It is a universal truth that outdoor equipment is expensive. Compared to high street fashion brands, outdoor brands generally produce clothing with a lesser environmental impact, and invest millions of pounds each year towards technological research to provide consumers with the best gear for their travels. Whilst this gives shoppers relief in the knowledge they’re buying ethical products that will work well, it will also cost them more too.
However, if you are willing to do a combination of waiting, researching and are flexible on styles, it is possible to find outdoor equipment for reasonable prices. Listed below are several options for grabbing yourself a gear bargain!
This first suggestion might be the most obvious, but the recession has given rise to a slew of discounted outlet stores such as Decathlon, while outdoor brands have also begun to expand their stores into the outlet retail industry. Admittedly when it comes to stores like Go Outdoors or Decathlon, some of the cheaper clothing and footwear options are not long-lasting, but many of the goods they sell are simply from past seasons, lesser-known brands or factory second stock from popular brands.
Member-only Online Sales
If outlet stores were the winners of the retail industry expansion in the recession, then member-only sales websites were the winner of the web sphere. Whilst most of these websites flog high-end designer brands to the public, there are a few outdoor gear websites to keep an eye on. Sites such as www.leftlanesports.com or www.outdoorfusion.co.uk are good options for general outdoors gear, but a simple google search for more niche sports will also bring up results as well.
Generally sample sales last 1-3 days and are filled with one-off pieces, factory seconds, or last-season items that the stores were unable to flog. To find out about these though, you need to sign up to the mailing list of brands or keep an eagle eye on the local newspaper. However, sample sales are an excellent way to find bargains if you are willing to wait and sift through weekly e-newsletters. Case in point: around two years ago I went to a Howies sample sale in Brick Lane, London, and picked up two organic merino wool baselayer tops for £25 each, the retail price for these usually being between £49-55.
Often times, large outdoor stores will have special offers on seasonal items to entice shoppers inside the store. Many of these items will have been bought as a special one-off order from a particular brand for a discounted price, and are usually leftovers from a previous season or a factory second that didn’t make it into that brand’s seasonal range. If you know what you’re looking for, and don’t mind wearing last season’s threads these items can be good value for money- however make sure you buy them quick, as the stores usually have limited stock available.
If you are just dipping your toe into hiking (or swimming, climbing, mountaineering, etc.) then purchasing secondhand gear might be a suitable option for you. Of course, make sure you see the item before purchasing, and if you are buying items like stoves or sterilisation pens, make sure with the owner that everything is working properly and safely before making any payment. When looking for used gear, take a look at forums on outdoors websites like http://www.walkingforum.co.uk/index.php?PHPSESSID=1352be5b68ae66197e286025d389e2cb&board=2.0 or secondhand items websites like www.preloved.co.uk. Local outdoors or meetup groups will frequently have members looking to upgrade their gear, so make sure you ask around or check the community message boards for information. On a side note, it is also worth talking to the staff that works in outdoors stores; often times they will have gear they want to sell, or know of someone who will.
- Discount cards/codes– many outdoor stores offer discounts for a wide variety of clubs and professions; check before purchasing to see whether you receive a discount. For instance, Cotswold Outdoors offers discounts for nurses, firemen, armed forces, OAP cards, and student discounts to name a (very small) few!
- Price match– several outdoor stores have a price match policy (they just forget to tell you about it) where they will match or beat the price of any competitor. This can be handy, but be forewarned, many outdoor stores have a policy of not matching Ebay auctions or including postage and packaging for online stores.
- Stores’ dedicated outlet pages– When outdoor stores have products from premium brands that they want to sell but don’t have enough to stock in their stores, or need to sell it quickly to make room for new stock, they frequently sell it at a discounted rate through their online outlets, such as Cotswold Outdoor Rock Bottom page, Snow + Rock’s Clearance and Kathmandu’s Outlet.
Do you have any techniques for finding gear bargains?
Photo credit: Major Steve / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND