We’ve all been there: wistfully admiring the cover of National Geographic Traveler at Barnes & Noble while waiting for a movie at Court Street Cinemas. On the cover are happy, wealthy suburbanites traipsing along a wooded ridge, a family huddled around their freshly-caught fish or the sunrise on a distant lake. They are miles away from the city and loving it. You think, “Camping must be for rich folk who can afford all that gear.” And you never go often enough to justify dropping hundreds of dollars on the necessities. Dejected, you turn and head to the 9 o’clock showing of That’s My Boy, alone.
But fear not, potential backpacker! Brooklyn has two home-grown outdoors stores that rent camping equipment to the casual camper without the REI (Really Expensive Items) or EMS (Extreme Measures Suggested) prices. No more eating ramen for a month just so you can go to the woods and eat ramen!
Gear to Go Outfitters is the archetypal Horatio Alger story. The owner started of selling gear on the street and earned enough to open a retail store. Though its selection is limited, the shop offers three-day rentals that include everything you need to go on a weekend trip. Three people can get a tent and their own sleeping bags all for $50 a piece. They even deliver! How you’ll get along with two other tent-mates is another problem.
Williamsburg-based Brooklyn Outfitters doesn’t offer delivery, but its rental rates are lower and the choices are simpler. A team of three can get a tent and fart sacks (aka sleeping bags) for just $40 a head. In true WB fashion, they’re a little slicker and borrow more from The Awl than REI. But, hell, it’s not like you’re camping in McCarren Park, right?
If you’re new to the whole outdoors thing, both stores offer guided tours and overnight and weekend backpacking trips. Brooklyn Outfitters’ trips are a bit pricey ($100-$450), but they typically include food, transport and equipment rental in the price. Gear to Go also gets you on a guided trip for $100-$350, but you’ve got to fork it over for the gear.
Of course, if hiking the Himalayas or canoeing the Catskills isn’t you’re thing, you can always keep it at home and camp out at Floyd Bennet Field. Just don’t expect to get on the cover of NatGeo.
Know of any other good gear rentals in Brooklyn? Tell us below.