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Buying new hiking and backpacking gear is fun and exciting. To me, gear is money well spent because these are products that last a long time and deliver comfort, safety, and joy in the outdoors. Hiking and backpacking gear adds a lot of value to my daily life. However, costs can quickly add up. Hiking can quickly become an expensive pastime.
The good news is there are many ways to save money. If you plan out your purchases on a calendar you can easily save 20 percent off the regular prices, but likely much more.
Read on for our tricks and tips on how to save money on hiking and backpacking gear. We show you exactly how you can find the best hiking gear sales put on by retailers and manufacturers so that you can get fantastic deals and discounts.
Table of Contents
- 1) Become a member at REI or MEC
- 2) Sign up to gear brand/manufacturer email newsletters
- 3) Big spender? Get the REI Mastercard
- 4) Make a list of the gear you need to buy or upgrade
- 5) Organize your gear list by season
- 6) Use discount codes
- 7) Shop the big annual sales
- 8) Shop online discount and sales pages
- 9) Buy end of season color scheme
- 10) Buy only the best quality gear
- 11) Rent gear
- 12) Shop at discount stores
- 13) Buy used hiking gear
- 14) Take your time when you buy
- 15) Share gear amongst family and friends
1) Become a member at REI or MEC
Members of these two stores get fantastic benefits. You will save money with special member sales and dividends earned on all purchases made that you can spend later. Also, if you are a biker or a skier you can get service discounts. You can also get a discount when renting certain equipment. Memberships also grant no hassle, no question returns on products you purchase which makes it easier to find the best hiking and backpacking products that work for you.
Pro tip: You will save more money if every person in your family or household gets their own membership. This is because sales and special offers are often limited to one purchase per membership.
Also, sign up to the email newsletter at these retailers for an additional coupon you can use on a purchase.
Finally, be sure to keep an eye on the REI special promotions page.
Most brands will offer 10-20 percent off the regular price for first-time purchases when you sign up for their email newsletter.
Some offer additional discounts if you sign up for mobile alerts when you provide your phone number.
This is a very easy way to save money instantly.
Get started by signing up to email newsletters for these most trusted brands.
Once registered, you will also be notified of all the big sales.
3) Big spender? Get the REI Mastercard
Are you the kind of outdoors enthusiast that spends a large amount of your disposable income on gear each year? It might make sense to acquire the REI Mastercard. When purchasing gear at REI using this card, you will earn an additional 5% back. For big spenders this just makes sense. You will also get 1% back on purchases made elsewhere.
4) Make a list of the gear you need to buy or upgrade
Each season, I sit down and make a list of the gear that I need to be safe and comfortable on the trails.
Review what you currently have in your gear closet, make a list of new products that could be useful, or what needs to be replaced or upgraded.
Stay focused on what you really need and less so on what you want. Wants will chew up your budget, and may not offer as much value as you had hoped. Wants are often those shiny, exciting, tech products. Needs keep you safe and comfortable. The goal is to spend your money wisely. Once you have acquired all the essential items, then consider treating yourself to some fun stuff.
5) Organize your gear list by season
Now that you know what you need, organize your list by the season: Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer.
We recommend that you create a seasonal purchase calendar. This is an important step, and key to saving the most money each year.
A purchase calendar will help to spread out your budget evenly over the year. It will also help you take advantage of the best sales, discounts, and deals as they come up.
The top outdoors gear retailers and manufacturers follow a calendar of sales according to season, and holidays.
To save the most money on your hiking, backpacking, and camping gear purchases align your purchases with their calendar of sales. Super easy. Keep your list handy and visible.
6) Use discount codes
Thinking about buying something? Search Google for discount codes before you buy. Simply type “REI discount code”, “Backcountry discount code”, or “Patagonia discount code” and you should be able to find one that will give you some type of discount.
If I can’t find any discount codes easily or the right one, I will try to get one in another way. I will put the product I want into my shopping cart (online), checkout, enter contact and shipping information, but stop short of paying and abandon the shopping cart. After doing so, sometimes you will get a discount code emailed to you with the next 48 hours encouraging you to make that purchase. Enter the discount code, save money. Totally easy.
Discount code plug-in
Automate this process by adding Honey to your browser. The plug-in searches for discount codes and even applies them to your cart.
Get money back
Rakuten not only searches for discount codes but will give you money back. You shop as usual and they will send you a check (or deposit into Paypal). REI no longer offers money back but Moosejaw, Backcountry, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Outdoor Voices, Cotopaxi, Patagonia, and many more offer a percentage back. Just go to the website and the prompt will pop up.
The amount of cash back varies and increases around Black Friday and during Rakuten’s annual 15% back sale.
7) Shop the big annual sales
The goal is to buy your gear only when there is a big sale. Then you will consistently save more than 20 percent on all your hiking, camping, and backpacking gear.
So, when are these big sales?
These are the key times of the year to take action.
- REI member rewards sale – End of March
- Memorial Day (REI Anniversary Sale) – End of May
- REI July 4th Summer Sale
- REI Fall Labor Day – End of August into first week of September
- REI Winter Sale – Mid November
- Black Friday / Cyber Monday – Last week of November
Retailers and manufacturers generally follow the lead of REI and offer their own big sales.
Be sure to have a look at the websites of top brands leading up and after the above big REI sales.
8) Shop online discount and sales pages
At a certain point, retailers want to clear their inventory near the end of the season.
This is a great opportunity to save 30-70 percent off the regular prices, provided you can find your size.
Backcountry moves products over to their discount gear website, Steepandcheap.com.
REI does the same and sells discounted gear at REI Garage.
Patagonia offers great discounts on its web specials page.
Outdoor Research also has a special web sales page where deals can be had.
9) Buy end of season color scheme
Sound crazy? It kind of is, but it is also a very easy way to get a massive discount on some of the best quality hiking and backpacking gear.
Last year, during the REI Memorial Day Sale, I purchased the REI Co-op Stormbolt GTX Jacket for just $138.83 (the regular price is $279.00) for a huge savings of 50 percent off! All because I picked my size in a color that was no longer in production moving forward. No big deal because I liked the color better than the other options.
Just this week, I purchased the Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded Down Jacket for just $125 during the Cotopaxi Memorial Day Sale. Again, I got 50 percent off the regular price of $250! I was able to achieve these savings simply by choosing a color that was no longer in production. And once again, I like the colors I got better than most of the options that are now available.
Keep an eye out for these specific opportunities. These types of sales happen more than you would think. However, you have to act quickly before the discounted colors are sold out.
This is why we recommend preparing a list of must-have gear (essentials) that you will require for the upcoming hiking season or the entire year. Simply match up your list to the big sales, and save enormously.
10) Buy only the best quality gear
Wait a minute, doesn’t the best quality gear cost more money? Yes, but you get what you pay for, as in better value, and products that last longer. The cost over time ends up being far less.
Many people think that buying cheap gear is a good thing and will save money. This is almost never true. Cheaper hiking gear is typically made of low-quality materials that do not last very long. If you go cheap you will pay a relatively high price for a much shorter life span. Thus, you end up buying the same products over and over again and wasting money over time.
When I buy gear, I do very thorough research. I narrow my choices down to just a handful of the best quality products that offer the best (and most) features for the money. I also carefully examine the materials used to ensure that the product is durable. I don’t want to buy several jackets/backpacks/tents/etc over time. Rather, I want one product that is built for life.
11) Rent gear
Sometimes it makes more sense to rent gear. And as mentioned, if you have an REI or MEC membership, you can rent for less.
For example, on occasion, I like to do a snow hike with snowshoes. I might do this once a year or every other year. So, I simply rent a pair of snowshoes at REI. This is a piece of gear I will not use often, so renting just makes more sense.
On the other hand, I would never rent microspikes because I use them every week during the winter!
12) Shop at discount stores
Discount stores such as Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Winners can be great for buying some basics.
Look for wool hiking socks, athletic shirts (wicking t-shirts and long-sleeved shirts), shorts, sports bras, and tights at lower prices. Take a look at the clearance rack for the best deals.
13) Buy used hiking gear
It is totally possible to get high-quality, relatively unused gear. Sometimes you get lucky and find hiking gear that was never used and is brand new sold at very discounted prices. This is where I will look for these opportunities.
Local thrift stores
I will visit my local thrift stores each week to see if I can find used hiking clothes and hiking gear that is in new or lightly used condition. So many people will dump clothes at thrift stores that they never have worn.
I have found several fleece jackets and hardshell jackets at thrift stores in fantastic condition. Another item I often score at thrift stores are brand new, unworn, base layers such as synthetic T-shirts, and long sleeve shirts. You can totally pick up great clothes at ridiculously low prices.
Second hand sporting goods shops
Always check out your local second-hand sporting goods stores such as Play It Again Sports. There is a good chance you will find what you need at a great price.
Online used gear shops
Some retailers such as Patagonia provide an option to buy and sell (for credit) used gear. The Patagonia hub is called Patagonia Worn Wear.
Online buy/sell marketplaces
Another great place to purchase quality gear that is in good condition is marketplaces such as Craigslist, Kijiji, eBay, or Facebook marketplace. You never know what you will find, so it is a good idea to look here first.
14) Take your time when you buy
Before you use a product in the wild, make sure what you buy works, is comfortable, fits properly, and functions as you would expect. For example, when I buy hiking footwear, I order online and test them in my home for several days to make sure they feel good.
If you rush things, you may find out on the trails that what you purchased wasn’t ideal. After you use a product outdoors, in most cases, it is going to be very difficult to return or exchange it.
A great way to save money on gear is to share it with your friends and family. Need some gear that you do not own? Ask your friends and family if you can borrow something you need. At another time, offer to share your own gear with your friends and family. Create a win-win situation. Just be sure to respect what you borrow and take good care of it!