Planning on taking advantage of the long Labor Day weekend and heading out to a Campsite Near You? Don’t have the gear to make that happen or the cash to kit up on the fly?
You might want to try renting.
While renting isn’t necessarily the most economical way to get your camping basics—it can sometimes be cheaper to buy a bottom-shelf tent at Target that you’ll use a few times than to rent a better one—it can be a good stop-gap when you don’t want to commit to buying the whole kaboodle for a single trip.
Renting is also a good way to try before you buy. Not sure about that $330 MSR Hubba Hubba tent you’ve read about? Rent it for three days for $55, and apply half of that cost towards the purchase of a new one—only if you like it, of course.
Keep this in mind: Although your rental gear will probably have signs of use, most outfitters guarantee that their rentals are in good working order and clean them thoroughly between renters. (Make doubly sure of this in the case of sleeping bags!) But if something goes wrong—say, your tent has a leak—you’ll likely get a refund for the rental, but not for your busted weekend. Also, if a raccoon chews through your tent to get to your stash of Oreos, you might be on the hook for the full price. Read the fine print.
With these considerations in mind, here are three ways to rent yourself a camping trip—or the gear, anyway:
1. Your local outdoor outfitter
Big chains like REI and EMS rent outdoor equipment, but also check with your local Mom ‘n’ Pop. As you might expect, availability isn’t always guaranteed, especially on holiday weekends, so call ahead to see if they have what you need. A couple good reasons to rent from a store: you can see (and inspect!) what you’re getting and have the opportunity to ask questions. One major con: you’re bound by store hours, so picking up and returning without incurring overtime fees can be a chore.
That’s right: there are outfitters who will actually ship you gear Netflix-style. Next-day rentals can be a risky bet, so this isn’t the best choice for spontaneous adventures. A few options:
Based out of a brick-and-mortar store in Tempe, Ariz., this website ships anywhere in the United States via UPS. You’re only on the clock for the time you actually have the gear—unless it arrives a day early, in which case that one’s a freebie. They provide a shipping label for return in the same box. Postage is on you, though.
Gear To Go Outfitters
Based in Brooklyn, Gear To Go operates in much the same way as LowerGear. It uses FedEx instead of UPS and only charges for the time you have your gear. It has the essentials—backpacks, tents, sleeping pads and bags, cooking equipment—as well as crampons and snowshoes for your winter adventures. If you like what you rent, you can apply half the rental cost towards the purchase of a new item.
The great thing about Denver-based OutdoorsGeek is that you can rent entire packages of name-brand gear rather than getting the tent, sleeping bag, etc. a la carte. A basic 3-day, two-person camping rental includes tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad for $85. OutdoorsGeek also offers a unique “Try It” option, in which they send you brand-new gear for rent, and you let them know at the end of the rental if you want to keep it. The entire rental price plus an additional 10 percent is deducted from the purchase price. They even sell camping food.
Mountain Side Gear Rental
These guys also rent car camping kits for varying lengths of time. A basic two-person, 3-day kit runs for $127.77, but includes many extras that OutdoorsGeek’s equivalent kit doesn’t: a camp stove, cook set, first aid kit and more.
3. Your local university
Many universities now have on-campus outfitting offices, and, if you’re lucky, your local U rents to the general public. (Bonus if you’re a student.) The selection is often more limited, but the prices can be significantly lower than renting from a store.