Advice on Camping gear?
My husband and I are planning on buying camping a tent and sleeping bags for warm weather camping. What are good brands of camping gear? Any advice on what to buy? Please help.
REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated) is a great national chain of outdoors stores found in most large western cities. They also have a good web site with a gear finder. In addition to carrying major high-quality brands, they also have their own line of gear (tents, sleeping bags, jackets, etc) which generally gets good reviews and is reasonably priced for the quality. Their salespeople tend to be outdoors enthusists who know their gear and can give good advice. Another good online outdoors product store is Campmor.
REI's Half-Dome tent is probably the most popular 2-person tent among backpackers and their Element water-proof clothing line is also well respected. Other top-ranked brands include Marmot, MSR, North Face, Mountain Hardware, and Kelty. While usually not top of the line, Sierra Designs has a reputation for being a good compromise of quality and cost if you are on a budget.
Backpacker magazine does a best-in-class Gear Guide issue every year. For this year, the best warm weather sleeping bags were the Marmot Atom and Helium bags (best quality) and the Kelty Light Year series (best value). Top ranked tents included the MSR Mutha Hubba (large - car camping), Marmot Aeolos, and the REI Mountain 2. Outside Magazine (and website) also has a good gear guide and reviews. Their recent top-pick tents include Sierra Designs Reverse Combi and (for large car-camping tents) the REI Hobitat and Eureka Blue Mesa. For bags, they recommend the Marmot Atom (quality) and Big Agnes Crystal (value).
Coleman brand (and Wenzel) is what you will typically find in big department stores (most noteably Walmart). It is inexpensive, but also tends to be very heavy, bulky, and not always the highest quality. They are a good choice for things like ice chests, kerosene laterns, and car camping cook stoves, but I would be hesitant to buy their tents (which have get bad marks for leaking in many reviews) or sleeping bags which tend to be cumbersome. They are probably fine for car camping at established campgrounds, but I would certainly never use them if you are considering backpacking or remote undeveloped campsites where weight is important and staying warm and dry is critical.
Be especially careful about what tent you buy - contrary to some comments above, not all tents are equal, and many lower priced brands (and even some higher priced ones) have a tendancy to leak around the seams. Another thing to watch out for is how well the tent ventilates. Even if rain does not leak in, a poorly ventilated tent will cause condensation ('sweating') to form on the inside which is almost as bad as leaking.
you should always use "Seam Grip Seam Sealer" on the seams of any tent.. if you buy one that says it's waterproof, don't believe it unless you pay over $300 for the tent which has an extra lining on the seams to make it waterproof (which is what you're paying for vs the $50 wal-mart tent)... if you try any other sealer, it just won't work, i know, i've tried...
the one thing you should know is that you should always add 20 degrees to the sleeping bag's rating..
if a k-mart sleeping bag is rated at 40 degrees, think of it as a 60 degree sleeping bag.. if you happen to be camping and it might dip into the 50s, you should bring an extra blanket or sheet to line the sleeping bag with.. using a liner will add several degrees and make your sleeping experience more enjoyable...
another thing to know:
get cheap gear, but invest in your sleep with a therm-a-rest... this is an inflatable mattress you sleep on.. it's not like an inflatable bed, the therm-a-rest is only 1-2 inches thick... using a mat under your sleeping bag is the difference between just a night's sleep or a good night's sleep...
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