Wal-Mart Camping Gear

By JOSH TURNER

Go ahead and wince now. Yes, there are actually a lot of people who buy camping gear at Wal-Mart. Sources report that Wal-Mart sells a ton of gear annually in stores all over the world. Is any of this “cost-effective” gear worth having in your collection, or is this more of a place for beginners to shamefully dip their toe? To answer these questions, we went camping with nothing but the cheapest gear we could find at Wal-Mart. Here are a few of the highlights and lowlights from our trip.

Ozark Trail Two Person Dome Tent, $19. Sold only in Wal-Mart stores (not online), the Ozark Trail Two Person Dome tent was surprisingly a better all-around product than we had anticipated. It is plenty wide for two people with its 7 × 7-foot floor — rare for a tent that advertises itself as a two-person model. But its square dimension leaves little head or foot room.

wal-mart tent.jpg

Ozark Trail Two Person Dome Tent

The tent’s fabric and floor are fairly thin, and the fiberglass poles are skinny. Durability is not a strong feature. Don’t expect this tent to last forever, but it can function in certain situations like car camping or a backyard adventure.

During our camping trip, it did not rain. We were glad. After some inspection, I fear this tent would not hold up well in bad conditions. However, with the use of some tent waterproofer and seam sealer, you could turn the Ozark Trail into a suitable tent for one person or kids use. It’s only $19! Experimentation is encouraged.

Coleman 1 Burner Propane Stove.jpg

Coleman 1 Burner Propane Stove

Coleman 1 Burner Propane Stove, $18.96. This was the cheapest stove or cooking system available at Wal-Mart. At just under $20 (before the cost of a fuel canister), it comes in at a fraction of the cost of other similar systems offered by big-name competitors. Bottom line, we found that it didn’t compromise on quality, durability or ease of use. It sets up quickly and is a straightforward solution for many people who might not need the features of a more expensive cooking system. This product was the standout of everything we tested.

wal-mart lantern.jpg

Ozark Trail Mini LED Lantern
Ozark Trail Mini LED Lantern, $5. Clearly, the Ozark Trail Mini LED Lantern has never been used on any actual Ozark trails. Pretty much everything about the product renders it useless. Wal-Mart sells it only in stores, likely to avoid the scathing reviews that would clog up the web site. The lantern emits about as much light as a small night light, if that. The ambient glow produced by this worthless product is barely enough to even use in your tent. Then again, it was only $5. Not sure what we were expecting.

Coleman Focus Lantern.jpg

Coleman Focus Lantern

Coleman Focus Lantern, $6.88. Unlike the Ozark Trail lantern, the Coleman Focus proved to be much better for only a couple extra dollars. This lantern puts out a solid amount of yellow light, and its focusing feature allows it to be adjusted to your preference or used as an emergency flashlight if need be. This light won’t prove to be the most durable over time, but for the price I can’t complain.

walmart sleeping bag.jpg

Ozark Trail Sleeping Bag

Ozark Trail 3-Lb, 40-60 Degree Sleeping Bag, $9.88. The first thing we noticed about this sleeping bag is that it is 100% polyester. The outer shell, the fill, and the inner lining are all polyester. Having an inner lining made of polyester isn’t for everybody, let’s just say that. However, despite a couple faults, the sleeping bag performed well in the conditions. It was approximately 50 degrees during the night, and staying warm wasn’t an issue at all. For a $10 sleeping bag, it deserves a thumbs up.

wal-mart cookset.jpg

Outdoor Products Mess Kit

Outdoor Products 5-Piece Mess Kit, $5.88. The food on the box looks delicious, but that’s where the fun ends with this cheap cooking and eating set. Included in the set are a fry pan, bowl, pot with handle and lid, cup, and a plate. The fry pan and pot are good for about one use. They did not hold up well to the heat, and cleaning them to a reusable condition was a daunting proposition. All of these products were very thin and flimsy. If you are looking for a mess kit to throw away after one use, this is the product for you. For everybody else, we definitely recommend that you invest in a more durable, non-stick cooking set.

—Josh Turner produces and hosts the web show CampingGearTV.com, featuring camping and backpacking gear reviews. The show is also known for actionable advice on fending off bears using unorthodox and impractical methods. For more on the “Cheap Wal-Mart Gear” experiment, visit CampingGearTV.com.

Posted by t.c. worley - 09/28/2010 09:35 AM

That’s fun stuff. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I was a Wal-Mart camper in my youth. Though I don’t use it anymore, my dad’s Coleman stove still works like a champ – no maintenance ever. That cheap stuff got me to where I am now.

Posted by J - 09/28/2010 01:24 PM

I have a Walmart tent that is still going strong. After I seam-sealed it, it has been on countless backpacking trips has has survived a four-day deluge of rain from a tropical storm. The poles have never broken and the bottom of the tent is still without holes. At 2.5 lbs, it is a much better deal than more expensive tents.

I have, however, retired it to lending tent status, as I’ve moved on to “keeping up with the Jonses” gear.

Walmart also has fantastic dry bags worth checking out. They are the same as what you’d get at REI, but for a fraction of the cost.

Posted by Leslie Anthony - 09/28/2010 02:32 PM

interesting… i just did a two-week canoe trip w a mix of expensive brand-name stuff and some bargain-basement accessories similar to what is discussed here. I found that some of the cheap items were bomber, extremely useful and among my best choices.

Interestingly, in an upcoming issues of SKIER magazine, a guy goes on a major ski traverse across an ice-cap using only items purchased at Canadian Tire—the Wal-Mart of the north. They bought the crappiest skis and clothes and stuff that they could… It’s pretty funny…

Posted by Mitch R. - 09/28/2010 02:52 PM

I own 3 Wal-mart tents. They are great for car camping and I don’t have to worry about someone stealing them.

However, if a tent is critical equipment, then I use my expensive brand name tents costing $500+.

Posted by Stuart - 09/28/2010 03:22 PM

Very interesting reviews. I too own a Walmart tent and it does a pretty good job. It went through a heavy down pour while camping in the Smokies and let a little moisture in… overall though not too shabby.

Posted by Mike B - 09/29/2010 09:44 AM

Good Article! Gearhead snobs always dismiss anything from Walmart, but I’ve found useful equipment there at outstanding prices. Some camping environments just don’t require the highest end performance you get in (expensive) high end gear. Anything made by Coleman will be superbly reliable, rugged and re-buildable, but predictably heavy. Other Walmart brands are also very functional, IF you match their performance to your camping environment. I wouldn’t take most of it on a trip up some Colorado 14’er, but for low desert car camping, or Boundary Waters canoe camping, where weight is less a concern, some of their stuff works great, at a tiny price. And if you sew, their cheap $1-2 a yard fabrics are a steal—think ripstop nylon, cordura etc. I make my own hammocks, tarps & stuff sacks at a fraction of high end brand price, and guess what—they do exactly what I need. Camping, including ultra-light packing, doesn’t have to be budget busting if you shop carefully and are willing to make or modify cheaper stuff to your needs. That way you can save the big dollars for the high performance gear you REALLY need.

Posted by Cissie Quinn - 09/29/2010 01:44 PM

I bought two Walmart sleeping bags for $2/bag several years ago. They are my favorite sleeping bags when the temps are warm, and all I need is something to cover up with in the summer. They have held up well and washed nicely.

Posted by Robw - 09/29/2010 07:36 PM

I have one of those Ozark Trail Mini LED Lanterns and it worked well – for one camping trip, then it broke.

Posted by Joe - 09/29/2010 08:34 PM

Fun article. I saw the title and expected the worst, but this is actually an interesting review. Should do a head-to-head piece one time against more expensive gear.

I remember a couple of years ago when I was shopping for an ultralight tent, I found an Alpine Designs tent that weighed like 3.5 or 4 lbs. and packed down to a pretty small 22 inches or so. It was $20 at Sports Authority. Ended up going with a $220 Big Agnes instead because I didn’t want to get caught out in the backcountry with a runny tent and broken fiberglass poles. But I still wonder if it would have been that much worse.

Posted by brett - 10/09/2010 07:37 AM

(mostly) crappy gear at cheap prices. Now wal-mart has the ability to put your local gear shop out of business, as well as the local grocery or hardware store. I encourage you all to go watch ‘Wal-mart the high cost of low prices”

Posted by Augustus Poplos - 10/11/2010 05:35 PM

My girlfriend and I are traveling the US and have been using my old cheap-o walmart tent for all our camping so far. I’ve used it for years now and it’s still holding up fine. I’ve camped in wet, dry, windy, weather in just about every condition possible. Although it is an absolute PAIN to bring hiking, it’s done well for the price (I paid no more than 30 dollars for it three or four years ago).

We actually decided to switch out the tent for a more expensive lightweight hiking tent I got as a gift, and it was the biggest mistake EVER! This was about 2 weeks ago when we hiked Clingmans Dome in the Smokys… the second night on the trail it started raining at about 8:30 and by about 3 am i woke up in a 2 inch puddle of water… all of my warm (cotton!?) clothes were SOAKED and the hike back out and up to the summit was BRUTAL.

By the way, Josh and Ben, we’re still going to be in St. Louis around Halloween if you guys are still up for that interview! I will send you an e-mail now… it’s been hard staying in contact with people and keeping up on our blog, but I have time and internet now… I hope to get a few updates done today and hopefully can get to our experience in the Smoky Mtn NP tonight.

If anyone would like to check out our blog, the address is http://theelegantvagrant.blogspot.com

Posted by Kay - 11/08/2010 04:59 AM

Wow. $19 for a 2 man tent! Thats great if it is good quality but as a regular camper I am suspicious. Certainly not to be used in winter or bad weather.

Kelty 2 Man Winter Tent
http://perfecttents.com/4-season-tents/2-1-pro/

Posted by Chad Januskiewicz - 06/28/2012 01:31 PM

No Light My Fire Spork? (best piece of equipment WalMart sells) You need to test the Ozark trail Camelback knock-offs, and packs and knifes and sleeping pads…

Posted by Jonathan - 06/28/2012 01:36 PM

Great article and comments. Finally something to talk about over at GJ that doesn’t involve glove type shoes! I’d like to see more…

Posted by Dr. M - 06/28/2012 01:44 PM

Josh, your article had me laughing out loud. I’m not a camping snob so I will buy quality camping gear from just about ANYWHERE…. except Walmart. The only problem I have with them is they will sneak broken, returned stuff back on the shelves. Parts missing, broken…USED.
I’m a bit of a foodie so don’t mess with my camp cookware! When you said: “The food on the box looks delicious, but that’s where the fun ends…” I could tell you were a kindred spirit. Please stop by my blog and do an article for us too. Thanks for this one. Made my day. Best Picks Magazine

Posted by amanda - 06/28/2012 07:37 PM

I’ve had one of those little LED lanterns for 5 years now and it’s been fine. No, it doesn’t put out a whole lot of light, but for looking for something in the dark (like pants!) it’s been a-ok.

Posted by vernon - 07/16/2012 01:46 PM

Im tired of seeing Im not a camping snob BUT. For years we camped in the blueridge mountains for a week at a time during the national forest deer season with nothing but walmart camping gear. Granted it was before they had Ozark Gear so most all of it was coleman. To this day the only 2 items I have for camping that was not got a walmart is a slumberjack big timber sleeping bag and a camelbak water pack. I dont buy the cheapest stuff but I do buy my stuff at walmart. Dr.M all you have to do is look at the packaging and avoid packaging thats been messed with (which you have to do at any store thats open to the public)

Posted by Ashley - 01/10/2013 02:05 PM

Great reviews! I’ve always wondered about some of that stuff, but never had the nerve to buy it. Looks like a few items could certainly work in a pinch or if you forgot something in your packing.

Posted by Library Jim - 01/10/2013 02:30 PM

I’ve bought quite a bit of camping items from Wal*Mart, and most of the time have no problem. The best buy so far has been the Swiss Gear Hiking poles, twist lock with spring end and a variety of ‘ends’ for $15.00. They work very well and I don’t have to worry about one sliding down a hill without me. Multi-tools and knives by Gerber or Leatherman are also cheaper there. I got a pair of zero degree Coleman sleeping bags for $15 each, and while they don’t quite live up to the ‘zero’ they do quite well in cool weather camping.
So, don’t count out Wal*Mart, especially if you are in an emergency situation (like forgetting tent stakes?) and there is one nearby.
Peace!
Jim

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