There's no better way to spend a fall evening than to sit by a campfire at Fort De Soto Park and watch the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico. You can keep your five-star hotels. At $35 a night, you won't find a more picture-perfect patch of paradise than this simple Pinellas County park.
But there is more to camping than location. For a truly memorable experience, you will need the right gear. Here is a primer to help get you started:EUREKA SUNRISE TENT: Probably the most important piece of camping equipment, a good tent must be sturdy enough to stand up in the wind, keep you dry, yet not so technical that you need a master's degree in campology to figure out how to pitch it. This domed tent has four-way ventilation to keep you cool during the day and enough room (7-foot center height) and floor space (11 by 11 feet) that you won't go stir crazy if it starts to rain. Weighs 23 pounds, 15 ounces. Price: $249.99. www.eurekatent.com
DOUBLE MANTLE LANTERN FROM CENTURY OUTDOORS: With ultraquiet operation, this lantern will throw enough light to help you find that teddy bear hiding under the picnic table. It comes standard with two globes and matchless ignition. Price: $32.50. www.centurycamping.comEUREKA CAMP CHAIRS: Comfortable, yet sturdy enough to hold an adult and a shivering 4-year-old whimpering, "Daddy, I'm scared," these folding chairs add a touch of luxury to any campsite. Price: $49.99 each. www.eurekatent.com HAMMOCK : No campsite is complete without a hammock. The Amazonas Hammocks from Brazil are all individually hand-crafted and sold by Byer of Maine. The Barbados model can support up to 330 pounds. Price: 59.99. www.byerofmaine.com HIGH SIERRA BACKPACK: The Ballzak model has all the features of a traditional daypack plus extras, including a large, front-load main compartment, a front mesh pocket for rain gear and side pockets for water bottles. Price: $45.
O2 COOL PORTABLE FAN: Keep this item handy to salvage a night's sleep when the weather turns warm. With a 10-inch blade and a dual power source (AC or battery), this fan lets you take the comforts of home into the woods. Price: $29.95.
DEUTER CARGO BAG: With expandable volume of 5,500 to 7,350 cubic inches, compression straps, side zippered pockets and multiple grab handles, this bag will carry all your gear into the field. Price: $39.95.
SLUMBERJACK SLEEPING BAGS: For more than 50 years, Slumberjack has been making bags to keep you warm and cozy, even if it is cold and rainy. The Bonnie & Clyde model is a dual temperature system. With a temperature rating of 30 to 40 degrees, keep the light side on top when it is warm or the heavy side up when things cool off. The bags, which zip together, come with camp pillows. Price: $99.99. www.slumberjack.com
THERM-A-REST CAMP AND COMFORT MATTRESS: Compact, lightweight and easy to store, this mattress takes the roughness out of roughing it. The Base Camp model measures 25 by 77 inches and is 2 inches thick, making it a great car-camping mattress. Price: $74.95. www.thermarest.comDELUXE STOVE AND GRILL: Pressure-regulated to improve performance, this stove comes with one 10,000-BTU 3¼-inch burner and a 13-by-10 inch grill area so you can cook hot dogs and heat hot chocolate at the same time. Price: $69.95. www.centurycamping.com
ENAMELWARE COFFEE POT: Nothing beats a cup of coffee brewed over an open fire in the morning. This 12-cup percolator is just what you need. Price: $25.95.
NFORM GOURMET COOK SYSTEM: These pots and pans come in an easy-to-carry case to eliminate the guesswork when heading outdoors. This cooking system can be configured for a two-person backpacking adventure or a four-person car camping trip. Crushproof strainer lid works with either the pot or the frying pan. Price: $99.99. www.gsioutdoors.com
ENAMELWARE COFFEE CUP: You will look like a cowboy, or cowgirl, when you sip your flavored hazelnut blend out of this beauty. Price: $2.95.
PIONEER CUTLERY: You'll never be looking in the bottom of your daypack for a fork or knife again. This 16-piece, four-person stainless steel flatware set keeps everything right where you need it. Price: $29.95.
Products courtesy of Bill Jackson Shop for Adventure in Pinellas Park.