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15 pieces of great gear for summer adventures

Mar 21, 2023

When thinking of summertime essentials, perhaps pool floaties and sunscreen come to mind. Beachgoers will want to pack their umbrellas, sunshades and perhaps a boogie board for a fun day on sunny shores.

While camping becomes less desirable during the Sunshine State's sweltering summer months (unless in an air-conditioned RV), there are still plenty of outdoor adventures worth embarking on. Whether it's water-based excursions on a paddleboard, workouts or nighttime get-togethers in the backyard, there are small pieces of gear that can enhance outdoor activities.

From the back patio to the trailhead, here are 15 pieces of equipment and accessories that are worth packing when venturing outdoors this summer. These items can be found for less than $300 each and everything pictured belongs to me personally.

There are hammocks that can be found online or in stores as cheap as $10 or $15. Aspiring hammock enthusiasts, let me gesture in a direction that will prove much more satisfactory in the long run. Eagles Nest Outfitters, better known as ENO, is headquartered in Asheville and known for producing quality outdoor gear, namely hammocks. The DoubleNest is the brand's popular choice for one or two users, providing a setup that's suitable for daily use and camping adventures alike. Accessories such as tarps, bug nets and straps are sold separately.

For light packers who prefer not to check a bag on air-based trips, the Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Pack provides a two-in-one system with both a carry-on pack and a daypack. These can attach to one another or separate, allowing travelers to stash the daypack under the seat and the primary pack overhead. The 40-liter pack has tuck-away backpack straps and exterior clips for the 15-liter daypack (which features a laptop sleeve) to attach, creating a convenient carrying system for trudging through the airport and down city streets. With load lifters and a hip belt in the primary pack, this traveler's bag makes carrying all the essentials a breeze. Better yet, all Osprey packs are backed by the brand's "All Mighty Guarantee," offering repairs and replacements for any Osprey product from any era.

It's hot during Florida's summer season, so much so that it's unpleasant to think about going outside. But avid outdoor enthusiasts don't know how to take time off and know that if there's a will, there's a way. When the muggy months kick in, pack a portable fan for use in the tent or outside at the picnic table. Search Amazon or other online retailers for "camping fan" and find a range of rechargeable options from $20-$60.

Camping lanterns don't need to be cool. They need to be sturdy, functional and ideally won't break the bank. But it's an added bonus if they are cool. Become the most interesting person at the campfire with the BioLite AlpenGlow 500-lumen lantern (a 250-lumen version is also available). This rechargeable light has cool and warm dimmable lights, a single-color mode and multicolor modes that dance at varying speeds.

There's a way to ward off pesky mosquitoes without greasy, sticky spray. It's the kind of thing it's better to see to believe. Thermacell has developed a range of fuel-powered and rechargeable mosquito repellers meant for camping and patio hangouts alike. These work to heat up repellent cartridges or mats, creating a protective barrier of 15-20 feet around the device. Results may vary depending on wind and conditions, but enough people have used these to swear they work.

Known for their coolers that can cost more than some used cars, YETI has made a name for itself with overengineered but expensive outdoor lifestyle products. It might seem silly to spend $40 or $50 on a water bottle or $30 on a "can cooler," but these products work and last a long time. My personal arsenal includes a 36-ounce Rambler bottle (get the "chug cap," trust me), a tumbler and two "can coolers" of varying sizes. It's hard to put a price on reliable hydration.

Keeping with the theme of hydration, it's a good idea to keep extra water on your back when heading out for summertime hikes and long bike rides. Having a daypack or hip pack with a hydration reservoir isn't a bad way to go. CamelBak is a household name in this category, and the company offers solutions that include the pack and removable reservoir in one package. Some are tailored for trail running or cycling, while plenty are suited for day hikes. A reservoir in the 70-100-ounce range should hit the sweet spot for most needs. Osprey and Gregory also have good options in the realm of hydration packs.

Folding camp chairs can be found at dirt cheap prices under $20 but these throwaway pieces of portable furniture won't hold up in the long run. Invest a little more into quality folding seats such as those made by Helinox, a brand specializing in lightweight, portable chairs. Suitable for carrying long distances or packing into a daypack, Helinox offers chairs that weigh around 2 pounds and are designed to last for years. Some options are ever-so-lightly heavier and larger but still plenty packable, and perhaps more comfortable too.

When it comes to larger, more expensive purchases, it pays to do research and get into a bargain shopper mindset. An online deal spotted last summer yielded the purchase of a "certified pre-owned" Body Glove Performer 11′ paddleboard for around $200. Stand-up paddleboarding is in right now, and rightfully so. Inflatable SUPs make it possible for recreationists of all ages and vehicle types to get out on the water — and there is no shortage of places to paddle in Florida. Reliable options can be found at Sam's Club, Costco, REI, Travel Country Outfitters, Dick's Sporting Goods or Amazon. Some of the most sought-after and reliable brands include Bote, iRocker, Isle, Bluefin, Red Paddle Co. and Body Glove.

When heading out on a snorkeling trip, tour companies will supply gear for guests to borrow. But when heading to the beach or enjoying a day at the springs, it's helpful to have a personal snorkel mask handy. Options can be found everywhere from Dick's Sporting Goods to REI and online retailers as well. Spend a little more and get higher-quality options at a Central Florida dive shop.

When it comes to seeking sun protection, either duck under cover or take your shade with you. Put on a wide-brimmed straw hat to keep the face and back of the neck protected from damaging UV rays. Shop around at Ace Hardware or apparel stores to browse a range of options suitable for summer adventures.

In the category of sun protection, it's good to invest in a shirt that has some amount of UV protection. It might also make sense to get something lightweight with a hood. The North Face, NRS, Kuhl, Cotopaxi, Outdoor Research, prAna, REI, Smartwool, Mountain Hardware, Black Diamond and Patagonia are just a few options in this category.

Imagine carrying a cooler like a backpack rather than toting a heavy, hard-sided cooler over sand dunes or dragging it on wheels over rugged terrain. Herein lies the appeal of IceMule, which bills itself as the "adventure cooler." The soft-sided portable cooler is essentially a large, insulated dry bag. The St. Augustine-based company says its coolers will keep ice for more than 24 hours.

When out running on streets or hiking on trails, it's best to keep an awareness of surroundings — but it's also fun and motivating to listen to music. This is where Shokz (formerly AfterShokz) headphones come in to help. While many earbuds have a "pass-through" or sound transparency mode, Shokz use bone conduction technology to send vibrations through the cheekbones to deliver sound directly to the inner ear. These make it possible to stay connected to your surroundings while jamming out.

It's never fun to get stranded with car troubles, especially a dead battery. Most times someone is nearby with jumper cables, but especially on remote excursions, those chances can decrease dramatically. Give a boost of confidence to summer road trips by investing in a jump starter, reducing the chance of getting left alone with a depleted battery. The Noco GB40 is the most popular jump starter on Amazon and has already proven a useful car companion on several occasions.

Find me @PConnPie on Instagram or send me an email: [email protected].

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