Where to begin when looking for gear on a budget:
I am a gear junkie! I love gear. I love my gear, trying my friends’ gear, testing new gear at the store. Gear can be the thing that makes a difference in your trip. From yeah, we had a good time to WOW, can you believe we did this?
But gear can be expensive. Especially if you want to get the entire collection, tent, sleeping bag, pad, down slippers, wool socks, backpack, everything made for the kitchen, hydration pack, hiking poles, hiking boats, proper clothes…and that’s just for 1 activity. When you want to hike, camp, backpack, kayak, climb, wakeboard…it can really start adding up. But it doesn’t have to be expensive. We are going to walk through various types of gear and when it’s okay to go cheap and when it’s worth it to spend a little money.
Before you buy anything, the first thing you want to ask yourself is, what is the primary thing I’m going to do with this piece of gear. For example, before you buy a tent, you will want to know if you will primarily car camp or backpack. If you backpack, you will want a much lighter tent which tends to be more expensive. If you are car camping, you can afford to save a little money and get a heavier tent.
REI Garage Sales
Once you know what gear you want, to keep within a budget it’s good keep an eye on the REI clearance rack & garage sales. At REI, you can return items within 1 year of purchase, even if you used it. Several times a year they have a garage sale and you can buy slightly used (or very used) gear at a huge discount. If you want the really good stuff, it’s worth it to get in line early. Bring that tent you are looking to replace and spend the night!
At one REI garage sale, I picked up a pair Prana pants for $20! The brand Prana can be expensive new – about $85-100 for a pair of hiking pants so I was excited when I saw a pair for $20. It’s been about 5 years now they have held up great. I even got a hole in them from the camp fire the first time I wore them and they still held up!
REI usually has good deals on their clearance racks as well. Know what you are looking for when you go and be prepared to walk out empty handed several times. Finding the gear you need at the price you want to pay, takes time. I found my light weight Marmot rain jacket on the clearance rack for around $60 (about 50% off).
Academy, and in particular BCG, has great prices and good quality. While if you spent a little more money your gear might last a bit longer, I have found BCG does what I need it to do and holds up as well. Academy also has GREAT clearance racks. If you spend time there, you can save money on name brands like Nike, Adidas, and Columbia.
Academy sells a brand called Magellan and I found this brand to have decent quality for the price. Similar to Columbia, they have make SPF shirts and pants and Magellan tends to be cheaper than the Columbia brand. They also make a cooler similar to Yeti but about half the price. I have use it and it works great!
How much do you really want that color?
The easiest way to save money when buying gear is not being picky about colors. Sometimes just the difference in color can mean 50%+ savings. I try to stick with color themes the best I can so my gear/clothes kind of look like it goes together, but I usually buy the color that is the cheapest. Here is a perfect example. This REI Coop Fleece is warm, soft and super comfortable. I found a white one on the clearance rack in CA. I love it so much; I just searched the website to get another. Black would be nice but black is currently $44.50. The blue and rouge are $25.93. Or the red is $30.03. Since I like blue, I’ll get the blue…although I like red too so might get that color as well. While it would be nice to get a black one, I just can’t justify paying almost double for the same fleece. I rather spend that money on a piece a gear where it makes a difference spending a little bit more.
Download How to Buy Gear on a Budget
Other online stores to find good prices on quality gear are:
Download our Guide to Gear to find out which gear it’s worth spending money on and which gear it’s okay to go cheaper.
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