As I write this we have just been through Black Friday and said goodbye to Cyber Monday. And what is the one reason that everyone has those marked out on their calendar each year? Because we all like deals!
But we like deals ALL the time, not just a couple days a year. Especially deals on outdoor gear. It can get expensive! I have 5 kids and outfitting them every year as they outgrow what I just bought feels like throwing money out the window. Plus, lots of it is specialized. I don’t want to spend a zillion dollars on a super awesome everyone-needs-it camping gadget that I will use just once a year.
I’m just preaching to the choir right? If you have ever bought outdoor gear, I know you are thinking the same thing. And when I say “outdoor gear” I’m talking about everything from shoes and apparel, to tents and kayaks. So lets get down to where you can find cheap (as in price not quality) outdoor gear without selling a child.
Local Outdoor Gear
Lets look local first shall we? These are usually some of the best deals on cheap gear you can find and you don’t even have to pay shipping. Most of these will be used equipment although you can sometimes find new.
Thrift Stores & Yard Sales
You can get killer deals on all kinds of gear at thrift stores and yard sales! Just this year Isaac bought a brand new with the tag still on Steelhead fishing pole for 50% off at a yard sale. He was practically giddy. Now I must admit I am not much of a yard saler. Some people just seem to have a knack for it. If you really hate going to yard sales, recruit a friend who loves it and tell them what you are looking for so they can keep an eye out for you.
Pros: local, deep discount
Cons: variable product availability, takes extra time to go out looking
Craigslist or Buy & Sell Groups
The online equivalent of yard sales. Search your local Craigslist page or look for other selling/swap groups on Facebook, in the local newspaper, etc. Every area seems to have a different online place that seems like it is “the” place to get local deals.
Pros: local, deep discount, can browse online
Cons: variable product availability, some things sell out super quick, you can’t be sure of the quality until you actually see it
Retails Store’s Clearance & Sales
Keep an eye on you favorite local stores. I’m sure you already know how to shop the clearance isle. Just try to think in advance what you want and when it might be on sale so you can keep it on your radar.
Pros: local, you probably shop their regularly
Cons: variable product availability, may be less discounted than other places
Local Gear Rental
Why buy gear you will only use once a year or for a new activity that you might hate? (I know you have gear from some activity that you thought you would like and hated. Admit it.) Check your local outdoor store to see what rentals they offer.
Or if you live in or near a college town, see if their physical education program rents out equipment. At Utah State, my awesome alma mater, you could rent gear for camping, winter activities, water sports, etc. Students get discounted prices but rentals are also open to the public. This can be a really amazing and affordable alternative depending on your needs.
Pros: local, cheaper prices for higher quality gear, don’t have to store it, great for short term use
Cons: limited availability, limited kid options, you need to plan in advance
Online Outdoor Gear
There are so many online options and more popping up all the time! I love it!
Online Gear Rental
For those without local gear rentals, you now have the option of online rentals. Sites like GetOufitted, Apooya, or OutdoorsGeek can ship gear right to your door. You use it and ship it back. This is also a really great way to try out that coveted (but expensive) gear before you shell out some big bucks to get it. I hate to pay top dollar for a tent just to decide halfway through the trip that can’t stand the design of the zipper door. I have not personally used these services before so make sure to check out their reviews.
Pros: cheaper prices for higher quality gear, don’t have to store it, great for short term use
Cons: you need to plan in advance, limited kid options, have to deal with return shipping
I would suggest when traveling that you check with the local agency or location about available rentals. For example, Yosemite National Park requires all visitors to store food or other scented items in bear canisters. Therefore, bear canisters are available for rent from the Park. Keep an eye out for opportunities that you may not have thought about.
There are a lot of discount sites that offer some really great deals. Steep and Cheap has name brand gear for all ages and activities with a new lightening deal every 5 minutes. The Clymb offers discounted gear and travel adventures. Planet Gear specializes in women’s gear and apparel (free membership required). Gear Chase is a roundup of outdoor deals from many different sites. Search around, compare prices, and find a site that fits your outfitting needs.
Pros: deals on name brand gear
Cons: limited availability, have to wait for shipping
Online sites also make it easy buy and sell gear from other outdoor adventurers. Gear Trade and Mountain Equipment Co-op Gear Swap have a good selection of gear and you can sell your own gear for some extra cash. In addition to discount gear, GearX will also buy your gear on consignment if you don’t want to sell it yourself. Our friends in Canada can try NeverTrackedOut which is a new venture. Again, I have not personally used any of these so check out some reviews before you buy.
Pros: deals on name brand gear
Cons: limited availability, have to wait for shipping, you can’t be sure of the quality until you actually see it
Kickstarter & Other Crowdfunding
This may not be what you think of as super discount but crowdfunding sites have some really amazing finds. You can get cutting edge equipment for lower than the retail price. Products like the BioLite BasCamp Stove, and the Oru foldable kayak were first found on Kickstarter. These were amazing, brand new and you could buy them first and help the products get started.
A new one that looks pretty awesome is the Sparkr, a flashlight/ fire starter combo. But not just a Bic lighter on the end of a flashlight, its a high-intensity plasma lighter on the end of a flashlight. Everyone loves high tech toys which is why it is fully funded. And there are many other innovative projects out there. Explore Kickstarter, Indigogo, or your other favorite crowdfunding site to see what you can find.
Pros: state of the art, you get it first, help fund new companies & projects, discounts for early buyers
Cons: trying a completely new product (could be a bust), long wait time, project may not be funded
A Word of Caution
While I love, love, LOVE a good deal and I’m happy to purchase used gear that still has mileage left, there are some things you should never buy used. Just don’t do it!
- Climbing harnesses, ropes, carabiners, & other climbing gear
- Parachutes and hang gliders
- Sometimes Shoes
If you are trusting you life with something like climbing gear and hang gliders, you need to know exactly where it has been. It is better to be safe than sorry in such cases. There may be other no-nos in used gear so please use your best judgement here and not just buy something on sale.
Shoes are a little more flexible rule. I would not buy a hiking boot or shoe that is already broken in the the shape of someone else’s foot. It is not life threatening like a used and abused helmet but a used shoe can make for an uncomfortable hiking experience. You’ll have to use your judgement for shoes that have “only be worn X number of time” etc.
With any used equipment, you should check it over thoroughly, tug on seams, play with zippers, check a parts list and just make sure everything looks good and solid about the product.
Get Your Gear!
Now get some gear and get outside! Specialized gear is not necessary for every outing but the right gear can really make the outdoor experience better. I have a tight budget with a big family and can still get outside. You can too!
If you are interested in buying American made gear, check with us next week for our post and super-duper ranking of brands and their American made-ness.
See you outside!