camping gear award

Gear Of The Year Awards 2019

2019 is coming to a close, and it’s time for us to talk about our favorite gear! Like every outdoor media platform, we work with brands to create sponsored content throughout the year. It helps us keep the lights on, and it’s a great way to introduce you to new products.

Gear Of The Year is different. It’s just us picking the things that we fell in love with this year.

The 50 Campfires gear closet is always busting at the seams. There is a lot of great gear in there, but every year certain products rise to the top. They’re the ones that we grab over and over when we head out for an adventure. A common exchange at the office:

“Why didn’t you grab XYZ Super Duper Thingy?”
“I don’t know. I just like ABC Thing-a-ma-jig more.”

So here they are! We’re not even telling you to buy these (weird, right?) We just want to share our favorites from the past 12 months. Enjoy!

Disc-O-Bed 2XL with Organizers

We love to sleep. Specifically, we love sleeping in the outdoors. Also, we’re car campers, so we don’t mess around. If there is space in the car, we fill it up because we can. We first wrote about the Disc-O-Bed XL in 2014. We tested it in the field, and when we weren’t camping, it was set up in the office for lunchtime naps. This year they launched the Disc-O-Bed 2XL, and it’s ridiculous (in a good way). It’s heavy, and it takes about 15 minutes to set up, but seriously – this thing is impressive. The cots are about 40 inches wide, so yes, you need a big tent. They’re comfortable, and each cot supports 600 lbs. They often leave the office when people have extra overnight guests. They’re that nice.
$469.99

Work Sharp Ken Onion Angle Set Knife Sharpener

Work Sharp has been kicking out stellar sharpening tools since 1973 (previously under the name Darex). In particular, we like the sharpeners that can be used at the campsite, because keeping a razor-sharp edge is essential. This year they released the Work Sharp Ken Onion Angle Set Knife Sharpener. It’s a rod-style sharpener with more functionality that similar style sharpeners on the market. Two things about it caught our attention: 1) there are five angles, from 15 to 25 degrees, and 2) as you move up in grit, all you have to do is turn the rods versus swapping them out. It makes quick work of a blade that needs a little love.
$49.95

NEMO Roamer Self-Inflating Mattress

We’ve tried so many air mattresses out over the years, and have decided that it’s one of those products where you get what you pay for. But even when more expensive ones, we rarely find one that is genuinely comfortable for side sleepers. The NEMO Roamer is the closest thing to our beds at home that we’ve ever used. The dual-axis coring is supportive from head to toe, and the soft top is comfortable for those warm nights when you only want a sheet. It’s not cheap, but when you wake up in the morning, you’ll know why.
$229.95

Ledlenser MH10 Headlamp

It’s no secret that we’re headlamp fanatics at 50 Campfires. When we get asked about essential camping gear, “a good headlamp” is always in the top three. We’re always looking for bright headlamps that aren’t bulky. There are a lot of lightweight 600-lumen headlamps on the market that only last for an hour on high, and that doesn’t cut it. The Ledlenser MH10 lasts for 10 hours on high, and 120 hours on low, thanks to the single lithium 18650 battery in the back. Another feature we love is the red and green filters that slip over the light. Most headlamps have a tiny red or green LED to preserve night vision, but are have a very limited range. The Ledlenser MH10 allows for 600 lumens of green light, which we’ve come to prefer at the campsite. It’s easier on the eyes and still provides more than enough illumination for night hiking.
$69.95

Nite Ize Runoff Bags

The Nite Ize Runoff bags are great. They patented a “TRU Zip” toothless zipper that is smooth, and 100% waterproof. The bags are rugged, lightweight, and best of all, they’re see-through. Our favorite size is the largest one, which they refer to as a packing cube. It performed flawlessly on a three-day canoe trip in our tests. Dry bags work fine, but stuffing everything into a long cylinder bags gear retrieval a pain. Being able to glance at a Nite Ize Runoff bag and find what you’re looking for is fantastic. Also, if you need a toiletry bag upgrade, this is the one you want.
$54.99 for the large size.

Dometic PLB40 Portable Lithium Battery

If we didn’t use the Dometic PLB40 all summer, we wouldn’t have given it this award. We get it – it’s expensive. It also means that we’re talking about a cooler setup that is over a grand. That’s a lot of money, but seriously, it’s one hell of a battery. If you’re familiar with LiFePO4, you know that it’s lithium-iron vs. lithium-ion. Lithium iron charges much faster, holds a charge longer and will handle 4X as many charge cycles as lithium-ion. In the field, this thing was a beast. The fact that it weighs 14 lbs and can power the CFW 35W powered cooler for two days is impressive. Dometic knocked it out of the park with the PLB40.
$764.99

Xero Shoes Xcursion

We’ve been following Xero Shoes since its inception in 2009. Why? Because minimalist shoes are the best way to regain strength and flexibility in your feet. We put a lot of miles on the Xero Shoes Terraflex, and were always impressed with the grip and comfort that the shoe offers. This year they finally rounded out their lineup with the Xcursion. It’s a fully waterproof hiking boot with a wide toe box and a zero-drop heel. The Xcursion only weighs 12 oz. (mens 9), and the waterproof liner means that wet spring hikes are a non-issue. It’s one of the best lightweight hiking boots on the market right now.
$159.99

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