Renting camping gear in Chicago is definitely a great way to save money, try new types and models of outdoor gear without buying and lets you cut back on clutter at home with gear you don't use all that often. Borrowing from a friend might be a cheaper way to go, but you don't want to be THAT friend. Here's what we found as your 4 best options to renting camping tents and other outdoor gear in Chicago.
1) We're not afraid to step up and claim we're your best option for renting camping gear no matter where you live if you have a few days' advance planning before leaving on your trip. We've been shipping camping and backpacking rental gear to customers all over the country for many years longer than anyone else. While there are plenty of copycats, we're the original developer of the concept - place your order online at any time, (we don't even charge you until we're ready to ship) enjoy the gear, and drop back off with UPS with the provided return label. Sure, there are shipping costs, but the convenience of having rental access to more than 70 items right at your keyboard delivered to your home or destination is hard to beat. Here are the most popular categories of our rental gear:
And we're around 7 days a week to help out if you are new to camping, or check out our many how-to articles
to become a pro before heading out. One of the more popular educational articles on our site is this one: What size tent is best for me?
2) If you are looking for an immediate rental pickup in Chicago with little advance notice, you may have to find a resource that rents gear from a nearby physical location. Many small outdoor shops have stopped renting gear due to liability concerns and cleaning/storage requirements, but there are still some around. If nothing pops up on a Google search for "Chicago camping gear rental", expand the search to "Chicago camping stores" and contact one - they might rent camping gear and not promote it online, or they will likely know if anyone in the area offers gear rentals.
3) National chains - the only big-box store we know that still rents camping gear is REI, with a presence in many mid-size and up cities in the US. At most locations, you can pick up a basic tent, pack, sleeping gear for a single or small group. Their rates tend to be competitive for short-term rentals, but pricey if for more than a few days. Note that REI stores do not rent a wide variety of gear as they understandably prefer that you buy the other common gear items you might need on a trip. Check their store locator to see if there any stores nearby to use as an option.
4) Lastly, if our huge selection of rental gear
just doesn't meet your needs or we can't meet the timing for your trip, and there are no local resources, there are other online rental options that might be able to help you out. Everyone that offers an online rental service has a slightly different approach, but the concepts are similar, and some may have a shorter delivery window to your area. We do have a couple of suggestions for online gear renting - when comparing costs, be sure to factor in the rental plus the to-and-from shipping costs. We state the costs of shipping both ways (see our policies and how it works)
, but most only include one-way shipping to make it look less expensive in the shopping cart. Also, check the rental company's longevity as well to make sure you can rely on getting the gear when and where you want it - we've seen dozens of earnest young guys and large staffs in flannel shirts with admirable plans to save the planet by renting gear disappear in a year or so when the reality of this business sets in. We've thrived for nearly 2 decades by having the largest rental market share due to our many years online, and, we have a substantial local retail operation
to share expenses with that keeps our rental rates low.
Generally, by the time you've decided to rent gear you have already selected a camping destination, but here are the most popular camping and backpacking resources for deciding on your next wilderness trip. The best choice for you may depend on your level of experience, as we describe below:
If you are new to camping, we suggest a car-camping trip (see what is car camping?)
to a developed campground near facilities and assistance if needed. A great first step is to a local state park with a campground. All states have a dedicated parks web site with the details. Some can be reserved; some are first-come, first-served.
Another great resource for novice campers are KOA campgrounds. While mostly catering to the RV crowd, many have dedicated tent sites, and you may find one really close to home for a trial run before going for more isolated camping. See KOA camp site options
Our National Parks are indeed a national treasure, and can accommodate beginner car-camping or advanced backpacking trips and everything in between. Go in the off season whenever possible to avoid the same traffic jams you might have at home. Find all national park web sites here
National forests are an entirely different set of lands from the national park system, and offer a less-crowded, but less-supported outdoors experience. There are developed campgrounds of course in most national forests, but in many, "dispersed camping" is also allowed, so you can find a home for your tent wherever your vehicle or backpack will take you. See all forest camping options here
. We suggest you have a few camping nights under your belt first before getting too far off the grid.