• Hannah Smentkowski

Damn, Camping is Expensive: my top 3 cheap and pricey camping gear that I use

Updated: Feb 25

I love camping gear (and my dog, I swear). Everything from headlamps to backpacks to tents, I know each piece of gear I acquire will get me that much closer to a better outdoor experience. I used to work for a local outdoor gear store so I was lucky to snag some kick ass deals for a while, but damn is camping expensive!

Today I'm here to show you some of my favorite camping pieces I have acquired. From the top of the line to some great low cost options so you can decide what works best for you and your budget.

1. Tents

I started shopping for my very first solo outdoor adventure at good 'ol Walmart. As much as I detest shopping there, I'm still broke, in my 20s, and we all have to start somewhere. To this day I'm still using that tent for car camping and I love it, but you're going to want something a lot lighter for backpacking, and that's where the expensive option comes in.

Cheap option: Ozark Trails "2 -Person 4-Season Backpacking tent" $40

Link: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Ozark-Trail-2-Person-4-Season-Tent-with-2-Vestibules-and-full-fly/55208714?selected=true

Pros: -very sturdy (bought 4 years ago with little damage so far)

-tons of inside space, with 2 large outdoor vestibules

-great for 1-2 people car camping

Cons: -weight (at nearly 6lbs, I wouldn't really consider it a backpacking tent unless you're lucky enough to split it between two hikers)

-definitely not a 4-season tent (3-season sure, but I do not recommend using this tent in winter)

Expensive Option: Nemo "Dagger 2P" $430

Link: https://www.nemoequipment.com/product/dagger/

Pros: -tons of internal space

-very light for a 2 person tent (3.5 lbs)

-all in one, light weight, color coded poles (all of the poles are connected, so even my dumb ass can't lose one)

-2 large vestibules for gear storage

-diffused fabric on top internal pockets to use your headlamp as a lantern

Cons: - fragile (the lightweight material is prone to punctures, but that's what the footprint is for: https://www.nemoequipment.com/product/dagger-footprint/ )

2. Backpacking Packs

This is one of the items I will urge you to NEVER buy at Walmart!!

A backpacking bag should have an internal or external frame to support the bag and your back. This frame is one of the key components that allow you to to carry 30lbs on your back, over 3 days and 25 miles of hiking without crying everyday wishing you never did this. Walmart's bag selection does not have any type of support, and their weak ass hip belts aren't going to save you. Believe me when I say do not skimp on your backpack, if you buy a good one, it should last you a lifetime.

"Cheap" option: Kelty "Coyote 65" $160

Link: https://www.kelty.com/coyote-65/

Pros: - comfortable hip belts and back support

- so many pockets!

-moveable suspension so it can fit many sized people

-top lid turns into a day pack! (at least my older version does)

Cons: - no front open option (my old version had this, and I don't know why they got rid of it)

- poor back ventilation

-suspension is not easy to adjust

Expensive option: Osprey "Aura AG 65" $270

Link: https://www.osprey.com/us/en/product/aura-ag-65-AURA65S18_568.html

Men's Version: Osprey "Atmos AG 65" $270

Link: https://www.osprey.com/us/en/product/atmos-ag-65-ATMOS65S18.html

Pros: -Most popular and trusted backpacking brands

-"Anti-gravity" suspension system

- super comfortable

- great ventilation

- easy to adjust for most body types

- "All-mighty guarantee" (they will fix anything on your bag forever, and if they can't fix it they'll send you a brand new bag)

-adjustable and comfortable hip belts

-tons of space

Cons: -no front entry to bag (only top and bottom)

- not as many organizational pockets as I would prefer

-top lid does remove, but does not convert to a day pack

3. Sleeping Bags

This is another item that is really split into 2 categories: car camping and backpacking. A car camping bag will typically be made out of synthetic materials and be much heavier. A backpacking sleeping bag will most likely be filled with down feathers and be light and compressible for better "packability". For any sleeping bag, I suggest you stay around the 35-degree mark or lower, so you can use the bag in varying degrees of weather.

Cheap Option: Army Surplus Sleeping Bags ~$30

(I don't really have a link for this one, but you can find them at any army surplus store near you or on eBay)

Pros: -usually down feather filled

- very sturdy outer material

-trusted temperature rating


Cons: -so freaking heavy!

-too big for most women (this means you can lose heat from the bag)

Expensive Option: Big Agnes "Mirror Lake 20" $230

Link: https://www.bigagnes.com/Mirror-Lake-20_2?quantity=1&custcol7=20&custcol14=2

Men's Version: Big Agnes "Boot Jack 25" $200

Link: https://www.bigagnes.com/Boot-Jack-25_2?quantity=1&custcol7=20&custcol14=1

Pros: -perfect fit for women

-very comfy

-trusted temperature rating (slept in this bag on a 25 degree night, and I survived, so proof?)

-super light (2lbs 8oz)

-anti-snag zipper

-hood can tighten closely around your face for extra warmth

Cons: -only 600 down fill ( meaning not as much "loft" as higher-end bags)

When I bought my expensive options I put a shit ton of research into what I wanted to get. Now that I've used them on many trips, and in many different conditions, I gladly stand by my decisions. While these choices might not work for everyone's situation, I think this is a good starting point of brands and options to check out.

Feel free to ask me questions through the comment section below or email me privately.

Happy Camping!

Hannah Unbound is in no way affiliated with any of the brands presented in this post. I just highly recommend them from my own experiences with their products.

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Hey there! My name is Hannah Smentkowski, I'm an adventure travel photographer, and a huge plant nerd! 

Here I share my traveling, camping, and hiking adventures in hopes of inspiring you to go outside and explore.

Even introverts are social sometimes...

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