Article by Anna
I rarely pay full price for my gear-If I plan. With sites like The Clymb and Steep & Cheap selling discounted gear, playing the waiting game can often score you large discounts. I just bought my Patagonia Nano Air for 50% off on Steep and Cheap. What is better than saving money on gear that you are going to buy anyway? Well, actually getting out and using that gear.
The drawback? Well, browsing these sites looking for stuff I “need”, I often find things I think I need that I didn’t know I need. And I spend money I was not intending to. So maybe I don't really save money in the big picture. There are a variety of options out there for variously qualified personnel: industry professionals (most of us aren’t), military, first responders, government employees, students, and members of national/local clubs. When all else fails, try the Google search. I found a jacket I wanted on Steep and Cheap for 45% off. Before I bought, I did a Google search and found it for 52% off, with cheaper shipping options. If you absolutely must have that new gear that isn’t on sale yet, or it is super last minute, at least REI gives it’s members 10% back in its dividend; that’s better than nothing!
I have personally dealt with and purchased gear from all sites that are recommended. My experiences have been pleasant enough that I can suggest you, too, purchase from these sellers with a clear conscious.
Flash Sale Sites
Flash sale sites sell gear for a short amount of time only. This time can be minutes, days, or sometimes weeks. They usually break down their gear by brand( i.e. Patagonia Sale, Black Diamond sale, etc) or by type ( i.e. “climbing gear” or “ski gear” or “women’s coats”). Sometimes they also have a special section for extra discounted gear like the “80% off” section. One great feature that is newer is a lot of these sites now have a search option. Instead of browsing tons of tempting great deals, you can search for what you want and avoid temptation. If I know that I will need a new puffy coat for the coming winter, I will browse one of these sites until I see what I want pop up, often for 50% off or more.
The drawback? These sites never have the latest gear on them. Usually they sell last season’s gear. If you can live with showing up on the ski hill in last year’s colors, then this is a great way to go. Some sites you have to sign up to access. On the upside, anyone can access these deals. No military, search and rescue, outdoor affiliation required!
If you work for the government, military, emergency services, or in the outdoor industry, many manufacturers offer pro deals. The criteria vary greatly. If you love a brand, check and see if they have a pro deal option. You might be surprised at what you qualify for. These manufactures are generous enough to offer people who use their gear for their job discounts. The catch? The deal is only for you. Manufactures give out “pro” deals to help professionals do their job better.
Along a similar line to Pro Deals…
There are a number of sites that are kind of a hybrid between a pro deal and a flash sale site. Some manufactures offer pro deals exclusively through these sites. They require a members to sign up to access the deals. Typically, they are restricted to military, emergency services, government, etc. However, some sites allow you to access deals based off affiliations with various organizations, including the American Alpine Club. These sites all require you to create an account and become a member.
These sites often sell the current year’s model, but only offer a small selection of gear. Often shipping and processing time is a lot longer than typical. Popular items are often out of stock. You can score sweet deals but watch out for the caveats.
I have managed to score some sweet deals on higher priced items (like skies!) using price matching. Some online retailers will match a competitor's price and beat it by 5%. This can become a bit of a hassle if it is a lower priced item (is it worth your time to save $1 off a $20 item?). For the big items that are purchased occasionally, I have found price matching to be a great option.
Sign up for Manufacturer's Deals
I am also subscribed to some of my favorite brands. While I get annoyed with emails, it is great being in the know for sales. Almost all online retailers have a mailing list these days. Do you love Patagonia but hate the prices? I promise, their gear goes on sale if you know when to look. Black Diamond does a promotion of an extra 20% off in their outlet section sporadically. Who doesn't love $4 carabiners? Signing up for their mailing list is a great way to get that tip off.
American Alpine Club Membership
Being a member of the AAC offers a variety of benefits. This includes a not insignificant amount of money that goes toward your rescue costs in any country, access to a wealth of information, access to grants, and discounts.
The nature of the discounts vary. Once you are a member, you get access to a number of discount codes for manufactures, climbing gyms, and more. You also can get a code for Expertcity for even more options.
There is nothing wrong with buying used gear. Well, usually. I personally would not buy any life safety gear used like helmets or ropes. I mean, that is the stuff that is supposed to save my life if shit goes bad. I want to at least know what kind of a life that gear has had. That said, coats, sleeping bags, ice tools, skis…. Etc. Nothing wrong with buying used! I usually buy local used stuff. I have scored some awesome deals on climbing gear on Craig’s List. Sometimes people are just done with the crazy mountaineering part of their life and want to see their gear put to good use by some young enthusiastic person and they all but give it away. Also, see if you have any local consignment shops. This is great for buying gear and for selling your old gear. Really, you don’t need 5 sleeping bags laying around. Sell a few and let someone else put them to use.
As a Last Resort…
If I find myself in a gotta-have-it-now bind, REI is always a solid option. Become an REI member, and even though you pay full price now, you will get 10% back later. Can’t complain when that REI dividend comes out! As an added bonus, REI members can shop at the REI garage sales. Garage sales are a great opportunity to find some sweet deals on gear that people have returned.
I softened the blow of buying my Dynafit bindings and first backcountry ski setup this way. This was back before the Dynafit patent expired and even used they cost you an arm and a leg. I was pretty stoked for my $100+ dividend come March.
A Few more Thoughts..
Even when I find a sweet deal, I will usually check with the Google to make sure there aren’t better deals out there. Sometimes if something is on sale one place, it is for sale at a lot of places, sometimes for even less. 45% off on Steep and Cheap! Awesome! But 52% off at Evo with free shipping… even better! So just check all your bases before you buy.
That said, as a caveat, be aware that unfortunately there are people out there that want to take advantage of anything. There is counterfeit gear sold online. There are phoney companies that are scams. I am not saying if a deal seems too good to be true that it is. Well, it probably is. Just do your research before you buy. Make sure the online retailer is reputable. Make sure they have high customer satisfaction ratings if you have never heard of them before. Be wary of insane deals at auction sites or online marketplaces. (I never buy new gear on Ebay. I am very suspicion of all those $30 brand new Salomon shoes for sale.)
There you have it. My secretes to hardly ever paying full price for my gear!