CAMPING GEAR FOR HER The right gear for happy camping

Remember when a weekend of camping began with an hour-long wrestling match to get a tent pitched, only to shiver under layers of flannel inside a sleeping bag that might earn a 65-degree rating if someone's feeling generous?

Well, those days have faded to nostalgia, and like most things today, roughing it is nowhere near as rough as it used to be. Today's campouts are tempered by highly evolved gear that keeps you warm, cool, dry and anything in between -- all of which means you save your effort for the fun stuff.

REI Half Dome 2 Tent

The Half Dome 2 is lightweight enough (5.5 pounds) to keep your overnight load manageable, and it pitches in mere minutes (we did it easily without consulting the directions). Choosing a favorite feature may be the biggest challenge. We liked the dual-entry, "no-see-in" mesh panels and a leak-proof design that delivered as promised.

Mountain Hard Wear Phantom 32 Sleeping Bag

With reduced girth in the shoulder and at the foot, the Phantom traps heat better around a woman's frame. A face gasket adds an extra seal against heat deficiency, and with 800-fill down there's enough loft to make you forget you're camping out. Perfect for not-too-chilly (32 degrees or above) nights. At 1 pound 4 ounces it's ultralight and packs tight.

Exped Downmat 7

If comfort wins over all else, add the award-winning Exped Downmat from Europe to your backcountry essentials. You'll get superior warmth (thanks to 700-goose-feather fill) and ample cushion in a lightweight, compressible design. The laminated polyester shell resists tears and prevents bag slippage. Rapid inflation via a pump sack and a dual-valve design for quick deflation keep it hassle-free.

L.L. Bean Celia Day Pack

The Celia stands out among women's packs because it bucks the one-size-fits-all trend and comes in three sizes to fit different torso lengths. It's also roomier (2,000 cubic inches) than most day packs -- we loaded it with a tent, sleeping bag, stove and change of clothes with room to spare. It's water-reservoir ready, comes with a rain hood, and is available in four colors.

Christina Gandolfo is editor and chief of Her Sports. Her book The Woman Triathlete (Human Kinetics) was published in December.

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