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Lake Tawakoni

Because Life is Better at the Lake

Innovations for Modern Camping

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In my other job, teaching English online, I read interesting articles with intermediate to advanced students. One of my students chose an article about a floating tent, and I decided to look at other great innovations in camping for 2020. The links to the product's pages are in the subtitles. I was impressed, and I hope you will be too!

Shoal Tent by Smithfly 

With this tent, you can sleep on the water. It is the first of its kind, and really cool! Essentially, this invention is a raft with a tent affixed to it. Smithfly’s slogan is: The world is your waterbed. Sleep under the stars, on the water, feel the flow, and let it lull you to sleep. The best thing about this floating tent is that there are no tent poles. Inflatable tubes hold up the tent, and it stands up to high winds. It has three chambers of tubes that inflate to 2.5 PSI. Smithfly relates the floor to a paddleboard. Smithfly did not forget the anchor feature. Floating campers can attach anchors to D-rings on the side of the tent.

After you erect the tent, you can stand in the middle of it and lay down up to 6’3”. If you are taller than 6’3”, you can lay down diagonally and put your head on the tubes. The tent floor is a six-inch thick air mattress that inflates at 10 PSI. The tent is waterproof with fabric sealed PVC. The tent structure attaches and totally detaches by a hook and loop feature. It comes in orange and camouflage. The drawbacks are that this product is imported (I called Smithfly to find out from where and did not get a promised return call). In its storage bag, it weighs 75 pounds, and it comes with a patch kit and a manual foot pump for inflation purposes. It costs $1,999 and ships the next day. I would buy one if I was younger and abled again!

Ethan Smith, Smithfly founder and owner, was worried about losing his job in the 2008-2009 economic crisis and began selling fishing equipment. He borrowed $10,000 from his bank and designed the Shoal Tent while still working at his previous job.

Solar Powered Generators 

Do you like to camp where there is no electricity? Solar powered generators can help you go anywhere the sun shines. The Patriot Power Generator 1800 by 4Patriots.com is top of the line in solar powered energy, and costs $2,497. There are more options in solar-powered generators with much lower prices, different features, and drawbacks. But, I think this is the best one I found so far. Out of 287 reviews from verified buyers, it has 212 5-star, 59 4-star, and 12 3-star reviews. Its AC charge time is three and a half hours, and solar charge time takes approximately ten hours based on amount of sunlight and location. It weighs 40 pounds, and the solar panel weighs 25 pounds. You can fully drain and recharge it 2,500 times which computes to about 6.8 years of daily use, plus it holds a charge for 12 months with 20% maximum leak. It comes with a 100-watt foldable solar panel which plugs into the generator. Then you plug your electric machines from refrigerators to medical devices to power tools to what you may need while camping into it.

This magical thing is safe to use indoors, fume-free, and silent. 4Patriots also sends a cache of pretty cool useful gifts with the generator like the Patriot Power Cell for charging electronic devices, the HaloXT Flashlight, the Solar Air Lantern, the Sun Kettle Water Heater, and more.

Approximate Run Times:

Up to 768 Wh (60 Ah) of stored power, 8 outlets, including AC, DC, USB and Anderson Powerpole.

USB Lamp               128 Hours
Phone Charger         128 Hours
Aquarium Heater        46 Hours
CPAP Machine          13.8 Hours
Portable Stove            55 Minutes
Microwave                  49 Minutes
Fridge/Freezer          16.3 Hours

During a power outage, you can see that it won’t power a fridge for 3 days, but you can keep your food frozen if you plug in the fridge for a few hours and then solar recharge every few hours. This is not an RV generator, but you can use it for camping quite nicely and for emergencies at home.

Jackery Portable Power Station

For a lower-priced option in solar powered generators, be sure to look at the Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240, 240Wh Backup Lithium Battery, 110V/200W Pure Sine Wave AC Outlet, with their optional Solar Generator which sells for $199. Jackery's optional solar panel costs $179.99.

This generator begets great features which make it tempting for outdoor usage. Best Views Reviews gives it a 9.4 rating based on power quality, power delivery, noise, run time range, and ease of use. It weighs 6.6 pounds. Without the solar generator, Jackery incorporated a lithuim-ion battery pack which means no fuel necessary. It comes with a portable power station that will charge laptops, mini-coolers, drones, and more. It is best to pair this product with its solar panel for camping purposes, but you can recharge it with an AC adapter and the supplied car charger.

I think the best feature is its pure sine wave inverter which involves understanding how electricity is funneled from power source to usage. Not to confuse, but this is simply what a pure sine wave inverter is: a pure sine wave inverter efficiently powers devices that uses alternating current input (AC). A generator with a modified sine wave inverter cannot offer the same consistent output. The main thing to ask yourself about which inverter will suit your needs is, does your electrical appliance have a motor, or do you need to power a medical device? Jackery’s technology is amazing in this aspect.

Biolite Firepit

This firepit is portable and really cool! REI advertises this product as smokeless. OK, the drawbacks come first. It is not completely smokeless. A firepit is supposed to warm up the air around it for comfort on cold nights. The reviews say that the range of warm air output is not large enough. When you are not using it for a fire, you can charge your cell phones, tablets, and laptops, but USB battery packs do have a lifespan. Reviewers complained about this feature. Other than that, this product has some great features, and I want one.

This fire pit burns wood or charcoal for cooking or smoking. It uses 51 air jets in a caddy to blow the flames into the pit. Its body is constructed of mesh-type metal so you can see what is going on internally from top to bottom. Control the flame size from a cell phone with Bluetooth technology or manually. A fan controls the fire for 24 hours on low, ten hours on medium, and five hours on high. It weighs a little over 19 pounds with foldable legs. It has a grate for wood logs or charcoal, and a grate for cooking on top. It costs $249, and is available in limited quantities on REI.com.

SpaTap Ultralight Portable Tap: Shower/Hand Washing Device

For something much less expensive, but more than useful, this device turns a bottle into a shower. It is an Australian product and not the only one on the market. I used to camp twice a year with a Vietnam Veteran’s organization, and I remember taking a shower with something like this years ago but much cruder. It is not powerful like your spray nozzle on the water hose. It is a silicone, ball-shaped, cup-like thing with holes in it and has a strap for hanging it on something. It even holds a bar of soap in the dents on the bottle. You can use any size bottle which sits upside down into the SpaTap. You can fix it to have free-flowing water or squeeze it for using only the water that you need. It has a tight-fitting flange that stretches over the neck of the bottle. It costs $20 USD plus shipping.

Stuart Mason, from Australia, invented this product. SpaTap is 1st Prize winner of Standard Banks Water4Africa 2015 and 1st Prize winner of Australian Aid Humanitarian Supplies Challenge 2017.



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