Of all the camping gear out there, a tent is one of the most essential. Although you can go camping without a tent, it’s much more comfortable and helps to keep the rest of your gear out of the elements if you have a good tent to sleep in.
Bringing your own tent isn’t always possible. Many avid campers don’t own a tent, or it might be a situation where camping is last-minute or too far away to pack the tent with you. Perhaps you want to test out a new tent before you buy it.
Camping tent rentals are a reality in most places and become more popular for campers who don’t want to make a huge investment in new camping gear. Read on for the full rundown!
Why tent a tent?
The initial investment for some tents is quite large. Group tents and models with special features are built with convenient design features and building materials that cost more to manufacture.
In some cases, the tent is rented out by the campground or a nearby business. In that scenario, renting a tent can save time and prevent you from having to cart a tent all the way back to another location. Camping tent rentals make camping more accessible to people without cars or people who live a long way from their camping destination.
First-time campers and those who only head into the backcountry infrequently may not need to have a camping tent on hand at all times. Hikers, for example, commonly rent camping gear for one night so they can complete a long out-and-back trail without spending too much.
Where can I rent a tent?
REI is one of the best-known places to rent tents. There are also some online companies such as Outdoors Geek, which will ship your rental gear to any FedEx location that accepts deliveries.
A plethora of smaller companies rent gear face-to-face or online. Campers might be able to find local options to rent tents depending on where the camping trip will be. Online rental companies are generally more convenient since they can ship your camping gear close to your destination.
Peer-to-peer tent rental companies also exist. The sharing economy, which is most famous for spawning companies like Airbnb and Uber, now allows owners of camping equipment to lease it out to others. This option may continue expanding, but it’s still in the beginning stages for many of the platforms that offer it, so you might not be able to find someone to rent a tent from locally.
Renting vs buying a tent
While there is a certain freedom to owning your own camping gear, renting is better for short-term use. Die-hard campers who spend lots of time in the backcountry typically prefer to have their own gear because they get used to it and build all the elements in their rucksack to work together.
For others, an inexpensive tent is enough. Perhaps you live in sunny SoCal where the tent won’t have to last through much rain or severe weather. If you know you’re only going to go camp when the weather is nice, then a tent for under $100 might be good enough for your needs.
However, renting a tent makes much more sense for campers who want to go on sporadic camping trips with fully loaded tents. Trying out new models or tents large enough to accommodate groups of campers is generally much cheaper if you rent.
People going to camp for special events like music festivals also benefit from renting tents. So much camping gear gets left behind at big music festivals that it’s become a big environmental concern, so renting a tent in that situation is a good idea for everyone.
How does a tent rental work?
It depends on where you rent your tent. REI locations allow you to go in person or call your local retail location by phone to reserve your gear. This is great for first-time and new campers who aren’t sure about their gear and want to see it. Plus, the sales associates can give helpful advice.
Online rental locations usually allow users to scroll through available tents and select the one they want. If you aren’t too picky about your gear and you can already tell what will be enough for your outdoor getaway, then the online catalog should work fine.
Most companies have a limit on the number of days you can have each rental. Some will let you take out tents for weeks at a time while others are more limited. Local shops with less gear probably limit their rental periods more if they have a high demand.
Once you have your rental period defined and tent selected, the store should tell you when and where you can pick it up. REI and other in-person shops will more than likely have you pick up your tent at that location, while online rental companies tend to ship the gear to you via FedEx or a similar company.
They include a return label with your rental so all you have to do is take it back to the shipping facility where you picked it up and send everything back. All told, this is one of the easiest ways to get your hand on a temporary tent without having to drag it around.
Features to look for in rental tents
The kind of camping trip you’re taking will determine which kind of tent you need to rent. If you’re backpacking by yourself, a one-person tent that’s ultralight and will fit in your rucksack will suit you best. You could also spring for a two-person tent to give yourself some extra room.
Glamping tents are an option for people who want to enjoy the great outdoors in style. Bear in mind that these are much larger and may require special handling to transport to your chosen campsite.
Here are a few other considerations to make when deciding which tent you should rent:
- High-Quality Material: Canvas tents are the best for their sturdy construction. But you also have to make sure the seams of the material are will-stitched to prevent rain or dew from leaking into the tent. A ripstop bottom that won’t take damage from the ground and keep groundwater out is also a good idea. Remember that you’re going to be on the hook for damage to the tent. Look for a ten built out of high-quality material to make sure you’re protected and won’t have to fork over a fee because weak tent material got damaged.
- Additional Features: Maybe you don’t need to have a satellite dish on your rental tent, but some convenient additions like gear bags, instant assembly, and awnings can help make your camping trip even easier. If you’re worried about bad weather, look for a tent that has a rain fly included with the rental. Families and groups who are going to share a tent might want to find a model that has room dividers for additional privacy.
- Tent Season: If you’re going out during spring or summer, you might be able to get away with a 3-season tent. These more lightweight models are built to keep out a moderate amount of precipitation and bugs. They also tend to have mesh to facilitate better airflow in the tent. Extended season tents have less mesh and more poles so that they’re more sturdy and warmer in cooler fall and spring weather. 4-Season tents are meant for really cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. Believe it or not, there are some campers who need mountaineering-grade tents.
- Number of Doors: One-person backpacking tents usually have one door or even just a flap. Groups of two or more who are going to be camping together might want to rent tents with more doors so that they can get in and out of the tent without stepping all over each other or waking their fellow camper.
- Shape: Cabin vs Dome: A cabin-style tent is more square and offers a roomier interior. The walls are straighter than dome-style tents and the roof is going to be higher across more of its area. Dome-style tents have rounded roofs that are generally lower than cabin tents except in the center. Although the curved top reduces the available livable space in the tent, it also helps the dome withstand high winds better.
- Ventilation: Whether you’re the only one in the tent or sharing it with others, you’re going to want a tent that can let some fresh air in if you’re camping in warm weather. If you don’t find a tent with good ventilation, the sun might warm up the inside of your tent and wake you up much earlier than you want it to. Fresh air inside the tent also helps reduce the amount of moisture and condensation. It’s never pleasant to feel muggy. If you’re camping in cold weather, a clammy tent will make you feel trapped by the harsh weather conditions.
Can you rent other camping gear?
Depending on what company you use, you can find lots of other camping gear for rent, including sleeping bags, mattress pads, snowshoes, camping stoves, headlamps, and cookware. Most places will let you rent these things one by one or as an entire camping package as you prefer.
This is where renting instead of buying comes in handy. If you rent the whole camping package, you won’t only be saving money on a backpacking tent. You’ll have everything you need for an overnight camping trip and you won’t have to worry about where to store it when you get home.
It might seem unbelievable that they can ship all of this so easily, but most camping tents pack down to a surprisingly small size. You can even rent backpacking rucksacks with your gear. When you arrive at the facility to pick it up, you can pack everything and hit the road to begin your epic backcountry adventure.
What if I don’t know how to use my rental gear?
Rental companies want you to have a good time with their gear. That’s why so many of them have customer service departments to help you figure out how to set up tents, like camping stoves, and get the most out of the camping gear you rent from them.
That’s one advantage companies have over the P2P option. Some individuals who rent their camping gear out may be happy to provide advice while others may not want to rent out their equipment to amateurs at all in case they accidentally damage it.
The companies who rent out gear often make a point to help people learn. REI is famous for this, hosting classes and events. The internet is also filled with camping aficionados who have made exhaustive efforts to make videos and walkthroughs for curious people.
How much does renting tents cost?
Generally speaking, these rental companies base the cost of renting each item on the retail value of the item. For example, an online rental company may charge around 15% of the total cost of a tent. They usually increase the per-day amount the longer you rent the tent.
There are a few reasons why they do this. For one, the longer you have the tent out, the more likely it will be damaged. These companies don’t want to build a reputation for sending out damaged gear, so they have to spend money to repair items if they’re broken.
They also want as many people as possible to use these items. Getting as many people as possible out into nature is kind of the main idea behind renting out camping equipment.
What brands are available for rent?
Tons of popular outdoor brands are available for rent. Depending on the specific rental company, ALPS Mountaineering, Marmot, MSR, North Face, and Big Agnes are just some of the names you can usually find.
The newer and bigger brand-name tents are going to come at a premium. However, you can sometimes find older models of really nice tents from these leading brands for a great price. Even with the newest models, renting them for a short time is going to be much, much less than buying them.
Renting gear: the trial run
One of the most common reasons people have for renting specific gear is because they want to try it out and see if they like it. Newcomers to camping and other outdoor leisure activities want to see if they like spending a few nights in the backcountry and more seasoned enthusiasts rent tents to see if they like the particular model.
Here’s a pro-tip: some rental companies have rent-to-own policies. How they work varies from place to place, but before you rent, check and see if the rental company has one. If they do, that means you can offer to buy the gear you rent if you like it. Some will even apply the cost of your rental to the final purchase price. There’s no better way to test gear out than to take it into the backcountry and see how it performs in real conditions.
Buying gear from rental companies
You can also buy used gear from these rental companies. They have to make room for new rental stock as manufacturers continue to improve their products. Sometimes you can find great camping gear that’s still comparatively new and still in great working condition. Best of all, since the company needs to get rid of it and has already made some money renting it out, they let this equipment go for a fraction of the price.
If you’re on the fence about renting gear or you aren’t picky about which tent you have, consider buying your first tent from a rental company. You can probably arrange to rent it and test it out first. For peace of mind and confidence in a product, rental companies are the place to go.
You can rent all kinds of tents and other camping gear from a few different sources. Online retailers will ship the rental gear to your location or an intermediary shipping location like FedEx, while brick and mortar stores and P2P services allow you to pick it up from the renter.
In some cases, you can even buy the equipment you rent if you like it enough. Renting a tent allows first-time campers to get out into nature to see how they fare. More experienced enthusiasts can test gear or get too far away locations without hauling their own equipment long distances.
For campers of all experience levels, renting a tent is the best no-hassle way to experience a few nights in the great outdoors.
Bonus tip: Use these camping hacks and tricks to make your next camping trip even easier!