As long as you play safe and dress correctly, Paintball can be an awesome sport for everyone involved, even when you’re losing every match. It’s probably the most fun you can have without playing actual military war-games with weapons equipped with flash suppressors, laser sights, and blank rounds.

Goggles, chest/neck protectors, and facemasks come in all shapes and sizes for paintball, and they can all be very pricey items. Yet, when you get nailed in an uncovered area you find out quickly just how much you need all of the above. If you’re worried about your budget, search craigslist and e-bay first. Sometimes if you search the “free” section on craigslist you might even find someone unloading all their gear or giving away an item they just replaced with something new. If cost is not an obstacle, get the best equipment money can buy and make all your opponents and teammates jealous. Just remember that more expensive products aren’t always better. Ask around and find out what is used by the most people and what works the best.

As far as clothing, don’t forget to dress in layers, no matter how hot it is. Paintball involves lots of hiding and running and is usually done in wooded areas where if you overheat you can find a spot in the shade to hide pretty easily. Just drink a lot of water to compensate for wearing three or four layers.

Start first with long underwear and thick socks. Next should be a tight-fitting long sleeve shirt and a tight pair of spandex or sweat pants. Finally, you will need to find some dark or cammo outerwear. Try to get official military fatigues if you can. Also called B.D.U.s (Battle Dress Uniforms), you can get fatigues in all sizes and all kinds of patterns for any terrain from jungle to desert.

Before you make a buy, though, you need to check for signs that you are getting the real deal and not cheap knockoffs. Real fatigues made for use by the U.S. military are made in the U.S.A., not in China. My own fatigues, issued by the United States Air Force Academy, are 50% cotton and 50% nylon and made by Golden Manufacturing Company in Golden, MS. My cousin once bought a set of fatigues that were virtually identical in appearance to mine, but they were made by a company called Atlanco and were indeed manufactured in China. The big difference upon close inspection was the thickness of the material. The Made in China pair of fatigues were very thin and light. The real ones are thick and durable and may not be available in too many stores. Even Army/Navy stores might try to sell the knockoffs as the real deal, so look for the Golden Manufacturing tag or find someone in your family in the military who is your size and has some extra fatigues he or she is no longer using.

Of course you will also want a great pair of boots that will not weigh you down too much but also won’t wear down under pressure. Hi-Tec makes affordable boots that feels like sneakers and are great for running or walking in. Their backpacking and light hiking boot models are perfect for paintball.

Just be smart and think first of your most sensitive areas. If you don’t feel like getting a stinging direct hit in a certain area of your body, cover it up the best you can.