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Five Ways to Save Money on Backpacking Gear

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.

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1. Buy Used 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. 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:
  • Gear Trade: 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.
  • REI Garage Sales and used gear sales: People can get a bit crazy at the REI Garage Sales, but if you’re in the market for a backpack this is the place to shop. 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. If you don’t want to wait for this quarterly event you can now shop used gear 24/7 on REI’s website.
  • Campsaver Shed and Outlet: If you’re not quite sold on buying used gear, but you still want the heavy discount you need to check out Campsaver. Campsaver’s Outlet is full of discontinued gear and the Shed sells demo or gently used gear.
  • Big Agnes Tents and Gear: If you have your eye on a Big Agnes tent (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 resells all of their demo gear. You can find steals for most anything that Big Agnes makes and there’s also great deals on Honey Stingers!
  • Used clothing direct from the manufacturer: More and more retailers are selling used clothing directly to the customer. Patagonia Worn Wear and The North Face Renewed are my go-to sites for used clothing for these brands.
  • Online Thrift Stores: Many outdoor brands have gone mainstream and deals can be found on many used fashion retailer websites. I've found the best assortment of name brand hiking and backpacking apparel on Tradesy and ThredUp. If shopping in person is more your style you can browse your local thrift shop for deals.

2. Shop 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, summer backpacking tents, and three-season sleeping bags and pads. While spring and summer offer great deals on showshoes, rain jackets, puffy jackets, and baselayers.

3. Join a Community

Great deals can be found when you connect with others. From individual marketplaces to sites that facilitate group purchases, you can work with the community to save money on backpacking gear.
  • Massdrop Community-Driven Commerce: If you know exactly what you’re shopping for Massdrop can net you some serious deals. The site is divided into “communities” (like their Ultralight and Outdoors communities) and they offer daily “drops,” special limited-time gear sales. Membership on the site is free, but you’ll need to register in order to see the deals. Massdrop is able to negotiate special discounts because they place orders in bulk, because of this the site doesn’t accept returns (except on defective merchandise).
  • The Clymb: Another free membership site with great deals. I’ve never purchased anything off of this site, but it is always on my shopping rotation when I’m deal hunting.
  • Facebook Groups: Enter "outdoor gear exchange" into the Facebook search bar and then navigate over to the groups tab. Ta-da! There are tons of Facebook groups that you can join to swap, sell, or buy from other outdoorsy folks.

4. Get Money Back on Purchases

If you haven’t had any luck with the used gear markets, and you need to buy something new, utilizing cash back programs can save you some moolah.
  • REI dividends: REI offers yearly dividends to their members. Last year I signed up for the REI Mastercard to get some extra dividends, and this year I definitely saw a little bump in the money I got back. (If you find this blog post useful and want to apply for an REI Mastercard consider applying under the Refer a Friend link. You'll receive a $100 REI gift card after making your first credit card purchase and I'll receive a $20 gift card. If you send me a quick email I'll reply back with my REI member number. Thank you for your support!)
  • Moosejaw Rewards: 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 to redeem it. Moosejaw gives 10% back on all regular priced merchandise and 2.5% on sales merchandise.
  • Ebates Cash Back Program: Ebates is a third-party website that offers cash back for shopping your favorite brands and stores. Practically every major outdoor brand or store (like Backcountry, Columbia, Garmin, Moosejaw, and REI) participates in the Ebates cash back program. You can earn anywhere from 1-5% back just for clicking through Ebates to the store of your choice, and then shopping like you normally would.

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.

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.

If you're starting from scratch and want to know what I carry in my pack check out my packing list for beginner backpackers.

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Samantha
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I really want to go camping this year. I feel like it’s far too long! But being a college student looking at the price of things can really scare you away. I’m definitely looking into joining a community and buying second hand now!!

Alicia
Guest

Great tips. I’m definitely back bargain hunters too.

CHARITY
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My husband and I have been to a few hiking trips and we haven’t had a chance to invest in good backpacking gears. Thank for these tips, we will look into it.

Chloe
Guest

I love gear trade! I buy all my down jackets from them! Wish I would have thought to check there for backpacking supplies!

Amazinglife09
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Informative post and useful tips for buying camping, hiking outdoor gears. This summer I am planning for camping and This tips will definitely help me.

Blindmillennial
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Thanks for sharing! Some of my favorite childhood memories are camping and I hope to start going again with my husband.

Annick
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I love these tips! Buying used stuff is so ovbious yet people don’t always think about it! And shopping during the off season is so smart because the prices tend to drop a lot! Thank you for this great read 🙂

Tracy @ Cleland Clan
Guest

I don’t backpack, but my parents and kids do! My mom loves REI because if something doesn’t work or fit right, even after you’ve worn it, they will take it back. Good backpacking gear can be expensive, but it’s worth it to purchase gear that will last.

Jen @ Jenron Designs
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These are great tips, not that I do a lot of backpacking anymore, but I know a few young men that would greatly benefit from this knowledge.

Happijess
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Always wanted to go backpacking and hiking -thanks for sharing your experiences!