Now, I just want to preface this by saying my husband and I have been camping and hiking for about 5 or 6 years now. Now, that’s not an incredibly long time, but that’s also not to lessen the degree to which we enjoy it, because we LOVE both camping and hiking. When given the choice of an all inclusive 5 star luxury resort in Fiji, or finally getting to camp at any one of the bigger parks we have on our list at the moment stocked with our wish list of gear, we’d go with the latter (although camping in Fiji would be cool!). However, our current gear situation isn’t as fancy or as well stocked as we would like. But that’s ok! We are certainly getting there. In fact, we were recently married and I can easily say I was 1,000 times more excited when we got the camping gear off of our registry then anything else. Yes, we registered for a few camping items, but this is a great tip. If you have a wedding to register for go ahead and register for that latest and greatest whatever you have on your gear wish list. We did a fun Amazon registry in addition to the typical bedding and china registries, and people really enjoyed buying us the fun stuff every now and then. Don’t forget to ask for birthdays and Christmas too!
Anyway, if you’re new to camping the following are some great brands that are a little more on the affordable side, but definitely a step up from the gear you’d find at the local big box store. Unfortunately, down here in good ol’ Louisiana, not only do we not have great options for outdoor retailers/outfitters that specialize in outdoor activities other than hunting (My kingdom for an REI! Reason #4 why we want to move to the fantastic Pacific Northwest), but our camping within a 100 mile or even 200 mile radius is pretty much slim to none (that’s reason #2!). That being said we haven’t quite gotten the opportunity to explore and test some of the more well known brands out in the field just yet. But Lord knows I have done my hours and hours of research and lord knows I have a wish list! (See the wish list here.)
I also want to add that most outdoor gear is an investment. If you are just starting out I would borrow someones gear or even rent some (if you are lucky to have an REI nearby). Believe it or not camping is not for everyone, and you would hate to spend $400+ on even the most basic gear and then have it sit in your garage.
Don’t buy super cheap gear either. 9 times out of 10 cheap outdoor gear means flimsy, which means a lousy time when your tent has a hole in the roof and rain is pouring in, or you didn’t realize it but your backpack from jr high you decided to take hiking got snagged and you’re hiking 6 miles without a snack. Once you’ve tried it by borrowing or renting some cool gear and you’ve decided you love camping and can’t live without it, start investing those pennies on some quality gear for yourself. You won’t be sorry!
So finally, here is my short list of favorite brands. Feel free to click on the links for reviews of certain products. Also, I’d love to hear some of your favorite gear, so just leave a comment below.
They are probably our all time favorite brand. Our day pack, cooler, organizer, picnic lunch box, etc. is all Kelty. This award winning brand is just wonderful! Seriously, no complaints. You can tell they really value quality and that they put a lot of effort and research into their products. Our next big purchase is going to be a Kelty tent. I have read excellent things about them I just want to check it out first hand before investing, because a Kelty tent is an investment, but it truly is one that will last for years.
One of the oldest camping brands out there, Coleman is great for all of those fun basics you think of when you think camping. This is the brand your parents and grandparents probably camped with. They have super affordable products that still have really good quality, like: lanterns, starter tents and sleeping bags, coolers, chairs, grills, propane camp stoves, and so much more. We’ve got a ton of the little stuff like little fire starters, glowsticks, first aid kits, a tent fan, backup stake kits, the list goes on and on. One of my favorites though is their Quad LED lantern. It’s a lantern that has 4 panels; when docked on the lantern’s core it’s a super bright full sized lantern, but you can remove each panel individually and you’ll have 4 smaller flat LED flashlights. It’s pretty cool! They’ve been around for over 100 years so they’re definitely doing something right.
Outstanding brand that specializes in those funny little backpacks with the water hose sticking out of it. A Camelbak was one of the first things other than a sleeping bag and tent that I purchased. They sell everything you could possibly need to hydrate yourself from the packs to a bunch of different water bottles, filters, and water flavor enhancers. They also sell the separate reservoirs so you can replace them if need be, or backpack makers like Kelty often engineer some way for you to rig a reservoir into their packs. For someone who is easily affected by heat like I am, I typically use my Camelbak for any outdoor activity I’ll be performing for 2 hours or more. I also like to carry a water bottle with me throughout the day. My favorite Camelbak water bottle so far is the Podium Big Chill that I got for about $15 at Target. It does a great job of keeping my water cold for roughly 8-12 hours and it’s spill proof.
We love our Eagles Nest Outfitters hammock! Another wedding present, we now have the double with the atlas straps. Easy to assemble and even easier to enjoy. Perfect for camping, picnicking, or just hanging out in the backyard. These hammocks are really high quality and come in a ton of different colors. The hammocks also pack down into a compact little bunde about the size of a large grapefruit. This is definitely on our essentials list for outdoor fun.
Jetboil is a fairly new company started in the early 2000’s with a great idea: a compact camp stove that is light and efficient. May I just say, they certainly achieved that. This was one of the gems that we registered for; we have the Sumo which is perfect for 2 people, and it was way at the top of our wish list. Great for backpacking, which we haven’t quite tackled yet; we wanted the Jetboil for long day hikes to have a hot meal before the trek back, and for when it’s pouring rain and starting a campfire is just out of the question. It is such a handy gadget that we know will be our must take for when we finally tackle backpacking. We haven’t gotten to take it out in the field just yet but we have definitely experimented with it at home and we love it. It does everything it’s marketed for and then some. We’re super impressed with the construction and quality too. When we finally get to use it more I hope to post some fun delicious recipes, so be on the look out for that.
Confession: I’m a pretty big Bear Grylls fan. Say what you will about him, I think it’s a fun show and it doesn’t hurt that he’s cute. Anyway, in addition to Gerber being an amazing knife manufacturer, they have partnered up with Bear Grylls to make some impressive survival/hiking tools. One of my favorites is the super compact Scout Essentials Kit. It’s perfect for a light emergency kit that’s about the size of a mans wallet complete with a small first aid kit, waterproof matches, small LED micro torch (super bright with a few different settings), compact scout knife, small button compass, and a little leaflet with some priorities of survival in case you get lost. They even have an “apocalypse kit” that’s pretty pricy but comes with 7 different weapons and just happens to be at the top of my husbands wish list. All in all if you just need a great basic knife for the trail, some survival tools, or even an apocalypse kit Gerber won’t let you down.
One of our favorite parts of car camping is cooking over a campfire. Joshua and I love to cook and there is just something about the challenge and creativity that you feel when you’re cooking in the outdoors. GSI understands this and tries to alleviate just a little bit of that challenge aspect by providing super ingenuitive camp kitchen tools. Known for their light camping and backpacking cooksets, they also have tableware and kitchen tool sets. High quality, durable, and lightweight GSI products give you that little bit of luxury that you don’t typically associate with your poor overlooked kitchen tools at home.
This is where my girly side comes out. I love shopping for clothes for outdoor activities. Cozy pullovers for camping, a cute little athletic top for hiking, colorful board shorts for kayaking, I could go on and on. Also, in addition to this list there are other brands like Nike and Champion at Target that have great quality athletic wear that can certainly double as hiking/camping wear. The brands in the list below are more geared to hiking and camping, with the exception of the lesser known MPG which I just wanted to highlight as another good athletic brand. Here is a quick list of my favorite shoe and apparel brands:
Merrell is a great hiking geared footwear, clothing, and accessory brand. I have a pair of the Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove Trail shoes and I absolutely love them. They are so incredibly light and breathable, it almost feels like I’m not wearing anything. I wear them all the time; jogging in the neighborhood, running errands, camping, hiking (nothing too strenuous though; you need a good sturdy hiking shoe for strenuous hikes), you name it. I also own some cute Merrell athletic wear. The apparel as well as the shoes do exactly what they’re advertised for. If it tells you it’s going to wick away moisture and keep you dry it will. This is another great brand that cares about quality and puts the customer first.
Patagonia is yet another phenomenal brand. They use very high quality materials and really research every aspect of what you would possibly require in an article of clothing for whatever activity they are designing it for. Be it surf wear, running shorts, super insulated but also super light snow/cold weather clothes, yoga outfits, or just a simple cotton blend short you can wear hiking or running errands. In addition to clothing they sell shoes and some accessories like packs and bags. They even sell clothing for the little ones. When you buy Patagonia you really are buying from an awesome company. They are very environmentally conscious and love to give back.
This is another favorite of mine, and probably what I have most of in my closet due to their availability and affordability. They design clothing, shoes, and some gear for everyone in the family. They have great basics including fleece, layers, and active/sportswear. They also have a fantastic line of Performance Fishing Gear, or PFG, which come in a variety of colors and items from shirts to pants to hats and sunglasses. More well known in these parts as “fishing shirts,” this line’s more popular item is the long or short sleeve shirt that has an ingenious vent in the back to keep you cool, and typically has UPF 30 for that extra layer of sun protection. I don’t do a whole lot of fishing, but I love these shirts for hiking and kayaking or any other water sport. Columbia is an incredible brand that holds up really well and is, in my humble opinion, one of the more affordable outdoor clothing brands.
Mondetta Performance Gear is an athletic company that has a little more of a fashionable flare to it. I typically find this brand at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls (in fact, that’s where I discovered it). They have cute, great fitting, quality workout apparel that I can find affordably at the discount stores, and still look cute while on the trails.
Hope you enjoyed this list of my favorite brands. Again, please feel free to leave a comment on some of your favorites, and make sure to click the links for actual product reviews.
Disclaimer- None of the above mentioned brands or retailers have endorsed me for this post. These are strictly my opinions.