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Renting vs Purchasing Camping Equipment and Supplies

I have been camping for many years now and over time have had the opportunity to purchase much of the gear that I have needed for our adventures. As someone who camps often, I feel confident that when purchasing something to be used when camping, it will get plenty of use.

This was not always the case; when I started camping I was not sure how I would feel about it. And when you don’t own any camping equipment at all, the costs to get started seem staggering.

Unfortunately, at the time I did not have many friends that were camping enthusiasts, meaning I could not borrow a tent from someone to give it a try. Faced with the high costs of purchasing at a minimum a tent and two sleeping bags and my low income, I was not sure I would ever try camping.

Fortunately, there is another option available aside from purchasing equipment; it is possible to rent camping equipment and supplies and this is a great option to consider depending on your circumstances.

Why Rent?

One might initially be hesitant about renting camping equipment, wondering if the money spent on the rental might be better spent on purchasing something that you can hold onto and use again and again. I have found that whether you choose to rent or buy will be dependent on your particular situation.

While renting camping equipment will not save you money in the long term, there are circumstances where rentals make a lot of sense.

  • You are new to camping and are not sure how you will feel about it
  • You are traveling someplace and it would cost you more in baggage fees to bring your equipment with you rather than rent some locally
  • ​You are looking for specialized and expensive equipment for a particular type of trip that you will likely not need often
  • Renting gives you the option to try out the equipment before investing in it

Give Camping a Try Before Investing in the Equipment

For those who have not camped much or at all, you may be starting with nothing as far as equipment. For most it can feel overwhelming to consider purchasing a quality tent and sleeping bags for everyone in your household. Not to mention sleeping pads or air mattresses for some comfort. And what if you purchase those items and find that you really don’t want to be spending the night outside?

Renting equipment will allow you to experience camping without making a significant investment. If you decide that you love it, you can begin purchasing equipment that you will use for a long time to come. If you find you don’t enjoy camping, you will likely have spent less on your equipment rentals than if you had traveled and stayed in a hotel for a few days.

Avoid Those Baggage Fees

We recently took a trip by plane to visit a National Park. This was the first camping trip I had taken in a long time where I did not go by car. Things have changed and when having to pay a fee per bag each way the costs of bringing your equipment along with you add up.

It will depend on how much you intend to bring with you as to whether it is more economical to rent equipment at the location you are flying to rather than bringing your own. In addition to the cost, the convenience of not having to lug your gear through the airport should be considered.

Once (or Twice) in a Lifetime Travel

Perhaps you are a camping regular, however nearly all of your trips are in relatively warm weather. You likely have all of the appropriate equipment for your regular adventures. However now you are planning a trip and you will need special equipment for particularly cold conditions.

Certainly, you can choose to buy another sleeping bag and tent that are suitable for the conditions that you will encounter. However, equipment that is meant for particularly cold conditions is typically more expensive. And you are not planning on regular cold weather excursions.

Renting what you need will ensure you are prepared for your trip without spending a large amount of money on items that will collect dust in your closet or garage.

Try Before You Buy

Perhaps you have been camping a little or a lot and are confident you want to spend more time sleeping in the wilderness. You have purchased inexpensive camping equipment and supplies over the years but are thinking it is time to invest in higher quality items that will last for a long time.

The choices in tents and sleeping bags can feel overwhelming. Renting equipment will give you the opportunity to try the items before you purchase them. You can see how easy (or difficult) it is to set up a particular tent or how warm the sleeping bag is. Through renting, you will be able to feel confident in your decision to purchase a particular item.

The Cost to Rent Vs Buy

Let’s say you are looking to go camping for the first time and would like a four-person tent. Purchasing a tent is an option; there are inexpensive tents available of various quality. For example, you can purchase a Columbia 4-person tent for $99. Of course if you decide you love camping, you might want something of a higher quality. Or if you find you don’t like camping you now have a tent you won’t use.

Should you consider renting, Outdoors Geek offers a variety of tent rentals. An example is the 4-person Limestone tent by Marmot. This tent would sell for over $300 but can be rented for $56 for 4 to 7 days. The rental will provide you with the opportunity to try camping and the particular tent, to see if it is a good option for you.

Outdoors Geek has family camping packages available as well. One package offers a tent, four quality sleeping bags, four quality sleeping pads, a stove, cookware, a camping table, a shower and towels. For a 4-7-day rental for this package, the cost would be $399.00. There is a cost for shipping (UPS based on weight), however even with the shipping cost it is likely less money than it would cost for you and your family to spend four nights in a hotel.

The Time to Buy

With rentals so affordable for high quality equipment, you may wonder if it makes sense to buy equipment at all. If you are planning to camp once a year, it may not. Renting will allow you to always have the most updated items and you won’t have to worry about long-term maintenance.

On the other hand, if you know that you will camp regularly, you will definitely save money in the long run by purchasing your own equipment. After four or five trips you will have spent on the rental of the Marmot Limestone tent the same amount of money it would have cost to purchase it.

You might also choose to rent in an effort to determine if a particular product is the one for you. Should you find that the product you rented and used is indeed what you are looking for, you will be able to make the purchase with the confidence that you are getting exactly what you are looking for.

While you may not have considered renting camping equipment, it is an option to consider in several different circumstances. Renting equipment will give you the opportunity to learn if you enjoy camping and want to sleep outdoors regularly. It will also give you the chance to try particular products without having to make a significant financial commitment.

Have you rented camping equipment before? Please share your experience.

  • Updated January 29, 2017
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Ilyssa is a mother of four who is employed full-time as a grant writer and who enjoys writing freelance articles in her spare time. Ilyssa has a great love of adventure and the outdoors, which she hopes she is passing along to her children. Last summer Ilyssa and her family took a five week road trip, camping and exploring most of the western United States. The trip inspired Ilyssa to work towards achieving flexible employment and/or financial freedom, so that she and her family may continue to travel and explore all nature has to offer, and not just for a few weeks out of the year.