We think a lot of our outdoor friends can agree: outdoor gear and clothing are (so dang) expensive. It took us a few years to accumulate what we have and we still don’t have everything we need, but that’s okay. To score a good deal, we try to stay patient and not get discouraged.
A tip for getting started: buy the essentials first –– boots, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent, and backpack. Then shop for everything else over the years with the tips we provided below.
Wait for Sales and Buy Off-Season. Most outdoor brands will have sales during the off-season or holidays. Stock up on winter gear during the springtime or spring gear during the fall.
Note: If you are an REI Member, every May, REI has a big Anniversary Sale and members will receive 20% coupons to be used at REI and REI Garage. The sale is great even without the 20% coupons. Last year Vivian bought a pair of hiking boots, a backpacking tent, and a new daypack and saved over $300.
Know Where to Shop Online. If you don’t mind checking every day, REI Garage has daily deals and discounts on outdoor clothing and gear. There’s also Worn Wear, a site managed by Patagonia to sell used Patagonia clothing and gear. REI has also launched a similar program, REI Used Gear, where they sell gently used gear returned by customers. Sometimes the Nordstrom company, Hautelook, will sell discounted outdoor clothing and shoes. We’ve seen brands like North Face and Tevas pop up on there. Backcountry and Moosejaw are online shops worth checking out for discounted clothing and gear.
Shop at Online and Onsite Outlets. Columbia, North Face, and Patagonia all have great marked-down prices at their outlet stores or online website. For climbing shoes, a few we’ve found in Southern California are Evolv in Buena Park, Gear Coop in Costa Mesa, and Mad Rock in Santa Fe Springs. We got a pair of climbing shoes for really cheap (like a pair of Pink Anasazi Lace-Ups for $30 kind of cheap) at the Five Ten Outlet in Redlands, whom sadly just moved to Germany. They are planning to open a location in Portland if you ever find yourself out there.
Explore Mountain Town Thrift Stores. If you live near an outdoor community, a national park, a ski resort, or a tourist town, try to find some time to check out nearby thrift stores. You can find functional and quality outdoor gear at great discounts. Of course equipment depends on the area, but if you’re patient, you can find great deals on hidden gems such as winter equipment, fishing poles, life jackets, tents, sleeping bags, and tons of outdoor clothing.
Become an REI Member. Because why not? REI Members receive 10% back on purchases for regular-priced items. These are turned into dividends and are given back to members every March. You can also apply for the REI Co-Op Mastercard and receive 5% back on items bought at REI and 1% back on everything else.
Note: A lifetime membership at REI is only $20.
Attend the REI Used Gear Sale (onsite). Every quarter when customers return gently used gear, REI will mark the price down, then host a used gear sale on location. The items available depends on the specific location and what customers return, so finding exactly what you need can be tough, but it’s definitely worth it to go scout. Once, Jennifer found brand new Black Diamond trekking poles for 50% off the original price. Vivian has been a couple more times and was able to score a lot of cool items like Black Diamond trekking poles, a Jetboil Flash Cooking System, a Goal Zero lantern, and a Petzl Reactik+ Headlamp, all for over 50% off. Our friends have gotten headlamps, climbing shoes, and backpacks here too!
Note: The event is only opened to REI members.
Share What You Have. Find more outdoorsy friends (haha). Besides the essentials and individual items, you can share most supplies with a variety of friends that already have them (until you can get your own). Things like a tent, portable stove, lantern, cookware, water filters can all be shared! Plus, it keeps us living with less stuff.
Shop with Pro Deals. Pro Deals is an online haven for discounted gear and clothing sold to employees and volunteers involved in outdoor recreation. You can apply for Pro Deal groups like Experticity or Outdoor Prolink or individual ones like Patagonia Pro Deals, Kelty Pro Purchase Program, prAna Influencer Program, Columbia Pro Deals, Mountain Hardware Pro Deals, and more.
A last note on outdoor gear: don’t worry too much about the brand. Your friend may think a $1,000 Arc’teryx jacket (nothing against Arc’teryx, it’s a great brand) is the best you can get, but if it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work for you. You can buy $200 hiking boots only to realize the $70 dollar boot fits and functions better for your feet. It’s not always about having the most top notch gear. Our personal suggestion is to find what is most comfortable for you and know how to use each gear correctly depending on the terrain you’ll be in. This isn’t to say that you should skimp on gear that can potentially save your life; these are things like helmets, harnesses, ATC, crampons! Do your research and spend more when you need to. Affordable or expensive, if you take care of your items, in return they will last you a lifetime.
Not ready to buy? We wrote a little bit about gear rentals in our People of Color in the Outdoors: Where Are We? post.
We’re still looking to add a few more gear to our collection. Would love to know any tips you have!
Jennifer and Vivian