Show Notes for Podcast #74

Summary: A buffet of choices to serve different needs, from backcountry to backyard. Finding the perfect camp table for overlanding or car camping can be challenging, but we're here to help with brief reviews of seven different folding camp tables. Here are a few of our picks.

 

Host Bios:

Matt Swartz

My name is Matt Swartz and I owe my love of the outdoors to my Grandfather, a PHD Ecologist, and photographer who was years ahead of his time. Every visit to his house was filled with hiking adventures where we’d collect and identify insects, or trips to a nearby creek to fish and look for water snakes. We’d also regularly sit on the couch together, pouring over the latest National Geographic while my Grandfather provided additional commentary, always getting deeper into the science. His knowledge was endless.

With those early childhood experiences in nature, it feels fitting that I’ve built a life full of adventurous outdoor sports, travel, photography, and writing. From my first camping experiences on the East coast to bigger adventures, like exploring the West coast of South America, or hiking from the border of Mexico to Mammoth, California, I find that time spent outdoors gives me an incredible sense of well-being.One of my biggest pieces of advice to the aspiring adventurer: passionately pursue your dreams, and don’t let society convince you that a high net-worth is more valuable than a life full of rich experiences. @m.b.swartz

 

Scott Brady

Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal and is often credited with popularizing overlanding in North America. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and includes three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar expeditions include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. @scott.a.brady

This episode sponsored in part by:

Dometic Outdoor

iKamper

 

Here is a quick rundown on our picks. For full description and information you can check out our 2021 Winter edition of Overland Journal magazine. 

Please visit our YouTube to watch full video review.

 

CAMP CHEF

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SNOW PEAK 

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FRONT RUNNER OUTFITTERS 

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KOVEA 

kovea-1.jpg

CGI OUTDOOR

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CAMP TIME 

roll-a-table-3.jpg

 

ALPS MOUNTAINEERING

utility-table-2020-1.jpeg

 

Full Transcripts: 

Camp Tables

Scott Brady: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Overland journal podcast. I am your host, Scott Brady, and I am with. Matt co-host of the day, Matt Swartz. 

Matt Swartz: Hello.

Scott Brady: Who is also senior editor for Overland Journal and Expedition Portal and today we're going to talk about a fun subject because it's something that is often overlooked, which is this component of camp furniture. And it's not that we're suggesting that we try to go to the extreme and create this luxury camp sider or some glamping version of a campsite, although there's nothing wrong with that if you do. The reality is that a table is very functional, both for vehicle-based campers and even motorcyclists. We'll talk towards the end of the podcast about how motorcyclists even address the same concerns and needs. So Matt, you just did the main gear review in Overland Journal and that was in the winter issue. Wasn't it? [00:01:00] 

Matt Swartz: Yeah, it was winter 2021, I think technically your freezer articles were the main gear review. So we would call this a best of breed.

Scott Brady: Okay, best... which it's kind of interesting, the difference between the two. We decided years ago that there are times when we want to compare as close to apples, to apples as possible, where we are able to control a lot of variables and really see which of these products performs the best when compared to their peers. And then we also decided we wanted a different format as well, which we call a best of breed, which allows the editor to go out into the market and find the very best products for the needs of the traveler, because they can be highly varied. So to try to compare an exact table against an exact table probably isn't that useful to the reader. Whereas if you say this is the best table for this, this is the best table if you want something [00:02:00] lightweight. This is the best table if you want something super sturdy that you want to cook on. This is the best table if you're kind of looking for a Jack of all trades or whatever. So how did you go through that process of deciding which tables to test and what were the attributes you are most interested in learning more about? 

Matt Swartz: Well you know, I have a lot of time in the outdoors. So part of it is just brand awareness and kind of knowing what's on the market. That was a good starting point. So there were a few brands that obviously came to mind right away. But then I had to do a little bit of research and just kind of see who else makes quality camp tables. Obviously, quality is one of the main characteristics that we're going to look for in any of the gear we buy. Right? We kind of chatted about this earlier today, but it's kind of silly to spend $20 on something if you only get three uses out of it, and then you have to go and make an additional trip to purchase a replacement and not to mention the waste and all of that. So I started off with [00:03:00] quality, and then I think when it comes to tables, you know, two of the most crucial things are being able to perform tasks when you're standing up and sitting down. In my mind, those are... if kneeling on the ground, I don't know if that's such a common use case for needing a table for that. But obviously when we're doing vehicle-based travel, being able to stand up and do standing tasks is really nice.

Scott Brady: Repairing something even, or preparing dinner.

Matt Swartz: Sure, I think food prep is probably the biggest thing that comes to mind and obviously when we're traveling with a vehicle, we have potentially some surfaces that we can work on, right? The tailgate of a truck is actually a pretty good height for doing standing tasks. Although truck tailgates are often... they have stamped parts in the metal. They're not necessarily flat. That's a whole other thing. I mean, there are solutions for that. There's like... I forget off the top of my head, the name of the brand, but there's an overland gear manufacturer that does these cutting boards that bolt into the tailgate. Richard [00:04:00] Nashlly have one. I think it's like tailgate cutting board... I don't know. Anyway, it's cool. It's worth looking into.

Scott Brady: That sounds clever. Although you're doing a lot of deep cleaning of that thing every time you go to use it. 

Matt Swartz: Of course, because if it's a food prep surface... you're dragging gear across it and you're stepping on and stuff, of course there are some limitations there. But yeah, kind of coming back to the criteria for a table. I think size is another one. We want things that are fairly compact. If we're traveling in a truck or an SUV, we don't have endless amounts of space. So something that can fit into a small space.

Scott Brady: And we're payload sensitive as well. Right?

Matt Swartz: Weights part of that too, so stuff that's lightweight. Although we have a range of weights and sizes in this article, and to be honest there were a few things that I didn't include in this article. Like some of the ultra-compact ultra-lightweight stuff that's out there. Like one brand that comes to mind is Helinox. They make some very compact stuff, but it's almost kind of [00:05:00] going into like the backpacking, you know, that area in that you do make quite a sacrifice in terms of durability and robustness when you're...

Scott Brady: Stability as well. 

Matt Swartz: Yeah, sure. When you're going down to like dak aluminum poles and flexible fabric-based tabletops, which those have their place depending on what you're trying to do. But I think for, you know, coming back to overland travel and vehicle based travel, I think really, you know, a solid platform is valuable, and you kind of mentioned that like, you know, food prep is one thing and enjoying a cocktail in your camp chairs is another thing, but what if you actually have to do some work with tools, what if you have to pull a fuel pump off your vehicle, or who knows what. Having a solid metal surface to work on is pretty crucial.

Scott Brady: I think from when I've thought about tables in the past, one of the things that I oftentimes look for is can it be repaired if something goes wrong [00:06:00] and does it rattle in the vehicle? Now, if you have a pickup truck, you don't tend to notice that things are rattling around, but there's two things with a rattle. The first thing is it's annoying for the occupants of the vehicle, but the second thing is anything that's rattling is actually slowly destroying itself. So if we hear our gear rattling, this is in this applies to everything. Even beyond tables. If we hear our gear rattling in the vehicle, we should take the time to stop and find out why is it rattling and fix the rattle because with time, that expensive piece of kit that you bought will ultimately either look terrible, because it's been slowly destroyed, or it's going to stop functioning because it's been rattled apart.

Matt Swartz: That's a really great little tip. I hadn't really thought about that before, but it does make sense. I mean, vibrations are pieces rubbing together. I mean you will see long-term where from that. Even if you're not using the item, you know, if it just lives in your truck for a year and rattles around every time, you're on a dirt road. 

Scott Brady: Exactly. And [00:07:00] then there's also just like being considerate to our passengers and everything else. I have a little bit of hearing loss for being in the military. So oftentimes I don't hear squeaks and rattles that other people do, but I always make sure people know that like, hey if you hear something you'll let me know because I'd like to stop it so it doesn't become a problem, either for the person in the vehicle, cause they're now they're aggravated because it's hear this constant squeaking and rattling. But I'm just really concerned about on our trips... when we're doing just a car camping trip away from home for the weekend or whatever. I think it's a lot less critical. It's just that when we get remote or when we go to other countries, replacing equipment is very difficult to do. When we're in Central America, finding an equivalent table that slides into the rack the same way that our east on table slides in, or our front runner table or whichever one. You can't find that table, and to order it in, you'd ended up spending two or three times the [00:08:00] cost of the table and duties to get it into the country. So there's a reason why I like to make sure that they stay serviceable and that I buy a high-quality unit to begin with because replacing pretty much anything, once you get in the developing world, it's difficult. Or you just live with it, you just don't worry about it. I mean, that happens a lot too. If you're going to buy something like an Overland table or Overland, camping table, buy something that's good enough quality where you don't have to worry about it falling apart or replacing it in the middle of nowhere. 

Matt Swartz: Yeah and I mean, I think that this is a principle that applies very much to vehicles too, like we talk about this, the term overlanding gets thrown around a lot these days an theoretically its definition has been expanded with how popular it's become and how a lot of brands have latched onto it, but when it comes down to it, the same principles that apply to vehicle selection and the way you build a vehicle [00:09:00] for an overland adventure, that can be applied to the gear that we take along too. You know, so having something that's overly complex that can't be repaired... I mean, that's not necessarily going to be sustainable if you go and do a multi month or a yearlong trip through multiple countries. So, we really have to consider these things too. And, you know, for some of us, we're not going to venture farther than north America. Like I probably will never ship a Ram overseas. Maybe I'll go down to Baja. 

Scott Brady: Let's hope so. 

Matt Swartz: Well, that would be great. I mean, I'm not saying my ambitions don't include travel overseas, but you know, the reality is some people are totally comfortable here in north America and there's nothing wrong with that. But that is a very different venue for using this kind of equipment then let's say rural south America, Africa, or anywhere else.

Scott Brady: And it's just interesting, cause you end up realizing that, is this piece of equipment important? If it is, I should buy it [00:10:00] of quality. If it's not important, maybe ask yourself why we're bringing it or buying it to begin with? A lot of times we see someone else's kit, or someone else's gear lay out on Instagram or whatever, and we kind of turn that into a checklist of stuff we've got to buy, but I think each of us have different needs. Some people don't really like to cook it all, and so then they bring along protein shakes and energy bars and snacks and stuff like that. I mean, I know many people that travel that way, and they don't... or they just choose to eat where the locals eat, and they don't really prepare their own food. When I go to Baja, I bring an empty fridge because there is no reason for me to bring any food with me.

Matt Swartz: It's inexpensive and it's delicious and 

Scott Brady: accessible.

Totally. And it's everywhere. And you know, maybe I'll have some waters or something in there, you know, or maybe some yogurt for breakfast or whatever. But for the most part, it depends on where you're going and your own interest. Some people love to cook gourmet when they're out [00:11:00] camping, which is actually really fun to do. And I've enjoyed doing that myself and that's when you want a better prep table. Whereas if you're sitting with your family of four and you'd like to sit down for dinner at the end of the day, you want to have a table that can be at the right height to sit around with chairs. And you got to make sure that the chairs you own match the table height. I mean, we've experienced all these things where you end up like the little kid, you know, if you're on the short chair you don't get to the right height on the table.

Matt Swartz: Especially with camping chairs. Camping chairs are, at large, they're very much lower than traditional chairs, so you realize that really quickly. Well should we dig into it? 

Scott Brady: Let's take a look at what, some of the ones that you're really you really enjoyed and, and what was it about it that you like. Yeah. 

Matt Swartz: So I tested seven different models for the article, and you know, like we mentioned, this was in winter 2021 so you can read the article if you want kind of the full rundown of my findings, but I'm just going to kind of run through right from the start and we'll just kind of [00:12:00] talk about them briefly. And so the first one was the Camp Chef table, which is kind of an unusual entry and it's just something different, which is why I included it. I think it's not necessarily the most practical table for overland use, so to speak, but it is a good camp table. 

Scott Brady: It looks really robust. 

Matt Swartz: It's one of the heavier ones in the test. It's steel, and it's actually really interesting so it's robust and it's so thick because it's actually designed to be able to cook on it using charcoal. So it's absolutely unique in the whole range of products in that way. And I used it for that, so I got my chimney, I lit up a whole thing of charcoal and I used a Dutch oven to cook right on the table. Which is pretty cool because, you know, if you like using Dutch ovens for campfire cooking in the back country, one of the things is you're having to constantly bend over and lean down by the fire. [00:13:00] It's fine. It is what it is but bringing that process up to a height where you're not having to bend over is actually pretty pleasant. It makes it a little bit easier to keep an eye on what you're cooking.

Scott Brady: That makes sense, does it have an option for a grate. You could have a grate to put burgers or whatever on top of it, does it have that option? 

Matt Swartz: So it's not, as far as I remember, that's not an option that Camp Chef offers, although you certainly could combine it with some sort of a great cooking system like Wolf and Grizzlies. I covered one of their little camp cooking setups in a previous article, but you could use that on the surface of this. So this is versatile in the way that you could pair it with a lot of things. As far as use just generally as a table, maybe not as ideal for other tasks. It's got this lip that runs around the edge of it, which helps keep the charcoal and cinders in, and so it's not comfortable to rest your arms on it. You can get little adjustable feet for the legs too to [00:14:00] add some micro adjustability, but you can't raise or lower it. So it's not really ideally suited for sitting tasks, it's more of a standing task kind of table. 

Scott Brady: Probably would work really well if you were doing repairs to the vehicle, like if you needed a tear apart a differential, it looks like that's the table for you.

Matt Swartz: The one thing about this table is you're not going to hurt the surface, you know, it's just like this black, almost a powder coated steel. I don't think it's actually powder-coated, but it's like a black...

Scott Brady: High temperature paint. 

Matt Swartz: Yeah, exactly. And yeah, you're just not going to hurt the surface. And yeah, I found it was a really great place to put my off-grid battery. To get it up off the ground. And it's got this wind screen that has the little hole cutouts in it for ventilation is what I would assume, but actually it was really convenient to run the cords for the solar panels right out the back of the battery, through the hole and set up the solar panels elsewhere. So probably wouldn't be my first choice, but [00:15:00] definitely an interesting design worth considering.

Scott Brady: Based on people's needs for sure. 

Matt Swartz: Yeah, and it comes in a bunch of different sizes too. We tested the small one, but you can get a bigger one that can accommodate like three full sized dutch ovens, so kind of cool. So I guess moving on, Snow Peak, they're kind of a favorite in the camping furniture world. They make a lot of really unique items. They do a great job of combining beautiful design with function, I think. 

Scott Brady: And lightweight usually.

Matt Swartz: Some of their stuff. The table that we tested was not one of those. Part of that was just because of real estate. It was actually one of the biggest surface areas out of all the tables. It was called the renewed single action table. Bamboo surface, which is really handsome to look at, and like these brushed aluminum legs that... the table folds from the center and it's really like their engineers did a really nice job. The legs all fold down. It it's fairly [00:16:00] compact when it's folded, and they kind of expand out. It makes me think of like origami. It's just beautiful. 

Scott Brady: They've always made amazing stuff. In fact, the first time I was ever exposed to this idea of gourmet cooking while camping, Expedition Exchange based out of Southern California, they used to run a competition every year that they called the Iron Chef. And one year I was invited to just come along and hang out with everybody, and all these guys were competing against each other to win the award of Iron Chef. So everybody else that was there got to go and taste and got to rate this stuff. Half of them had this system from Snow Peak called IGT, integrated grilling table. So it's this whole system that it can actually be turned into an elbow. So you can have a propane grill going. You can have a charcoal grill going. You can have cooktop. You have prepping [00:17:00] surfaces. Stainless steel inserts for prepping sushi, like it's unbelievable. For those that are interested in something totally wild, check out the IGT system from snow peak 

Matt Swartz: I've had the privilege of seeing some of the systems set up at like outdoor retailer, and it's incredible. I mean, like the way it all integrates and how it's modular and you have some flexibility. It's super cool. I mean, that's like a dream backyard setup, or if you're willing to haul it out into the back country, I mean, you've got the space for it. What a cool way to set up a base camp. 

Scott Brady: You'll hear that people will say like, oh that's ridiculous or whatever, until you see them, like they kind of meander over there looking at it. They're super skeptical, and then somebody hands them like this Kobe beef filet or whatever, and you never hear him complain again. Cause like food is important and it isn't to say that it justifies spending a bunch of money, but like you can appreciate [00:18:00] someone's passion for creating great food. And if something like that product allows you to do that, the critics usually are only vocal for a short period of time until they have food in their mouth.

Matt Swartz: Well, yeah. So the Snow Peak was a cool entry. I think you kind of mentioned this, but for people that have maybe a family that they travel with if you're going out with your significant other and your kids. This is actually a great table because of the real estate. I think you could fit comfortably four people sitting at it, but you could fit six at it if you really wanted to. It was great in that way. And again, just from a visual standpoint it's beautiful. It has some limitations, like most of these things. The legs are not adjustable, so you get one height. And it's a little low for standing tasks, especially for a taller person like you. You know, I'm 5' 7", so I can get away with some of these shorter products and even for me it felt a little hunched over, but not so much that I couldn't use it in that way. Also the leg and [00:19:00] fastening system for fastening it in the open position a little bit more complicated than you would probably want in something that you're going to be taking on maybe a long-term road trip or overland trip. So this would probably be a little bit more appropriate for weekend trips or local trips where if you have an issue...

Scott Brady: Or an owner that may be is very intentional about how they open it and close it and store it and all of that. 

Matt Swartz: But the cool thing about this is this would work just as well as the campsite as it would in your backyard. So if you want something that has that versatility of being like a picnic kind of garden party table, I mean you could use it in that way too. 

Scott Brady: It's nicer than the table at my house, for sure. Speaking of that, we should probably cover the prices too. So what did the Camp Chef come in at?

Matt Swartz: So the camp chef was $110 for the smaller of the two. It's 32-inch legs and it accommodates like two dutch ovens on the [00:20:00] surface. The Snow Peak that we're talking about right now that we just talked about, that one's $400. So that one's going to be a little bit closer to the top end of what we tested in terms of price. 

Scott Brady: Sure. Well, yeah, I think it's good to get that perspective because it starts to make that Camp Chef look like a great value, because all metal construction and 110 bucks. Whereas the Snow Peak one, you end up making sure you get the storage bag, and you take good care of it cause that's an investment for sure.

Matt Swartz: Definitely. And, you know, I don't know if I mentioned it with many of these, but obviously anytime you're investing in gear, start with the company's warranty. Look into what their warranty program looks like. So that. You make an investment, and you have an issue, you know what you're going to get in terms of support for repairing it or replacing it. And I know that Snow Peak does a pretty good job with their warranty. So it's a consideration, right? You may be lay out a little bit more money up front, but then you have the peace of mind of the warranty to back it up if something goes wrong. Yeah. So Front Runner [00:21:00] Outfitters, another pretty well-known company in the world of overlanding just because that's kind of where they are from. They're south African based. They make roof racks; they make all sorts of gear specifically for vehicle-based travel. So they were an obvious one to include just because you would expect that with their involvement in Overland Travel that they're going to have some ideas around how a table could be ideally suited for what we do. 

Scott Brady: And they certainly do. 

Matt Swartz: They do, and so we got their pro stainless steel cap table. It was the most expensive table in our test. It was $557. Definitely a big investment as far as the table is concerned, but it was the only table in the test that has the added convenience of being able to integrate into a roof rack system. And I think you mentioned there are some other makes that offer that as well.

Scott Brady: Eezi-awn does as well, for sure. And they're very similar if you were to look at the Front Runner and the [00:22:00] Eezi-awn they're very similar. They're not the same. There are definitely some different attributes. Like, I think the front runner has an integrated lip in to the sides that helps it like anchor and not rattle as much in the rack. Whereas the Eezi-awn has a dimpled surface that is similar to like a National Luna fridge. So it's highly durable. You wouldn't want to write on it. You wouldn't be able to write on it like a piece of paper, but you could easily work on it with a laptop or whatever else, and it's a very durable surface so it doesn't show scratches, and it looks really premium for a long period of time. But they're definitely same kind of product, for sure. 

Matt Swartz: Got it. So I don't have a Front Runner rack so I couldn't test this, but that is a compelling feature of this because it is a larger table too it was the other one of the other biggest ones. So you get a lot of real estate for food prep or whatever tasks you've got. But it doesn't get very small, the surface doesn't fold, just the legs fold. So [00:23:00] being able to slide it right underneath the crossbars of your roof rack and have it secured there is a great solution for putting it out of the way, I mean you're never going to miss that space there.

Scott Brady: And they're really easy to pull out. You usually just have a little hasp that you turn and then the whole thing just slides right out. And normally the rails that they slide into, they're felted in some way. Like they may not always use felt, but many of them do use like a heavy-duty wool felting that'll last forever. So it cushions and dampens any of the vibrations, so you don't tend to get the vibrations. One of the things that people will make the mistake of is that they'll mount it with the legs in the wrong direction, depending on the manufacturer. So like if you put it with the table face down, then the legs can rattle on the surface. And if it's designed to do that, you need to do it that way, cause they'll usually have some kind of a damper in there. Whereas the other ones you need to mount it with the legs [00:24:00] pointing down so that they don't rattle against the surface. So knowing how they need to be mounted is a big deal with those, so you don't get the super rattle going down the road. 

Matt Swartz: That's good to know. Yeah, overall this was one of my favorite tables in the test. Because, you know, I think when it comes to standing tasks versus seated tasks, I think that there are a lot of seated tasks that you can just get by with doing them on your lap. Although it's nice to have a table for eating dinner at and things like that, but there are a lot of standing tasks there's not an easy replacement for a solid flat surface for standing related tasks. So the height of this Front Runner table was excellent for standing tasks. For me, it was just about perfect. Again, I'm 5' 7", so if you're a bit taller you might be a little hunched over, but I thought it was great in that way. A stainless surface is a really nice surface for a variety of reasons. If you have something to keep it clean, you can do food prep right on that surface if you need to, which is [00:25:00] nice, and easily wipe it down. As far as some challenges with this table, it's kind of more traditional in its design with its legs. The legs are not adjustable. 

Scott Brady: It'd be nice if they were. It'd make it kind of the killer table.

Matt Swartz: It would be great. That's the one thing I wish it had, and obviously in the back country it's not always easy to find flat ground, so this is a feature that I think is valuable on camp tables, adjustable legs. Nonetheless, I was usually able to find a place to locate it where it worked. Just solid all around there, really well-built too. I stood on this one, a number of times to get access to the awning on our Airstream just because I was kind of testing it, I didn't stand on all of the tables, but I should say that out of all seven that we tested this is one of the only ones that I would feel comfortable standing on without worrying that I was going to damage it or break it. 

Scott Brady: Wow. That's impressive. 

Matt Swartz: Yeah. So it's, really solid. Hardware seems robust, [00:26:00] just overall a really good choice, but again you're going to pay a little more for it.

Scott Brady: And most of that cost probably comes from that large stainless-steel plate. I mean, stainless steel is not cheap. 

Matt Swartz: Yep. So that's the Front Runner. The next one is as far as I understand now is kind of an industry favorite. The Kovea.

Scott Brady: They've just barnstormed the industry over the last couple of years.

Matt Swartz: Yeah. So we tested their AL Bamboo One Action Table. It's a folding bamboo surface table. Kind of a happy medium in terms of real estate. A good amount of space, you know, I think if you needed to, you could seat four people at it to eat. It would be small, but it looks good. It's got these nice, shiny aluminum legs and it's fairly come back to when it's folded. It's kind of one of the smaller ones in our test. Not too heavy. It had adjustable legs, which I really appreciated. 

Scott Brady: Do they adjust enough? So you can do standing prep and seated to have a [00:27:00] meal on it?

Matt Swartz: From the lowest center to the highest setting, I was able to use it for standing and seated tasks. The only issue that comes up with this table in regard to that is at the highest setting the legs feel like they lack a little bit of stability. You know, so if you were really pressing down on it with the legs in their fully extended position, it just, it didn't inspire the most confidence in how solid it was in that position at the lowest setting it's very solid, and the way the hardware attaches to this table is a little different, whereas some of the other tables the legs ended up being in the four corners of the table. This one they kind of come out in an A-frame shape from the center. So it was kind of interesting, cause if you want to place a really heavy item on this table like let's say like our Goal Zero battery, right? You want to place it in the center of the table instead of on the edges. Like the periphery of the table feels a little less stable.

Scott Brady: Well, it's what's less supported for sure. 

Matt Swartz: Right? It doesn't have direct support. 

Scott Brady: But you like this one? [00:28:00] 

Matt Swartz: I like this one a lot, yeah. And it's funny because since testing this one, I've been on a handful of industry events, and this is a table that I've seen multiple times that different people use. Yeah, we had a media drive before Overland Expo in Flagstaff with a whole bunch of folks and a 7P was guiding us. And those guys had like six or seven of these and they set them up end to end to make like a big buffet table, it was super cool. Yeah, I think those adjustable legs and just the form factor of this one is kind of a favorite and it's $250. So, you know, considerably less than like the Front Runner or the snow peak. Not inexpensive, but a little bit more affordable. GCI outdoors? 

Scott Brady: Yeah. They've been at it for a while. Big volume manufacturer. 

Matt Swartz: Yup. They're really well known for their chairs too. They have like 20 different models of chairs, so cool. 

Scott Brady: And they make a big range of camp [00:29:00] furniture and cooking equipment and all kinds of stuff.

Matt Swartz: I remember digging into the website when I was writing the article because I was like, how many different chairs do they have? And I didn't remember off the top of my head, but just looking here in the article, they have over 30 different models of camp chairs. And they're cool, they've got rockers and everything like that... so the Slim Fold Cook Station was their table that we tested. And this one was unique, following this best of breed format. This is like pretty purpose made for kitchen, that's really what this is for. You're not going to sit and eat dinner at this. It's a great standing height for doing food prep tasks. That's like what it was made for. So you've got this main surface in the middle and then you've got two tiers of side tables. So it's perfect for setting up a two-burner camp stove and then having utensils hanging and maybe your propane tank and maybe like a Front Runner Wolf Pack box with some cooking supplies. I mean, it's a really convenient [00:30:00] kitchen setup. I think for that purpose it's just about perfect. I didn't really find anything to call out on. In terms of the surfaces, aluminum. 

Scott Brady: And it comes with the cutting board and everything.

Matt Swartz: It doesn't, no. Got it. 

Scott Brady: Thats hard to tell if that's integrated or not. 

Matt Swartz: Yeah, no. We brought a little additional cutting board. The main surface is aluminum. So if you're using a cooking apparatus on it, you don't really have to worry about melting it or burning it. Like you can put a hot pot down on that central surface if you wanted. But again, we put a camp stove there and that worked. This one's also pretty lightweight, as far as everything in our test. It was a little under 20 pounds. So compared to like a table that weighs 35 pounds, you know, a little bit more manageable. This one folds down pretty small too, so for people with limited space, I think especially if you're looking for something for kitchen cook setup this is a really good one to consider cause you could probably find room for it in your rig. Kind of like, if you picture like a [00:31:00] TV dinner tray table. That kind of size when it's folded up, but much more robust. It's got this metal tubular metal frame. 

Scott Brady: It looks like it has some cross support as well.

Matt Swartz: It does. It's fairly solid given its weight. A hundred dollars too. Pretty compelling price. Yeah, it's just a good all-around table and you could use it for non-kitchen tasks, you know, you could use it for organizing gear and stuff like that. But again, probably not something that you would sit at and eat a meal at. Camp Time was another table that we tested. Their roll-a-table, which is... You've probably seen one before. Most people have probably seen them. They come in multiple colors, but we got kind of the classic, the blue one. And the surface is like these wooden slats encased in like a TPU plastic material. And it does it literally rolls up, so this was one of the most compact tables in the entire test, which I think is super compelling for Overland [00:32:00] travel. You know, we're limited on space, and because of the construction of this I think you'd have no problem lashing it to a roof rack. Even if it's exposed to the elements, this is probably going to hold up. It's also pretty affordable, $121. One of the more affordable tables in our test. 

Scott Brady: I found the only thing about those is anything hot, like cooking on them. Yeah, cause it's like a rubber plastic coating. 

Matt Swartz: No, absolutely. Yeah.

Scott Brady: Maybe a cover, not even a coating. 

Matt Swartz: Yeah, exactly. The wooden parts are sewn into the sleeve. Yeah, you could easily melt the surface if you weren't careful. A really good amount of real estate, like we were able to fit a two-burner camp stove plus an entire meal meals worth of food items, plus equipment for prepping paper towels on top of it. I mean, it's big enough to sit four people at easily. And this is another one that has the coveted adjustable legs. We tested the adjustable leg model. There is one that doesn't have it, but if you [00:33:00] were even considering this, I would say get the one with the adjustable legs. They have a lot of settings. So this is another one that's like from seated to standing tasks, this is probably one of the best choices you're going to get. If you need something that will do both. 

Scott Brady: I found that those... they wobbled a little bit. It didn't necessarily feel cheap at all. It was more just because the way that the legs just screw in. Am I correct on that? It feels just a little wobbly. It doesn't have like crossbars that help reinforce the legs. 

Matt Swartz: Exactly. I feel like that would be the easiest way to solve that problem. It's kind of like that Kovea table, right? It's in the lowest setting, it's more stable in the highest setting it's a little wiggly. And like you said, it doesn't feel wiggly in a cheap way. It's just an inherent characteristic of it. 

Scott Brady: Design compromise. Sure. 

Matt Swartz: Right, and so Camp Time suggests just placing it up against a tree or a solid surface as one way to kind of help with that. Or if you [00:34:00] wanted to carry two, you could latch them together. At least that's what they suggest on their website. I don't know how realistic that is to carry two of these, but yeah, I think the easiest thing is just placing it up against the vehicle or up against something solid. And honestly, in my experience, even in that highest setting, it wasn't really like an issue that deterred me from using it. But again, it's so compact when it's all folded up. It takes up very little space.

Scott Brady: I used one of those for years and years and years. I used it until I melted it. Which was my fault. I mean, it just happened to go about something the wrong way. I thought it was insulated enough and melted a hole in the plastic. 

Matt Swartz: Yeah. I really liked this one. And I'd used one of these before this test also, so I was familiar with it and yeah, it's a really solid choice. Again, 121 bucks. So pretty affordable if you're looking to not break the bank. And then the last one in our test was from Alps Mountaineering. It's their utility [00:35:00] table. I don't know if you're familiar with this brand. Have you heard of them before? 

Scott Brady: They've been around for a while. 

Matt Swartz: They have been, and you know, I have to be fair. I always thought of them as like this bargain brand, which I think they are, but in a good way. Whereas previously I kind of thought of their stuff is cheap, I'm kind of changing my tune on that after using this table, because it is certainly light. It was the lightest table in our test. I think it weighed like 13 pounds or maybe even less than that. It's very light. But it's surprisingly sturdy and you set up the frame independently of the two tabletop surfaces, they clip onto it. And I set up the frame, and I was actually able to support my body weight with it. Like if you were going to do a dip on one of those things, I just held the two sides and I kind of held my whole body up by it. I mean, it weighs less than... you know, it weighs 10 pounds, or I don't see exactly where I wrote the weight in there, but it's very light and [00:36:00] surprisingly strong. And it's also super compact, you know, like roll-a-table. It takes up minimal space in your rig. This one's more similar to the, the GCI, you know? I think it's ideal use cases as a kitchen table set up for a two-burner stove and a little bit of prep space. Not going to be comfortable to sit at necessarily, but it's a good height for standing tasks. Again, it's got those metal surfaces, so you're not going to have to worry about melting it or burning it when you're using something hot on top of it. And then again, this is another one that's a little bit more affordable, $130. A little bit easier to digest as far as an investment for your camp set up. 

Scott Brady: And it looks nice. Looks nice and simple. Not overly designed, it looks like it would be handsome in any campsite for sure. 

Matt Swartz: Yeah. It's just like brushed aluminum all around. It's got one kind of faux wood surface, but yeah, it's not a bad looking table at all. 

Scott Brady: Are there any other that come to mind for you that, that you think are worth mentioning? 

Matt Swartz: There were [00:37:00] some that I mentioned specifically in the article, additional considerations. So Mountain Summit Gear, they make some sort of... it's called a heavy duty roll top table. I think similar in design to The Alps Mountaineering. It's a hundred dollars. It says it can hold up to 70 pounds on it. These are ones that we just didn't get the opportunity to test where we might have. But so yeah, Mountain Summit Gear, that's worth looking into. King Camp is another company. 

Scott Brady: Not familiar with them? 

Matt Swartz: Yeah. I don't think they're super well known and to be honest, it was hard finding... I think they're made overseas and they're not really like marketed here. You'll see their stuff on like... I think it was like on Amazon and some of these sorts of online retailers. So that was one of the reasons it was hard to get in touch with someone to try and get ahold of one to test, but $150. So again, they're not overly expensive. And they looked like just kind of a solid camp table, maybe [00:38:00] worth considering. Helinox, which we mentioned briefly at the beginning of the podcast, I think they are they're going to be one of the lightest most compact ones. I mean, I have this little side table that they make for backpacking and it's like smaller than my tent. It's tiny, but I don't think they have any tables that work for standing tasks. They're all very low, you know, kind of like side table to a camp chair. 

Scott Brady: Yeah. And they have some small tables as well for eating at. That kind of thing. Very small ones. 

Matt Swartz: But they make really cool stuff. Their designs are really clever.

Scott Brady: Great chairs, especially for motorcycling.

Matt Swartz: Their chairs are excellent. I have a couple of their chairs and we've used them kind of consistently. They have this really interesting thing, the tactical field office, which we didn't end up testing. It felt like a little too far removed from a camp table, but it features a table, and it was like, it weighs five pounds. It has this integrated cargo bag [00:39:00] that lets you carry things like computer equipment or photo equipment, so it's kind of like a mobile office table with storage. Yeah, it was really interesting. That's a $200... 

Scott Brady: Taking the remote work really serious. 

Matt Swartz: Yeah. I mean, if you're like a lifestyle travel outdoor photographer and you want a way to haul your gear out and then have a clean surface to set it up on and to work with it on this could be maybe worth considering. Yeah, again I didn't get to test it, so, but it looked neat. 

Scott Brady: We got to make sure we get one... 

Matt Swartz: The tactical field office. Yep, and then Lifetime. Like, let's come back to the KISS approach. Keep it simple. You don't need a quote camp table that costs $150. You can get one of these plastic Lifetime tables that people use at farmer's markets for whatever. 

Scott Brady: And they're available in a bunch of different sizes too. So you go to Costco, you can get a eight foot long one. You [00:40:00] can get a six foot long one. You can get a four foot long one that's a little narrower. They can actually get pretty compact. And they're cheap, like 50 bucks. 

Matt Swartz: Yeah, the one I looked at was 70, but they're super inexpensive. I mean, when it comes back to it right? If you have a limited budget and you want to go and do the trip... spend the money on the trip, not on the fancy gear. So remember you don't need a camp table, you can use a folding plastic table. It will work just fine. Maybe throw a nice tablecloth on it. 

Scott Brady: That's the way around it. Yeah, if you're prepping dinner for your family or whatever, and you got a date with you, put a tablecloth on it. Nobody will know. Obviously the one consideration is they are heavy. And then also the top has made out of plastic, so you have to be really mindful of putting hot things on a plastic table, but I see them a lot out in the field because they really do work. 

Matt Swartz: They do. Yeah. It's like, [00:41:00] there's no problem with using one of those, honestly. I like seeing people who are just using like the bare minimum and the emphasis is on the trip and the experience, not on the gear. It's kind of refreshing, you know?

Scott Brady: For me, I bring along... Primus started making some tables, and they make a really nice canvas top. So if you think about the one that has the sleeves that are made out of rubber or plastic. This is the same idea. The sleeve is made out of canvas, and then there's a folding leg structure, and they're very compact. So you end up with this black canvas table for prep and for putting chips and salsa out and all that. So it's a really nice table and it doesn't rattle at all, but the downside is if you get it dirty, it's a little bit more of a thing to clean it up. Like if you spill some salsa. You're cleaning canvas, not a [00:42:00] plastic easy clean surface. But I really like them. They're lightweight. They look nice. They're fairly stable standing prep height. And that's what I typically bring along, just because I normally find that if you've got a fire going or whatever... you end up just kind of sitting and eating with the food in your lap. I find you just kind of got a plate in your lap and you're sitting around the fire, but the standing height... the prep table is pretty key. 

Matt Swartz: It is. And also Dometic, obviously a well-known brand in the space, since we wrote this article and published, they've debuted some new camp furniture.

Scott Brady: Big time. Yeah, those are cool. 

Matt Swartz: Yeah. They have some really cool looking items. And I believe a camp table was in there. There's like a bench, and so that might be another one worth looking into, 

Scott Brady: We'll put some photos of that here if you see the podcast on YouTube, you'll be able to see what they look like. Dometics got a bunch of new really interesting products coming onto the market. Well, good work on that, man. 

Matt Swartz: Thanks. Yeah, it was a fun one. It's always [00:43:00] fun to take the gear out and, test it in the field and see how it works. 

Scott Brady: We all use a table when we're camping typically of some sort, and maybe it is just the tailgate. In, in a lot of ways it's good to see what's out there. Good work. Well, we're going to talk about fridges soon. We're going to talk about cooler boxes. We're going to talk about chairs soon. So we're going to get into these subjects as we get into 2022. 

Matt Swartz: Sounds good. 

Scott Brady: All right. Thanks for being on the podcast, Matt.

Matt Swartz: Thanks Scott. 

Scott Brady: And thank you all for listening and we'll talk to you next time.