Camping in Style

The summer vacation season is in full swing and today our Style Butch, Brigid Shaw, heads to the great outdoors and shows you what the styling butch should have along with her while she is communing with Mother Nature.

Whether you're visiting your friendly neighborhood National Park or headed off to set up camp at a music festival, 'tis the season to break out the tents and the bug spray. I'm going to assume that most of you know the basics of camping – how to set up a tent, where to store your food, etc. Here' I'll be looking at what's new on the camping scene. Keep in mind, though, that you by no means need new, expensive gear to enjoy yourself outdoors. All you really need is a sleeping bag and a sense of adventure.

When it comes to clothing, The Merrell Gatherer Jacket caused quite a stir recently, around the internet at least. This is basically a jacket shell covered in pockets that the wearer can fill with whatever happens to be nearby. A little cold? Grab a handful of leaves and stuff 'em in. Too hot? Take out all the stuffing and wear it as a windbreaker. It went from concept piece to on the shelves in a few months, and this creative, mulifunction design may be an indication of where sportswear manufacturers are headed.

The other big trend in outdoor wear is more predictable. Environmentally conscious clothing design and manufacture has been around in this sphere a little longer than in most, but it's really started to take off in the last few years. Patagonia, for instance, makes their clothing out of 100% organic cotton and runs recycling programs for capeline and fleece. Other companies like Marmot and Big Agnes are starting to make sleeping bags out of recycled materials. Suffice it to say, if you're looking for some eco-friendly gear, you won't have to look too hard.

Solar power is another big thing, not just on the green front but on the outdoor one as well. Solar chargers can be handy if you're going to be in the backcountry for a few days and you really, really need that iPod or cell phone charged. Be warned, though. If you're just looking to be eco-conscious, you'll have to use that spiffy charger for several years before it pays back the energy used to produce it. The brand I've seen floating around is Solio, which has a neat little fold-out design and a suction cup to stick to your windows.<

You're going to need water if you plan on doing some hiking or some cooking. I hope you've already gotten the news, but if you haven't – BPA, which is a chemical used in the manufacture of polycarbonate and therefore many reusable water bottles, has been linked to various health problems. Because of this, metal water bottles have been increasing in popularity. SIGG is the most popular brand – so popular, in fact, that their web site claims that they are manufacturing at top capacity and still can't meet the demand – but there are a bunch of other brands out there. And don't throw your old Nalgenes away just yet. You can always use them for storage, or even as a lantern.

Finally, you'll need somewhere to sleep. Recently I've taken up hammock camping. It seems to be a growing movement both in casual camping and in hardcore ultralight backpacking. Hammocks are generally reviewed as more comfortable – and way lighter – than tents. They take only a couple of minutes to set up, and if you use thicker nylon straps instead of rope they have a lower environmental impact than tents. Their only downfall is the colder months, but creative solutions like extra insulation and down quilts seem to solve that too. I personally have an ENO hammock, which I've spent several nights in. It's really nice to get rocked to sleep while looking up at the stars.

If you're looking for something a little more luxurious, the Airstream is the Mercedes of stylish camping. Airstreams certainly aren't new, but they're back with a passion. Retro is cool, and Airstreams are both. Their design hasn't changed much since the '40s, and they call to mind images of motor lodges on Route 66 and campy tourist attractions like the world's largest ball of twine (which, incidentally, is in Cawker City, Kansas).

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