3. Petzl NAO Headlamp
Dubbed "reactive lighting," Petzl's NAO ($175; available from July 2012) is undoubtedly the most advanced headlamp yet to hit the market. A smart light sensor measures reflected light and adjusts the beam accordingly. If you're reading or tying a knot, the beam gets wide and dims; if you're looking at something from a distance, it narrows and intensifies. The NAO features a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, high-power LEDs and a lockable on/off switch. "All of this technology is pretty much invisible," says John Evans, Petzl USA's marketing director. "It's pretty similar to a hybrid car that shuts down at a stoplight without you knowing it." Evans says that this translates to batteries lasting 50 percent to 800 percent longer than they would with traditional headlamps.
4. Thermacell Mosquito-Repellent Appliances and Lanterns
"Part of the goal of camping is to be outdoors and enjoy it," says Allegra Lowitt, Thermacell's vice president of marketing. "Obviously that doesn't happen when those uninvited guests show up." The company's EPA-approved, U.S. Army-tested solution against mosquitoes, black flies and other bugs: appliances and lanterns that create a 15' x 15' "zone of protection." A butane cartridge heats a repellent pad and releases allethrin, a naturally occurring mosquito repellent. The Thermacell Camper's Starter Kit ($39.99) includes a mosquito-repellent appliance, three mats and one cartridge (good for about 12 hours). The company's dual-function Mosquito Repellent Outdoor Lantern ($31.99), which has the same butane/allethrin technology as well as eight LEDs, won Field & Stream's Best of the Best award.
5. Trek Light Gear Double Hammock
The best camping hammock to put on your camping checklist has got to be Trek Light Gear's 6'6" x 10' Double Hammock ($74.95), which weighs in at a mere pound but holds up to 400 pounds. It's made of durable parachute nylon that dries fast and resists mildew, and it tucks neatly into a small pouch. Trek Light also makes a variety of hanging kits ($11.95 to $20.95), so you can string the hammock between two trees or other appropriate stationary objects. "Each and every day, there's more medical study supporting sleeping in a hammock," says Trek Light founder Seth Haber. "The Double Hammock is the best for sleeping — it's smooth, it's comfortable, it's breathable."
Also of interest: 5 tips for desert camping.