By Kathy Renwald
The road trip was going to be long. From our house we were headed for Yellowstone National Park, and planned to visit the Badlands of South Dakota, Custer State Park, Aspen Colorado, Idaho, Utah and anywhere else that looked wild and unpopulated.
Our Volkswagen Golf was packed to the roof. We took first aid kits, sleeping bags, emergency blankets, an air compressor for potential flat tires, pillows, walking sticks, a Bose Bluetooth speaker, plastic dinnerware, and too many clothes. At the last minute, I thought maybe we should have fold-up chairs.
That bright idea brought the opportunity to test some small, lightweight camping equipment from Canadian Tire. With the help of their product loans department, we took along two, Woods Powerlite Camp Chairs ($59) and a Powerlite Table ($59). Canadian Tire also supplied a Woods 12 volt Soft Cooler ($52).
The chairs and table pack neatly into small bags, and were easy to stash among all our other gear. They also are designed to stow in backpacks. They came out of their hiding spots in the lovely town of Ouray, Colorado.
We booked a room in a small motel right on the banks of the Uncompahgre River.
On a perfect sunny afternoon, we unpacked and set up the table and chairs in about five minutes flat, near the banks of the river. The small chairs have spring-loaded legs and mesh construction and they pop into shape immediately.
They are only 33 centimetres high and look like they might be uncomfortable, but they’re not. Plop in and it’s a little like sitting in a hammock – cool and breezy. Though they look fragile, they hold up to 250 pounds. The Woods Expedition Powerlite Table is a perfect match for the weenie chairs. It sets up quickly, has a firm canvas top and built-in holders for two cups. We set up our beverages and snacks on the table and enjoyed the rushing water in the river.
We supplied our own lighting for the arrangement, with Lucie Lights purchased from Lee Valley Tools (about $20). The inflatable solar-powered lamps put out strong light from LED bulbs, and have a high and a low setting. Deflate, and they can almost be packed in a purse.
The other product supplied by Canadian Tire for testing was the Woods 12V Soft Cooler. Plugged into the 12V receptacle in our trunk, it cooled the contents without the need for ice. This product was OK, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. The zipper on the lid should be more robust. It was fussy to use, and sometimes caught on the fabric; a larger dimension zipper would work better. And though the bag kept the contents “coolish”, I would still prefer a hard-sided cooler that holds ice. The soft bag does fold flat, so the ability to stash it easily and carry it in a pack is a plus.
We travelled about 10,000 kilometres and though we were packed for all kinds of surprises good and bad, the one thing we really needed was a little coffee maker. The coffee was mostly horrible. A nice cup of strong coffee to enjoy at our riverside table and chairs would have been perfect.
Beyond the little needs of life on the road, the trip was wonderful. A stunning section that I will never forget was the drive through Utah taking in Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park and Glen Canyon. The scenery is vast, silent and inspiring, with some sections so rugged they were among the last areas to be mapped in the United States. A trip like that unclutters the mind and soothes the soul.
Kathy Renwald is a technology and gadget enthusiast. Her favourite shopping is at the Apple Store and any place with electronics. You can find her at kathyrenwald.com; kathyrenwald.blogspot.ca; on Twitter @kathyrenwald; and Instagram at krenwald