For many, camping is a go-to weekend getaway. It’s a chance to throw the family in the car, along with a boat load of gear, and get away on a little (or big!) adventure. But for others, it’s not the lack of flushable toilets or non-existent showers that deters them. It’s the sheer cost involved in collecting the gear you need, just for one night of camping fun!
Although camping is a relatively cheap activity once you have everything you need, getting to that point can be pretty costly.
Unless, you enlist the help of Kmart.
You heard me. Kmart has a wide range of cost-effective camping gear just begging to be purchased.
You’re probably thinking that I’ve lost the plot and that there is no way that camping gear from Kmart is going to last. Well bear with me guys, because we decided to round up all the camping essentials we needed to camp the summer away and put them to the test.
Last summer, we went camping multiple times using our Kmart camping gear. We experienced all the elements including wind, rain, heat, and cold. Over the next few blog posts, I’m going to give you the full rundown of all the gear we bought, how it’s holding up, and what we’ve decided to keep vs. what is getting thrown in the bin.
So, if you want to learn how camping can fit into just about any budget, stick with me and I’ll show you exactly how.
Why We Chose Kmart Camping Gear…
I think it’s pretty obvious that we love the mountains, so it’s no surprise that we’d been talking about making a summer trip down to Mt Kosciusko for a while. We were keen to do the summit hike, ride the mountain bike trails, and just be in the mountains in general.
We’d always known that there are tons of beautiful campsites right on Thredbo River. But the fact that we didn’t have any camping gear meant we never really talked or thought about it.
That is, until the dreaded covid hit.
You see, as people who are used to travelling a lot, we felt really cooped up when we weren’t allowed to go anywhere (like many other travel bugs). When restrictions did ease, it was pretty obvious we wouldn’t be travelling internationally for a while, so it was time to explore our own backyard. And what better way to do this than to camp our way around.
So off we went to all the local camping stores like Anaconda, BCF, and Macpac, only to be completely gobsmacked and left feeling deflated. It was going to cost us around $900 just to collect the essentials. We didn’t have that kind of money to spend on something we weren’t sure how many times we’d use it. Sure, we each have family that have tons of camping gear we could’ve borrowed, but we wanted our own… something to get us out and about every weekend.
That’s when we decided to try Kmart. I don’t know why we were so surprised that everything was half the price (if not more) than name brand camping gear. And, a lot of it looked exactly the same!
Hence the idea of Kmart camping was born.
We decided to take one for the team, round up all the essentials at Kmart, and put them to the test.
Alright, enough chit chat, let’s get down to business shall we?
Note: all comparisons used below are simply examples of the products we were considering. It’s not to say that they are not good products. They are just the closest name-brand comparisons in terms of features and price. Also, there are one million different types of tents, sleeping bags, cooktops, camp tables, and chairs that you can buy. For the purpose of this post and our experiment, we focused on the most basic and budget-friendly options.
I’d like to start with a small disclaimer here. I’ve learned that I mostly sleep terribly when camping. I don’t think it’s anything to do with the gear and everything to do with fighting possums out of our tent in the middle of the night. I’ll tell you that story one day. In the meantime, here are the essentials you’ll need to get as good a night sleep as you can while camping.
We are only two people, but wanted a tent with enough room for us to store our luggage, be able to move around a little, and get dressed in without wriggling around awkwardly laying down.
Our choice: 5 Person Dome Tent with Vestibule
Comparison: Spinifex Premium Nakara Tent
Interestingly, the Spinifex tent is only a 3 person tent, but has almost the same dimensions as the Kmart tent. The only other difference is the waterproof rating. The Kmart tent has only 1,000mm waterproof rating, while Spinifex has 2,000mm.
Although not all our camping trips would be in cooler weather, we knew it would be chilly in Thredbo at night. So we decided to go for a sleeping bag with a lower rating, rather than freeze to death on our first camping trip.
Our choice: Altitude Hooded Sleeping Bag – comfort rating 4 degrees
Comparison: Coleman Mudgee Tall Hooded Sleeping Bag – comfort rating 5 degrees
The main difference between these two aside from the minor difference in comfort rating are that the Kmart sleeping bag is 10cm’s shorter in length and width than the Coleman. In saying that, Brandon is 6ft tall and he doesn’t have an issue with the Kmart sleeping bag length.
Anyone who thinks they’re getting away with a super thin, self-inflatable mattress or a Yoga mat is, in my opinion, either having a laugh or hardcore.
Our choice: Flocked Air Mattress – King Single
Comparison: Velour Airbed Single
The major difference here is that the Kmart airbed is a King Single–otherwise the products are a much of a muchness.
You might be wondering why we didn’t just go for a Double or a Queen mattress size. Well, let me ask you this… have you ever tried sharing an airbed with another person? Every time they move, you move.
We love each other but we prefer it to stay that way.
Hot Tip – if you don’t want to sleep on the cold, hard ground, don’t forget your air pump! A foot pump will certainly do the trick and for the purposes of really keeping the pennies tight, that’s exactly what we went with.
Unfortunately, Kmart doesn’t sell the foot pump that we bought anymore, but it was $10 and exactly the same one that you can buy from camping stores for $25.
For the same price, you could buy this Rechargeable Air Pump from Kmart and save your energy for sitting around the campfire with a beverage in hand.
Cooking around the campfire is one of my favourite parts of camping! It’s possible to get incredibly creative and fancy with your camping menu. But if you’re anything like us, you’ll enjoy meals that are quick, easy, and delicious. Many campgrounds do have BBQ kitchen facilities but there is usually only a few to go around.
Regardless, the good news is you don’t have to survive on dehydrated packet foods or tins of cold baked beans.
Portable Gas Stove
With the right cookware, you can cook just about anything on a roaring fire. But, in the case you don’t want to risk going hungry for the evening, a portable gas stove is super handy to have.
Our choice: Campmaster Portable Gas Stove
Cost: $20 plus $4 for 3 pack Gas Canisters
Comparison: Gasmate Travelmate Deluxe Butane Stove
Cost: $40 plus $12 for 6 pack Gas Canisters
There is literally no difference between these two products. They even look exactly the same. With this in mind, we thought it was a no brainer to go with the Kmart option for half the price.
Truthfully, this item is not a necessity. But it is so darn handy that we can’t imagine camping without it. Hiking stoves are super compact and transportable allowing you to boil water or even cook food, on the go.
Our choice: Ultra Jet Butane Hiking Stove
Cost: $49 plus $4 per Butane Canister
Comparison: Jetboil Flash Cooking System
Cost: $170 – $220 plus $17 per Butane Canister
There are other hiking stoves out there that are cheaper, but Jetboil is the most popular brand who really led the way with hiking stoves. What’s crazy is that these two products are so similar. Either they come out of the same warehouse or campmaster has done an excellent job of replicating Jetboil’s product.
It’s mind boggling that there can be a $120 difference in price.
Although the Kmart hiking stove can boil 1 litre of hot water in about 3 minutes, remember that it’s not a necessity. If you’re on a really tight budget, you can live without it.
You may be comfortable with eating your dinner in your lap, but don’t forget that you need a place to sit your stove, prepare your meals, and to do the washing up. Camp tables also make a great place for possums to do their vengeful business on after having been banished from inside your tent.
You don’t need anything fancy for this. A simple card table will do the trick.
Our choice: Basic Camp Table
Comparison: Spinifex Compact Camp Table
It’s important to point out that the difference between these two tables is that the Kmart table has a 15kg maximum weight capacity, whereas the Spinifex can take up to 30kg. Whether or not 15kg extra load capacity is worth $41, is up to you my friend.
Miscellaneous Camping Essentials
On top of the big ticket items required for your camping set up, there are lot little bits and pieces that you’ll need too. There is really no need to shop around for these things. After all, a plastic plate is a plastic plate, right?
To cut to the chase, the essential miscellaneous items you’ll also need to grab include:
- Eating utensils such as plates, bowls, and cutlery sets – $5 in total
- Enamel mug for drinking hot coffee or chocolate around the fire – $3.50 each
- Collapsible sink for washing up – $19
- Water container to carry drinking and cooking water – $19
- Torch and/or LED lantern – $16
Some items that are a good idea to have and will make your life easier, but are not essential include:
- Floor tiles to put at the front of your tent or underneath the cooking area – $10
- Low camp chair to sit on inside your tent or while you put shoes on/off** – $8.50
- Extra tent pegs – $4.50
- Storage tubs – one for kitchen utensils and cookware (15L) and one for tent items (120L) – from $5
**I totally laughed at my husband when he suggested this, but boy is it handy!
And finally, some things that we didn’t buy from Kmart (because we already had them or they’d been gifted to us), that you will definitely need for your trip include:
- Camp chairs
- Frying pans and cooking pots (just bring these from home)
- Cooking utensils such as tongs, spatula, wooden spoon etc. (also bring from home)
- An Esky to store food and drinks
- Rubber mallet to bang the tent pegs in (Bunnings has a decent one for $10)
Total Cost of All Our Kmart Camping Gear
If you think it sounds like a lot of gear, you’re not wrong. The first time we packed all this gear up to go camping for 2 nights, we were floored. The reality is, you need the same amount of gear whether you’re going for 1 night or 5 nights–the only thing that changes is the amount of food and clothes you will bring.
When all was said and done, we spent around $387 on Kmart camping gear.
If you think this is a lot for camping gear, you’ll think again when I tell you that we would have spent well over $1,000 if we purchased all of the above from camping gear stores.
Don’t forget that there are some items like the camp chairs and esky that are not included in either of these totals. These things were gifted to us so we didn’t need to include them in our Kmart camping gear shopping list.
So How Did the Kmart Camping Gear Hold Up?
Our camping gear has been put through the wringer.
It survived gale force winds, torrential rain, and the wrath of some darn cheeky possums. If you want to find out exactly which items held up and which ones we’ve traded in for a more expensive, better quality version, stay tuned for my next Kmart camping post!