7 Tips For Buying Cheap Camping Gear
Camping and outdoor gear can be expensive, but you don’t have to spend a fortune to land yourself some great new kit.
Follow our seven tips and you can pick up a new tent, sleeping bag or a pair of hiking boots for a fraction of the usual cost.
1 BUY OUT OF SEASON
Fancy picking up a new tent, replacing that shaky table or buying your dream camp kitchen? The golden rule for finding a real bargain is to go shopping when no-one else is buying.
Outdoor shops can struggle to keep up with demand at the start of the season and during the peak holiday months, but when winter comes around they suddenly have to find ways to clear their shelves and make room for the new season’s gear.
That’s when prices fall and you can pick up a great deal. Here’s a great example: this Eurohike Ribble 4 tent originally cost £145 at Millets but at the time of writing it’s available for just £48. Worra snip! It’s not just tents – look out for discounted winter jackets in spring and summer and cheap walking boots in January.
2 GET AN OLDER MODEL
Every year, tent manufacturers launch dozens of new models onto the market. Yes they might come with a new design or some extra features but chances are they are not going to vary much from what was on sale last year. So instead of getting the latest and greatest, it’s worth considering picking up an older model at a knockdown price. Some shops will be happy to flog ex-display models too, and these can be another source of deals. But beware – if the tents have been displayed outdoors for six months they may well have suffered UV damage and have been clambered over by eager shoppers, so check thoroughly before buying. A bargain’s only a bargain if the product does what it’s supposed to do.
3 SHOP ONLINE
Most outdoor retailers have their own websites and sometimes you can get special web-only deals. The downside of buying online is that you can’t see the product in person – and if it’s clothing or footwear you’re after, you can’t try them on before buying.
The obvious first port of call for buying second-hand online in eBay, and there are certainly plenty of bargains to be found. But remember a lot of camping gear – especially tents – can be very heavy and bulky, which can make the cost of postage prohibitively high. Filter your searches so only items for sale within a set distance show up. It will limit your results but will save disappointment when it turns out the bargain Vango tent you’ve spotted is being sold by someone in Cornwall – and you live in Inverness. For a more local focus, Gumtree and local Facebook selling pages are useful but there is only a fraction of the gear available overall on eBay.
4 BUY SECOND-HAND
Buying second hand camping kit is a great way to get a bargain but make sure you check the condition before you part with your cash.
Charity shops are very hit or miss generally, but can be good for pots, pans, cutlery and crockery and you can often find good quality outdoor clothing at knock-down prices. Charity shops in popular outdoor destinations like the Lake District and the Peaks can be fertile ground for bargain hunters.
Car boot sales are another pot-luck option which can occasionally turn up unexpected gems. Be prepared to haggle on price.
Supermarket community notice boards, postcards in newsagent windows and campsite notice boards often throw up second-hand camping bargains so it’s always worth giving them a glance when you’re passing.
5 HIT THE MIDDLE AISLES
Budget supermarkets Lidl and Aldi are a great source for picking up decent quality camping kit at bargain-basement prices. Both introduce a range of outdoor gear to their famous Middle Aisles a couple of times a year and generally speaking it’s good stuff. We bought a set of heavy duty tent pegs in Lidl for £6 five years ago and they’re still going strong.
Other campers have recommended their cool boxes and other gear. We’d maybe steer clear of supermarket tents and we’d recommend that you don’t buy a super-budget piece of gear anywhere unless you are 100% certain it’s of a good standard.
6 CAMPING EXHIBITIONS
Camping shows fall into three categories: the huge show at the NEC in February, where visitors will find a large selection of tents and accessories from leading manufacturers under one roof, smaller regional shows and retailer shows which tour the country over the summer. Prices tend to be keen and newcomers looking to buy a comprehensive camping kit – complete with all the accessories – should be able to strike an attractive deal.
7 TAKE OUT FINANCE
It might not reduce the total price you pay, but taking out a finance agreement can spread the cost of high value purchases like family tents and make them more affordable. Most major camping retailers, both chains and independents, offer finance and you can sign up in store or online. Sales people are usually keen to get you signed up to finance agreements, so it’s worth bargaining. Try and talk them into a discount or persuade them to throw in some accessories like a carpet or furniture for free.
For more about ways to pay for your camping gear click here.
TOP TIPS FOR BUYING SECOND HAND
- Try to see a pre-owned tent pitched before you part with cash and give it a good once over before agreeing to the sale.
- Remember you’re not buying new so some wear and tear should be expected – and reflected in the price. Rips can be sewn up, zips replaced and guylines renewed but if the damage is too severe just walk away.
- When buying a stove, check all parts are intact and not bent, broken or missing. In particular, check the hose condition and connections.
- Chairs, tables, wardrobes and kitchens can all be picked up at a fraction of their new prices and there’s very little beyond the superficial that can go wrong with them.
- The internet is a great place to buy used trailer tents and folding campers but make sure you see it erected before agreeing to buy and always ask for the original manual and instructions.