Gift Giving: Camping Gear We Use at the Trailhead

Here’s the gear you need for a weekend of car camping at your favorite trailhead.

By on November 24, 2021 | Leave a reply

We love a weekend of camping at a trailhead, getting out for a couple of training runs, and relaxing in nature in between. But we also think running is hard enough, and that staying cozy in the outdoors before or after a run should be the primary goal of trailhead life. This gift guide is meant to make this process easier for yourself and your loved ones.

We’ve pulled together some of the best gear to warm you up, keep you comfortable, and make life just a little bit easier while you’re out in the woods. Take note that these products are geared toward car-camping trailhead life, not #vanlife, not for #overlanding, and certainly not the stuff that goes in some huge, kitted-out truck. If you’re headed to the trailhead with your Prius, your midsize SUV, or your Subaru, then this gear is for you.

Be sure to check out our other gift guides, too:

Montbell Seamless Downhugger 900 Sleeping Bags ($350 to $640)

Holiday Gift Guide - Montbell Downhugger WR900 Sleeping Bag

The Montbell Downhugger WR900 Sleeping Bag. Photo: Montbell

We consider sleeping bags to be investments. The best ones are, indeed, expensive, but will go whatever distance you want them to. And the iRunFar team has found that, if cared for well, the Montbell Seamless Downhugger 900 Sleeping Bags give you at least 10 years of outdoor health and happiness.

Currently, there are four sleeping bags in this series, rated from 40 degrees Fahrenheit down to 15, and weighing from a super svelte 14.1 ounces up to 27.6 ounces. The bags are also offered in standard length and long versions.

We love that their temperature ratings are accurate. And we love the “hugger” part of this sleeping bag, which is enacted with a spiral stretch system that puts the sleeping bag close enough to your body that cold pockets can’t form in the vacant spots inside the bag. but not so tight that the bag feels claustrophobic. The three-quarter-length zipper, full hood with an adjuster, neck baffle, and zipper baffle are all luxury details you’d expect to find in a heavier sleeping bag, but are still present in these ultralight beauties.

If you spend a lot of time in wet environments, you might consider the Montbell Seamless Downhugger WR 900 ($400 to $690) sleeping bags, which offer weather-resistant materials and coatings to enhance the already awesome experience here.

Again, we get it, a good sleeping bag is expensive, so we hope you’ll only need to buy one once in a blue moon. But we also appreciate how important a good, warm night of sleep is for your overall health and happiness. Consider these sleeping bags for your loved one to snuggle up safely on their next backcountry mission.

Shop the Montbell Seamless Downhugger 900 Sleeping Bags

Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe Sleeping Pad ($160 to $240)

Holiday Gift Guide - Big Agnes Insulated Q Core Deluxe - version v2

The Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe Sleeping Pac. Photo: Big Agnes

The Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe Sleeping Pad is an incredibly comfortable sleeping pad for all of your car camping adventures. Anything with “deluxe” in the title and one doesn’t normally think “adventure,” but this sleeping pad is absolutely for both. A good night of sleep before and after a big training run is crucial, and a good sleeping pad will help with this.

This newly redesigned pad comes in a variety of lengths, widths, and colors, and you can even choose between a top that’s quilted or with vertical baffles.

This is listed as a three-season sleeping pad, though for the rougher among us it could certainly work for four if you have the right sleeping bag: the R-value is rated at 4.5. It ranges from 25 to 40 ounces, depending on the size, and that’s a bit on the heavy side, but if you’re aiming for comfort, you’ll often have to sacrifice weight.

Shop the Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe Sleeping Pad

REI Co-op Flexlite Camp Chair ($60)

Holiday Gift Guide - REI Co-Op Flex Lite Camp Chair

The REI Co-op Flex Lite Camp Chair. Photo: REI

There are a number of low-sitting camp chairs in this style out there, but the REI Co-op Flexlite Camp Chair is one of the most affordable of all of them. The iRunFar team has owned ours for a half-decade and they are still going strong.

This a great chair to bring to a trailhead, to set up at a race awards ceremony, or even at a backyard BBQ or campfire. It packs down tiny and weighs nothing. On that note, if you’re leaving it unattended at a trailhead while you’re out running, we recommend you lay it down with a rock on top so it can’t blow away since it’s so light — ahem, not that we’ve had that experience.

Shop the REI Co-op Flex Lite Camp Chair

REI Co-op Camp Roll Table ($75)

Holiday Gift Guide - REI Co-Op Camp Roll Table

The REI Co-op Camp Roll Table. Photo: REI

Trailhead practicality with modern-day minimalism, this table wears both hats. The REI Co-op Camp Roll Table is an excellent option to bring to camp if you don’t want to eat out of the trunk of your car or put your pots and pans on the ground.

Made mostly of aluminum, the table breaks down into a few pieces — the top which rolls up, the legs and crossbars which fold together, and two pillars that go underneath the tabletop itself. The whole thing packs up small and weighs 8.5 pounds.

It’s a pretty short table, measuring 27.5 inches tall, as well as long and wide, so you may end up hitting your knees on the crossbar if you’re sitting in a regular-sized chair, but it’s the perfect height to pull up the aforementioned REI Co-op Flexlite Camp Chair.

We first saw this type of roll-up table 20 years ago among our river-rat friends who love it for its ability to pack into rafts and canoes while still being super stable, and we totally agree. This table is perfect for the trail running trailhead life, too.

Shop the REI Co-op Camp Roll Table

Coleman Classic Propane Gas Camping Stove ($60)

Holiday Gift Guide - Coleman Classic Camp Stove

The Coleman Classic Propane Gas Camping Stove. Photo: Coleman

Almost everyone has one of these — or has had one at one point in their life. If you haven’t, you need one. This Coleman Classic Propane Gas Camping Stove is just what it claims to be: a classic.

A favorite of backcountry adventurers and backyard dads everywhere, this two-burner stove is affordable, simply designed, easy to use, and effective. A pop-up top and side panels keep the wind out for efficient cooking, and all you have to do is attach the fuel canister to the side, light the gas with a match or lighter, and get cooking. I’ve had one of these that has lasted me well over 10 years.

There is one downside, but it can be managed. I have it packed into a drawer of my camper van, and it rattles like nobody’s business. While the grate and fuel connecter pack into the box, those and the side panels make so much noise. Do yourself a favor and put a few pieces of cardboard inside while it’s packed away, and this will prevent almost all of the noise.

Shop the Coleman Classic Propane Gas Camping Stove

Jetboil Flash Java Kit ($120)

Holiday Gift Guide - Jetboil Flash Java Kit

The Jetboil Flash Java Kit. Photo: Jetboil

Jetboil kits have maximized their ability to efficiently do one thing: boil water — in just 100 seconds, the company says. Having the Jetboil Flash Java Kit among your trailhead gear makes making your morning brew, your after-run hot recovery drink, and a bowl of pasta a total cinch.

Trying to get on the trail quick before a pre-dawn run? Just boil your water, dump in your favorite grind, and serve from the same cup you just boiled it in. Honestly, this gig is fast and the coffee actually tastes decent.

A thoughtful element is the logo on the side: it turns from green to red when the water is ready, and the wide tri-legged stand is great for stability when it’s windy.

I was lucky to be able to use one of these during two seasons as a wildland firefighter. And I’ll tell you, good java is a lifesaver when you’re up at 4:30 a.m. and all there is to drink is watered-down bulk camp coffee. Never again be the victim of weak brew: invest in one of these and you won’t be sorry.

Shop the Jetboil Flash Java Kit

Stanley Classic Trigger-Action Travel Mug ($23)

Holiday Gift Guide - Stanley Coffee One Hand Vacuum Mug

The Stanley Classic Trigger-Action Travel Mug. Photo: Stanley

While the iRunFar team has received a number of free metal drinking vessels over the years, the one we’d buy again if we lost ours is the Stanley Classic Trigger-Action Travel Mug.

Yep, this is the modern version of the classic travel mug your dad took out on early morning fishing trips and that sat up front during long family road trips. This time-tested gem has had a few tweaks over the years for easier use and keeping your beverage either hot or cold for longer, however.

It has a one-hand push-button operation that’s simply the best option for drinking coffee on the go. It’s just as good for water, beer, tea, juice, and whatever else you are imbibing at the time.

This mug keeps drinks hot or cold for hours, and breaks down into two pieces for easy cleaning, even if you’re washing it at camp.

Also, $23 for something that may very well outlast you?! This mug is so affordable.

Shop the Stanley Classic Trigger-Action Travel Mug

Jameson Coffee Speedgoat Karl’s 100 Mile Blend Coffee ($14)

Speedgoat Karl's 100 Mile Blend

Jameson Coffee Speedgoat Karl’s 100 Mile Blend Coffee. Photo: Jameson Coffee

Here at iRunFar, we often get up early and stay up late, not only for our own athletic endeavors, but also to bring you the best race coverage around. For the past decade, our mornings and nights (and afternoons and overnights) have been fueled by Jameson Coffee Speedgoat Karl’s 100 Mile Blend Coffee, named after Karl Meltzer himself.

Jameson Coffee lets you choose your grind: auto drip, espresso, french press, or you can keep it whole bean, and you can purchase in a 12-ounce or three-pound bag. As much as we know excessive caffeine is not good for our hearts, it would break our hearts to break ties with this dark brown deliciousness.

This coffee is great for a pre-dawn jaunt or for warming up after climbing a nearby peak. Managing Editor Meghan Hicks’s favorite is sipping an espresso shot of this after a morning run while sitting down at the computer to edit what you see on iRunFar each day.

Shop the Jameson Coffee Speedgoat Karl's 100 Mile Blend Coffee


Yeti Roadie 24 Hard Cooler ($200)

Holiday Gift Guide - Yeti Roadie 24 Hard Cooler

The Yeti Roadie 24 Hard Cooler. Photo: Yeti

Yeti coolers are expensive, but they are the best option out there for keeping your food cold, dry, and secure. This is a one-and-done kind of purchase: buy one Yeti cooler and use it for a lifetime.

The Yeti Roadie 24 Hard Cooler is the smallest in their hard cooler collection, and it fits perfectly in the trunk of your car to hold enough food for an overnight or weekend endeavor, or enough beer for an evening of drinking.

This cooler is solidly constructed, with great grips on the side, a carrying strap, and front clasps that ensure the cooler stays closed. If you’re looking for something a bit bigger, the next size up is 35 liters and goes all the way up to 350 liters if you’re bringing home a huge salmon catch or something like that.

The 24 liter is just perfect for a couple of people or a group of friends looking to share snacks and bevvies after a day on the trail. Also, these coolers double as either a camp chair or table, if you’re in need of extra flat surfaces.

Shop the Yeti Roadie 24 Hard Cooler

The North Face ThermoBall Eco Jacket ($200)

Holiday Gift Guide - The North Face Thermoball Eco Jacket

The North Face Thermoball Eco Jacket. Photo: The North Face

ThermoBall. What a great name. It brings to mind a ball of fire hurtling through space. Well, with The North Face ThermoBall Eco Jacket, you will feel just as warm as one after your run.

This beautiful puffy jacket comes without a hood — try The North Face ThermoBall Eco Hoodie ($230) if you want a hood — in a multitude of colors, and in sizes XS to 3XL, so you can gift this cozy layer to just about anybody.

We love this jacket so much at iRunFar, we ordered them embroidered with our logo specifically for race coverage.

The baffles hold the insulation where it should be in the jacket, there are easily accessible inner and outer pockets, and the jacket packs down completely into one of those, impressively small for a puffy. Finally, with its polyester insulation, it’ll still keep you warm even when it’s a bit wet.

The jacket is made of 100% recycled materials, so it’s good for the environment while keeping you cozy and warm.

Shop the Women's The North Face ThermoBall Eco JacketShop the Men's The North Face ThermoBall Eco Jacket

Goose Feet Gear Down Socks ($70) and Waterproof Over-Booties ($50)

Holiday Gift Guide - Goose Feet Gear - Down Socks v2

The Goose Feet Gear Down Socks. Photo: Goose Feet Gear

Once you get your first pair of down booties for camp life, you will never go back to anything else. Whether you’re at Everest Base Camp or just have really cold feet at night, the Goose Feet Gear Down Socks and Goose Feet Waterproof Over-Booties are a godsend.

Use them in combination to walk around camp, and then strip off the over-booties and climb into your sleeping bag, and you’ll never sleep with cold feet again. The down socks are ultralight as well, so they’re an easy addition to your next fastpacking trip.

They are customizable in nearly every color combination imaginable — you choose the color of both the inside and outside — and you can add in up to 100% extra stuffing to make them extra plush.

One word of caution: Use care when sitting around a campfire to protect your over-booties from stray sparks! They are waterproof and pretty darn durable for trailhead life — but they aren’t fireproof!

Shop the Goose Feet Gear Down SocksShop the Goose Feet Waterproof Over-Booties

Black Diamond Sprint 225 Headlamp ($50)

Holiday Gift Guide - Black Diamond 225 Sprint Headlamp

The Black Diamond 225 Sprint Headlamp. Photo: Black Diamond

The Black Diamond Sprint 225 Headlamp is perfect for just about anything: setting up camp, whipping up dinner, navigating to the vault toilet (or tree), and even bringing in the groceries.

This light and simple headlamp won’t get you through a 100-mile race, but it will help you navigate just about anything else. At only $50, it doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but what you’ll use this for, you don’t need all that technology. It maxes out at 225 lumens for 2.5 hours of use, and has Black Diamond’s PowerTap Technology that allows you to quickly dim or brighten the light.

It’s rechargeable via a convenient USB port, has a nice stretchy headband, and comes in black with red, blue, or white accents.

Shop the Black Diamond 225 Sprint Headlamp

Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station ($200)

Holiday Gift Guide - Goal Zero Yeti 150 Power Bank

The Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station. Photo: Goal Zero

Want to charge your phone, watch, headlamp, laptop, or pretty much any other gadget at the trailhead this weekend? The Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station has you covered.

There’s an input for AC (a regular wall plug), USB, and 12 volts, allowing you to charge multiple devices at once. When fully charged, it will re-up your laptop once or twice, a smartphone nine times, and a headlamp 25 to 50 times! Rather than relying on single battery packs that seem to always get lost, invest in this 12-pound power station, charge it before you head out for the weekend, and you’ll be set.

It fully recharges in four to 10 hours, depending on if it’s plugged into your wall at home, a car converter, or a solar panel.

This power station is also good for power outages, like we occasionally see at iRunFar’s headquarters in Silverton, Colorado, during a winter storm.

Shop the Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station

Goal Zero Nomad 100 Solar Panel ($400)

Holiday Gift Guide - Goal Zero Nomad 100 Folding Solar Panel

The Goal Zero Nomad 100 Solar Panel. Photo: Goal Zero

Pairing perfectly with the power station above is the Goal Zero Nomad 100 Solar Panel. The Nomad is the medium size and price of all Goal Zero’s portable solar panels, ranging from the Nomad 50 at $250 to the Ranger 300 at $800. The Nomad 100 is perfect for the trailhead, folding down to 20.5 x 15.5 x 2 inches, and opening to nearly 60 inches wide when unfolded. It’s a great size to put on top of your car or picnic table and connect directly to the power bank.

Shop the Goal Zero Nomad 100 Solar Panel

Call for Comments

  • What are some extra pieces of gear you use at the trailhead before and after your runs, to keep you warm, dry, fed, charged up, and ready for a new adventure?
  • What does your ideal weekend of car camping and running look like?
Alex Potter
Alex Potter is a contributor and former editor at iRunFar. Following a nearly decade-long hiatus from running after college, she has found a new love in trail running. As a photojournalist, Alex has reported throughout the Middle East and East Africa for publications like 'National Geographic,' 'The New York Times,' and 'The Washington Post.' She lives in Alaska with her partner Pete and her two cats.