5 Tips for Buying Cheap Gear

Great outdoor gear doesn't have to cost a mint. Follow these five easy tips to fill your closet without emptying your wallet.
vintage patagonia jacket

Vintage gear can be twice the fun of new duds. (Photo: Skippy Haha Vintage/Flickr)

Gear can be expensive, but don't let that deter you from getting outside. It doesn’t have to cost as much as you think to get a new tent, hiking boots, or pair of snowshoes. Follow our five tips, and you’ll be on your way with money to spare.

Know the season

The best rule for finding cheap gear is to buy out of season. Looking for a new pair of skis? Shop in June. Buy hiking boots in February, and a raft in October. The second part of this rule: never shop during holiday season. The prices will be higher no matter what you’re looking for.

Buy an older model

Yes, the newest version might come in an array of shiny new colors with a thousand more pockets, but odds are the product’s function is just as good as last years. If your wondering how far back you can go, three to four seasons is typically a good rule. So instead of getting the latest and greatest, grab an older, but equally great, model for half off.

If you’re going to be trusting your life to a piece of gear, ignore this rule. When it comes to things like avalanche beacons, a few extra bucks are more than worth it.

Shop online

To make sure you’re getting the best price, look on multiple discount gear websites and buy from the cheapest. Our favorites: Steep and Cheap, The Clymb, and the Sierra Trading Post.

Check out mountain town thrift stores

Near a national park, ski mountain, or other outdoor tourist destination? Check out the local thrift stores. I’ve found everything from a $6 mint condition Patagonia fleece, to $20 skis (with bindings), to a $15 backpacking pack at various thrift stores in the Rockies and Sierras. Don’t be frightened off by the “used” label: If you look hard enough, you’ll find gear that’s only been gently loved.

Get a pro deal

Pro deals typically give you a 40-60% discount, and you might be surprised at who qualifies—NOLS Alumni and PE Teachers, for example. Check out a more thorough list of who can get pro deals on Section Hiker, then apply on sites such as Promotive or Outdoor Prolink.