Many of my fellow outdoor enthusiasts have found this summer puzzling. A lot of traditional summer pastimes, like crowded beach houses and outdoor evening concerts, have become taboo. Friends of ours that have never considered camping (and peeing) outside are now asking us for our best tips and tricks—and to borrow our gear. Camping is a safe and socially distant way to get a much-needed change of scenery close to home, but I only have so many sleeping bags. It’s time for you to buy your own.

Luckily, WIRED favorite outdoor retailers like REI and Backcountry are holding their Labor Day sales. It’s the perfect time of year to pick up some beginner basics, like folding chairs, a sleeping pad, or a stand-up tent.

Updated September 7: We’ve removed a few items, swapped a few recommendations for better deals, and added the MSR stove, REI flashlight, and more. We should also note that for Labor Day, you also can get one full year of WIRED for only $5 ($25 off).

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Deals on Starter Tents and Sleeping Gear

Photograph: REI
  • 2-Room, 6-Person REI Co-op Tent for $374 ($125 off): I have had this tent since 2011. It’s still in fine working condition and compatible with other REI Co-op accessories, like the Kingdom Mud Room that gives you a little more space to stow wet bags or shoes to dry. Alternatively, you may want a smaller two-person tent ($244, $105 off) if you don’t have to fit two children and a dog in your tent.

  • Therm-a-Rest Sleeping Pad for $34 ($12 off): I have inflatable Therm-a-Rests, which pack down smaller. But if you’re a beginner and you’re not hauling everything overland in a backpack, a folding pad works great and is a little bit warmer.

  • Therma-a-Rest Compressible Pillow for $19 ($6 off): Not everyone can wake up with a functioning neck after resting their heads overnight on a ball of fluffed up clothing. If back and neck pain keep you from camping and hiking, make room in your pack for a foam pillow. It compresses into a tight ball to save space.

  • Nemo Forte 20 Sleeping Bag for $150 ($50 off): Sleeping bags with synthetic insulation are usually a little cheaper, a little more durable, and easier to dry than down bags (but are heavier and less warm). I like Nemo bags because they have plenty of room to move around, if you find a standard mummy-shaped sleeping bag to be a little claustrophobic. The men’s Nemo 20 is also on sale.

  • 2-Person Camping Loveseat for $82 ($28 off): This seems self-indulgent, but I love this. I have two kids that never let me sit in my own camp chair by myself. If you’re not backpacking, I recommend a one-person chair that collapses rather than one that has to be completely disassembled and painstakingly stuffed into an annoying tiny stuff sack.

  • Solar Tent Light for $17 ($8 off): I have this lamp from Mpowered. It’s cheap, recharges from the sun, and is convenient for both finding things around your campsite in the dark and hanging in your tent at night. My favorite headlamp and a bunch of other small, powerful, and rechargeable lamps are also on sale.

  • GoalZero Portable Device Charger for $20 ($10 off): Now that your phone serves as your camera and navigation device, it’s worth keeping a charger on hand. GoalZero’s battery packs pair with its solar panels for recharging off the grid. The device is small and slim but will charge an iPhone from 0 to 100 percent and have a little power left over. The cables are built in.

Deals on Bags and Cooking Gear

Photograph: Osprey
  • Osprey Fairview Trek Duffel and Backpack for $165 ($55 off): This a hybrid between a weekend duffel and a backpacking pack; this summer, it’s been my favorite bag to toss in some clothes and haul over short distances. It comes in a few different sizes, and there’s a men’s version.

  • MSR WhisperLite Stove for $67 ($23 off): White gas stoves tend to sound like a jet preparing for takeoff, which can spoil a lot of the outdoors’ charm at mealtime. MSR’s WhisperLite isn’t whisper-quiet, but it is much quieter than other white gas stoves. Stock up on liquid stove fuel while it’s cheap, too.

  • REI Co-Op Backpack for $38 ($17 off): For day hikes, you just need something simple and light. REI’s Flash backpacks are perfect for a bag you can keep by the door and grab on a spontaneous trip to the trails. It’s just big enough to carry a rain jacket, lightweight insulation layer, lunch, sunscreen, and water. There are patterned versions on sale, too. The Flash 18 is another great pack, but we like the external water bottle pouch on the 22L version.

  • Lightweight Stove Kit for $75 ($25 off): This simple kit from MSR includes a fast, lightweight stove and everything else you need to cook and eat your first few meals outside. The dishes, utensils, and cup all fit neatly inside the pot for storage.

  • Gravity-Powered Water Filtering System for $67 ($23 off): You might not always have access to drinkable running water. A gravity water-filtration system is the easiest way to keep your camp supplied with fresh water for drinking, cooking, or washing your face.

  • Stanley 16-Qt Adventure Cooler for $60 ($20 off): I haven’t tested this cooler, but Stanley is a pretty reliable name when it comes to keeping things chilled.

Deals on Apparel

Photograph: Arc’teryx
  • Arc’teryx Kyanite Women’s Hoody for $134 ($45 off): Everything from Arc’teryx is on sale at REI right now. My parents gave me this hoody as a present a few years ago. I like that it has a hood, fits very trimly and yet allows for freedom of movement. The abrasion-resistant fabric doesn’t pill up as badly as my Patagonia Better Sweater does. Here’s the men’s version.

  • Helly Hansen Women’s Lifa Merino Pant for $52 ($43 off): I have never regretted bringing long underwear. At the very least, you can wear them as pajamas. This is one of my favorite merino wool layers. The men’s merino version is also on sale.

  • ExOfficio Full Cut Briefs for $14 ($6 off): Don’t forget the short skivvies. You’ll want to do your most-strenuous hiking in short underwear unless it’s extremely cold, since you can work up a sweat quickly while you’re moving, and synthetic dries out more quickly than merino wool. The men’s boxers are also on sale.

  • Darn Tough Men’s Hiker Micro Crew Socks for $17 ($6 off): It’s hard to go hiking without a good pair of socks! I’ve tried many, many pairs, and the heels on the Darn Toughs are the only ones that have held up. I have these socks in purple (women’s version).

  • Prana Brion Men’s Shorts for $48 ($21 off): Prana is also holding a Labor Day sale through September 7. I just bought my husband a replacement pair of these shorts; they’re stretchy, UPF50+, and abrasion- and wrinkle-resistant, which means they’re as good for hiking and paddling as they are for a socially distant picnic afterward. The Olivia Shorts for women ($41, $18 off) look similar.

  • Vasque Sundowner GTX Boots—Men’s—for $176 ($44 off) with code SUMMER25: If you’re going to splurge on a hiking boot (which you don’t always need; I usually wear running shoes), I’d pick a timeless waterproof version. The women’s Sundowner is on sale too.

Other Labor Day Sales We Like

If you’re on the hunt for more gear, here’s where to search, including some links to our other Labor Day deals stories.

For more ideas, don’t forget to check out our roundups of the Best Rain Jackets, Best Camp Stoves, and Best Bikepacking Gear.


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