Here’s what it takes to go camping. Put your camping gear in the car and drive . It’s really that simple. Take a recent weekend in Los Angeles. My wife and I were going crazy. Not crazy-crazy, just too-much-work-not-enough-time crazy. So, on Friday afternoon we left our laptops, coffee cups, calendars, dirty laundry and empty fridge, put our gear in the car and split.
Three hours later we were standing in a brightly lit grocery store in the middle of what was once a foreboding desert, picking out gourmet cheeses, tequila, wine, pasta and about six pounds of food we had no chance of getting through. A half-hour after that we were sitting on the bumper of our car at our campsite, looking at the silhouettes of rock formations and cacti… in the middle of Joshua Tree National Park.
You might guess by now that we are not hardcore campers. You would be wrong. We are simply not anal campers. We like to sleep outside as much as possible, but we like to be comfortable and do it in style. Call it glamping, call it shmamping. We call it getting the hell out of the house and getting into nature. We like to cook over a campfire, but we want the food to taste like food. Sometimes we bring champagne. Sometimes we bring 15 friends. As of 2014, we always bring our TICLA camping set up.
TICLA is the brainchild of Rich Hill, a longtime outdoorsman and outdoor gear entrepreneur. His concept with TICLA is that there are more “camps” in the camping world than Wal-Mart popups and high end mountaineering gear. TICLA strikes a line down the middle: innovative, incredibly functional and comfortable camping gear, that doesn’t pack down into a pool-stick size bag. Rather, everything you need to sleep on and in fits in a bag and a tote. It also sets up in less than 10 minutes, leaving you more time to do what you went camping to do: unwind.
TICLA’s aptly named G.O.O.D. packing system jives well with our family. It stands for Get Out Of Dodge. The sleeping kit includes the super-thick and comfy Tsubo pad, with a high-density foam core that self-inflates and an anti-slide surface. The matching Besito and Rambler sleeping bags come with an unbelievably soft interior and innovative two-way zipper that can turn the bag into a comforter or zip into your sweetie’s bag for a double-wide. Because the top insulation is thicker than the bottom, you can flip the bag over for hot or cold temperatures.
The beauty of Hill’s vision is that most people camp near their car. Or boat. Or whatever form of conveyance they use. That’s not to say that these same folks, including us, don’t head into the hills every now and then for a back-country adventure. It’s just that for every back-country adventure, there are 20 times more backyard family adventures. And you just don’t need mountaineering gear to tuck your three-year-old in at night.
With Hill’s realization came a revelation regarding TICLA’s tents. Make them roomy. Make them breezy. Make them something you don’t want to leave in the morning. Like the TeaHouse tent, our personal favorite.
The TeaHouse is like nothing you have seen before. The fly flares out like the roof of a Japanese, well, tea house. The walls are near vertical so you can sit straight up and the ceiling is high and wide, so you can move around without touching the tent fabric. Oversize windows mean you don’t just see the stars, you see all the stars, even with the fly on. As for the look…it’s the classiest thing you’re going to see in the campground all week.
Putting less importance on size and weight allowed TICLA to use extra strong, kid- and dog-proof fabric and durable aluminum poles. The stakes are tough and drive through just about anything. At the end of the day, it all fits in the G.O.O.D. system tote bag. Bam.
And it doesn’t stop there. Looking at TICLA’s complete lineup is like looking inside Hill and his crew’s camping dreams. The Shado Inflato is an inflatable shelter you can set up anywhere. As in you don’t need trees, ropes or anything other than a clearing. The structure inflates in 90 seconds and stakes down, creating a 10-square-foot shade that is perfect for the beach or to keep the sun of your kids. It comes with a pump and movable wind-blocking wall—and of course it all fits in a G.O.O.D. bag.
There are other innovations happening at TICLA, incliding the Tortuga and Mojave tents and the Camp Hero Ground Cloth, but you’ll have to go to REI or ticla.com to browse them. For us, that night in Joshua Tree was all about watching the stars and figuring out the best way to make grilled cheese over the fire. We didn’t have to worry about the gear we brought because it was up and ready within 15 minutes of parking the car. The way it should be…