Five Ways to Save Money on Backpacking Gear
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There’s no way around it, backpacking, hiking, and camping gear is pricey, but there are easy ways to save money on backpacking gear.
I’m a coupon-clipper, sales rack peruser, and a dedicated deal hunter. In my normal life I wouldn’t dream of paying full-price for anything, but when it comes to backpacking clothing and gear that is specially designed to keep me warm, dry, and safe in the backcountry I’ll gladly shell out a few extra dollars for high quality, name brand gear. But, just because I’m buying name brand gear, that doesn’t mean I’m paying full price.
If you’re new to hiking or backpacking, or if you want to upgrade your gear on a budget without sacrificing quality these five tips will help you get the backpacking gear you need without breaking the bank.
1. Buy Used Backpacking Gear and Clothing
High quality backpacking gear and clothing is designed and thoroughly tested to withstand whatever mothernature throws at it. Buying used gear can net you some serious savings on some tried and true outdoor brands that will last for years. And if you shop around enough you might even be able to find “used” gear that still has the tags and has never been used. Here are my favorite sites for used gear:
It’s like the Craigslist or eBay for used outdoor gear. If you see something on Gear Trade that you like, you better act fast because everything on this site is listed individually and it can sell out fast. Everything on GearTrade is shipped directly from the individual seller. Sellers create a listing and post photos of the item and Gear Trade takes care of the payment processing. It’s a great way to find discounts on pre-owned gear and clothing for every outdoor activity imaginable.
Before COVID, REI would hold members only Garage Sales in their parking lots. It was a great place to get a used backpack or tent because you could try everything out in person before purchasing an item that couldn’t be returned. Here in the Bay Area the REI garage sales would get crazy! We’re talking lines around the block, teams of friends strategizing on the best way to scoop up their desired gear- it was like an outdoor junkie’s version of Supermarket Sweep. Every garage sale is different, but at my local sales there always seems to be a wide variety of backpacks and you can be fitted on the spot by a knowledgeable REI staff member. The used gear at the garage sales does vary in quality. The sales tags will tell you a little bit about why the product was returned and possible defects. At one gear sale I spotted a Patagonia down jacket and the sales tag said “FREE- if you can stand the smell.” I passed on the jacket, but it was a good lesson. All sales are final so check things out carefully and even do a smell test if you’re brave enough. If you don’t want to wait for this quarterly event you can now shop used gear 24/7 on REI’s website.
Campsaver’s Shed is filled with open-box, vendor samples, and demo products for a wide variety of outdoor gear. These products may not come in their original packaging but they are essentially good as new. If you’re not quite sold on buying used gear, but you still want the heavy discount you need to check out this site. Campsaver’s Outlet is full of discontinued gear and the Shed sells demo or gently used gear.
Outdoor Gear Exchange is an online consignment shop. Instead of buying directly from individual sellers, outdoor enthusiasts sell their gear to Outdoor Gear Exchange and all sales are done directly with the company. If you’re hesitant about possibly getting scammed by buying outdoor gear through a Facebook group, then Outdoor Gear Exchange is the way to go. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the consignment section the site also has great prices on new gear. They even offer returns on their consignment items so you have no excuse not to buy used gear!
If you have your eye on one of Big Agnes’s legendary lightweight backpacking tents (my 1-person Fly Creek is my second home!) you’ll definitely want to check out the BAP online store. This is the place where Big Agnes sells all of their demo gear, discontinued products, and samples. The gear in their Closeouts section is brand new and never used but is discounted because it is out of season. Their demo section has even bigger discounts on former demo gear that has been used anywhere from one night to 10 nights. You can confidently purchase any used gear from Big Agnes because are a solid backpacking gear company with one of the best warranties. My Fly Creek Tent has been going strong for 5 years now and when the zipper started acting up I sent the tent back to Big Agnes and they repaired the zipper for only $5.
Patagonia is known for making high quality clothing that lasts for years. It also comes with a hefty price tag- hence its nickname Patagooch (a combo of Patagonia and Gucci). Worn Wear is an online store run by Patagonia that lets people trade in their used clothing for a credit towards other new or used clothing. Patagonia then washes and repairs (if needed) the used clothing and sells it at a discount. If you’re looking for a unique piece of clothing their Recrafted section has down jackets and vests, t-shirts, and even bags made from bits and pieces of recycled clothes. In addition to clothing the Worn Wear site also offers deals on used backpacks and sleeping bags
The North Face’s Renewed program cleans, refurbishes and repairs used North Face clothing. The clothing is repaired to “like new” condition and even comes with a 1 year warranty and a 60 day return window. Unlike Patagonia’s program, the clothing and bags in The North Face’s Renewal shop are usually only lightly used because everything comes from returned, damaged, or defective clothing from their distribution center. If an item is damaged or worn beyond repair it is upcycled into something new and sold in their Remade Shop. The clothing in the Remade section is fun and funky with patches of color and bright patterns.
Online Thrift Stores
Living in San Francisco I can usually walk into any Goodwill and come away with name brand down jackets, wool base layers, and hiking pants in many sizes, but I know most folks aren’t as lucky. Thankfully, many outdoor brands have gone mainstream and deals can be found on many used fashion retailer websites. Online thrift stores have exploded in popularity recently and these online shops are stocked with name brands and great deals. Some of my favorite online thrift stores for used hiking and backpacking apparel are Swap.com, Tradesy, ThredUp, and Poshmark. Everything from Smart Wool shirts, Arc’teryx jackets, Mountain Hardware puffies, and Osprey backpacks can be found on these sites. Thredup has a 14 day return policy (they charge a $1.99 restocking fee). Tradesy doesn’t have a restocking fee, but returns are limited to a short, 4 day window. Swap has a 30 day return policy, but doesn’t offer cash back, only store credit. Poshmark is a little different from the other sites because you buy direct from the seller and Poshmark just handles the payment processing. For this reason I think Poshmark has the best variety of used outdoor gear and by searching brands and having a little patience you can find everything from backpacking packs to climbing harnesses.
2. Buying Backpacking Gear on Clearance During the Off-Season
I keep a running list of things that I want to upgrade and then shop the off-season sales. The fall and winter is a great time to score deals on hiking clothes, tents, sleeping bags, and pads. While spring and summer offer great deals on showshoes, rain jackets, puffy jackets, socks, and baselayers.
The Clymb is a free membership site that uses collective buying power to score great deals on outdoorsy gear. I’ve never purchased anything off of this site, but it is always on my shopping rotation when I’m deal hunting. Because they negotiate deals with individual brands their stock constantly changes and often their sales are only available for a few days each. While you don’t need to be a paid member to shop their site, they do offer a paid membership that offers additional discounts and free returns.
Steep and Cheap is my go-to website for shopping for off-season gear. Steep and Cheap is the sister site to Backcountry.com. I originally found out about the site because of their Current Steal feature where they offer a super deal on a single piece of clothing or piece of gear and the deal was only available for a ridiculously short amount of time- like 3-5 minutes! You no longer need to stay glued to the computer and constantly refresh because their deals no longer have time limits.
3. Get Money Back on Purchases
Utilizing cash back programs is the easiest way to save some moolah. All you need to do is click through a site and you’re rewarded with cash back. And if you’re able to shop a sale it’s like getting double cash back! Take advantage of these rewards programs when you need to buy new backpacking gear or clothing.
REI offers yearly dividends to their members. Dividends are a cash back bonus, the dividends are usually around 10% of what you spend and the dividends arrive at the beginning of each year. In addition to the yearly dividends, last year I signed up for the REI Mastercard to earn and extra 5%, and this year I definitely saw a little bump in the money I got back. You do need to be an REI member to receive dividends. REI occasionally has promotions where new members receive a gift card for the cost of the membership, making the lifetime membership absolutely free.
Do you love getting REI dividends, but hate waiting all year for that sweet cash back? Moosejaw also rewards their customers with cash back, but you don’t need to wait a full year before redeeming it. Moosejaw gives 10% back on all regular priced merchandise and 2.5% on sales merchandise. Credits can be used for future purchases and are available in your online account as soon as the product ships. For the ultimate deal shoppers, first go to Rakuten then click through to Moosejaw for double cash back!
Rakuten (formerly Ebates) is a third-party website that offers cash back for shopping your favorite brands and stores. Outdoor brands like Osprey, Keen, Columbia and The North Face, as well as outdoor gear stores like Moosejaw and Dick’s Sporting Goods participate in the Rakuten cash back program. You can earn anywhere from 1-5% back just for clicking through Rakuten to the store of your choice, and then shopping like you normally would. If you use the affiliate link above you’ll receive an additional $10 off your first purchase of $25 or more.
4. Rent Backpacking Gear
If you’re going on your first ever backpacking trip renting gear is a great option, and it can save you a lot of money. There are a few companies that will ship a complete backpacking gear kit to you, but my favorite is Outdoors Geek.
Outdoors Geek offers an Ultralight Backpacking Gear rental package that is packed with high quality, lightweight gear. Each package comes with an ultralight tent, backpack, down sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpacking stove, water filter, and trowel. The entire kit weighs less than 10 pounds and only costs $169 for a 3-day rental period! You also have the option to add-on other gear like hiking poles and hydration bladders if you want. They also offer other backpacking rental packages, including a dog-friendly rental that comes with a dog sleeping bag, dog pannier pack, camping dog bowls, and a treat bag.
Renting Bear Cans
If you’re going to be backpacking in bear country you will probably want to rent a bear canister. Many national parks that require bear cans will rent the cans on site. But, if you’re backpacking it is great to have a lightweight bear can option. When I did a 2-week hike through Sequoia and Kings Canyon last year I rented a Bearikade Expedition to hold my food for the entire trip. There are many different types of bear canisters, but the Bearikade canisters are the lightest canisters out there- they also cost an arm and a leg so you’re best renting one if you aren’t going to use it often. You can rent a Bearikade canister directly from the manufacturer Wild Ideas or Sage to Summit rents them for only $5 a day and will ship the canister to your house.
5. Do your research
Perhaps the best way to save money is to not spend it in the first place. Since you’re shopping for high quality gear that will last for several seasons take the time to research products and think about how much you’ll use it. When I’m researching products I try to find independent reviews on YouTube and then I check out more established gear review sites to get their input as well. Outdoor Gear Lab and Gear Institute are two of my most trusted gear review sites.
My Personal Beginner Backpacking Gear List
If you’re starting from scratch and want to know what I carry in my pack check out my packing list for beginner backpackers.
Do you know of other ways to save money on backpacking gear? If this post helps you score some great deals please share in the comments below.
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