Camping Equipment

The best salesman of camping gear is a person who uses it. The list of camping gear and accessories is nearly endless.

As with all big ticket items, when a customer is willing to invest in expensive equipment, he expects the salesperson to be able to answer questions and know the product. Quality and performance are important in camping gear. The camper needs to be sure the equipment will not fail miles from help.


Campers have two choices in heating-propane or gasoline.

A flameless heater operates on gas up to 18 or 20 hours without refilling. This type of heater, which has an open screen-mesh top, is rated by the number of BTUs of heat it gives off. Small models are rated at 3500 BTUs, with other models going up to 8,000.

The other heater type, fueled by propane, is a radiant heater with a bowl-shaped deflector that directs heat in a powerful “stream.” These heaters are also rated by BTU output and range from 3,500 up to 5,000 BTUs. They light instantly, burn as long as 16 hours with two propane tanks and cannot be affected by wind, cold, etc.

Portable electric heaters are another alternative, particularly for use in public or private campgrounds, where electrical outlets are usually available.

Small, inexpensive to operate and easily stored, portable electric heaters should be promoted as “good insurance measures” to camping enthusiasts.


Customer satisfaction in camp stoves is directly related to the size and number of burners. A larger stove is a far more satisfactory because it lets the camper cook with two or three full-sized pots, pans or skillets at one time, impossible with smaller stoves.

Propane and white (unleaded) gasoline are commonly used fuels. Propane has the advantage of simplicity, but costs more.

Gasoline stoves require the camper to pump air pressure in the fuel tank-a potential drawback.

A butane cartridge stove simplifies fuel problems, but is not as powerful as propane or white gas stoves

Most campers use regular kitchen utensils for cooking, but special, self-storing utensil kits are available.

Accessories which fit over burners to convert stove to griddle, and drums, which can be set on top of burners to make ovens, are available.

Every camper needs an ice chest for perishable foods. These are made of aluminum, steel, ABS, polyethylene or polypropylene plastic with varying types of insulation. Polyurethane or expanded styrene are most common.

Better chests offer trays and dividers. All-metal or better plastic chests should have a spout for draining off water created by melting ice blocks or cubes. Handles on both ends for easy mobility are essential, as is a secure latch.

Foam chests are usually inexpensive promotional lines and should not be sold to persons who are looking for a longer useful life. Guides to quality in foam chests are weight, handle installation, ribbed bottoms, etc.

Picnic jugs should not be confused with vacuum jugs. The former gives relatively short-time protection of liquids.

Picnic jugs, also called beverage coolers, are designed to keep liquid cold. They are made of plastic or metal with polyurethane or expanded styrene insulation in the body.

Vacuum bottles have steel, aluminum or molded-plastic cases with glass vacuum liners of steel or stainless-steel liners. Some have carrying handles. Regular vacuum bottles come in pint and quart sizes with both standard and wide-neck openings; stainless steel bottles come in pint, quart and half-gallon sizes.

Replacement glass fillers are available. Rusting of the outer containers is eliminated with the molded-plastic outer shell or the aluminum or stainless-steel models.

Vacuum bottles under 16 oz. capacity-particularly those intended for use by children-must pass a drop test indicating that broken liners will not harm youngsters.

Manufacturers will include a warning on labels if the bottle is not tested for child use.


Flashlights are the most common supplemental lighting item for campers, making batteries a staple item for everyone who buys camping gear.

Besides battery-operated lighting devices, there are three major fuels used for camp lighting; propane, gasoline and kerosene.

Kerosene is the least satisfactory. It tends to give uneven, flickering, yellowish light.

Gasoline lanterns are available in unleaded types, in both single- and double-mantle sizes. They require pumping up pressure as with a camp stove. Most will burn 10 to 12 hours on one fuel refill, although they will require re-pumping of pressure several times during that period.

Propane lanterns are simple to use and require no pumping. The fuel is readily available.

There are several kinds of electrical lights available to campers. One type operates off regular lantern batteries and serves as a small table light. Another, drawing power from a conventional lantern battery, operates a fluorescent light fixture. Some models also work from standard 110 volt current.

A fluorescent light that plugs into a car’s cigarette lighter produces as much light as a 60 or 100 watt bulb (depending on size). It can burn all night for several nights in a row without depleting power in a car’s battery.

Most lighting devices come with handles or hooks for easy portability and for suspending from a tent pole, tree limb, etc.



Air mattress sizes and styles vary. Most comfortable are those made with a “tufted” or sewn effect. Least comfortable are those with large air cells, which some times run full length of the mattress. Better models are larger, usually about 72″ x 28″ with promotional models generally about 70″ x 24″.

Twelve-volt electric pumps are available for inflating mattresses. Some have built-in foot pumps. Universal foot-pump inflators with valves to fit all mattresses are available.

Foam pads serve the same purpose, but do not require inflation. They occupy more space, but eliminate any possibility of leak or puncture.


Quality sleeping bags are made of goose or duck down-extremely expensive. By regulation, even a bag tagged “100 percent down” may have up to 15 percent feathers or fibers. Any lesser percentage must be on the label, such as “75/25”, meaning 75 percent down, 25 percent feathers.

“Loft” is a trade term for fluffiness. This marks the difference in insulating materials. Northern goose has the best loft, retaining its shape almost indefinitely, even after repeated crushing. It’s costly and can’t be washed.

Sleeping bags can be dry cleaned if properly aired out after the cleaning process. Some solvents used in dry cleaning give off poisonous fumes and could be dangerous to the user if the fumes become trapped in the sleeping bag.

Most bags are machine washable and dryable. It’s best to check manufacturer’s cleaning instructions.

The more insulating material, the better the sleeping bag. Insulating fabrics made of Dacron 88, Holofil II, DuPont Fiberfill II, Permaloft, Acryloft and DN500 can closely equal goose down’s loft, insulating ability and light weight. They are less expensive, washable and non-allergenic.

Bonded-insulation filling eliminates the need for quilting and reduces”cold spots” at the point of quilting.

Zipper construction is an important quality factor. Weight and size of zipper are more important than materials used.

The zipper should be double stitched, applied so that there is an insulated flap running along the inside of the zipper when the bag is in use.

Size is a factor. “Finished” rather than “cut” size is most important. Best-quality bags are larger than the standard 75″ x 33″. A camper should look for a bag 8″ to 10″ more than his height. Some bags are constructed so they can be joined together as a double-sized sleeping bag.

Duck is used for a cover in better-quality bags, with poplin or rayon used in lower quality units. Lining should be flannel or flannelette. Percale and nylon are used in some bags. Not as warm, they do permit freer movement. Whatever material is used, it should have a water-repellent finish.


Most campers start with tents because they are a relatively simple and inexpensive way to begin. From this point, they move toward the purchase of more sophisticated and expensive products trailers, trucks, campers, etc.

The first thing to find out is what kind of camping the customer has in mind. If he plans to back pack or canoe camp, 14 lbs. is considered maximum tent weight. Experienced campers try to stay under 8 lbs.

Aside from weight, fabric is the most important element in tent cost, and the major key to quality. A thread count of 130 means that, per square inch, there are about 70 threads running one way, 60 the other. The higher the thread count and the lower the fabric weight (expressed in oz. per sq. yd.), the better the tent will hold out the elements.

Spun-polyester sidewalls contribute to weight reduction in construction. Many tent fabrics are treated in much the same way a raincoat is treated to further resist water. This adds a little to weight.

Construction quality features include lap-felled or French seams (providing four layers), preferable to less-costly flat seams, which are not as good at keeping out water.

Eaves and main corner seams should be reinforced with an additional strip of webbing. This adds strength to the seams and helps the tent keep its proper shape.

Areas where guy ropes and poles attach should be reinforced with heavy webbed tape backing to keep loops from ripping out of the tent in a heavy wind. A top-quality tent will have either pressed-on metal grommets or sewn-in rings where poles or stakes fit.

In most areas, insect protection is as important as protection from the elements. A sewn-in floor and mosquito door are definite quality factors. Good ventilation is equally important.

Last major consideration is size. The customer should figure a minimum of 2½’ x 6½’ floor space for each person who will sleep on the tent floor. If cots are to be used, add another 50 percent to space requirements.


Popular with Scouts, pack campers, etc., pup tents are designed only for sleeping, and hold one or two persons. Size is limited, with a base about 5′ x 7′ and a height of only 3’6″ to 4′.

Better-quality pup tents have sewn-in floors and come in one-piece construction. The lowest priced are simply one or two pieces of canvas, two poles and some pegs.


The cabin style tent with exterior frame construction has more room than an umbrella tent and is easy to set up.

The umbrella tent, which requires a center post and ribs extending like umbrella ribs, has been improved with exterior frame design. The exterior frames afford more interior room and easier set up. These are available in a variety of sizes to fit camping needs.

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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