Cool zippers, new waterproofing, etc... sometimes it's easy to get lost in all the hype (over-spending happens on features). Our guide focuses on the fundamental factors you should always keep in mind (thus, this short list is similar across all items). Then only at the end do we have some questions to get you thinking about other minor features.
We highly recommend reviewing Type or Style first, where we review what you can use to address the Core function--a regular item you have at home may work! The other factors are secondary & depend strongly on the Type or Style you've picked.
While we encourage you to use regular items wherever possible, as an outdoor gear shop, we only carry outdoor-specific products
Type or Style
We've organized the most commonly used items people use to address the Core function below, with example images, characteristics, features, etc.
|Our category name
|Example qualities & features
|How to set up
||Set-up poles, unroll table across poles
||Set-up poles, stretch fabric across poles, like a really easy tent!
Most compatible with standard height chairs
Most compatible with shorter pitched style chairs
(flat, rigid surface, but still fabric-based, so may not be as good for cooking)
|Effect on secondary factors
||Card table* to very long for groups
||Usually a card table* or slightly bigger
||Usually very small, designed to hold a few cups or bowls. Feels like an end table to casually hold things rather than a table to gather around. Largest may be just a card table*
||You'll need a vehicle to transport this (possibly a truck)
||~2-3ft (0.6-0.9m) long & maybe bulkier than a camera tripod
||From a little smaller than a 2-liter soda bottle to just shy of the accordion style size (there's a wide variety)
|Can be slung over-the-shoulder
||Smallest ones may fit in a regular backpack; will definitely fit in a hiking backpack
||Less technical & more material, no consideration for Weight & Size
||More technical & less material, Weight & Size specifically optimized
Why we do/don't carry it
= we rent
= we sell
|Not specific enough for outdoor use
Versatile for most outdoor uses, therefore more worth the money
|Small size makes it not suitable for cooking, a common use
*A card table seats 1 person on each side, roughly a square with length of 30-35in (76-89cm) on each side
One of life's certainties is the trade-off between price & quality. This creates an inherently unfair situation. If you save money today by buying something lower end, you'll end up replacing it more frequently, spending money & time each instance so that at the end, you probably haven't actually saved anything. On the other hand, if you decide to invest in something higher end, you'll need a lot more upfront money, and you need to be able to use the item frequently enough to make it worthwhile.
We developed our rental program to address this unfairness. We don't sell lower end items. But for our higher end items, we offer them for rent at up to 90% off retail price, generally well below the cost of buying even the cheaper option. That's a win-win!
It may seem like the price & quality trade-off is disappearing, because you can find a cheap version of almost anything for tens of dollars that still has good reviews (assuming the reviews are real). Remember 2 things:
- Many reviews are written after only a trial use, first use, or infrequent use: We've seen entire review videos of gear done at home, which is very different than actually being outdoors!
- The point of gear is to give you a good experience because you've already spent money to be on vacation from work! Don't let quality issues affect your relaxation
For gear specifically, the quality issues center around performance & durability.
Methodology notes on prices shown on this page
There is a lot of variety in tables, including in shapes (e.g., circular tables) that can affect capacity. A big consideration here would be, do you want a table that you can pull up a seat to, or just a table to hold some items off to the side? As the table above shows, this varies by type.
Weight & Size (Compactness) for Backpacking
If you're thru-hiking 20+ miles (32+km) per day, every advantage counts! In this case, size refers to compactness. You can carry more gear in the same size backpack if all of it is very compact, or for more weight savings, you can get a smaller size pack.
There isn't a separate comparison table, because weight & size are functions of type. Most people who really care about weight & size wouldn't bring a table. That said, the closest to a backpacking suitable table is the pitched style (similar to with portable chairs).
Minor features that may be important
Here, we give you a list of questions to start thinking about minor features. We hope our approach of savings these features for last gets you to more critically think about what you need & not get caught up in the hype of what's cool and over-spend your budget.
- Does it have integrated cup holders?
- How easy is it to clean the surface material? (e.g., fabric requires washing whereas plastic or metal can just be wiped down)
- Is the surface suitable for cooking? (i.e., can it resist heat? remember, even if the bottom of the stove doesn't get hot, hot foods may spill or you may need to rest hot cookware on the table)
- Can you sit on it? Many camp tables can't support body weight & will collapse