When Renting’s Right: Outdoor Gear You Should Delay Buying

Many people love being outdoors for the simplicity of it — you don’t need much technical know-how or special talents to get out and breathe the fresh air. However, if you want more experience in nature than a day hike can afford, you might need to start accumulating some outdoor gear to keep you safe and comfortable.

Depending on the activity, just the necessary outdoor gear can cost in the hundreds of dollars. This expense, not to mention the necessity to store all that gear when you’re not out in the wild, could make camping and backpacking off-putting or even unattainable for many would-be nature lovers.

Fortunately, outdoor shops happily rent all kinds of gear to outdoorsy people who can’t (or won’t) commit to living outside for most of the year. Plus, renting allows you the ability to try out different types of gear (as well as different activities) before you commit to a big purchase.

The Basics

If you’re completely new to the outdoor lifestyle, you’re going to need to figure out what kind of basic gear is right for you. Shelter is one of the requirements for human survival, and procuring a high-quality, durable tent should be high on your list. You can use tent guides to figure out which style is best for you then check out local outdoor outfitters to see what models they have available. If you’re backpacking, you’ll need something lightweight, and if you’re traveling in a group you might need a bigger space.

Sleeping bags are also a must for roughing it, though like tents, they come in many shapes and sizes. However, unlike tents, sleeping bags come in close contact with people, so if you choose to rent these instead of buy, you should verify that they are cleaned well after each use. If you have a phobia of sharing sleeping spaces, this is one piece of gear that might be better purchased.

Food and water are also crucial for survival (on and off the trail) but many people overlook the necessities of food preparation when planning their trips. If you’re backpacking, you’ll need a lightweight backpacking stove and propane tanks to cook your food. You’ll also need a water purification device because water is much, much heavier than you’d expect. All of this gear is available for rent, and if you don’t see yourself living in the wild for more than the odd trip, there really isn’t any reason to have it clutter up your house.

Safety Supplies

You can’t predict the future, no matter how you try, and when you’re in a wild and uncontrolled environment you should be expecting disaster to strike even when you feel completely prepared. Most safety and first aid supplies you should already have on-hand: bandages and antiseptic, among other safety necessities. However, there are some lesser-known safety items that you might not consider for your trek.

If you or one of your party gets sick or injured, you’ll need medical aid fast, but sometimes it would take much too long to hike out and find aid, and it’s unlikely you’ll have cell phone coverage in the wilderness. If you rent a satellite phone, you can be confident in reaching emergency aid if the worst should happen on your trip. There are as many styles of satellite phone as there are smartphones; if you’d like one with more recognizable features, you can try out the inReach SE Satellite Text Messenger to stay in textual communication with the outside world.

Other crucial safety gear that you might lack includes maps of the areas, compasses and more advanced first aid kits. If you think you’ll be doing anything more dangerous than hiking or swimming, like rock climbing or cave exploring, look into specialized safety gear to rent.

Seasonal Stuff

Camping in the winter is remarkably different from camping in the summer, as you might well have guessed. Though you’ll still need most of the basics year-round, if you’re planning a trip to an area that experiences extreme seasonal shifts, you might look into renting some weather-appropriate gear.

Snow gear is much more extensive, since living in and traveling through snow is tricky and risky. You may already have a tent and sleeping bag, but if these items aren’t marked for the lower temperatures, you may want to investigate winter rental supplies. Also useful for snowy areas are snow shoes, crampons or Nordic skis to help you move easier through the slushy and slippery wilderness. Again, unless you’re moving to the great white north, it’s unlikely you’ll be using them enough to warrant a lifetime purchase, so renting is likely your best option.

There’s a wild world of opportunity out there if you’re looking to start delving into the great outdoors. If you’re the type who likes to try it all, you’d be better to start out renting equipment to get a feel for the activities you like best. If you find that you’re gravitating toward one in particular, and you’ve got enough space and time to make the best use of it, you can invest in your own gear. Until then, renting will allow you to get out there and see it all, one trail at a time.

Written by Steve Manley