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The Green Life: Cheap Night Out: Camping Gear on a Student's Budget

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August 19, 2011

Cheap Night Out: Camping Gear on a Student's Budget

Sleeping under the stars shouldn’t end up costlier than a hotel stay. Here’s some quality gear that’s manageable even on a student’s budget.

The insulation in MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR's Lamina 20 is more compressible than other synthetics and puffs up bigger too, making it feel more like down — though, unlike down, it doesn't lose warmth when it gets wet. This sleeping bag's likely to stay dry, however, because the water-resistant shell repels even a dense morning dew. As for comfort, it's got a full-length zipper, a roomy foot compartment, and an insulated gasket to keep your head and neck cozy. $160

Tents typically either break your back or break the bank, but KELTY's Salida 2 squeezes a ton of value into a 4.5-pound package. The two-person, three-season shelter is a cinch to set up, has enough mesh to let in the evening breeze, and provides a generous 43 inches of headroom in the center. Just one complaint: The single side door can make for an awkward game of Twister during entry and exit. $160

Pack BYER's Traveler Lite and naptime will always be as close as two trees. The hammock is made of feathery parachute polyester (which means that it weighs less than a pound), supports 250 pounds, and can be strung up in seconds. $20

Tiny stove, tiny price: MSR's Pocket Rocket adds a scant three ounces to your pack and barely raids the wallet. But this little propane-fueled flamethrower can boil a liter of water in less than four minutes. The water for your morning coffee is ready before you know it, with no priming or pumping. The only downside: As with many small gas stoves, stability isn't its strength, so watch that pot. $40

When it comes to cook sets, ditch pounds for ounces by going with GSI's Halulite MicroDualist, a two-person kit that'll boil up all you need in a 1.4-liter pot. Pour that primavera into the pair of bowls and accompany it with a pinot served in matching mugs. At a feathery 18 ounces, it also comes with two sporks, a flexible "sink" (a soft-sided bowl), and space for a small stove. $53

PRINCETON TEC's Fuel headlamp handles camp tasks with aplomb, providing ample light by which to dice garlic, play a few rounds of Texas Hold 'Em, or, for the adventurous, continue down the trail after dark. Best of all, three AAA batteries keep the light shining for an impressive 146 hours. $30

GREGORY's Z55 backpack is the perfect size; 55 liters of space hold just the right amount of gear and food for a long weekend — or an even longer trip if you're a minimalist. The top-loader is well balanced, combining an aluminum stay with a plastic frame sheet, and venting reduces sweat. A favorite feature is the full-length side zipper that allows access to stuff wherever it happens to be buried. $200

Looking to recharge your Kindle on a rainy day so you can read deeper into your e-version of Beyond the Hundredth Meridian? When the sun's not out to run a solar recharger, BRUNTON's Inspire "portable power pack" (a.k.a. a battery) is a dependable choice. Slightly larger than a deck of cards, the unit provides enough energy to recharge a smart phone up to three times. $72

--Steve Casimiro

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