Thanksgiving shoppers camp out with extra gear

The tradition of standing and waiting patiently for hours in line on Black Friday is a thing of the past. Not only are people shopping earlier, they're shopping smarter.

Half a dozen tents lined the entrance of Best Buy on North Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa on Thursday morning. Many of the tents had inflatable furniture, food and electronics inside.

"We've got some mattress, we've got two chairs set up, and we've got an inflatable couch," said Jay Sambon, who came to purchase a camera marked down from nearly $1,000 to $500 at Best Buy. "We've got our water, our food supply, our electronic device…We've basically got everything we need to enjoy our stay here."

Sambon and a group of friends set up their tent on Sunday, four days in advance of Best Buy kicking off it's doorbuster sales at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving day.

Rather than waiting around for days, Sambon and his friends used their tent as a placeholder, in order to claim the first spots in line.

At least one other tent behind the crew used the same tactic.

"We just came in during the day and hung out, and then went home to sleep in our comfortable beds," said Sambon.

Many of the shoppers who arrived in the early morning hours on Thanksgiving day spent time back and forth between their laptops and smartphones, checking online for deals at other stories to pass the time.

They said a popular strategy to make sure they don't miss out on deals is to work in large groups. It allows each person to wait in line during shifts.

The most popular deal at Best Buy was a 49-inch Toshiba flatscreen television selling for $149.99. It was originally priced at $429.99.

Just one hour before Best Buy opened its doors at 5 p.m., the line increased from a mere dozen to hundreds of people.

Black Friday shopping began at Target stores at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Large crowds are expected at shopping malls throughout Tampa Bay early Friday morning as the official Black Friday kicks off.