When we bought our Mantis, we couldn’t wait to go camping in it. Because we had spent about 6-7 days in my cousins 2018, we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to set it up. Being able to spend some time in a Mantis (or other TAXA Habitat) prior to receiving your own is incredibly helpful. Even though 2018 and 2020 had some differences, we still had a pretty solid idea. If getting to spend time in a Habitat prior to receiving yours is not an option, then I’d suggest spending 5-7 nights in yours and just make notes of things you wish you had for camping.
As we started to think about things we wanted to get, we tried to be very intentional as it pertains to what we need (or thought we needed). We also said from the outset that we wanted to be able to decide to go camping for the weekend and then be able to leave within an hour. That last point was very important to us because we are not always planners. Sometimes we get a wild hair and just go for it. That being said, we needed to be very thoughtful about our setup in an effort to not spend way too much money, be overpacked with “stuff”, but still have the necessities, and perhaps some creature comforts.
While we got much more than 10 items, these are the 10 things we have put in our Mantis that we wouldn’t want to be without on a trip, regardless of it being a weekend getaway or spending 6 days boondocking.
My favorite item goes at the top of the list. Hands down, that would be our Solo Stove. For those unfamiliar with the Solo Stove, it is essentially a smokeless fire pit.
Now, Solo Stove has a few different sizes of their fire pit. We have the Bonfire and think it is perfect for the Habitat. I haven’t spent time in some of the smaller habitats, so I am not as familiar with the useable real estate inside while traveling. Because of that, the Ranger might be a better fit in anything other than a Mantis.
The one potential downside to any Solo Stove (except for the Yukon, which is not exactly portable) is that the standard size firewood, which is typically 24” long, can be a little too big to fit in the Solo Stove. Because of that, if we are taking firewood, I’ll try to cut down the pieces before we head out adventuring. It’s just easier and a better experience that way. Another thing we do is use lump charcoal. This is especially beneficial if you’re at a site where ground fires are not an option. We’ve even been told by Park Rangers at Big Bend National Park that using a Solo Stove with lump charcoal is perfectly fine. We were pleasantly surprised by that, and thankful for it during our last trip, which got pretty cool at night.
One cheap thing we did to give the Solo Stove a dual purpose was purchasing a replacement grill grate for a 22” Weber Grill. If you take off (or flip over) the ring on top of the Solo Stove, the grill grate fits perfectly on top of the fire pit, and then you have the ability to cook a steak, burgers, or whatever makes you happy.
One other thing worth mentioning about the Solo Stove Bonfire is that it comes with a nice, durable carry bag. The way we travel with the Solo Stove is by putting the fire pit, and whatever else in the bag, and then place the bag on the counter that folds down over the cassette toilet and put a bungee cord around it. Every time we have traveled, the Solo Stove has stayed perfectly in place.
If you are interested in a Solo Stove for yourself, feel free to use this referral code, which will save you some money on the purchase.
As you spend time in your habitat, you’ll notice that it’s pretty difficult to keep sand, dirt, mud, etc. out. After all, Out Is In, right? In all seriousness, this is just part of camping. Additionally, TAXA has made it easy to clean with the rubber floor, so it’s really not a big deal. But, I’m weird. I don’t like having dirt on my feet. Like, not at all. So, we bought the C-Gear Outdoor Camping Mat. While I won’t tell you that you’ll never have a speck of dirt in your habitat again, I can tell you that it greatly reduces the amount of dirt that gets inside. It has some magical way of letting the dirt fall through the mat, without letting dirt come up through the bottom.
For me, this made a huge difference for us. Also, you’ll notice that they have a few different sizes of the mat. We elected to go with the Medium sized mat, because it is 8’ x 8’, which is the same size as the ARB awning. It just fit well, which we really liked. It’s easy to keep in place by using stakes, or just putting a camp table and a cooler on either side.
Pro Tip (meaning I learned the hard way): If you fold up the C-Gear Outdoor Camping Mat, you can store it between your Solo Stove and the exterior wall to create a buffer and not let the Solo Stove scratch up the wall behind the toilet.
My wife likes a comfortable bed, and more importantly, she likes getting her sleep. I want my wife to enjoy camping, so we agreed to get a foam mattress topper for the Habitat. At first, I was very concerned about the mattress topper, because they can be incredibly bulky and take up a tremendous amount of space. And, given that we had the 2020, which had the bed that converts to the dinette, I didn’t want to have this massive mattress topper that would not allow us to use the dinette, and I didn’t want something that would make it hard for us to access the storage under the bed.
After doing some research, we came across the 4” Tri-Fold Foam Mattress Topper, and we couldn’t be happier with this purchase. Allow me to explain. First and foremost, it’s very comfortable. Perhaps comfortable enough to upgrade our time out in nature to “glamping”. That’s okay, we’ve accepted it, and know we are subject to judgement from the purists. It works for us. Additionally, the unexpected surprise was how we store it when we want to eat breakfast at the dinette. Until we had our Mantis, I didn’t realize the the seat on the drivers side of the Habitat is deeper than the passenger side. Once I noticed this, I folded up the mattress (which takes no more than 15 seconds) and stacked it vertically on the drivers side up against the wall. It really creates a nice back cushion as your sitting on that side. You can even store it horizontally as a booster seat if you have young children with you. All in all, we’ve been incredibly pleased with this mattress topper.
It goes without saying that there are plenty of options and opinions when it comes to a refrigerator. When we ordered our Mantis, we did not elect to add the refrigerator that was being offered at the time. Honestly, we didn’t think we would need it, and we didn’t want to spend that kind of money for something that we weren’t sure we needed. My wife and I just agreed we would try without it, and then if we changed our mind, we would get one. Low and behold, after our 2nd trip, we realized that we had made a mistake. Now, that’s not to say that everyone who owns a TAXA Habitat will need one, but for our family, we did.
When we came to the realization that we wanted to add a refrigerator, I actually saw a post on the TAXA Outdoors Official Facebook group with someone talking about adding the SnoMaster CL72D. I remember thinking that it looked great, and I had heard good things about the SnoMaster brand. The one thing I didn’t particularly care for was how high this fridge was relative to the window. It kind of blocked access to unlocking and opening the window. At least, it appeared that way in a picture on Facebook.
The next day, we called our friends at CB Adventure Supply in Fort Worth, Texas and talked to them about the options. Side note: If you are close to North Texas, Ryan and Libby are great people who know their stuff, and are more than happy to help. After discussing it with them, they highly recommended the SnoMaster, and just so happened to have an “open box special” on the CL56D. The price was good, so I asked them not to sell it, and told them I’d be there in an hour to pick it up. I’m glad I did, because we were pretty sure this was the last CL56D available, at the time, in the country due to the pandemic.
I actually brought the Habitat with me just to put the unit inside and make sure it fit as expected. Honestly, it fits as though it was the refrigerator designed to be there. It’s perfect.
There are a couple of things that we really like about this model:
- It fit perfectly. This was a huge plus.
- It’s a dual zone unit. This gives us the ability to have a refrigerator/freezer combo. We really don’t use it for a freezer very often, but it’s nice to have the option depending on the trip we have planned. Honestly, we typically put a few drinks on one side and then food on the other. Either way, it works really well.
- It has the ability to be powered both by AC and DC, which is a bonus.
- It has a remote, which can be charged with a mini-HDMI. Additionally, it has a solar panel on the back of the remote, so you can leave it out in the sun for a bit and the remote will be charged up again.
- It’s got a bottle opener on the side. 💯
5. Camp Chairs
It goes without saying that camp chairs are a must when camping. It also goes without saying that there are no shortage of options when looking at camp chairs. You can spend as little as $5 and as much as, well, who knows. Going back to the fact that we wanted the ability to have our chairs in the Habitat and ready to go, and we didn’t want them to take up a tremendous amount of space, we had to be thoughtful about which chairs we were going to get. Previously, we had experience with the REI Flexlite chairs, and we really liked them for a few reasons:
- Incredibly lightweight
- They fold down to a very compact size
- Extremely comfortable
- REI stands behind their stuff
These chairs have turned out to be absolutely fantastic for us for the reasons stated above. Because of how they fold down so compactly in a bag, we are able to store them under the large bed on the passenger side in one of the cubbies. We also have a few of the REI Kids Camp Chairs in addition to ours. The nice thing is that all 5 chairs can fit in the same cubby under the bed.
6. Extra Crates
As a family of 5, you can imagine how quickly you can end up with stuff (to put it politely) thrown all over the place. We wanted to mitigate that to the best of our ability to try and keep things fairly tidy while camping. We’ve found that it just makes for a much better experience while camping. So, we some extra milk crates to use in the Habitat. We ended up using 4 additional crates under the bottom bunk. We store a few different things in them. For us, it has been nice to store all of our clothes in 2 of the crates, and then some “pantry-type” food items, like bread, pancake mix, etc. in the others. It’s worked very well for us, and we are extremely glad to have them. Even with the 4 crates under there, we still have room for a bag of lump charcoal as well as a few other things that we like to have when camping. All in all, it’s a simple upgrade that allows us to keep things in order.
7. Cast Iron Skillet (or other pans)
To me, a cast iron skillet is synonymous with camping. They just belong together.
We bought 2 cast iron skillets (different sizes) to keep in the Habitat at all times. The reason we got the two sizes was so they could fit on the Dometic Dual Stove Top at the same time. We love having the cast iron for obvious reasons. They are easy to clean, and easy to cook with. We like to cook pancakes, eggs, and bacon in the morning. Then we also use them to boil water and warm up tamales, chicken tortilla soup, and pasta with homemade bolognese sauce.
Even if you don’t have cast iron skillet(s), there are plenty of great options that will work for camping. They even have camp cooking sets that all stack inside of one pot to make it nice and small for storage. Regardless of your preference, get you something that you can cook with while you are out in nature.
We first found out about these towels after we had already bought our Mantis. Some friends came over to our house to go swimming, and they brought these towels. They immediately caught my eye because of how tiny they were when they were all wrapped up in their little bag. I was shocked. I was even more surprised when they opened them up and I realized they didn’t only have a towel, but they also come with a hand towel inside.
I immediately went to Amazon and purchased 4 of these for our family. This was such a pleasant upgrade compared to the typical bath towels that we had in the Habitat. You don’t realize it at home, but the standard-issue bath towel takes up a significant amount of space. If I recall right, we couldn’t even fit them all in one cubby under the bed. With the BOGI Microfiber towel, we can store all 4 in one cubby, and still have room to store other items with them. It may sound like a stretch, but these towels realize gave us quite a bit more storage room.
One added perk to these towels is that they have hanging strap on them, which we use to hang them on some paracord on the clothesline hooks at the top-front of the Habitat. This has worked extremely well for us to help them dry out and to prevent them from ending up in the dirt.
9. Camp Table
While our Habitat has ample space inside, we do still like to have a simple camp table on the exterior of the Habitat. We like it because it allows us to store a few things on it, which helps us keep the countertops cleared while we are camping. Some of the things that we typically store on the table during camp are:
- Extra water jugs (we usually carry an extra 12 gallons of water with us)
- Containers to clean our dishes (the containers help conserve water compared to washing them in the sink)
- Kids water cups
- Children’s clothing also tends to gravitate to the surface of the table
- It also provides some shade for a cooler, should you have one with you
We did get a table that folds in half, which is nice while traveling considering that it doesn’t take up much space and we can bungee it down in a number of different places. All in all, we’ve been incredibly pleased by adding this table to our repertoire in the Habitat.
10. Tools & Other Ancillary Things You Might Need
I always think it is wise to be prepared in the event that something goes awry. Knock on wood, but we haven’t needed to use any of them yet, but I’d rather have and not need than need and not have.
Because of the potential, we like to have a few things that we keep in the “junk drawer” (which is just the milk crate that is hardest to reach) in the Habitat. Some of the things that we keep in there are simple sockets and wrenches, spare fuses, quick fire starter, 550 cord, walkie talkies (which are more for fun), and a leatherman tool. You get the gist.
Essentially, stuff you hope to never need but might need in a pinch.
Bonus: Shape+Store Burger Master 8-In-1 Burger Press
We happened to stumble upon this thing on Amazon, and it has been great, for a myriad of reasons. It’s a versatile tool that gives you the opportunity to make a bunch of burger patties, store vegetables, or do whatever you want with it. It also fits perfectly in our SnoMaster refrigerator. If you do burgers, it’s great because the patties are stored and cut into 1/4 pound patties, and you can just flip it over and throw them on top of the Weber Grill grate on top of your Solo Stove. We have two of them, and store a number of different things in them. It just keeps everything nice and clean, and stores away very nicely.