Unless your last name is Buffett or Gates, comparison shopping is part of your hiking apparel and gear buying strategy. Most hikers look for that sweet spot where function meets style at a price that makes sense.
While a brick and mortar store gives you the chance to try something on, or try it out, you can expect to pay full price or maybe get lucky with a small discount.
But if you’re looking to consistently save the big cash, and are willing to take a calculated risk if something doesn’t fit or meet your needs, online shopping is where it’s at.
Beyond offering big savings, online shopping also provides an education which helps you hone in on the gear and apparel for the type of hiking and backpacking you do most.
Here’s a list of some of the premium online destinations for great gear and apparel shopping. I have no affiliation with any of these companies although each does meet my personal criterion of having longevity, reputable brands, great customer service and killer discounts.
Your mileage may vary so if you have some personal favorites please leave a comment so we can all reap the rewards of picking up some awesome gear at great prices!
For my hard-earned dollar, STP is the go-to site for wide selections and the deepest discounts. Particularly good for hiking apparel, boots and accessories, STP offers easy navigation, excellent descriptions, product specs and user reviews. Beyond the 30%-60% savings you’ll enjoy (more if you sign up for their newsletters), STP offers a killer return policy and ways to bundle your orders to save even more. If you like contests with big prizes, check out the weekly giveaway on their excellent blog.
Top of the line products, thorough descriptions, awesome shipping policies and live chat makes Altrec one of the leaders in online gear shopping. Offering a vast selection, Altrec also has a fun “deals” section that rotates and keeps you coming back to grab that sweet 50%-70% savings. While you’re there, check out Altrec’s blog, Great Outdoors, for some well-written articles on all things outdoors.
Campmor is a one-stop shopping site with a vast array of apparel, camping / hiking gear and accessories. With most everything on their site offering attractive discounts, and a wide selection of rotating “Hot Deals” that will keep even more money in your pocket, their selection of both premium and entry level products is sure to satisfy most everyone. A slight ding for the lack of a roll-over feature on their product photos.
You know ‘em…you love ‘em. If you’re lucky enough to have one of the more than 100 REI stores throughout the country near you, or are one of their 3.5 million members, you know it’s the mecca of outdoor gear manned by a sales staff of knowledgeable professionals. But their online presence is no slouch either, offering all the gear you see in the store with attractive sales and superior user-submitted reviews. You might not save the same kind of money out of the chute as the others but an REI purchase comes with one of the best return policies in the business.
Smart online buyers know how to comparison shop and GearBuyer makes it easy. They don’t sell…they aggregate. What you get is a huge variety of products with side bar listings of where you can buy the product and the cost. User-submitted reviews, clear product descriptions and coupon codes makes GearBuyer bookmark worthy. They also have a cool video page called Gear-TV with expert reviews and the chance to see your future purchase in action. Note: While they have a substantial number of partners it still pays to look around to see if a better price is available elsewhere.
Like finds like. And in this case, that means bringing together a bunch of gearheads to offer up their personal reviews on most any product available to the hiker and backpacker. Trailspace is a vast community that is predicated on the notion that not only do outdoor freaks like us enjoy talking about our gear, we do so honestly. So if you’re ready to pull the trigger on that new soft shell, tent or stove, take a trip over to Trailspace and get the inside scoop. You can also write your own review on a piece of gear so others can gain from your experience. Trailspace also has frequent contests where winners take home some great, free gear.