The Etiquette of Borrowing Camping Gear

If you want to go camping or backpacking and don’t have the money to buy your own gear, then consider borrowing gear. Personally, I love it when people ask to borrow my camping gear. I know that, by letting them borrow the gear, I am helping them get into nature and be more adventurous. Many times, they love the experience so much that they go on to buy their own camping gear and start going regularly. But, as when you borrow any type of gear, there are certain rules of etiquette that should be followed.


Which Type of Camping Gear Can You Borrow?

Anything! Really, don’t be shy about asking to borrow camping gear. Now, you probably don’t want to borrow someone’s long underwear 😉 but you can ask to borrow literally anything which is on the camping checklist. This includes the big items like tents and sleeping bags to the smaller items like a camp cook set and a compass.


Always Test Gear with the Owner First

One of the most important rules of camping is to always test gear before you take it camping. Yes, that mean’s setting up the tent in your backyard, taking sleeping bags out of their compression bags, turning on every flashlight, and trying out the camp stove. This rule applies to both new gear that you’ve purchased, and to borrowed gear.

Why is this so important to test gear first? Two reasons:

1) You want to make sure you know how to use the gear

2) You want to make sure nothing is missing

Once I was at a mountaintop campsite with my daughter when a group of 3 young guys arrived. They started to set up their tent but couldn’t figure it out. It took them over 2 hours to get the tent up! Did I mention it was raining??? (Note: after the first 40 minutes, I went over and offered to help. I guess they were too embarrassed about having a woman set up their tent for them to accept my help!)

So have the owner of the gear show you how to set everything up and properly put it back in its place. You don’t want to learn how to use it the hard way, nor arrive to the campsite and realize you are missing a tent pole or something else important!


Make an Inventory of the Items You Borrowed

Write down the details of what you borrowed from people. By details, I don’t just mean “flashlight” or “tent.” Write down the brand names and models too. In the unfortunate situation that you lose or damage the gear, you will need to replace it. Trust me, no one is going to be happy if you replace their awesome $90 Black Diamond Icon headlamp with a crappy generic one!


Clean Tents and Sleeping Bags before Returning Them

It doesn’t need to be spic n span, but you do want to clean the borrowed camping gear before returning it to the owner.

To clean a tent, you will have to set it up in your home and yard, and give it a thorough sweeping or vacuuming. If it has mud caked on it, then wipe it down with a sponge to clean it off. Always make sure the tent is completely dry before packing it!!! Otherwise mildew can start to grow on it while it is in its bag.

Most sleeping bags can be washed in the washing machine. Read the instructions on the sleeping bag before you wash it.


Go Minimal!

There is no all sorts of fancy, hi-tech gear for camping. Yes, these items can make camping more comfortable – but do you really need a solar charger (unplug and have a digital detox instead!), camping chairs (a log makes a great chair), and a hand-cranked radio (enjoy the sounds of nature instead)???

If you already have your own camping gear, then it is acceptable to borrow one or two of these luxury camping items. But, if you have literally nothing, just borrow the essentials for now (tent, sleeping bags, cook sets…) instead of borrowing a zillion items from one person. You’ll find that camping is more enjoyable as a minimalist anyway.


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