We get this question quite often, and the answer really depends on the individual player. Some things to consider are:
What type of paintball are you interested in playing?
Tournament Style Speedball
Will you be playing at a facility that offers amenities like rental equipment and air fills, or will you be in the woods?
Do you have any existing gear?
Do you have a budget?
Do you want to buy gear all at once, or little by little?
How often do you plan to play paintball?
The first thing you should really ask yourself, before investing lots of money is, "How much do I already love paintball?" If the answer is, "A LOT", you're in the right place. For those who aren't sure, we usually recommend playing a few times and getting a feel for it. Most fields rent gear, so you can go out and play without having to own any equipment. This is a good first step into the sport of paintball.
Now that you've decided what many of us already have, that we love paintball, you're ready for some of your own equipment.
The first thing we recommend is a good paintball mask, sometimes called paintball goggles. Anyone who has used a rental paintball mask will agree. Most fields try their best to keep rental equipment in good shape, but inevitably the masks get beat up. Nothing is worse than putting on a scratched up, fogged up, mask that you can't see through. And worse, it's still sweaty from the last person who wore it. So lets get that out of the way first.
Paintball masks range from about $20 to about $170, and there are several options in between. Remember, this mask is going to be on your face for most of the day, so you want something that is comfortable. You also want to make sure you can see out of it, so something with an anti-fog lens is going to be important. Most paintball masks starting at about $50 and up, have double layer anti fog lenses. This makes a big difference, and in our opinion, is well worth the investment. From there, it's about comfort. many of the higher end masks are made from nicer materials, so they feel more comfortable when you wear them, but still offer good protection. They have interchangeable parts, so you can swap lenses, face plates and even add upgrades like visors. And of course, you want one that looks cool.
Gun, Tank, and Hopper
Once you've got your face protected, it's time to start looking at the real hardware. Paintball guns, sometimes called paintball markers, range in price from about $60 all the way up to around $2,000. Now, don't be scared, you don't necessarily need to spend $2K to get a decent paintball marker. There are a lot of great paintball guns in the $300 - $500 range and each one has it's own particular strengths and weaknesses. Deciding what kind of paintball marker to buy is a topic for it's own article, and it's a subject that is regularly debated. Feel free to reach out to us, and one of our specialists will be happy to help you chose the right model for you. You can find our info on our contact us page.
As for the paintball tank, we recommend compressed air. Compressed air tanks hold regular ambient air that has been compressed just like the air in a scuba tank. This is better for the environment than CO2, it's better for your marker, and it's more readily available. Some fields won't even fill the old style CO2 tanks anymore. Compressed air paintball tanks range from around $50 to about $225, with the more expensive tanks being made from carbon fiber. The carbon fiber tanks not only look cool, but they hold more air, (at higher pressure), and are usually significantly lighter than their aluminium counterparts.
Paintball hoppers range from standard plastic $5 gravity feed models, to $250, 50+ball per second, electronic speedball monsters. A good hopper will last you quite a long time, and it makes sense to invest in one that is electronically force fed. Another great advantage to some of the nicer paintball hoppers is the ability to take them apart without tools. This makes them much easier to clean in the event of a broken paintball.
If you're looking to take the guesswork out of your paintball gun / tank / hopper selection. We've created some packages that include all three. You can check them out here.
Clothing, Pads, and Protection
Many people play paintball in an old pair of jeans and a long sleeve shirt. This can be fine for some people, but if you're looking to be a little more comfortable, there is lots of specialized clothing for paintball.
A good place to start is with the pants. A good pair of paintball pants will be easy to move in, and have good ventilation, to keep you cool in the summer months. They will also have some padding in them to help protect you from the ground, as well as flying paintballs. Trust me, I was very glad that I was wearing good paintball pants, when an unlucky shot caught me right in the padded fly.
Next, you may want to look at a paintball jersey. Just like the pants, it will be vented to keep you cool, and padded in all the right spots, to keep you protected. Some Jerseys have gloves sewn on to the ends of the sleeves. If your jersey doesn't have gloves, I recommend a good pair of paintball gloves.
There are also all kinds of specialized pads for an additional layer of protection. Different players all have their own opinions on what pads to wear. If you ask around you'll get answers ranging from no padding at all, to full blown marshmallow man. The most common are knee pads and elbow pads, but there are also padded shorts, padded undershirts, (sometimes called chest protectors), and neck protectors. The best way to tell, is to go and play. If your knees hurt, get yourself some knee pads, if you take a hit in the neck, and don't like the way it feels, get a neck protector. Remember, we're playing paintball for fun, not to be miserable.
....and the everything else
Now that you have all the basics, you can start to fill your gear bag with all the rest of the fun stuff. Podpacks, pods, barrel swabs, headbands, Action cameras, and lots of other odds and ends will be found in the possession of any serious paintball player. As always, we're here to help. If you have questions, give us a call or drop us an email. Our employees actually play paintball, so they can give some really great, real world advice.
Most importantly, go outside, be safe, and HAVE FUN.