Ultimate Base Camp: Five cool camping extras for ultimate fun and comfort

Extra touches put our Ultimate Base Camp over the top

Gear Travel

Alite Mantis Camp Chair

This article is part of Mtbr’s Ultimate Base Camp feature. See all the stories in this special section here.

Alite Mantis and Mayfly Camp Chairs

In many ways, our experience with Alite’s feathery Mantis and Mayfly camp chairs mirrored our experience with the GO trailer–to use one is to become a de facto product spokesperson, like it or not.

Before taking the Alites on the road, we gave them a shake-down at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival–an annual free concert in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. After finding a suitable lawn spot in front of the Porch Stage, we quickly assembled the portable chairs–each carried in a bag about the size of a Nalgene bottle–and were about to sit down when we heard the audible sighs of concern.

Alite Mayfly Mantis

Though they look like kids chairs, the lightweight, highly compactible Alite Mantis and Mayfly camp chairs comfortably hold adults up to 250 pounds. Photos by Don Palermini

Turns out that, as our cover photo illustrates, Alite chairs look quite similar to baby loungers. And while quite capable of holding adults–rated to 250-pounds in fact–their diminutive appearance elicits a certain presumed frailty among the uninitiated. Once seated, however, the astonished questioning begins–Where did you get those? Are they comfortable? How much? Those are so cool!

At this point your best strategy is to let people try for themselves–our doing so in this case, led to an offer of free beer, though your results may vary. But to answer the questions, the chairs are available at alitedesigns.com, and numerous brick-and-mortar outdoor retailers. They’re both amazingly comfortable, though we preferred the larger, 1.6-pound, $120 Mantis. If you plan on using one of these for backpacking, the less expensive $100 Mayfly is a good call and saves about a quarter pound.

Alite Chairs HSB

The couple who tried our Alite chairs at San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, bought a pair of their own at the Alite retail store the next morning. The Handsome Family (top left) played twangy, dark, and clever songs in approval. Photos by Don Palermini

In our campsite setting, the Alite chairs were subject to a near-constant game of Duck, Duck, Goose–if you got up from one you could count on it being occupied upon your return, whether you called “seatback” or not.

Taller users may find the chairs a bit hard to get in and out of due to their low-slung positioning. Also, because they’re angled back, reading a book or tablet became uncomfortable after long periods. Neither of these niggles would preclude them from our list of base camp ultimates, however. Overall, these compact, lightweight and comfortable chairs are simply excellent.

More info: alitedesigns.com

AllStays Camping App

AllStays Camp and RV App

One of the most frustrating parts of planning a trip–whether sleeping indoors or out–is nailing down accommodations. Despite the magic of the internet and sites that aggregate travel resources, it still takes an inordinate amount of time and searching to find and book reservations. And while the $10 AllStays Camp and RV app doesn’t entirely eliminate these issues, it does a really good job making camping resources conveniently searchable through both map- and text-based queries.

We found AllStays much more comprehensive and precise for searching a specific geography than what typical terms yielded in search engines. Googling “campgrounds near Romero Canyon Trail Santa Barbara” provided few useful results, for example, while AllStays allowed us to look at the trailhead on a map and see virtual pushpins of camping resources nearby. Clicking on the pins brings up a summary overview and tabs that open external campground, ratings and image links. It also includes links to local weather conditions and forecasts, as well as typical mapping and navigating functions.

And despite the fact we’ve all been programmed to pay little or nothing for apps, we found this one well worth the ten bucks.

More info: allstays.com

Continue to Page 2 for more cool camping extras and full photo gallery »

About the author: Don Palermini

Chicago-born Don Palermini became a cycling-based life-form in the sixth grade after completing a family road bike tour of his home state. Three years later he bought his first mountain bike to help mitigate the city's pothole-strewn streets, and began exploring the region's unpaved roads and trails. Those rides sparked a much larger journey which includes all manner of bike racing, commuting, on- and off-road bike advocacy, and a 20-plus-year marketing career in the cycling industry that landed him at his current gig with Santa Cruz bicycles. Now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, his four favorite words in the English language are "breakfast served all day," together in that order.

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