Much of my favorite pieces of gear I use for the outdoors are not necessarily outdoor gear at a glance.
Being an organizational junkie, I’m all about my flyers kit bag, our storage bins, the shed, and a well-organized gear room and pantry to let us take advantage of the gift of time and get out more frequently.
On a similar note, two of my favorite pieces of gear are for after the trip, and I use them very infrequently.
I’ve used a battery jumper for myself and others quite a few times over the years [*]. The compressor another piece of gear I think every person should have if they access trailheads or similar outside of mobile device range.
The utility of the air compressor became apparent again this weekend. When I arrived at our truck, the tire seemed low at a mountain pass at 10k ft at a dirt trailhead, not the most accessible place to swap in a spare.
But a low tire when you own a compressor merely becomes a minor inconvenience instead of a PITA.
I pulled out the emergency air compressor, hooked it up to the car’s accessory adapter, started up the truck, hooked up the compressor to the tire, and the digital display confirmed the tire was rather low at 9 PSI. So I set the compressor to 35 PSI and turned it on.
While waiting, I brewed up a quick cup of coffee, sipped it, and fifteen minutes or so later found my tire safely inflated. I turned off the compressor, packed everything up, and safely drown down the windy dirt road, to the pavement, and then home.
Something safe, relatively quick, and easy to accomplish with a simple ~$30 item that stashes easily in any vehicle. Besides being small, the compressors only weigh about 2 lbs. So not much payload space or weight capacity is taken up either. Perfect if you drive a larger truck…or a Honda Civic!
I don’t think there’s any functional difference between these emergency compressors found at this price point based on quick Google searches.
The one I have, since updated with a newer model, just worked for me, however. The joyroom model has a generously long cord so you can get all the tires easily, gives a quick display of the current PSI, inflates the tire in a reasonably timely manner, and shuts off the compressor once it reaches the appropriate PSI. As a bonus, the compressor has a flashlight built-in that can come in handy at night even if you have a headlamp on you. (You have an inexpensive headlamp always stashed in your vehicle, right?)
Now, I emphasize this compressor is for emergencies. It is light and not exceptionally robust. It is meant to inflate one tire, perhaps two, in an emergency. The unit will overheat after continuous use, and you should not use the compressor regularly. If you are a person who is always underinflating and then reinflating tires, such as a dedicated off-roader, you’ll want a more robust compressor that runs off the car battery instead. I can’t speak for personal experience, but I suspect an RVer may wish to purchase a more robust compressor, too. But these more robust units also can cost $150, weigh 16 lbs, and take up more space.
But if you want something for the very occasional emergency use (be it for you or a stranger you want to help. As I’ve done in the past.), these $30 compressors work well.
Rather than get another pack or puffy, make a small investment in some emergency tools for your recreation travel. And one of these investments is the air compressor. Inflating a tire for fifteen minutes makes an easier task than swapping tires after a weekend of hiking.
* Though it did not work recently for a very electronics-heavy RAV4 hybrid. Looking over other sources, I should have kept the charger on longer.