The Ultimate Camping Gear Shopping Guide of 2017

With spring in full bloom, it’s that time of the year to start getting ready for upcoming camping trips. Whether you're new to camping or a veteran, you may need to buy some new gear this season and we're here to help! You may be asking yourself, what type of gear is a necessity? What’s in style? How do I know when I need to toss out my old gear? Luckily for you, this ultimate shopping guide should help answer all those questions.

When purchasing camping gear, you should keep in mind that the items you buy should be suited to how you plan on camping and whether or not you can carry it. After all, how else are you going to lug it all around? The more expensive type of equipment is backpacking gear, but only because it is made of the lightest materials for day-long hikes. However, today we will be going over all of the types of gear you will need no matter what adventure you have planned

Camping Gear and What You Need to Know

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Tents, Poles, Stakes, and Tarps

One of your top priorities should be what you’re planning on sleeping in on your camping trips. Tents come in a range of shapes and sizes, depending on what type of camping you’re doing. Some are more lightweight for day hikes, while others are best for stationary use and are more luxurious. When looking to purchase a tent, first determine how many people you plan on fitting in it, then decide what kind of weather conditions you may be facing, the last thing you want to consider is the price. Although this may seem worrying to hear, tents can be expensive. However, one key point to keep in mind is that tents can last for years. For example, one tent may cost you $400. However, if it lasts for four years, you’re only paying for the tent $100 a year, which is rather cheap.

Sleeping Bags and Pads

Much like tents, sleeping bags also come in a range of different shapes and sizes that determine what kind of outing you are going on. For example, some sleeping bags have negative degree temperature protection for camping in the winter, while some sleeping bags have thinner, mesh lining for summer use. The majority of sleeping bags that last for many years cost around $180. However, if you plan to go on only one outing a year in warmer temperatures, you can purchase a decent one for $50 or less.

Backpacks

Backpacks play a very important role in camping. Not only do they fit everything you need for the day, but if you're hiking you'll want to bring it along with you. Therefore, the difference between a high-quality bag and a cheaper one could save you from back strain or even personal injury. Most good backpacks go for $100 and are often covered in mesh with extra back padding for a more comfortable fit.

Lighting

Unsurprisingly it gets dark at night in the middle of the woods. Besides your trusty matches, you are going to need to invest in a flashlight to see clearly. The best types of flashlights that get the job done are LED, but the more durable LED flashlights can be quite expensive, going for around $50. So instead, why not look to a solar powered light? Instead of carrying around batteries and having to worry about them dying, with solar powered flashlights, all you need to do is charge them during the day in direct sunlight and you'll be set once nighttime rolls around. Plus, some even have built-in USB ports to help charge your electronic devices at the same time. Solar powered flashlights run as cheap as $10.

Water Filtration Systems

When camping, you can only bring as much water as you, or your car can carry. Although most campsites have clean drinking water, some don’t offer it and you’re going to have to invest in a water filtration system or tablets to help provide yourself with safe drinking water. The most affordable drinking tablets go for only $20 and come in small packets for easy portability.

Hiking Boots

Hiking boots are an incredibly important necessity, especially if you are planning on a backpacking trip or hiking throughout the day. However, you don’t necessarily have to opt in for boots. Hiking shoes are also a very comfortable hiking tool and are even often better than boots since they allow for better ankle movement and are lightweight. However, for those who are camping in more mild or inclement weather, hiking boots are a great option since they offer more protection and can be more stable than hiking shoes. Hiking boots and shoes can run from anywhere between $50 and $400 so it's important to do your research and test a few out before you commit to purchasing a pair.

Paper Maps

Sometimes it’s not in your best interest to trust technology all the time. Once you're in the woods, getting service to your phone or GPS can be tricky and if you don’t have a portable charger on you, your electronics may die. Therefore, it’s important that whenever you go camping to have a paper map of where you will be going. In addition, it’s also important that you mark nearby ranger stations and park entrances on your map before you go camping so you’ll already know where you can go in case of an emergency.

First Aid Kit

Having a first aid kit amongst your gear is vital in case you run into an emergency situation. In your kit, be sure to have the following: aspirin, gauze, bandaids, moleskin, aloe vera, sunscreen, and bug spray. To make the perfect first aid kit, make a list of every possible health-related situation you could run into while camping and pack the necessary items that can heal or temporarily fix that condition until you can receive proper treatment.

Barbecues and Fuel

Sure cooking over a fire can make you look like a pro camper, but most people nowadays usually use stoves to cook and heat their food on. Not only is using a stove easier but your food tends to cook better on a stove versus a campfire. You can find small lightweight stoves that fit into a daypack for as cheap as $20 and more bulkier but higher quality barbecues for around $150.

A Few Reminders

Anything you decide to bring along on your trip should be packed based on your weather. For example, you wouldn’t pack a ski jacket and gloves if you’re going on a backpacking trip in the middle of the summer. Try to pack as light as possible but ensure you have the proper gear so you are comfortable. Remember to also keep in mind how you will be eating while you’re camping. Plan your meals, pack light and try to meal prep before hand. Check out what type of campsite you will be going to prior to leaving. This way you'll know if there is drinkable water, electricity and on-site restrooms. Remember to keep this guide in mind every time you go camping to make sure you are fully prepared for your adventure!

Online Shopping Guide For Camping Gear

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REI

REI is one of the best places you can shop online for gear. Their selection is expansive and they sell supplies from top camping brands. Though their prices may be higher, it's worth it when you know you are getting high-quality gear.
Return Policy: REI boasts a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you are unhappy with your purchase, you can return it for a refund or replacement within one year of the purchase date. You can return products with manufacturing defects at any time. Their guarantee does not cover regular wear and tear.
Pros
- Huge selection of manufacturers
- Fantastic return policy
- Sells everything you will need for your camping trip
Cons:
- Expensive

Cabela's

Cabela's is great for purchasing most outdoor gear, including camping, hiking, fishing, and hunting equipment. Their website is well organized and they sell a variety of essential supplies online.
Return Policy: Cabela’s offers a 90-day warranty on all of their products, just be sure you bring your receipt. If you purchase Cabela’s brand name merchandise, it is covered for a lifetime!
Pros:
- Easy to navigate website
- Sells more than just camping equipment
- Competitive prices
Cons:
- More focused on hunting than camping

Bass Pro Shops

Bass Pro Shops is mostly known for their fishing gear, but they also sell a variety of outdoor equipment as well. They offer all of the essentials and often have great sales!
Return Policy: Bass Pro Shops will accept returns for up to 60 days from the purchase date. After 60 days, the return will only be accepted after it passes inspection.
Pros:
- Great for campers who love fishing
- Large online selection of gear
- Easy to navigate through the website
Cons:
- Short return policy

Walmart

Though Walmart may not be the first store that comes to mind when looking for camping gear, they do have a vast selection of supplies. They offer a variety of products from top camping brands at low prices.
Return Policy: Walmart offers a 90-day return policy on all of their outdoors products. Any product can be returned by mail or at any in-store location.
Pros:
- Low prices
- Exhibits customer reviews
Cons:
- Only sell basics in camping equipment

Target

Target is another big box store that sells a surprising amount of gear. In fact, their online selection is much larger than their in-store offerings.
Return Policy: Target gives its shoppers 90 days to return or exchange their products. Just be sure to bring the original packaging and your receipt. Otherwise, the return may be rejected.
Pros:
- Cheap prices
- User-friendly website
Cons:
- Smaller selection of gear than other websites

Amazon

Amazon is the biggest online retailer for almost anything you need. They sell a huge variety of camping and outdoor gear. Plus, you can read reviews from users to see which gear actually works.
Return Policy: When you purchase something from Amazon.com, you have 30 days to return it. If you buy from a third party seller on Amazon, their return policy may be different.
Pros:
- Large selection of sellers from around the world
- Prime customers get free two-day shipping
- Easy to find bargain deals
Cons:
- Limited amount of time to return

 

Sears

The Sears website has a larger camping section than most of their brick and mortar stores, though less than a dedicated outdoors store would. Sears also provides low prices and a very easy to use website.
Return Policy: When you purchase something from Sears, you have 30 days to return it.
Pros:
- Intuitive website makes it easy to find exactly what you are looking for
- Cheap prices
Cons:
- Small selection of gear

Essential Camping Gear Checklist

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Get your PDF copy of The Ultimate 2017 Camping Gear Checklist here

Camp Site

  • Tent with stakes
  • Tarps
  • Mat for Tent/ Camper Entrance
  • Dust Pan & Broom
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Blankets
  • Pillows
  • Air Mattress/Sleeping Pad
  • Air Pump
  • Air Mattress Repair Kit
  • Axe or Hammer
  • Multi-toll knife
  • Firewood
  • Firestarters - Newspaper/Magazine
  • Folding Chairs
  • Folding Table
  • Flashlight/lantern
  • Water filter system
  • Laminated map
  • Matches/lighter

Clothing

  • Sneakers/Boots/Sandals
  • Jeans/Pants
  • Shorts
  • T-Shirts
  • Long Sleeve Shirts
  • Socks (Bring Extra!)
  • Underwear
  • Sweatshirt
  • Jacket
  • Raincoat
  • Hat
  • Pajamas
  • Bathing Suit & Towel
  • Laundry Bag

Personal

  • Towels/Wash Cloths
  • Shampoo
  • Soap/Body Wash
  • Toothbrush/Tooth Paste
  • Comb/Brush
  • Razor
  • Lotion
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Toilet Paper
  • Pain Relievers/Medications
  • Feminine Products
  • Glasses/Contacts
  • Mirror

Cooking

  • Cooler/Ice
  • Stove with Propane/Fuel
  • Coffee Pot
  • Matches/Lighter
  • Large Water Jug
  • Tablecloth
  • Plates/Bowls/Cups
  • Utensils
  • Garbage Bags
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Paper Towels
  • Napkins
  • Dish Soap and sponge
  • Washing Bin for Dishes
  • Cooking Oil/Spray
  • Food Storage Containers
  • Pots/Frying Pans
  • Cooking Utensils - Spatula/Spoons/Knife/Tongs
  • Skewers/Grill Forks
  • Can Opener
  • Cutting Board
  • Plastic Grocery Bags
  • Resealable Plastic Bags
  • Dish Rags/Towels

Other Necessities

  • Extra Batteries
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Repellant
  • Camera
  • Books/Magazines
  • Backpack
  • Fishing Gear/License
  • Bikes
  • Radio/stereo
  • Sunglasses
  • First Aid Kit
  • Tissues
  • Cards/Games
  • Pad of Paper/Pens
  • Scissors
  • Duck Tape