We would love to tell everyone that hiring your equipment is the best and only choice to make, but we’re not like that. We are here to make sure people make the best choices for them and have the knowledge available to do that.
When it comes to getting your hands on equipment, fundamentally you have 3 main options. You can either go out (or online) and buy the items, you can hire items or you may know someone that you can borrow it from. In order to make the best decision you need to weigh up, what we like to think of as, Cost Efficiency of that choice.
Cost Efficiency is about the physical cost of the items (such as, price tag, maintenance and storage) and the Psychological costs (such as, trust and time) versus the usage giving you the formula:
Using this formula, if you were going to a festival, you will want a cheap tent (after all you won’t be spending too much time in there) also because the trend is that festival go’ers will leave their tents at the site when they go home*. You will also want something that is quick and easy to set up so that you can spend as much time as possible in the festival. So, you probably wouldn’t want to borrow someone else’s tent because you probably won’t want to bring it back and the chances are, it won’t be quick and easy to set up. If anything happens to it, they may ask you for the money to replace it and if they ask you for more then you think it’s worth then that may cause a conflict. You wouldn’t want to hire it for the same reason as borrowing it, so you may prefer to go out and buy a cheap pop up tent, if you don’t maintain it, if parts get broken or go missing or you never use it again, it won’t matter too much. Making buying the most cost efficient route.
However, if you were going on a DofE Award expedition you will want a tent that is fit for purpose. Cheap tents don’t tend to be very waterproof or small, light and strong. A decent tent could set you back £100. If you’re never planning on going camping ever again or have never been camping and a DofE expedition is your first experience then you may not want to spend that much money on just the tent (don’t forget there other kit to get as well). If you know someone that has a tent, you could ask to borrow it, however, if it gets damaged, how likely are they to ask you for the money to replace it? Also, how well have they kept it maintained? How long has it been since they last used it? Does it still have all its parts? Is it still waterproof? And if anything went wrong with the tent and spoilt your experience, what can you do about it? You can’t guarantee this from borrowed kit. I know when I’ve lent my personal kit to people, its stuff I haven’t used in a while and I advise everyone to check everything properly before they take it out. Borrowing is potentially the cheapest when it comes to Physical cost, but the Psychological cost may be a lot and if you’re only planning on using it once then is it worth broken relationships? So that’s when we would say hiring is a great option. If the kit is damaged when you get it or isn’t waterproof when you use it, you have legal rights to protect you saving you a lot of psychological cost. With the cost of hiring being a fraction of the cost of buying, you don’t have to risk too much physical cost and if you’re only planning to use it once, you can make a great saving. So for us, in this situation, hiring would be the most cost efficient route.
If you go camping every weekend then buying would be the best option, as you will maintain the kit yourself (it’s never in storage long enough to go mouldy) and you are more able to fix things that get broken or replace parts that go missing much quicker. You won’t accrue lots of hire charges (that will eventually become more then the value of the tent) and you’ll be using it so often that the tent will pay for itself. So for those of you that camp a lot, we say buying is the best route.
Now that is a very simple explanation, we hope. But the reality is, technology moves on, prices change, our priorities shift and each of us are amazing unique people with our own ways of doing things. So use the formula for your situation, using your values and then decide what’s best for you.
*Please remember, most modern tents are made of plastic that will end up in landfill and take hundreds of years (if not thousands) to decompose and could even end up in the sea, so we always recommend bringing your tent (and anything else you take there) back with you and then donate it to charity, if you don’t want to keep it.