ExperienceGear helps you out with the camping equipment you need, whether you’re a newbie or on a budget

Rebecca Straus  – September 17, 2018 | Updated December 2, 2018

The last time I went backpacking, I was a teenager in Girl Scouts. I loved it enough that I daydreamed about hiking the Appalachian Trail after college, but I’ve actually only done day hikes since because I don’t have the gear. I can’t justify the expense, or, frankly, the storage space in my one-bedroom apartment.

That’s why I was really excited to learn about ExperienceGear, a startup based in Santa Barbara that rents out premium brand-name backpacking and camping gear.

Founder Jamie Nichols says he got the idea for the company from trying to persuade friends to hit the trail with him.

“Whenever I had time off from work during the past 8 years, I would just escape into the mountains. I always wanted to bring my friends with me, but I knew from talking to them that it’s really intimidating—the process of shopping for equipment. And it’s just expensive. It can easily cost over $800 for everything you need.”

A self-professed gear junkie, Nichols started collecting extra equipment to loan out to friends. Eventually he started playing around with the idea of having a rental business.

Currently ExperienceGear offers lightweight camping and lightweight backpacking kits starting from $40 per night and $55 per night respectively. You can rent either kit in a one-person or two-person size. Shipping is included and is currently available to California, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona, though Nichols says they hope to eventually start expanding to other states.

I was really impressed with the quality of the gear in the one-person kit that Nichols sent me to try out.  Everything was gently used, or in some cases, brand new. I was pleasantly surprised with how comfortable the Therm-a-Rest self-inflating sleeping pad was—I’d never tried one that wasn’t made of foam before. And I had way too much fun making a grilled cheese on the tiny Optimus BTU stove. (I know, I know, grilled cheese isn’t typical backpacking fare.)

There was one snag—a wad of trash stuffed in one of the backpack’s pockets—but overall I really enjoyed my ExperienceGear experience.

I asked Nichols if he’s worried customers won’t come back for round two because they’ll want to buy their own gear after trying it out (I write as I add that stove to my REI cart). He says he’s not—encouraging people to spend more time in nature is at the core of the business. Besides, there will always be more people who want to give backpacking or camping a try but aren’t sure where to start. ExperienceGear will be there for them.