The Modern Campaign Camp

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Overland Journal, Fall 2017.

In the ever-expanding lexicon of the backcountry traveler, a new word has emerged which, depending on your personal perspective, can register as a compliment or a pejorative. That term, glamping, is a clever portmanteau melding the word glamorous with camping. It is in many ways a reinvention of Victorian-era travel when the most well-heeled adventurers retired to the outdoors in heavy canvas tents festooned with rococo-styled wooden furnishings lacquered to a glossy sheen.

In recent years some have tried to revive the golden epoch of luxury camping only to realize authentic campaign tents and furnishings are bulky, heavy, expensive, and woefully impractical without a dozen dutiful porters to help with setup. While the classically minded pedants cringe at the substitution of canvas and wood for nylon and aluminum, it is possible to create a modern bush abode worthy of anything from the golden age of exploration––at least in terms of creature comforts.


At just 17 pounds, a fraction of the weight of a traditional canvas tent, the new Dark Timber blends classic form and function with contemporary fabrics and conveniences. The architecture is provided by two strong aluminum poles and heavy nylon held taut by 10 guylines. It takes some time to anchor and adjust all of the lines, but once tensioned a decidedly house-like living space is created. With dual doors and windows at each end protected by protruding eaves, the tarp-over-tent structure promotes excellent air passthrough while not sacrificing any weather-thwarting properties.

Whereas many modern tents have unusually shaped footprints, the floor of the Dark Timber is rectangular with nearly 70 square feet of space. The verticality of the walls amplifies the spaciousness within, and the 78-inch peak height affords sufficient headroom for all but the tallest campers. Like all Nemo shelters, it is the quality of materials and thoughtfulness of the smallest details that set it apart. The interior includes copious pockets to organize essentials, and brightly colored zipper tracks help locate the doors in the dead of night. The Dark Timber doesn’t just pay homage to the wall tents of yesteryear, it improves upon them.

$500 | NEMOEQUIPMENT.COM | 800-997-9301


When the British Chippendale furniture company started making their now-famous campaign chairs and tables during the early 1800s, each specimen fetched a sum commensurate with the English officers and gentlemen who used them. In stark contrast, at least in terms of ease of acquisition, are the folding chairs and tables from Snow Peak, Japan’s leading purveyors of camp amenities. Quick to set up, lightweight and sturdy, they are also strong, durable, and most importantly––comfortable.

Although not made of teak and water buffalo skins, the red folding chairs are crafted of high-quality aluminum and fitted with heavy-duty polyester canvas. With padded armrests and an upright but relaxed sitting position, they are perfectly matched to Snow Peak’s premium dining table. Also made of aluminum with stainless steel hinges, it is finished with a beautiful bamboo table top. With one fluid motion the Single-Action table can be fully assembled and ready for the evening’s first course or game of cribbage.



There’s no more relaxing way to while away the evening in camp than to stare into the hypnotic glow of a fire. The refined camper doesn’t resort to stacking rocks in a crude circle, but rather builds their fire in a stainless steel Bonfire from Solo Stove. Utilizing an innovative double-walled ventilation system, air is imported from beneath the pan and then reintroduced into the main chamber where secondary combustion produces a hot, clean, and near smoke-free burn. The Bonfire consumes fuel so well, it can reduce 20 pounds of wood to just 5 ounces of ash, making for an easy cleanup with no unsightly impact on the ground below. (Editor’s note: Be sure to check out Sam Watson’s review of the Solo Stove Lite in “Desert Gear,” also in this issue.)

$350 | SOLOSTOVE.COM | 817-900-2664


For over a century the nonpareil of camp comfort has been the folding cot. Unfortunately, they’re cumbersome, difficult to assemble, and not well suited for two campers inclined to cuddle. After testing dozens of sleeping solutions over the years, I would not hesitate to proclaim the Nemo Equipment Symphony Luxury Duo as the most comfortable camp cocoon ever created.

When paired together, the two 6-inch-thick Nomad sleeping pads are plush yet supportive and offer the same amount of real estate as a standard queen-size bed. The triple-layer Symphony sleeping system includes an insulated and quilted pillow top, a brushed polyester sheet, and a fluffy comforter filled with Stratofiber insulation. An extra blanket fold at the end of the comforter and a deep hood help seal in the heat when temperatures drop to the 25ºF comfort rating. If there is a more pleasant means of sleeping on the ground, I haven’t found it.

$370/SYMPHONY, $230/NOMAD | NEMOEQUIPMENT.COM | 800-997-9301


Lighting solutions have evolved significantly since the oil lamp and Luminoodle’s latest lighting innovation is unique unto itself. A 20-foot-long strand of multi-colored LEDs housed in a strip of waterproof and durable silicone, the Basecamp can produce up to 3,000 lumens in 15 colors. Powered by a 12- volt or 110-volt plug, controlling the many colors and lighting levels is achieved with a small wireless remote. The entire kit packs into a compact neoprene pouch for easy transport.

$90 | POWERPRACTICAL.COM | 801-335-5064

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Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.