Gear: How to get the Deals
Gear is pricey! I know it, you know it, but we'll all spend upwards of $1,000 on gear for a thru hike to get what we want. But here's the thing, if you are patient enough and plan in advance, you can get all of your gear for at least 10% off. The number one reason my gear was cheaper (30%+ off) was because I bought last year's version! Every gear brand tells you when they're releasing something new; they're excited about it and they want you to want the next great thing. But if their last version was a big seller, why bother paying full price for the latest edition? The 'High Volume' version of the Big Agnes tents that came out this year are less than 5" taller and wider than their previous 'Regular Volume' version so I really didn't feel like I was compromising to get over $100 off on last year's Copper Spur. Try to time your purchases within 3 months of a new gear release from your favorite brand, sometimes this can yield up to 60% off. See the specs for the traditional Big Agnes Copper Spur ($379) on the left and the high volume Big Agnes Copper Spur ($449) on the right: (note the same peak height, same footprint size, it is not actually a higher volume. The real difference is the weight!)
Just pay attention to the advertising, friends! Don't get distracted by the fancy names, abbreviations, or 'luxury' products!
Here are some other tips, store by store:
Here's your REI deal getting to do list:
- Become a Member: $20
- Becoming an REI member lets you earn ~10% on any purchase of a full priced item online or in stores. This 10% is given back to you in your annual dividend during the month of March!
- Sign up at the right time and you'll probably get a $20 gift card back just for signing up! The membership fee paid for itself!
- You'll get discounts on classes and adventures through REI. Some stores (like Framingham) even offer discounted ski tickets and shuttles to ski resorts!
- Their return policy is amazing! If you're buying something you are unsure about (for me this was my sleeping bag, shoes, tent, etc.) you can return it no matter what, even if you used it.
- The way I see it, paying full price for an item at REI is like paying a little extra for refund insurance. I returned my sleeping pad and bag for a full refund. I did not return my shoes, but even though I paid full price and didn't return them I still earned 10% back in my dividend for this purchase!
- Shop in store garage sales (usually once per fiscal quarter).
- How it works:
- You give your member number and get in.
- Once inside there are categories of gear: green (practically new - usually returns or leftovers from a product line that is no longer featured), blue (slightly used/worn but still functional), yellow (very worn or used but still usually functional), red (broken - unless you can fix it don't bother!,).
- If you like it, grab it! Even if you're not sure you want it, if you leave it there it could be gone in a second. You can always put it down later.
- Get there early! Some people (at stores that allow it) camp out the night before...
- Have your membership number ready at the door. You'll have to wait in line and you'll lose your spot in line if you don't have it ready!
- Go straight for what you need first (make a list before hand if you can)! Inventory goes fast so make sure you get to what you need first and sort for extra deals after.
- Discounts at garage sales can be as little as 10% all the way up to 80%. Sometimes you can find the deal of a lifetime, other times it was just an experience. Keep your expectations low.
- How it works:
- Use your dividend! (that 10% we talked about earlier!)
- Order to store when possible (for free shipping).
- Check the discounts page on their website!
- Check the online 'Garage' outlet.
- Sign up for emails for a coupon for 15% off.
Sierra Trading Post
Sierra Trading Post was recently bought out by TJ Maxx. They carry a lot of 'last year's version' gear, clothing, and shoes. I always check their online store if I'm looking for something specific online. I got my sleeping pad their for half off simply because it was last year's shade of orange. I got Smartwool base layers for half off because they changed the waist band and colors. Check their online offers page for deals you can only get online. Also check their 24 in 24 page (24 deals in 24 hours). Their brick and mortar stores can be hit or miss and are organized like their new parent company, so you may have to sift through so other stuff to find what you need.
From knock offs to sale prices, free shipping to old versions, you'll probably get a good deal on Amazon. Just be careful: there are a lot of things you can't return or have to pay to return! Here's how to do it:
- Sign up for Amazon Prime: $99 (optional, of course)
- You can get the membership for cheaper if you are a student!!
- You get free shipping (usually 2 day shipping!!) on Prime items (most items)
- You get access to movies, books, music, podcasts, and more Prime media.
- If you order from Amazon more than 9 times per year the membership is worth it in shipping alone.
- Some environmentalists do take issue with Prime, so proceed with moral caution.
- Sometimes knock offs are the way to go.
- I got my butt pad / folding seat for less than 3 dollars... or I could have gotten the $15 Therm-a-Rest version... I have the feeling I will be wearing this out on this trip anyway and the knock off weighs less!
- I got a straw that screws onto my water bottle, instead of finagling one myself for the same price as the Amazon version. It satiated my yearning to bring my Hydrapak by providing a straw with less breakable parts than a full water bladder.
- You can find older versions of you favorites for way less.
- You can find new versions of your favorites for slightly less.
- Some things are up to 30% off of MSRP for this year's version!
- Amazon can look at the prices from different sellers and even tell you when the price drops or raises if you leave the item in your cart. So you can get the best price. You can get a real steal if a certain seller is having a temporary sale!
Steep & Cheap
Backcountry's outlet (much like the REI garage) with some seriously good deals! Big Agnes tents for $100+ off?! Sleeping bags for 40% off?! Base layers 2 for the price of 1?! Sign me up! The deals on S&C are usually better than at the REI garage and higher quality brands than STP carries. Here's how to get the best deals from them:
- Check the Current Steal
- Price Alerts: you can sign up for price alerts on any product page and S&C will alert you if the price drops!
- Pay attention to returns, though, you only have 30 days and the items cannot be used!
You have to 'join' the Clymb in order to see prices or buy from them. It's a free membership, they are essentially just forcing you to sign up for their email list. I've found that this site can be extremely hit or miss. More so than most of the above. They have limited deals and inventory, but when they do have what you want it can be a great deal! I personally don't use them much, but it's an option for sure. Check out their FAQ page for more info.
- 6pm: An extremely hit or miss, limited quantity, steep discount site. Similar to TJMaxx/Marshalls but all online. (free shipping on $50+!)
- Facebook Groups: there are so many gear trades on Facebook now. Join some! There are even gender specific, trail specific, and season specific groups. Check them out. For the most part, items on these groups are lightly used or new with tags and usually 20-60% off. I got an MSR Pocket Rocket for half price in great condition! My favorite group was founded by 'Bearfoot'.
- Planet Gear: For women only!
- Become a member to purchase.
- Much like the Clymb they are limited quantity, temporary sales from specific brands on specific models.
- I have found this site extremely hit or miss with only some deals actually beating sites that aren't 'temporary deal' style sites. It comes recommended, though.
- Apply for pro deals if you think you qualify or apply to work at an outdoors store for ~30% off national brands and up to 50% of store brands (REI and EMS).