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How to Save Money on Outdoor Gear

September 12, 2015
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One of the benefits of my” normal” job, back when I had it, was access to some pretty amazing pro deals. Because I worked for an outdoor/conservation focused organization I was able to score killer discounts from some of my favorite companies. It was a perk that was hard to give up (and yes, it was something I weighed when I was making the decision to jump ship!) but, at the end of the day, a good pro deal is not a reason to stay in a job that makes you unhappy.

When I struck out on my own and had to start paying full retail (what?! who does that?!) for gear, I realized I was going to have to be a lot smarter about how I spent my money. Needless to say, I’ve learned a few tricks along the way.

Let’s face it, outdoor sports can be expensive. Like, really expensive. And if there is a way to minimize that cost, I’m all for it. Because buying good gear for less money means there’s more cash leftover to do things like travel or, yanno, feed the dogs and pay the mortgage.

So with all that in mind, here are some things that I’ve learned about how to buy the stuff that I need to do the things that I love …. while also still being able to feed my family:

Contact your local bike/ski/paddle shop. If you’re looking to buy a big ticket item (bike, paddleboard, snowboard …) and are ok with getting something gently used, it’s always a great idea to check with your local gear or guide shop to see if they have demo or rental equipment that they are looking to unload. I got a great deal on my paddleboard this way! And while some shops only sell stuff at certain times of the year, others are happy to move old inventory all year long. It never hurts to ask! Plus, supporting local businesses is always a good thing.

Not all technical clothing needs to be expensive. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of pricey gear and I love it all but not every adventure or workout requires expensive stuff. When it comes to fair weather runs, hikes, paddles, and just about anything else, I often get by with tops from Target or Costco. Glamorous, right? Seriously though, if we’re talking basic wicking tops, theirs get the job done well for a very reasonable price. If you can wait until Target’s workout clothes go on sale, you’re even more likely to score a deal. I bought my very favorite cold weather running jacket on sale at Target for something like $25 and it has served me very well.

Check out Sierra Trading PostIf I am looking to order stuff online (this goes for both casual and technical clothes and shoes as well as things like ski goggles, snowshoes, backpacks, etc.) I always check Sierra Trading Post first. They carry gear from most of the major manufacturers at deeply discounted prices. Selection may be limited but sometimes you can score – and when you do, you score big! STP has also been a great place to get stuff for the kid because, again, the prices are just SO good. Pro Tip: It’s always worth looking to see if they have a promo going (Like right now! The code AVFRESH5 will get you 25% off your order plus half off shipping – you’re welcome!).

Hit up T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. I discovered several years ago that discount stores like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls can be really great places to find name brand outdoor apparel for super cheap. T.J. Maxx actually owns Sierra Trading Post which means that they stock a lot of the same stuff. I regularly find clothes from companies like Patagonia, Prana, and Pearl Izumi there and it’s always at a MUCH lower price than you’d pay pretty much anywhere else. Shopping at those places definitely requires some patience (which I, admittedly, don’t always have …) but there are certainly some killer deals to be found.

Consider renting! I know that we all want our own gear but sometimes renting can be a really good deal. If you are only going to use your equipment for one trip or even one season it might make sense to rent rather than buy. I did a season long ski rental with Christy Sports my first year of skiing and it cost all of $100 for the whole winter! It was a great way to see if I even liked skiing before making a big investment on equipment. The downside of this is that your options are limited and you may find that the rental equipment doesn’t work for you (this happened to me when I did a snowboard rental – the boots were no bueno for my feet). But it’s always worth a shot! As a side note, renting camera lenses is also really easy and REALLY fun. I use Pro Photo Rental.

Get an REI credit card. You guys. REI credit cards are the bomb diggity for people who like to spend money on gear. They won’t save you money up front but they will pay dividends (literally!) down the road! Our REI dividend skyrocketed after we started using an REI card as our primary credit card. I’m not going to say how much our dividend was this year because it’s a little embarrassing (seriously …) but I will say that I was VERY happy to have it when we were gearing up for our Kalalau trip.

Join a club or team! Getting discounts on everything from gear to beer probably shouldn’t be the main reason you join a team but it’s definitely a perk! Most outdoor sports teams and clubs have sponsors who happily give discounts to members. Plus, meeting other people who love to do the things you do is just plain fun!

Got any other tips? Drop ’em in the comments! 

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