Where to Buy Inexpensive Hiking Gear

Brand-new hiking gear can cost an arm and a leg, but sometimes it's worth it for the warranty or just the piece of mind of knowing that you're getting high-end gear in pristine condition. That said, why pay retail when you can get steep discounts? 

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Cabela's Bargain Cave

Walking in line in the mountain
pixelfit / Getty Images

Cabela's big sales seem to be on par with every other retailer's; you can do better if you're willing to wait for something you want to turn up in the Bargain Cave. There's no telling what you'll find or whether they'll have it in your size, but if it's there, you'll get a great deal on it with discounts of up to 70 percent.

The Bargain Cave is also a physical location in brick-and-mortar Cabela's stores, so be sure to check every time you're in the store.

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Campmor might not be the most glamorous of retailers, but they sometimes have pretty good deals on outdoor gear and clothing. Do take the time to compare prices, because their discounts vary.

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Craigslist (and other local classifieds)

As long as you know what you're looking for, you can find some awesome deals on Craigslist and any local versions of the same. Just follow the usual safety precautions, because you never know who's actually on the other end of the transaction.

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The Clymb

The Clymb offers "insider pricing on premium outdoor gear." That translates to discounts that often hover around 30 to 40 percent off—not bad at all!

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Freecycle is an email/web-based network where people who have something they want to give away or recycle for free (thus "freecycle," get it?) post the item up for grabs. If you want it, you email them and arrange to pick it up.

You can also post a "Wanted" message for any needs you have—for example, "Wanted: Backpacking equipment"—but in my experience the pickier you are, the fewer replies you get to that sort of message.

Your odds of being picked to receive something are best if you're an active participant in the Freecycle community, and if you're fast on the reply button—often it's first-come, first-serve.

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GearTrade is a marketplace for retailers, sales reps—and apparently, individuals—to sell gear online. You can get some screaming deals here, but make sure you read item descriptions carefully to see whether what you're buying is used or new.

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NOLS Sales

National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) goes through a lot of gear, and they tend to sell off anything they don't need in the spring and fall. You'll have to check with your local chapters to see when they're holding the next sale. The gear has often seen a lot of use, but if you buy carefully, you can still find usable items at a great place. Sometimes you'll find a smattering of brand-new sample gear; in my experience that usually sells at about 50 percent off.

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REI Garage Sales, Attic and Outlet

Maybe some of you remember the halcyon days of REI's "Super Clearance" sales​ when every item that had a price ending in .83 was discounted an additional 50 percent. Those have gone the way of the dodo, but you stand a decent chance of scoring deals at an REI "Garage Sale" instead. 

REI also keeps a regular, rotating stock of returned items for sale in their "Attic" (not a literal attic -- it's usually located somewhere near the back of the store). You can get screaming deals here, but buy carefully because sometimes there really is a problem with gear -- ripped seams or missing pieces, for example -- and items purchased in the Attic cannot be returned.

Last but still useful, you can sometimes find good deals, especially on closeouts, at REI's online outlet.

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Rock/Creek Outfitters

Rock/Creek stocks many major outdoors brands at full price, but they also maintain a sale section where you can get some pretty good deals. The typical sale discounts look to hover around 20 percent, but a recent browse turned up discounts of almost 50 percent off on some hiking gear. That's worth a look!

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Sierra Trading Post

At Sierra Trading Post's Bargain Barn, everything is priced at least 60 percent off retail. You'll get a lot of closeouts and seconds here, but who cares if that pair of socks you just got has a tiny cosmetic blemish on them? They still keep your feet just as warm or dry, and they're cheap.

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Swap Meets

There's no central source for these, so keep your eyes peeled to newsletters from university outdoor clubs and local outdoorsy clubs, or do some judicious Googling. Don't be shy—you might find hiking-specific gear like packs, boots, headlamps and clothing layers at swap meets for skiers and climbers too.

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University Rentals and Outdoor Programs

If outdoor recreation is big in your area, odds are good that the local university rents several types of recreational gear. This is a reasonable way of trying out gear to see if it's something you'll really use but, just as important, there's a good chance the university will periodically sell off used rental gear. Just call and ask.

If the answer's no, ask whether the university has an outdoor program. If they do, that program has to get rid of used gear from time to time -- maybe they'd be willing to sell it to you.