So you wanna go camping. You're not so sure that you are completely in love with the idea of sleeping with the raccoons but you wanna give it a fair shake. I mean those travel hashtags look so convincing on IG , right? As I mentioned in my guide on saving money at the REI Garage sale, I think it’s important to try hiking or camping with the best gear you can afford the first time. But what happens when you're between Garage Sales and need gear for your first trip? Picture this, a sudden rainstorm and you got a leaky tent? Boom, you're now wet and miserable for your entire trip. Granted only so much can be done to prevent getting wet, dirty or sore, but sleeping in a puddle all weekend can be avoided if you do it right. I’ve made a quick list of affordable gear that I’ve actually used this past year. Happy shopping! :)
Outon Portable Camping Stove
So you want to cook a meal huh? I’m sure your first night you will be starving and want to eat something as quickly as possible. I recommend planning a meal that requires zero prep and is easy to throw on the grill quickly, but which grill? This grill is my go to for all car camping trips. Learning to cook over a fire can be a pain in the butt (read about my trip on the struggle-bus building my first fire here: #). I always carry this backpacking grill to easily start a fire and help me quickly throw down on some food. It may look mini but this thing can hold my huge dutch oven cast iron skillet with no wobbling. The best part about this grill is that it takes minimal bio-fuel to heat it up and keep it going. It came in handy most for me after it rained while we were out on our day hike. We returned back to camp to a flooded fire pit & two starving kids. I threw a few coals in the grill and we had sausages, onions and toasted buns in under 15 minutes.
HiHill Waterproof Tent
I was surprised at how lightweight this tent was for the price. To be far I believe that was primarily due to the fact that it had wood like material for the poles (my least favorite feature), but for a newbie tent I recommend it. Other than the poles and a slightly snaggy door I think this tent is a great value for the price. Our first night at camp we were invaded by spiders (ahhh) and ants. I am a legit arachnophobe and was very relieved that all spiders (and ants) stayed outside my tent! This tent features a double layered rainfly which was thoroughly tested on day two when a very heavy rain storm hit us. I had zero issues with leaking or flooding. The back of the rainfly did seem to be cut an inch or two too short so a bit of rain splashed back into the tent. Once it stopped raining I just readjusted the rainfly to correct the gap, so this could have been user’s error. I think this tent will last a few trips with careful use. My main concern being the fragility of the poles, as I’ve yet to experience any heavy wind. Overall I think this is a great deal to checkout how you feel about sleeping in the woods.
Pros: Light weight, Rainproof, Great value for the price
Cons: Pole durability seems sketchy, Door zipper sticks in corners because the door was cut in a strange shape
Airlite Sleeping Pad
Sleeping on rocks, roots and unleveled ground ain't fun my friend. You will need time to adjust to sleeping outdoors on it’s own so at least be comfortable while you toss and turn and wonder if that twig snapping was a curious raccoon or an ax-murderer sneaking through camp. Most newbies go through the scary phase of sleeping outdoors, do it in comfort.
Pros: You can adjust the firmness of the mat with the air valves, Durable, Built-in foot pump
Cons: A bit narrow, Squeaky ( I mean this can help keep bears away. Hehe, I kid, I kid.)
Suisse Sport Sleeping Bag
A super duper compressible sleeping bag aint gonna be cheap my friend. I still have yet to pay more than $80.00 for a bag but will have to do so for my upcoming trip to Sedona. Until then, this is my bag of choice. It’s long enough for me to sleep comfortably and toss and turn like a manic. It’s rated to 10 degrees but the lowest temperature where I felt warm and toasty was 35. I used this bag this past weekend where temperatures dipped into the 20's and I was cold. I would have been absolutely frozen at 10 degrees so I don't recommend pushing it any lower than 20. I don't recommend your first trip being in the dead of winter, so if you're camping in spring or fall you're golden. I will be unable to take this trip to Sedona, as it doesn’t compress so well, but works fine as a car camping bag.
Pros: Great cool weather bag, Soft and comfortable, Zips up/down easily
Cons: Does not compress well, can be hard to rollup and put back in stuff sack
Etekcity LED Camping Lantern
Let there be….. yeah that was corny – moving on. You will need some light to help calm your fears about what may, or most likely may not be lurking in the dark. I’m a fan of these guys because they can be tied to trees, the light hook in your HiHill Waterproof Tent or placed on your camp table. They are very bright and seem to be very durable.
Pros: Bright AF, easy to open and close, pretty light weight
Cons: None so far
Very durable little knife, and I'm totally surprised I haven't lost it yet! Whoop, go me! This pocket knife is great, affordable, strong and very light weight thanks to the open handle design.
Pros: Light and durable, very sharp
Cons: None so far