'Round The Campfire

What camping gear do I need for my first camping trip and where can I get it?

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Sleeping bags in a store
Renting camping gear is easy, from a store or online

I am going on my first camping trip and I need equipment. I don't really know what I should take and I don't want to invest in camping gear until I know that I like camping. What should I do? What are my options?

Dear Camper,

Going on a camping trip for the first time is an exciting experience. Whether your goal is to dive in and explore or simply catch up with friends in a new environment, you're bound to have a good time. But in order to have a good time you need to have the right gear. And camping gear can get expensive. So what do you do?

Our suggestion: rent camping gear. With the advent of the internet, renting camping equipment is now an easy process. There are many websites that offer camping equipment for rent that will ship to your door. These sites work in a similar fashion to Netflix; you order your equipment and it is shipped directly to your door a day before you leave for your trip. If you are traveling to a destination you can arrange to have your gear sent directly to your destination. Once you are finished using the rental equipment, you simply attach the return label and send it back.

Four websites that provide rental shipping services are Gogitto.com, Lowergear.com, Mountainside Gear Rental and Outdoorsgeek.com.

At Lowergear.com you choose each piece of equipment that you want. For example, a two person tent with two sleeping bags and two sleeping pads costs $78 for three days, not including shipping. To help beginners Gogitto.com, Mountainside Gear Rental and Outdoorsgeek.com offer rental packages that take most of the guesswork out of what to bring on a camping trip by including all the basic essential items. The Gogitto.com All Adult Car Camping Package includes a two person tent, two sleeping bags, two sleeping pads, dish and utensils for two, a cookware set, stove, coffee pot and lantern. The package costs $70.50 for three days, excluding shipping charges. Mountainside Gear Rental offer a Car Camping 2 person, 3-day package for $115.50 excluding shipping. This is the most extensive all in one package including, a four person tent, two sleeping bags, sleeping pad for the tent, camp stove, plates, bowls, forks, spoons, knives, and cups, coffee pot, lantern, matches, rope, batteries, can opener, fire starter, first aid kit and various other useful items. The Outdoorsgeek.com 2 Person camping rental package with 1 tent includes a two person tent, two sleeping bags, two sleeping pads. The package costs $79.00 for three days, excluding shipping charges, and is also perfect for car camping. You can order extra items individually.

Another option is to visit your local camping store or a REI, Eastern Mountain Sports or another nationwide or regional sporting goods retailer to find out what type of camping gear is available to rent.

What Camping Equipment do I need?

Now the hard part - what equipment is necessary. This really depends on your trip. How long are you staying? How big is your party? Will you be hiking or doing some other physical activity? What is your plan for meals? If you are traveling with a large party, you should rent enough tents to comfortably accommodate everyone.

If you're going to be backpacking keep in mind that synthetic sleeping bags are bulkier than down bags. Down feathers compress very easily and get much smaller than synthetic materials, especially with the help of a compression sack. Also consider the temperature rating of the sleeping bag you plan to rent. Sleeping bags come in a variety of temperature ratings designed for specific weather conditions. So be sure you don't rent a sleeping bag designed for sub- freezing temperatures when you're camping in the summer!

As always, make sure you bring food that is canned or easily heated on a stove. Unless you're expecting to eat gourmet meals, many can foods are already "cooked" saving time and effort. Many new campers neglect the importance of a First Aid kit (see Camping first aid kit essentials for details of what should be in your first aid kit) and bug repellant. These items may seem trivial while packing but prove to be essential when you're surrounded by bugs or have a cut that needs attention) Make sure to bring extra clothing - you never know when the weather might change! For more details read What to bring with you on a tent camping trip.

Deciding what to bring on your first camping trip can be a challenge. Fortunately, the option to rent gear allows you to be fully prepared for your camping experience while keeping your expenditures to a minimum. That's something worth celebrating!

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