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20 useless bits of camping gear

Jon Elder • Camping • Feb 12, 2017 • 5 minutes

Funny camping accessories

At Ordnance Survey we love looking at outdoor and camping gear but not all of it is exactly useful. Here's 20 of the weirdest and most pointless bits of camping gear ever made.

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There's no denying that camping gear continues to improve each year as technology develops and more and more campers go on the search for lighter, more packable gear. We take a look back at some of the funniest bits of camping gear offer some better alternatives.

20. GSI Outdoors Extreme 11 Wok

The pointless camping wok. Image from GSI Cookware

When I first saw this mentioned on a camping forum, I thought it was a joke – but it turns out, like everything else on this list, to be very real.

The GSI Outdoors Extreme 11 Wok is a lightweight wok designed for camping. However, as it’s still 30cm (12 inches) across and weighs nearly a kilogram (2 pounds) it’s not something you would consider taking backpacking – and if you are camping with a car you may as well just take your normal wok or pan.

Not actually useless, but still pointless.

A better alternative would be the GSI: Halulite Cookpot which is a fraction of the weight and still big enough to cook a decent meal for two.

19. Sun-Mate Solar Safari Hat

Expect to be disowned by your family and friends. Image from Amazon

The Sun-Mate Solar Safari Hat appears to be sadly discontinued now. In theory, it seems like such a good idea. Wearing a hat shades you from the blazing sun, but does nothing to cool you down, so why not use the sun itself to power a lovely cooling breeze?

This is why. There is nothing 'cool' happening here.

18. Wicked Lasers Flashtorch

The FlashTorch - and yes, it has just burnt that table. Image from Wicked Lasers

There are some things that sound like a good idea until you think it through. The Flashtorch by Wicked Lasers is one of those things.

This is a torch that boasts being powerful enough to light a fire or fry an egg, which both sound great until you realise that a) using something that hot in a tent is a really bad idea b) you’re going to blind someone on the other side of the campsite and c) the batteries are going to last about 4 minutes. It also costs $200.

17. Victorinox Swiss Army SwissChamp XAVT

That's probably going to wear a hole in your pocket - if it fits in the first place. Image from instagram/sakwiki

Victorinox have been making pocket knives for a long time, and they're a really handy thing to have on any camping trip. But I can’t decide if the SwissChamp XAVT is a clever joke or if they just had too many bits left from other knives.

This will cost you over £300, has 80 different tools and weighs about the same as a small car. Not only are you going to spend ten minutes looking for the correct tool for extracting raisins from a toddlers nose, it’s going to be really tricky to actually use due to the enormous bulk and weight.

But it does have a digital clock on the side.

16. Denim jeans (or jackets)

Trying to dry wet jeans is not easy. Image from Shutterstock

I have to admit that I have worn jeans while camping before – but they are not a good idea. Cotton is hydrophilic, and when it gets wet it takes ages to dry even in good conditions, and has really poor insulation while doing so. Given the weather in Britain, you are probably going to have to carry (or even worse, wear) a pair of really heavy, wet jeans at some point and drying them in a tent is nearly impossible.

Go for lightweight, quick drying materials instead.

15. Candles

UCO Mini candle lantern - a much safer alternative to open candles. Image from UCO

They are not particularly bright, but candles do give off a warm light that’s soothing (and flattering). They’re just not a good idea for camping.

Used outdoors, they are going to blow out constantly, while if you use them in the tent they become a serious fire hazard.

If you do want to use candles camping, make sure you do so safely – have a look at the UCO Candle Lanterns for a safe alternative.

14. Electric marshmallow toaster

Fortunately, it looks like this was only available in the US. Image from Amazon.

For those times when it is really just too much of an effort to rotate your marshmallows by hand, you can buy this amazing electric marshmallow toaster.

Don’t worry that that it’s heavier than a stick or metal skewer, or that the plastic handle may melt or the batteries explode if they get too hot. Think of all the energy you will be saving by not turning a stick manually – now if only there was some high calorie food handy to replace that lost energy…

13. 'Festival' tents

Use it in the garden, but not at a festival or campsite. Image from Argos

You will often find single skin Festival tents for sale in the summer. They appear in fun, bright colours and are really, really cheap – why pay more for a tent when you can get one for £20?

Cheap tents are fine in warm dry weather (which seems uncommon whenever I go camping), but if it’s cold or wet, it’s going to be… unpleasant.

Most of these tents are more water resistant than waterproof, so if it rains heavily you are going to end up sleeping in a puddle trapped inside the tent, and bailing it out like a boat. Even if it does not rain, in cold weather the moisture from your breath will condense on the inside of the single skin tent walls, run down on to the floor and make everything damp.

Get a proper, two skin tent like this Vango Soul 200, even for festivals.

12. Generators

Brilliant on a building site, terrible on a campsite. Image from JustGenerators

Most people go camping to get back to basics, away from the stresses of modern life. But some people need to bring their modern life to the campsite.

Enter the camping generator. While a small generator can be really useful in some circumstances they have no place on a campsite, where running a petrol engine for hours every day may slightly annoy the other campers. At least the stereo they are powering from the generator is drowning out most of the engine noise.

If you do need to charge gear on longer camping trips, have a look at some more environment and neighbour friendly solar power systems.

11. Camping panini press

How am I going to get this in my rucksack? Image from GRIP

Camping cookware is a rich source of products that just demand a ‘why?’, and this Cast Iron Camping Panini Press is one of them.

Why would I want to take a panini press camping?
Why is a camping item made of cast iron?

10. Mystical fire

Oooh! Pretty colours! Image from Mystical Fire

I only came across this product recently. Mystical Fire is a sachet of powder that you add to your camp fire to make the flames change to different colours and provides ‘hours of entertainment for the whole family’.

Burning random chemicals does not seem particularly environmentally friendly, or a good idea if you are planning on doing any cooking over the fire.

But still...pretty.

9. Poler Napsack

This man looks disappointed with his life choices. Image from Polar

The Poler Napsack is a sleeping bag that transforms into a coat! Just undo the arm zips and the bottom, use the drawstring to shorten it so you don’t trip over flat on your face and you have a luxurious, warm jacket to wear while sat around the camp fire!

Don’t worry that it leaves exposed the two bits – hands and feet – most likely to get cold. That minor details is worth it for the convenience of not having to bring any clothes on your camping trip.

Or you could just bring a jacket.

8. Zebco 220 Umbrella and Shelter

The Zebco 220. How is it staying up? Image from Amazon

When is a tent not a tent? When it’s an umbrella with sides!

The Zebco 220 Umbrella and shelter is a large umbrella with sides and even a window. It seems an odd choice when there are pop-up shelters that are lighter and more robust and don’t have a pole going up through the exact centre of the usable area.

7. Guardian Gear Dog BackPack

Did somebody say 'squirrel'? Image from CrossPeak products

It seems like such a good idea, getting your faithful canine companion to take their fair share of the equipment with the Guardian Gear Dog BackPack.

Right up to the point where they decide to jump in a river, roll in a cow pat or attempt to squeeze under a fence.

There’s a reason using dogs as pack animals never really took off.

6. Hand held weather station

Hand-held weather station. Image from Kestrel Meters

Another product that seems initially useful until you consider when and where you would actually use one, the hand held weather station gives you all sorts of useful information on current wind speed, humidity, temperature and pressure.

Most of this can be quickly and accurately ascertained by sticking your head out of the tent. Wet head = raining. Hair moving = windy. Can’t see anything = foggy.

The manufacturers actually target professionals who have a real need for this technology, but it does not stop campers buying them. Paying several hundred pounds for current weather information seems to be pointless, especially given the changeability of the British climate.

5. JakPak

Because having a separate jacket and tent is too mainstream. Image from Amazon

The JakPak is another product that seems to have been sadly discontinued, especially since it was so revolutionary.

It combined a tent and a jacket, giving you all the worst features of both; a heavy, uncomfortable jacket and a tiny, uncomfortable tent. Which looks like a body bag, potentially leading to hilarious encounters with police or undertakers.

Bivvy bags are light, cheap and you don’t have to wear them all day.

4. Implement Six

Implement Six - solving problems you never knew you had. Image from Yanko Design

The Implement Six is an attempt to solve that age-old challenge of taking a knife, fork and cheesegrater on your camping trips.

Sadly, I don't think this product ever made it as far as production, so you won't be able to get one. You will have to find another way to grate your Parmesan over your baked salmon with parsley crust.

3. Bubble tent

Now you know how the goldfish feel. Image from Bubble Tent

The bubble tent is for those who think what the campsite needs is more transparent tents. For the low, low price of £1400 you can have a tent where you would not dare get changed for fear of arrest for indecent exposure.

As an added bonus, whenever the sun does come out you will be able to immediately understand how an ant feels when someone holds a magnifying glass over it.

And it also needs an electric pump to keep it inflated, which means camping somewhere with a power supply or running a generator.

2. Selkbag

Actually, this does look cosy, but you will look like a Tellytubby. Image from Selkbag

Another attempt to make the traditional sleeping bag more functional and more fun, the SelkBag has separate arms and legs and even zip-off bootees so you can run, jump and dance while still in your sleeping bag.

It’s going to be colder than a similar weight sleeping bag (think gloves vs mittens), but what really gets me is they want you to spend the day running around in your sleeping bag getting sweaty, muddy and wet – and then sleep in it at night too.


1. Coleman Quickbed with speakers

Why shouldn't you relax comfortably while blasting out your favourite tunes? Image from Amazon

If you have not managed to completely alienate the entire campsite with your eyeball searing torch, your petrol generator or your insistence on wearing your sleeping bag to the toilets, the Coleman Quickbed with speakers is designed to finish the job.

Now you can rest comfortably while subjecting the entire campsite to your Nickelback playlist on permanent loop.

Have you seen a useless camping product? Tell us in the comments below - you can even add pictures! If, however, you’d rather find some proper equipment, have a look in the outdoor gear section of the OS Shop.

If you like this you may also like 20 things only only real campers know or The walkers' rules.

Published: Feb 12, 2017 Edited: Jun 16, 2022

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