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How to Save Money on Outdoor Gear

September 12, 2015

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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Live, Play, Travel

Packing for Kalalau: the Gear

August 10, 2015

Back in the spring, when we were planning our Kalalau Trail hike, I joined a Facebook group for the trail. In the months before the trip it was a perfect way to get advice on things like parking and packing and after the trip it became a great way to stay up to date on a place that is now near and dear to my heart.

I have noticed that a few of the same questions come up all the time. What should I pack? Should I take a tent or a hammock? What type of shoes should I wear? I will admit that I asked all these questions myself. While we have done a ton of hiking and camping, rarely have we combined the two. Backpacking was fairly new to us, as was doing anything in a tropical climate.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of what we took (you presumably know about things like headlamps, cookware, sunscreen, etc.!) and, obviously, your needs may be different than ours. Only you know how warm you sleep, how much you eat, and whether one bottle of wine will last you through your whole trip!  This list covers some of the basic things that made our lives easier and better while on the trail and at the beach.

So with all that in mind, let’s get started!

Osprey Aura 65 Liter Pack – I think I tried on every pack in every size in every store in Boulder before I settled on the Osprey Aura 65. I was unsure of how much stuff we would need and had a hard time imagining going hiking without all the things I usually take to stay warm here in the mountains! This bag was very comfortable and 65 liters was perfect. Keep in mind that I carried a crapload of photography gear with me. Without all that gear, a smaller bag may have been plenty.

2-Person Backpacking Tent – Our normal camping tent is this one (keep in mind that we typically camp with a kid and two dogs!) but we didn’t need all that space for this trip since it was just my husband and I. We borrowed a two-person tent from a friend (it was REI brand but several years old so I’m not sure of the model) and it worked perfectly. There seems to be some debate about whether a tent or hammock is the way to go for this trail but I say tent all the way! Keep in mind that it rains a LOT at Kalalau. We were happy to have the shelter.

Shoes – Shoes are the other thing that seems to be hotly debated in terms of what works best for this trail (which is narrow and slippery). I hemmed and hawed over it for a while and ended up going with my favorite trail runners, my Brooks Cascadias (with custom inserts). They were perfect – they have great traction and they dried very quickly when they got wet (which happened a lot). I also took a pair of Chacos which I threw on pretty much as soon as we got to the campground.

Jetboil + Aeropress – I will go ahead and tell you right now that this little combo of tools has changed our camping lives. Honest to god, you guys. My love for the Jetboil + Aeropress combo is probably worth a post in itself but for now I’ll just saw that I am a huge coffee snob and this is, by far, the best and easiest way to make good coffee when you’re camping. Please believe me when I tell you that drinking good coffee on that insanely beautiful beach in the morning is the absolute best way to start your day.

This is what morning at Kalalau looks like. I guarantee that having a cup of good coffee here will be one of the highlights of your day.

Mummy Bag Liner – This was another thing that caused a lot of angst while we were making our packing list. Where we camp it is usually cold at night, even in the summer. I don’t think I have ever gone camping with anything less than a 15 degree sleeping bag. The idea of not taking anything warm to sleep in was really hard to wrap my brain around. But we decided to go for it and these liners (which we use in our down bags at home) worked perfectly. A word of advice: if you plan to sleep on the beach itself, you will probably want another layer of insulation. A light fleece blanket to throw on top would have been perfect.

Trekking Poles – Whether or not trekking poles are necessary is another thing that is hotly debated. As far as I’m concerned, they are not optional for Kalalau. Have I mentioned that this hike is slippery and narrow? And that you’ll have 30-some pounds on your back? Take poles. Just trust me on this one!

Water/Steripen – Knowing that we were in for a long, hot day we started our hike with a lot of water, just like we would if we were going to be out all day in Colorado. We quickly realized that, unlike at home, there are water sources everywhere on this trail. We ended up dumping out all but one liter each and refilling our bottles at the various streams and waterfalls when our supplies ran low. The Steripen made this quick and easy. Water is heavy, you guys. Don’t carry more than you need. We also had iodine tablets in case the Steripen died on us.

Thermarest – I took my itty bitty backpacking Thermarest. It was perfect for sleeping on (obviously!) but it also came in handy for lounging around on the beach. Like this:

Clothes – I am not going to go through a detailed list of clothes that I packed because you know what you need. I will say that I took a few short sleeve technical shirts, one cotton tank top, two pairs of shorts, a cheap cotton skirt, and a long-sleeve rash guard. And socks and underwear and things. I also took a rain jacket but I don’t think I ever used it. It’s hot there – the rain feels good!

We stressed quite a bit over what to pack for this trip but, all in all, I think we did pretty well and don’t have any major regrets.

If you stumbled on this post because you are planning a Kalalau trip of your own and trying to figure out what to take with you, I hope this list helped you out. Any questions about what to take? Leave me a note in the comments and I’ll give you my opinion (for whatever it is worth …!)

Also, you should know that I’m totally jealous, fairly small, and can easily fit in your luggage …

Happy travels, friends!

This post contains affiliate links. All gear was purchased with my own dough. Thank you for supporting Peak & Pixel!