Updated: Dec 13, 2021
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.
(Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a small commission at zero extra cost to you. I link to these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission. Thank you!)
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.
Low-cost Option: Ozark Trails "2 -Person 4-Season Backpacking tent"
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
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)
High-End Option: Nemo "Dagger 2P"
tons of internal space
very light for a 2 person tent (3.5 lbs)
all in one, lightweight, 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
So sturdy it kept me safe through a long and windy thunderstorm
fragile (just light any ultralight tent you should take care, but that's what the footprint is for )
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 carry 30lbs on your back, over 3 days and 25 miles of hiking without crying every day wishing you never did this. Walmart's bag selection does not have any type of good support, and their weak 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.
Low-cost Option: Kelty "Coyote 65"
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)
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
High-end option: Osprey "Aura AG 65"
Men's Version: Osprey "Atmos AG 65"
most popular and trusted backpacking brands
Anti-gravity (AG) 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 internal space
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.
Low-cost Option: Military Surplus Sleeping Bags
(I don't have a link for this one, but a quick Google or eBay search should bring up plenty)
usually down feather filled
very sturdy outer material
trusted temperature rating
only come in very large sizes
High-End Option: Big Agnes "Mirror Lake 20"
Men's Version: Big Agnes "Boot Jack 25"
perfect fit for women
trusted temperature rating (slept in this bag on a 25 degree night, and I survived, so proof?)
ultralight (2lbs 8oz)
the hood can tighten closely around your face for extra warmth
only 600 down fill ( meaning not as much "loft" as higher-end bags but hasn't hindered performance for me)
While my low-cost options are still being used to this day, I'm so glad I put in the weeks of research to buy some of the best camping gear on the market. Now that I've used them on many trips, and in many different conditions, I gladly stand by my decision to upgrade. While these choices might not work for everyone's situation, I think this is a good starting point for brands and costs to get you started on your camping journey.
Until Next Time,