This post was written by Adventure Contributor Whitney Matthews
Post Summary: Clever Ways To Find Discount Outdoor Gear (To Save Tons of Money)
Have you ever walked through REI or your local gear shop and found that perfect item you’ve been searching for?
It’s the jacket you saw someone else wearing on the trail. Or maybe it’s the sleeping bag with all the tech specs you’re looking for and then some, AND it’s in your favorite colors. Your backpacking gear list is nearly complete!
Your heart skips a beat and you get excited thinking about all the adventures to come with that piece of gear. …And then you flip the tag over and see the price.
We get it. Backpacking gear can be expensive. But the good news is, you don’t need to have the nicest, newest gear or the most expensive to have a great, safe time out in the backcountry. There are so many ways to find rad outdoor gear on a budget!
10 Clever Ways To Find Cheap Hiking Gear (+ Our Favorite Websites)
1. Borrow Outdoor Gear From Friends or Family
Not only is this option free, but it’s also one of the best ways to test gear before you buy it for yourself!
Before borrowing other people’s gear, ask questions about specific care considerations and ask if there are any pre-existing holes of scratches to be aware of. If you end up ruining their item out on the trail, make sure you have the means to replace it for them too.
2. Find Your Local Gear Library
Wait, a gear library? What’s that?
A gear library is pretty straightforward – instead of checking out and returning books, you check out and return outdoor gear!
You can find these programs in nearly every state, but you almost always need to be a program member to enjoy gear library access. Certain gear libraries cater to certain groups like youth, people of color, women, beginners, and more. Spend some time browsing online for gear libraries near you to find a program to participate in!
Here are some gear libraries in the Pacific Northwest (with membership!):
Washington Trails Association has a gear library for their Outdoor Leadership members. If you are a teacher, student-age, or part of a youth group, you can take the training and get access to WTA’s gear library for your next group outdoor adventure!
Wild Diversity in Portland provides their community members with access to their gear library. They use it to provide camping gear to people who are going on group trips, often for their first outdoor getaway!
Want to start your own Gear Lending library with your friends or community? It’s a great way to share gear and support one another in your outdoor adventures. Here are some things to think about when building your own community gear library:
- Do you want it to be donation-based and have items collected in one space? Or rather an available borrowing system where everyone keeps their own items?
- Have all gear borrowers agree to a set of rules that everyone comes up with – sign something! Make sure to add rules about replacing items that get damaged.
- Create a live Excel or Google Sheet with your gear inventory.
- Columns on your inventory can include owner, make/model, color, serial number, check-in and check-out dates, and who currently has that item.
- Appoint a system where someone keeps track of gear and when it will be returned.
3. Rent Your Gear Locally
Gear shops like REI often have rental programs offering gear for camping and hiking, climbing, cycling, paddling, snow sports, and even car racks. Another perk of renting gear? Like borrowing, it’s a great way to test out something you’ve had your eye on before purchasing it yourself.
Some items we have rented in the past have been snow shoes, skis, and bikes. These high-ticket items may not be worth a splurge (right now). Renting them is an inexpensive way to try out the sport, to see if you want to invest further in the future!
4. Get Budget Backpacking Gear On Online Resale Sites
You can often find super discounted outdoor gear on resale sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, eBay, OfferUp, or Poshmark for much cheaper than the brand new price. Buying used gear is a great way to save money. This is a great option for people who love doing research and have time and patience to browse sites until they find the perfect item.
It might take some persistence and digging around to find exactly what you’re looking for, but when you do find what you’re after, it’ll save you some good money!
If you go this route – don’t search for cheap backpacking gear for a last-minute trip. Doing so might cause buyer’s remorse, or it may not make it in time for your trip. Plan about a season ahead, and begin searching and collecting items months in advance. This gives a good amount of time for research, reviews, and locating the best discount camping gear.
Buying Discount Camping Gear On Resale Sites – PRO TIPS
If you are buying cheap camping gear from a resale site and meeting the seller for pickup, there are a few things to consider – to protect yourself and your investment. Here are some tips for shopping for cheap hiking gear:
- Always bring a friend with you for the exchange and whenever possible, meet the seller at a public place that isn’t either of your homes.
- Don’t promise payment ahead of time. Show up, inspect the item, then decide whether it’s in good condition and priced reasonably.
- Can’t check out the item prior to buying? Read the seller reviews. If they seem to have a good track record and positive reviews, then chances are, the item you’re buying will be true to its description.
5. Outdoor Retailer Discount Sites
Have you ever wondered where all of last season’s inventory goes? Well, did you know that REI has a discount site? And Backcountry? And Patagonia? They sure do!
There’s a lot of websites out there that are selling slightly older models of gear for much cheaper. If you are looking for cheap hiking gear, consider browsing last season’s styles to save quite a bit of money.
Some of the best discount sites for cheap camping gear to check out:
- REI Outlet
- REI Good and Used
- Steep and Cheap (Backcountry’s Discount Outdoor Gear Site)
- Patagonia Worn Wear Program
- The Clymb (72 Flash Sales)
- Sierra Trading Post
- Outdoor Gear Exchange
- The Gear Room (Most discounted snow gear, and cheap climbing gear)
Great items to buy on outdoor discount websites? Camping hygiene gear! New styles come out all the time, but they all get the job done. Grab a trowel, travel towel, or packing cubes on these discounted camping gear websites!
6. Gear Trades and Consignment Shops
There’s also stores out there that offer trade-ins or swaps, like Wonderland Gear Exchange (in Seattle, WA) or a local Ski Swap. Many big outdoor retailers also offer large sales on items that have been returned, like specific in-person dates for the REI Garage Sale.
A quick Google will help you find gear consignment shops in your area! Here are some things to type into Google to find what you’re looking for:
- “Discount Camping Gear in (your city/state here)“
- “Discount Outdoor Gear in (your city/state here)“
- “Outdoor Discount Store in (your city/state here)“
- “Outdoor Gear Trade in (your city/state here)“
7. Don’t Buy Ultra-Light Gear or High-Tech Gear (If You Don’t Need It)
High-tech gear is generally expensive because they often serve just a single purpose. That sub-zero sleeping bag that’s 100% down-filled? Mountaineers who take overnight trips in the alpine can use that to stay warm enough at night to survive.
That ultralight tent that weighs less than a pound? It can be used for thru-hikers, who travel thousands of miles on a single trail, and need gear that won’t wear them down day after day.
Let’s say you are staying pretty local and planning to do a low-key backpacking trip – just a couple of nights. You definitely don’t need the most high-tech jacket on the market. In fact, you may already have everything you need for your first, short trip to the outdoors.
Don’t feel like you need to spend a lot of extra money on ultra-lightweight, high tech gear. That can come later as you plan longer, harder, more technical hikes. Camping equipment doesn’t have to be expensive to do the job well. The most important thing is that you enjoy being outside!
8. Shop Opposite The Outdoor Seasons For Discount Outdoor Gear
If you’re looking for a cozy winter jacket, try shopping for it in the summer when the demand is lower, driving prices down.
In addition, keep an eye out for end-of-season sales. Many stores offer sales on gear from previous seasons to make way for the new season’s gear. So, winter gear will often go on sale during the summer and vice versa.
There is often a surplus of discount outdoor gear at the end of the season to make room for new products, so you can snatch items are a great price. It takes patience (you’ll have to wait until next year to use your gear!) but it’s worth it to save some money!
Traveling with camera gear? Study up on these essential camera accessories for travel photography, and keep an eye out for future sales!
9. Once You Invest In Your Backpacking Gear – Take Care Of It
Outdoor gear is designed to be tough and long-lasting…if you treat it well. Get your money’s worth by cleaning, using, and storing your gear properly. This will help you use your gear for years before needing to replace it.
10. Keep Your Eye Out For Annual Sales To Grab Discount Outdoor Gear
Often times, big outdoor gear retail companies will host an annual sale, with huge price drops on some of their most popular camping, backpacking and hiking gear. You can find past season deals on many of the most popular brands, including The North Face, Columbia, Patagonia, and more.
One of the most popular times to purchase cheap camping gear is during the REI Anniversary Sale (Mid-May). This is when we purchased our Garmin inReach – a pricey satellite communicator which we got for $100, just by waiting for the sale!
Holidays with historic times to buy cheap hiking gear and cheap camping gear:
- Memorial Day (Last Weekend in May)
- Labor Day (First Weekend in September)
- Black Friday (The Day After Thanksgiving)
- Annual Sale Days (varies depending on the retailer – look up your favorite one and stick it on your calendar!)
As you start dipping your toes into the world of outdoor adventure, one of the things that can be most intimidating is finding the right gear…and then figuring out how you’re going to pay for it.
Our hope with this post is that you will feel empowered to think of creative ways to find discounted backpacking gear without feeling the pressure of needing to buy the most expensive option. You don’t need the very best gear to have a memorable time out on the trails!