If you’re trying to go backpacking on a budget, it can be overwhelming once you start adding up the prices of all the hiking and camping gear you need.
Two-hundred-plus-dollar jackets, backpacks and tents aren’t really in the price range of what many adventurers are looking for, especially if you’re just getting started or aren’t fully committed to the hobby yet.
Fortunately, there are plenty of sites online that offer deep discounts on name brand gear, or great prices for solid, more affordable brands.
Sierra Trading Post
Sierra Trading Post is the outdoor gear and apparel arm of the TJX Companies, who also operate T.J. Maxx and Marshalls in the US. If you’re familiar with those stores, then you’ll know what Sierra Trading Post is all about – closeout merchandise from brands you’ve heard of mixed in with some you haven’t.
A lot of their inventory tends to be items in last season’s colors or items with slight blemishes that couldn’t be sold full retail price. I use them to stock up on wool socks, base layers, and other items where I’m not as picky about who it’s made by or what it looks like.
They also have a section of their website called their “Barn Burner” deals. A list of 24 deals, updated daily. In addition to their website, they also have a catalog service and a few retail stores.
REI is one of the most well-known outdoor retailers in the US. They recently gave the “Outlet” section of their website a facelift and rebranded it as “REI Garage.”
Because of their name recognition and clout, REI has good relationships with many well known manufacturers and tends to have really popular items on deep discounts that you just don’t see anywhere else.
As is typical with many retailers’ outlets, it can be tricky to find things in the size or colors you’re looking for, but the site has good search filters to help you hone in on the deals that are most relevant for you.
In addition to their “Garage” outlet section, REI is also dipping its toe into the flash deal market, with their Deal of the Day section – a 50%+ off deal that only lasts for 24 hours on one item.
Steep and Cheap
Steep and Cheap is the clearance arm of Backcountry.com, a fast-growing, online-only retailer that competes with other large brands like REI. Recognizing the growth in popularity of flash sales and one-at-a-time deals, the company’s founders started a new website to tap into that trend.
Steep and Cheap is full of sale items that usually only last a few days after being posted. The site has lots of great filters so that you can see what’s available for your size and gender. I’ve found the selection to be pretty solid in my experience, I’m more likely to find things in my size than on other deal sites.
They also have a section of “Current Steals” section of their website that shows items that are 50%+ for the next few minutes. It’s not as useful if you’re looking for something specific, but can be a fun page to keep bookmarked and check on often.
Massdrop is another case of a tech-driven company that has popped up in the outdoor retail space. Massdrop has different communities of enthusiasts around topics like Audiophiles and Ultralight backpackers.
People in the online community can get together and suggest “drops” on specific items, and then Massdrop will collect everyone’s orders, and then turn around and place a single bulk, wholesale order with the manufacturer, passing some of the savings along to members.
I’ve found their collection of “Ultralight” items to be hit or miss. There are definitely some cool drops that I’ve seen on worthwhile items, but there are also some items that I’d consider to be more novelty than serious.
It takes a bit of work to sift through and find an item that’s actually a good deal.
Campmor was a defining part of my outdoor experience as a child. They used to send out those cool paper catalogs with the pencil drawings of every item in their inventory, but apparently it has become too expensive and they’ve discontinued them. 😞
Campmor has a great selection of cheaper brands – you won’t have to sift through a lot of over-priced Patagucci. Think more of brands like Kelty, Jansport, Columbia and other more economical (but still highly-regarded) brands.
This is a great place to get gear for kids that they’ll likely lose, break or grow out of soon anyways. It’s a great place to get stuff for a Boy Scout or other young camper.
Moose Jaw is part online retailer, part kooky outdoor lifestyle brand. They have a pretty good selection of gear from top brands, and pretty customer-friendly services and features that have earned them a loyal following.
They offer fairly generous free shipping, a price match guarantee against their competitors and every purchase you make on their site earns you loyalty points for free swag and discounts on gear. They’re also known for throwing in stickers or other goodies with your order from time to time.
Check out the outlet section of their website for the big savings.
Altrec is another big online retailer. They have a really large selection of not just outdoor gear and apparel, but also the “outdoor inspired” brands that sell lifestyle products like trendy, fashion jackets and a huge selection of sunglasses.
Like most online retailers, they also have an outlet section where you can score deals and find discounts of up to 60% off retail.
Warning, here be dragons! AliExpress is the ecommerce arm of the giant Alibaba Group. Most of the items for sale on the site are being sold directly from factories in China.
While you can definitely get some great deals on stuff, you really have to know what you’re looking for in terms of materials and specifications, and you must also be wary of the quality/cost tradeoff.
Some of the items you might find are almost identical to their higher-priced, name brand lookalikes, while others are cheap knockoffs that will fall apart quickly and shouldn’t be relied on for serious backcountry travel. Make sure you read reviews and ask about an item if you’re not sure, to get others’ experiences.