Tents, backpacks and water filtration, oh my!
We’ve been collecting camping gear over the last decade, but really only started to get serious about finding quality items a couple of years ago. This summer is the first time we can say we’ve got just about all the outdoor gear we need!
In our opinion, buying quality outdoor and camping gear is a good investment because it helps you go on epic adventures…
But we’ve found from personal experience that buying quality camping gear doesn’t have to be expensive. Over the years, we’ve figured out several ways to score quality outdoor and camping gear for cheap.
1. Shop REI’s “garage sales”
In normal years, REI runs members-only Garage Sale events every few months to resell items that have been returned. Sometimes they are nearly brand new and are still heavily discounted. It is a “final sale” model, so you can’t return them, but the discount is usually so good that it doesn’t matter!
We’ve gotten tons of amazing deals and cheap camping gear from REI garage sales over the years!
Here are just a few of the deals we’ve scored:
- We each got lightly used name brand hiking boots for less than $20. New, they would have cost nearly $200. Plus, they were already “broken in” for us (no blisters, thank goodness!).
- Mess Kit (pot, bowls, utensils, mugs, and a small stove) for $36 (usually $120).
- Nearly new Osprey hiking backpack for $60 (usually $180).
- Snowboarding boots (literally never worn) for $90, (usually $250).
Currently, most REI stores have a table where they have garage sale merchandise for sale instead of the in-person events.
If you’ve never shopped REI’s garage sale items, what are you waiting for?! (P.S. This is NOT sponsored — we’re just sharing a tip that has been very helpful to us.)
2. Shop Discount Gear Sites
There are plenty of online storefronts selling name-brand camping and outdoor gear on the cheap. As long as you are shopping at a reputable outlet with a proven track record, there really is no need to spend full price on your outdoor gear. You just have to know where to look…
Here are some of the best discount outdoor gear sites:
- REI Outlet: We mentioned the REI Garage Sales, but this is basically their online version. The same great quality, service and return policy you get from REI, but at a discount! You’ll find closeout deals on last year’s gear at discounted rates all year round. They also have a Used Gear section of their website if you’re not picky about pre-owned items.
- Steep & Cheap: If you’ve heard of backcountry.com, Steep & Cheap is their official online outlet store. They offer name-brand products that may be off-season or last year’s model at a seriously reduced rate (sometimes up to 80% off!). Afterall, an Osprey backpack is still an Osprey backpack, even if it’s in last year’s color palette.
- CampSaver: Another great place to find cheap camping gear, this site has a wide selection of name-brand gear with daily deals and discounts.
- The Clymb: Gain insider access to the best outdoor gear and apparel from premium name-brands you love.
- Patagonia Worn Wear: Did you know Patagonia will actually buy back your gently used apparel, fix it up and resell it at a seriously discounted price? Check out the site for unique deals.
3. Look on Facebook Marketplace or FB gear swap groups in your area
Some areas of the world are better for this than others, but our local “gear swap” FB group in Bend, Oregon is amazing.
Ask in your local Buy Nothing FB group: In Facebook, search your town + Buy Nothing and you should find a group nearby. These groups are amazing places to gift and receive all sorts of items. While this is not specific to camping gear, it’s worth a try.
If there’s something specific you’re looking for, you can “ask” for that item and if someone nearby has it and wants to get it off their hands it makes a great fit.
4. Shop at thrift stores
Sometimes you can find some great second-hand camping equipment.
Tip: Sometimes while on road trips, we pop into thrift stores in “outdoorsy” cities or towns, as they tend to have a better selection of gear.
5. Borrow from a friend or family member
Repay them with stories from your adventure!
6. Rent some items
If you’re new to camping and just want to try it out, or you don’t plan on going often, renting a couple of items can be a good place to start. You can look at local outdoor retailers and see their rental options. REI also has a small selection of things you can rent.
7. Shop the sales
If you can wait, shopping for camping gear at the end of the season can be a really good tactic, as stores are trying to get rid of their inventory. You can score some great deals this way, but you’ll need some patience.
For example: We’re big fans of REI (if you couldn’t tell already), so we usually take advantage of their annual sales. They usually have good deals over Memorial Day and Labor Day as well as a couple of other times throughout the year.
Tip: We keep an ongoing list of camping gear we could use in a note in our phones so that any time we find a sale we know exactly what to search for. Sometimes we get lucky!
8. Shop off-name brands
If none of the tactics above have worked and your budget is low, you can always try looking at lesser-known brands. While we don’t love this option (*we’ll explain why below), there are times where you just don’t have the funds for name-brand everything.
As a whole, we’re not big fans of many business practices of Walmart or Amazon, but we can’t deny their convenience. Both have decent selections of inexpensive camping gear, if that’s what you’re after.
There are certain items where quality isn’t going to be as big of an issue. For instance, we’d recommend splurging on things like a tent, sleeping bags, and backpacks, as they are going to get a lot of wear and have the potential to be uncomfortable if the quality is low.
But you can save money on other items — like camping mugs, or headlamps, or tarps — by shopping cheaper brands. Think about the specific items you’re looking for, and how less expensive materials will affect its use over time.
A note on camping gear and quality: We’ve tried a ton of different camping equipment over the years, some high-end and some lower quality gear. We’ve found time and time again that the higher end gear does tend to outlast the cheap stuff — by far.
And if you purchase quality gear, you’ll likely be able to use it for many years instead of having to replace it often. Think of it as an investment in many adventures to come! Just something to keep in mind as you look for gear.
9. Use what you already have.
Chances are you already have some items that will work for a camping trip. Just because it’s not designed specifically for camping doesn’t mean it won’t work!
There’s sometimes this assumption that you need the newest ultra-light gear for a backpacking trip. But that’s BS. (Take it from 2 people who have done lots of backpacking and camping trips with “makeshift gear”.)
You absolutely do not need to have new, expensive name brand gear to get started camping.
There are certainly a few items that you can’t really compromise on — like a tent and a sleeping bag, for instance. But your backpack wasn’t designed for hiking? Who cares? It might be slightly less comfortable than one that was, but it’ll do the job.
Think of collecting gear as a long-term goal and slowly purchase the most important items to you. Save the non-essentials for later.
We hope these tips are helpful, because they really came in handy for us as we were getting into camping but just didn’t have the budget for allllll the fancy gear.
You may also like…
- Beginners Guide to Backpacking & Backcountry Camping
- What to Wear Hiking
- Best 2-Person Tents for Camping
- Best Outdoor Apps for Camping, Hiking and Road Trips
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We want to hear from you!
Have any other tips for scoring cheap camping gear? We’re all ears!