Gear is expensive. It doesn't necessarily last either. You could easily spend thousands and tens of thousands a year decorating every closet and cranny in your house with snowboards, skis, skins, bikes, kayaks, paddles, winter outerwear, spring outerwear, summer outerwear, fall outwear, hiking boots, hiking shoes, running shoes, climbing shoes...the list goes on and on. And if you really want to get out there, you probably shouldn't be working 20 hours of OT every week trying to pay for all that gear.
That's why I try to never spend more than 30 to 50 percent under retail for my outdoor goodies. Here are a bunch of the sites that help me get that done.
Sierra Trading Post
Sierra Trading Post was the first place that gave me the realization "Hey, I don't have to spend top, MSRP dollar to get good sh*t". My go-to for footwear and also a good place to check in for clothing of all kinds, Sierra stocks closeouts and overstocks and offers 35 to 70 percent off of retail. They got real-deal footwear, apparel and gear, but like any closeout shop, stock varies.
If your little lady (or gent) is more of a homemaker, they also stock all kinds of nice home goods and casuals like Italian lambswool sweaters and mohair blankets. If you're more of a face-to-face type, Sierra's got outlet stores in Reno, Boise, and Cody and Cheyenne, Wyoming.
A no-fee membership site, The Clymb runs legit sales twice a week, turning Monday and Thursday into your most exciting gear days. It's partnered with major brands like Dakine, Keen, Mountain Hardwear and Westcomb and offers up to 70 percent off retail. From my experience, prices are typically cut by 50 percent or more. But gear sells out fast, so you have to be willing to pull the trigger. You can check it out and send an email for invite at TheClymb.com.
Like the Clymb, LeftLane Sports is a membership site. Once you're signed up, you'll get access to a few sales from major companies like Ahnu, Dakine, Kelty and TrekSta. Sales deliver savings up to 70 percent off, and during my few weeks there, seem to hover pretty steadily in the 50 to 70 percent off range.
LeftLane brings an interesting twist that The Clymb doesn't: in addition to running several brand sales each week, it has a 'Gear Shop' with all kinds of gear--backpacks, knives, watches, even baseball gear--on sale regularly.
Daily Deal Sites
Don't like membership sites even though they're free and loads of fun? Another sure bet for finding deep cuts is outdoor gear sites with daily deals. These sites basically sell off one majorly discounted item per day until it's all gone. Then they stick something new up there. Backcountry's got a whole network of these boys: Steep and Cheap; Whiskey Militia; Chain Love; BonkTown, etc. Some are general outdoor gear; some specialize in specific niches like bikes, but they all offer major deals. And so you don't have to refresh your browser every two minutes, you can get email alerts, desktop alerts, RSS feeds, etc.--no reason to miss out.
Trying to keep on top of all the deals out there could drive you to the asylum. You don't really need desktop alerts and emails pinging off every 4 minutes, and you could spend hours trying to manually check for deals. Instead, go to CleanSnipe, where you can look at deals from all of those daily deal sites, as well as standard sites like REI, Campsaver and Altrec. It's like your little peephole to the world of real-time gear deals.
And if you prefer to be out in the mountains rather than glued to your computer, just set up a profile, enter the gear you're window shopping for and CleanSnipe will email you when it hits the sweet price. You'll also be able to instantaneously compare prices across retailers and see the dates when the item was being offered for less. They pretty much do everything but pay for your gear.
Despite its meaty name, GearBurger is the most streamlined site on this list. It offers you the same tracking function as CleanSnipe: enter the type of gear you're looking, the brands you like and they'll email you when it's on sale. The site monitors nearly 4,000 brands and over two dozen retailers, so they're like your own personal gear private eye. Outside of your account info, the GearBurger site is like a clean slate; it doesn't list much of any deals on the site, just sends you the intel directly. It's kind of a nice change of pace from the seizure-inducing onslaught of gear, accessories and sales that other sites have compartmentalized in 20 different ways.
One sure way to get gear at the lowest possible price is by shopping used. If you're a little hesitant shopping gear on eBay or Craigslist, maybe GearTrade is right for you. Essentially a dedicated marketplace for used and sale outdoor equipment, GearTrade is the place where buyers and sellers for used tents, bikes, boats, backpacks, skis, and so on meet up and make the proverbial handshake. It's set up just like a standard retail store, complete with big, orange "Buy Now" button, only the gear has a bit more history and a bit less price to it. Payments are routed through Gear Trade and the buyer has 72 hours to inspect the delivered gear to ensure it matches the description.
Frankly, gear sites seem to be in the midst of a renaissance of late. That may change as the economy turns around, but for now, there are more sites than I care to keep track of (I need to save some money, after all). Since this article would never end if I tried to list every one, I'll sign off with a few more:
Gear66: membership site, up to 70 percent off, etc. etc.
Outlet stores: Major retailers like Backcountry, REI and Moosejaw all got 'em
Campmor: I've always found their "Hot Deals" section to be worth a look.
Woot: Deal-of-the-day site for electronics and appliances, once in a while you'll find a stray GPS or other outdoor toy
The Cheap Outdoors: Another gear-deal monitoring site with one-day deals, coupons, promotions and other goodies
Bottom line: There's really no good reason to pay top dollar for outdoor equipment with the ridiculous number of deal sites out there.