If you’re new to the world of backpacking, it can be intimidating to think of all the equipment you need to get started. It’s not just the volume of equipment that’s an issue though, as the costs can very quickly add up. This is where the question of renting or buying backpacking gear comes up.
Renting backpacking gear is a great way to get started. You can rent gear at several reputable online and offline shops. Also, most packages come with the essentials such as a tent, backpack, and sleeping gear. It’s an affordable way to try out backpacking gear before you buy it.
While most first-timers may cobble together equipment from a friend for their first backpacking trip, we lay out the pros and cons for renting gear below. We also explain what you need, and offer some suggestions on reputable gear renting companies.
The 9 Advantages Of Renting Backpacking Gear
Being able to try out certain equipment at a lower cost than if you were to buy it outright is a major benefit of renting backpacking gear. You can use rental gear to work out what kinds of gear you prefer as a beginner, which can save you money in the long run.
Many outfitters allow you to have your rental fee go toward the purchase of your gear at their shop. If you think you will purchase after the rental period, then look for a company that will apply your rental fee toward the new gear.
2. Rentals Shipped To You
Outfitters will ship your equipment to you, and then when you are done with the equipment, you just put it back in the box and ship it back. Some companies cover the cost of the shipping or shipping is included in the rental fee too.
3. Package Variety
Depending on your needs, such day trips where you only need a backpack versus multi-day backpacking adventures when you require more specialized gear, companies offer different package levels to choose from. This makes it easy to get exactly what you need for each trip without having stockpiles of gear you rarely use.
4. Affordable Pricing
Backpacking gear rental packages typically start below $100 for basic sets. However, the pricing will obviously depend on the specific gear you choose, how much of it you need, and the company you rent from. For more specialised trips, you may be looking at a few hundred dollars, but it will still be much cheaper than if you were to buy all of the equipment instead.
5. Different Length Rentals
Rentals can be as short as 1-3 days or up to a full month. This makes it very flexible for different types of backpacking trips.
6. Ideal For One Person Or A Large Group
You can usually find cheap gear rental options for any number of people. As with anything, you can often benefit from discounts if you rent lots of gear at once, so it pays to use these companies with groups.
7. Shipped Or Rented At Your Destination
Carrying equipment on a plane to your backpacking destination can get costly and cumbersome. However, some companies will ship to your destination/starting point, or you can pick it up at their shop near where you will be backpacking.
8. Ideal For Those Unsure If They Will Like Backpacking
If you aren’t sure if you’ll like backpacking, then renting is a good way to get your feet wet instead of plunging in at the deep end and purchasing all the equipment you need. It really is a great way to save money for beginners.
9. Minimalist Lifestyle
If you like to own as little as you possibly can, renting might be the perfect option. You simply rent when you need it, and return it when you are done. You will have the freedom of not storing items that you may not use for another year.
The 3 Disadvantages Of Renting Backpacking Gear
1. Costs Add Up
If you rent backpacking gear frequently, the total cost adds up. Purchasing equipment after you get an understanding of your backpacking wants and needs is less costly in the long run. However, renting gear is still a good place to start, but if you’re going to do a lot of backpacking, it’s usually cheaper to buy gear you know you’ll like.
2. Limited Items Available
Most backpacking rental packages come with standard or basic gear, so you usually don’t get to choose from a large variety of highly specialised equipment. If you are picky about what you like regarding color and style, then renting is probably not for you. Rentals are standardized to keep the cost down for the company.
3. Not Suitable For Long Adventures
Most rental companies will rent equipment out for up to a month, and rarely longer. Therefore, if you intend on hiking something like the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, or Colorado Trail, you will have to purchase or borrow your gear.
Essential Backpacking Gear You Need
Renting a tent comes down to 1-person vs 2-person and 3-season vs 4-season. Basically, think about who you will hike with and when you will be hiking (spring/summer/fall vs winter).
Backpacks come in ultralight, lightweight, and traditional styles. Most backpacking rental packages provide lightweight backpacks, so are ideal for keeping weight burdens down.
Think about what the temperature will be when you hike. Sleeping bags come in different thicknesses and materials that keep you at the right temperature for the hike.
A Sleeping Pad
A lightweight sleeping pad compensate for the undulations of the ground and make sleeping much more comfortable. Pads are lightweight and getting lighter every year, so usually don’t add much weigh to your pack.
Plan your meals before your trip, so that you know what cooking equipment you’ll need to bring with you. Rentals for this can include a camp stove, waterproof matches, sporks, sponges, biodegradable soap, bowls, and a pot.
Water Filtration/Purification System
Water filtration systems filter out waterborne organisms that can make you very sick. These include protozoa like Giardia and Cryptosporidium, and various bacteria. Water purification systems also help kill viruses like Hepatitis A and E. You should research the area you are hiking to make sure you understand the pests that you may encounter.
Chances are you will have to set up your tent in the dark at least once, so having a headlamp is a must for your next adventure.
This seems like a no-brainer, but many people leave the comfort of the parking lot or home without enough food and water or are improperly dressed for their trip. Always be prepared to stay longer than expected in the wilderness. Getting caught ill-prepared can do a world of damage to your psyche, trip, and health.
Other Items That You Need That You Can’t Rent
Once you have gone through the rental process, you will need a number of other items for your backpacking trip. Fortunately, most of these are common household items, or can be purchased fairly cheaply.
Other essential backpacking gear that you won’t be able to rent includes:
- Camp stove fuel
- Duct tape
- Cord or rope
- Saw or axe (if not in your rental package)
- Water bottles and water pouch (e.g. CamelBak)
- Clothing – Moisture-wicking layers, quick drying pants, fleece jacket, synthetic or wool socks, rainwear, gloves/mittens, warm fleece or wool hat, camp sandals
- Health Items – Hand sanitizer, toilet paper, quick-dry towel, first-aid kit, sunscreen, sunglasses, insect repellent, lip balm, baby wipes
Renting backpacking gear is often a better choice than buying it for beginners. It’s cheaper in the short term, and it allows you to try before you buy. However, you may be limited in terms of what you can rent and how long you can rent it for, and the costs of renting do add up over multiple trips.