BBB Tip: Shopping for tenting gear


Heather Massey is Vice President of Communications for the Better Business Bureau in the Permian Basin. Visit or call 563-1880.

Outdoor activities are growing in popularity as families seek activities like camping to get out and enjoy the fresh air. This means that there are many people in the camping gear market. With so many options for tents, sleeping bags and other essentials, choosing the right gear can quickly become overwhelming.

The first step is to decide what you want your camping trip to be like. Are you driving to camp at a local state park? Do you hike and carry all your gear in a backpack? Are you camping for just one night or for a longer period? Once you know the answers, you can start shopping for gear.

BBB recommends the following tips to help you purchase the camping gear that best suits your personal needs.


There are three main considerations when choosing the right tent: size, weight and seasonality.

If you’re car camping and weight isn’t a concern, go big. Tent sizes are often described by the number of people they can accommodate. Even if a tent sleeps six, that doesn’t mean you’ll be comfortable. Instead, consider buying a tent that is significantly larger than you need. This gives you a lot of freedom of movement and plenty of space for children, pets and equipment. Check the peak height if you intend to stand in your tent. Even if you are backpacking and need to carry your tent, it is still much more convenient to go with a tent that is one person larger than you need.

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 hikers, non-freestanding 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 are slightly more stable with fewer or smaller mesh panels. They can be used in the summer but are also a good choice for seasons when snow might occur. Finally, four-season tents 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.


There are a few things to consider when choosing a sleeping bag such as: B. temperature values, size, shape and materials.

Temperature ratings can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but generally winter bags are rated for 10 degrees below zero (in Fahrenheit), three-season bags for 10-35 degrees, and summer bags for 35 degrees and higher. 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. Bags for women use the predicate “T-Comfort”, bags for men use “T-Limit”. Remember that temperatures are not an exact science; much will depend on your tolerance.

As for size and shape, you have a few options there too. Women’s specific sleeping bags are usually slightly shorter, wider in the waist area and may contain extra insulation in the upper body area.

If you’re buying a bag from a brick-and-mortar store, step in and try it on before completing the transaction. You want to make sure your feet don’t slam into the bottom of the sleeping bag, which will compress the insulation and reduce its effectiveness, giving you 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 bags are more suitable for summer weather and car camping.

Sleeping bags are usually 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 are described with fill power values ​​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 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 with prolonged compression. However, they are usually significantly cheaper than down sleeping bags.


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 your perishable foods and drinks that 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 supplies or use them from home; Make sure whatever you bring is sturdy enough to withstand the travel and use at camp. 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.


Packing for a camping trip can be a challenge; it’s often hard to rush to the corner shop when 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, 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 tent footprint, a custom-fit groundsheet that protects your tent floor from damage and moisture. Sleeping pads 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.

Other Camping Gear Considerations

Buy quality equipment. Read reviews online and speak to sales reps at sporting goods stores to find out about the quality of the gear you are considering buying. You can get a lot of camping gear cheaply, but it may only last you for one camping trip or less, so it’s often wiser to spend a little more and invest in quality gear that will last a lot longer.

Be careful when buying online. Buying camping gear online is super convenient, but buy from a reputable online seller. When purchasing, carefully read the customer reviews, equipment description and return policy before clicking “buy”. Additionally, it’s always best to use your credit card to make online purchases just in case you have to dispute charges later.

Practice using your gear before setting off. Always practice pitching your tent, using your camp stove and other camping gear, and packing and unpacking your backpack before you reach your campsite. This will save you a lot of frustration and make your camping trip more enjoyable.

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