The great outdoors can provide everything from heart-pumping adventure to soul-soothing relaxation for individual travelers and whole families. The outdoors also has something to offer for every level of experience. Plus, you can access the outdoors without paying a costly entrance fee or club membership.
But that doesn’t mean outdoor activities can’t be pricey. The gear and clothing required for some activities can be cost-prohibitive — especially if you’re just starting your outdoor adventure journey. It can be hard to know where to buy gear or how much you should spend on that new sleeping bag. Consider these savvy gear-getting suggestions to maximize your spending power and get on with enjoying the outdoors.
One of the best ways to save on outdoor gear — particularly clothing — is to shop factory seconds. Factory seconds are items that might have minor cosmetic flaws but are still fully functional. These products are usually heavily discounted compared to the standard retail price and are an easy way to find affordable gear.
It’s becoming more common for reputable outdoor gear and clothing companies to offer factory seconds directly on their websites. Or you can look for online outlet stores that sell garments with mild imperfections. The mosquitoes won’t notice that your Carhartt factory seconds have a faint discoloration. They’ll just know they’re having no luck biting your ankles through those sturdy canvas pants.
It’s important to know when to buy a more affordable alternative and when to shell out the big bucks. Some outdoor recreation clothing like T-shirts and cargo shorts can easily be found at common, low-cost stores like Target. But some specialty gear or technical clothing might only be available from a higher-dollar brand like Patagonia or Osprey. If you’re new to the activity, buying a lower-priced option can be a good place to start.
There are some items that are best purchased new and directly from the retailer — even if it’s full price. Gear that’s going to be used frequently or contributes to your safety or comfort is worth a higher sticker price. There are plenty of options for affordable hiking clothing, while hiking boots might be where you spend more money. Compromising on the essentials won’t be worth it when you get blisters or your backpack rips.
The right footwear, backpack, tent, or climbing gear will pay off in the long run. For one thing, some outdoor retailers offer extended warranties or returns on items years past their purchase date. They can even provide mending and repair services at no cost — but only if you bought the item from them.
If there’s a gear purchase you’re going to make but it’s not time-sensitive, try buying the item in the activity’s off-season. Summertime? The odds are those skis you were pining for last year are going to be discounted. Wintertime? Head down to your local cycling shop to test ride the bike you’ve had your eye on. It’s also a good idea to check for holiday-specific sales. Some brands will give steep discounts on even their most popular items during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or end-of-the-year sales.
Notice that a company just came out with a new model of that GPS watch you wanted to buy? Companies will often discount the previous model of an item right before or shortly after releasing a new one. It’s also a good idea to follow your favorite outdoor brands or local gear shops on social media. They might offer in-store, local deals that aren’t available at other larger retailers.
Buying used gear can be one of the best ways to snag affordable equipment. Popular brands are even beginning to devote entire sections of their sites to gear and clothing resale. Check out a used gear website to browse a variety of brands or the resale sections on specific retailers’ websites.
Used gear shops in your area can also provide some quality finds. Visit local retailers next time you’re visiting an outdoor recreation hub. Larger cities or popular outdoor destinations will often have used gear shops overflowing with items. You can also find some quality used finds on Facebook Marketplace or general resale sites like Poshmark. You can even adjust your location to browse the items that are being posted in the Boulders and Vancouvers of the world.
If you’re an occasional outdoor enthusiast or a novice, you might consider renting or borrowing gear. This can be a cost-effective way to try a new activity or test out a piece of gear before buying it. It’s also a smart choice if you know that you’ll only use that kayak twice a year. Many local outdoor gear shops will allow you to rent gear, but there are plenty of online options, too.
Reach out to local outdoor organizations to see if they have gear they would be willing to rent. Some folks might be happy to rent you their personal equipment if you’re interested in testing it out before you buy. If you don’t want to rent, and buying the item by yourself feels cost-prohibitive, make the purchase with a friend or family member. Sharing gear with someone you know can be an easy way to create your own rental system. Just keep in mind that you won’t be able to use that snowboard or frame backpack at the same time.
Don’t let the cost of outdoor gear get in the way of actually enjoying time outside. Finding the right gear without breaking the bank is easier than you might think.