer, maybe you’ll feel like you have to use it, but no one can tell me that camping and deep frying are compatible activities.

3. Vortex Blender by GSI Outdoors

The reason you can take it camping is that it’s powered by your arm. I wonder how many rotations of the hand crank it takes to whip up a protein smoothie or a margarita in the middle of nowhere? Despite the ‘powerful two-speed gear system’, it can’t be all that easy, or they wouldn’t need to throw in a C-clamp to bolt it to a table. Maybe I’ll mix the protein into my oatmeal and leave all those limes at home next time.

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4. Cast Iron Camping Panini Press by Rome

Rome's Panini Press Cooker, Cast Iron with Steel and Wood Handles

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Cast iron is heavy, so the question is, do we really need an item weighing in at almost two pounds to make a sandwich while we’re camping? I guess it could double as a weapon for clonking intruders, but otherwise, not so much.

5. Nonstick Stir Fry Wok by Circulon 

Circulon Symmetry Hard Anodized Nonstick Wok / Stir Fry Pan - 9.5 Inch, Red

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Another questionable selection. How much stir-fry chopping are we planning for this camping trip? And how much of that can fit into a nine-inch wok at one time? Are we bringing a rice cooker too?

6. Lantern Stand, Kitchen Tool Organizer, Hanger for Small Items by Ribitek

When it takes that many words to explain it, you start to wonder. I suppose this rod connected to metal legs with a few hooks could be useful in an environment where there were no trees or bushes, but does anyone want to camp where there are no trees or bushes? I’m thinking maybe ten feet of rope and a few pegs might travel better. Also wondering, how much of a wind would it take to topple it?

7. Candwich, by MK1 Foods Corp. 

It’s hard to leave the fantasy kitchen category. Just one more – a sandwich in a can! When all your good intentions to stir fry, deep fry, press, blend and whisk fall flat on the damp earth, crack open a can containing a sandwich that has a year-long shelf life, and have at it with no prep at all.

Things No Human Should Wear Camping

Nothing is worse than not having the right clothes on a camping trip. I remember a time when it rained seven days in a row and I ran out of dry socks. It’s worth some forward planning to think through everything you’ll need for the conditions you’ll be facing. There are a few things that won’t serve you well in any conditions:

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1. Jeans

Nautica mens Loose Fit 5 Pocket Pant Jeans, Crossed Indigo, 38W x 32L US

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Everyone wears jeans for camping, right? But think about it. When they get wet, they stay wet for a long time. They offer no resistance to moisture, and denim is a heavy material that takes a long time to dry. It makes more sense to wear lightweight, water-resistant fabrics.

2. Umbrellas

G4Free Liteflex Hiking Umbrella Ultralight Large 46" Reflective Silver Trekking Backpacking Umbrella, Bonus Handsfree Umbrella Kit (Silver/Black)

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There’s a sad innocence about a camper holding an umbrella. Everything’s wet when you go camping. Umbrellas only take care of water coming from one direction at a time. Umbrellas also occupy one of your total two hands. Out there, you’ll need both of them most of the time.

That is, of course, unless you go out of your way to attach a small one to your body, as one veteran hiker did with his hiking umbrella – swearing it kept him drier and cooler than a jacket. This is hard to believe, and definitely not the fashion-conscious choice. I guess it could work if you stayed away from overhanging branches and snickering adolescents.

3. Crotchless Shorts by Kimbo

Ok, so no one sees your bare bottom while you’re doing your business, but do you really want anyone to see you doing your business in a pair of crotchless shorts?

4. Nomad Wearable Sleeping Bag by Selkbags USA

Selk'bag Nomad Wearable Sleeping Bag I Outdoor and Indoor Sleeping Bag for Camping, RV Trips, Travelling, Hammocks, Backpacking, Lounging (Navy Blue, Large)

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There are problems here on several levels. First, who wants to sleep in the same dirty, sweaty thing they’ve been wearing all day? Second, why would you want to walk your sleeping bag booties through the dust and everything else that ends up on the ground, only to return all those germs to your tent? Last but not least, who wants to walk around looking like a sleeping bag?

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Dogs Aren’t People Too

This is my favorite category. Here are just a few of dozens of doggy options for camping:

1. Y-Shaped Dog Backpack By One Tigris

OneTigris Y-Shaped Dog Backpack with Handle, Pockets & No Pull D-Rings, Lightweight Hiking Gear for Dogs Hunting Camping Travel (Large, Green)

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I’m imagining my niece’s Portuguese Waterdog, Luna, wearing the backpack. First, she would roll around on it, trying to dislodge it, squashing its contents. Then she would run in tight circles trying to get at it with her teeth. Then, in despair, she would plunge into the nearest stagnant pool, hoping to make it float away. I just don’t see Luna sharing the load.

2. Highlands Dog Sleeping Bag, by Ruffwear

RUFFWEAR, Highlands Dog Sleeping Bag, Water-Resistant Portable Dog Bed for Outdoor Use, Huckleberry Blue, Large

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I’m thinking if it’s the kind of dog that needs a $100 sleeping bag, and will actually stay in it, maybe that’s not a dog you want to take camping. Neither is it likely to be a dog that wants to go camping.

3. Sun Shower Dog Raincoat by Ruffwear 

RUFFWEAR, Sun Shower Dog Raincoat, Waterproof & Windproof Jacket for Wet Weather, Blue Dusk, Large

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See above comments, changing only a $100 dog sleeping bag to a $70 dog raincoat.

Just Not Cool

We’ll wrap up with three items that take uselessness to a whole new level of fun:

1. 80 Tool Swiss Army Knife by Victorinox

Victorinox Swisschamp Multi-Tool (Ruby), 91mm (53506)

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This is overkill, to the point where I wonder if any of the tools can do their job, attached as they are to the other 79. I’m also wondering how long it takes to find the desired tool, what with there being 79 other ones to confuse us.  It’s just not the sort of thing you can casually whip out of your pocket and put to convenient use. It even comes in a gift box.

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2. Three Seat Folding Chair by Trademark Innovations

Triple Style Tri Camp Chair with Steel Frame and Mesh Seat and Back by Trademark Innovations

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I’m all for togetherness, but a three-seat folding chair somewhat forces the issue. Squished in a straight line as you all are, you can’t really see who you’re talking to. It also looks unsettling, what with all those crossed legs going every which way. Then there’s the awkward issue of having to tell two other people your real weight, since its total capacity is 440 pounds. Maybe not.

3. Electric S’mores Maker, by Sharper Image

SHARPER IMAGE Electric Tabletop S'mores Maker for Indoors, 6 Piece Set

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This is just cheating. If you do pack one, don’t let anyone see you using it. You’ll be camper-canceled.