Buy from “trusted and ethical” companies, says the Better Business Bureau.
When the weather is sunny, people actively seek out various outdoor activities, with camping becoming more and more popular among them.
However, with the options available for tents, sleeping bags, and other camping essentials, choosing the right gear for a camping trip can be overwhelming.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends the following tips to help you buy the camping gear that best suits your personal needs.
Choose a tent for your needs
When choosing the right tent, you should consider three main aspects: size, weight and seasonality.
If you’re car camping and weight isn’t a concern, go big. Tents are often listed by the number of people they will sleep in. Even if a tent sleeps six, that doesn’t mean you’ll be comfortable. Instead, consider buying a tent that is much larger than what you need. This gives you a lot of freedom of movement and plenty of space for children, pets and equipment.
On the other hand, if tent weight is an issue, plan for a backpack-specific tent that gives you enough space to sleep with minimal weight. For serious thru-hikers, guy line tents are a good ultralight option, although they can be a bit more difficult to set up.
Camping season depends on what type of weather a tent can endure, so you need to consider the weather conditions where you intend to camp. Three-season tents are designed for relatively moderate conditions in spring, summer and fall. They usually have lots of mesh panels to give the tent good airflow and keep you safe from bugs. They also protect campers from rain. Three to four season tents (or 3+ seasons) are slightly sturdier with fewer or smaller mesh panels. They can be used in summer but are also a good choice for early spring or late fall when it’s snowing. Finally, 4 season tents are designed to protect campers in harsher conditions and can withstand significant snow and wind. These tents can be used all year round but can get hot and stuffy in the summer heat.
Get a comfortable sleeping bag
When choosing a sleeping bag, pay attention to temperature ratings, size and shape, and materials.
Temperature specifications can vary quite a bit from manufacturer to manufacturer, but generally winter bags are rated below -15°C, 3-season bags are rated from -15°C to -1°C and summer bags are rated for 0°C and above . You can also view the EN (European Standard) rating of the bag. This indicates the lowest temperature at which you intend to use the pouch. Women’s bags use the predicate “T-Comfort”, men’s bags “T-Limit”. Be warned that temperature readings are not an exact science; much depends on your personal tolerance.
If you’re buying a bag from a brick-and-mortar store, jump in and try out the bag you’re considering. You should make sure your feet don’t hit the bottom of the bag. This compresses the insulation and reduces its effectiveness, resulting in cold feet at night. Also, you have to choose between mummy sleeping bags and square sleeping bags. Mummy pockets taper towards the feet and fit snugly, maximizing thermal efficiency. They are also generally more compressible, making them ideal for backpacking. Square sleeping bags aren’t as good at heat retention, but they do give you a little more room to roll around. Square sleeping bags are more suitable for summer weather and car camping.
Sleeping bags are generally made from either down or synthetic materials. Down sleeping bags have a significantly better warmth-to-weight ratio, but are not suitable for humid climates. When wet, they quickly lose their insulating properties. Down bags have a fill power of 600 to 900. The higher the number, the warmer the sleeping bag. Synthetic bags retain heat much better in humid or humid climates and dry quickly, but they are much heavier and bulkier, making them more difficult to carry on multi-day backpacking trips. A few downsides to synthetic bags are that they don’t last as long as down bags and tend to lose their insulating power when compressed for long periods of time. However, they are usually significantly cheaper than down sleeping bags.
Choose your camp cookware
A basic camp kitchen includes a stove, cooler, pots, plates, cups and cutlery. A two-burner propane camp stove lets you cook your breakfast of choice while you boil water for your coffee. It’s a good idea to pack a few extra cans of propane to last you the length of your trip. You will also need a lighter to get the fire going.
Choose a cooler with enough space for the perishable foods and drinks you want to keep cool, and fill it with enough ice to keep everything cold.
As for pots and utensils, bring everything you need to prepare and eat food. You can buy camping-specific utensils or bring them from home; Just make sure whatever you bring is durable enough to withstand travel and camp use. If you’re staying a few days, bring some laundry tubs, biodegradable dish soap, a scrubber, and a tea towel to clean the dirty dishes.
Don’t forget other camping essentials
Packing for a camping trip can be a challenge; You can’t just walk to the corner store if you’ve forgotten something. Make sure you bring your toiletries with you. Even if you’re not camping in a primitive place, you’ll need soap, shampoo, towels, and in some cases, toilet paper. Other essentials that might come in handy are a first aid kit, sunscreen and insect repellent, and hand sanitizer.
Other gear you’ll need for your trip includes lighting like flashlights, headlamps, electric lanterns, camp chairs (mesh chairs dry quickly if you’re expecting rain or dew), and a folding table if your campground doesn’t have a picnic table. Many campers invest in a groundsheet, a specially adapted groundsheet that protects your tent floor from damage and moisture, and sleeping pads to fit under your sleeping bag for extra comfort and warmth. A Swiss army knife or another multi-tool is also often useful. A broom, dustpan, and indoor/outdoor mats aren’t essential, but they can help you clean your tent on multi-day camping trips.
BBB encourages you to consider these tips when making your purchase.
- Buy from trusted places
- Check company reviews before making a purchase. Make sure you buy from trusted and ethical companies.
- Research where you are going
- Be careful when buying online
- Buying camping gear online is convenient, but please make sure you are buying from a reputable online retailer. Read customer reviews, equipment description and return policy carefully before you click “buy”. Additionally, it’s always best to use your credit card to make online purchases just in case you have to dispute charges later.
- Keep sales receipts and product warranties in a safe place
- You may want or need to return a product or request an exchange or repair if there is a problem with your purchase. Therefore, always keep your product receipt and warranty documents in a safe place.
If you come across a scam, you are encouraged to report it to the BBB’s Scam Tracker or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
You can also find more information on the BBB website.