How to Buy the Best Outdoor Gear on a Budget

Quality gear isn't (just) about looking good — it's about safety and comfort. But sometimes, the price tag isn't so comforting. Here's how savvy shoppers get the good stuff.

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Tourists cooking coffee on primus near the tent in the mountains. Foggy and rainy camping while hiking.

Photo by: Nina Hilitukha

Nina Hilitukha

Getting caught in a summer thunderstorm without a rain jacket can lead to a miserable soggy experience in the woods. But outfitting a family with technical apparel, hiking boots and gear can get expensive. With a little advance planning, it’s possible to save hundreds of dollars by purchasing manufacturer’s overstocks, and gently used or refurbished consignment goods. And for most outdoor gear, there’s rarely any identifiable change in performance from season to season. Color is usually the only major difference. Use these three tips to help you find the right products and avoid problems.

1. Find the Right Fit

The giddiness of receiving a new jacket from an discount gear site can turn into utter frustration when the jacket doesn’t fit. Fit systems can vary significantly between brands. One brand’s large may be another brand’s extra large. Avoid the time-consuming return and exchange process by visiting an outdoor store to try on several brands products similar to the piece you want to order. Keep track of what sizes work best for you with each brand to save time with future orders.

2. Know That Quality Matters

At a glance, two pairs of hiking boots may look very similar. Is one pair really worth $50 more? Yes, quality matters. A boot marketed to a lifestyle audience may not have the durability needed to carry you over rugged trails. Spending a little more upfront often delivers a product that performs better and lasts longer.

3. Visit a Local Shop

Outdoor specialty stores really are the go-to experts for gear. With so many options in almost every product category of outdoor gear and apparel, selecting the right piece can get confusing. But with some insight into your intended use, specialty store staff can help pare down the options. In many cases, brick and mortar stores will match e-commerce sites' discounted pricing. 

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Climber accessories set on dark wooden background: boots with crampon, backpack, sunglasses, flashlight and others. Top view

Photo by: silverjohn

silverjohn

Here’s some of the outdoor industry’s best resources for deeply discounted apparel.

Outlaw Donkey Online

Launched in January 2017, Outlaw Donkey is an online consignment business offering overstock products from leading brands like Arc’Teryx, Marmot, Outdoor Research, Smartwool and The North Face. The site also promotes consignment sales from campers, hikers and paddlers cleaning out their gear closets. 

Patagonia’s Worn Wear Program

High quality, durable outdoor apparel can be expensive, especially for those on a budget, but Patagonia guarantees everything it makes with its Ironclad Guarantee. Introduced in 2013, Patagonia’s Worn Wear program offers repair services and Patagonia repaired over 45,000 garments last year alone. Fixing a tear on a rain jacket or replacing a broken zipper on a duffel bag gives gear new life for more wild adventures. In 2017, Patagonia launched an e-commerce Worn Wear platform where the company sells used Patagonia clothing and gear online, sourced directly from its loyal customers.

Local Shops and Swaps

Cities with active outdoor communities often have specialty stores that offer discounted gear and apparel, either year-round or during special events. For example, in Bend, Oregon, check out Gear Fix. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, Thrifty Outfitters sells salesman’s samples and manufacturer’s overstocks at up to 50 percent off, while across town, The Repair Lair sells consignment gear and apparel from brands like Mountain Hardwear and Marmot. And in Knoxville, Tennessee, River Sports’ semi-annual gear swap offers last-season gear from the store as well as thrifted items from customers and great deals on demo boats. 

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