Outdoor gear is a big part of going outdoors and the more technical the activity, the more gear you need. If you you’ve been going hiking, climbing, running or mountaineering for a few years, you know that over time your gear desires just get bigger, not smaller.
Personally, I’m a huge gear head, maybe even a gear junkie; the worst thing is, I made it into a career…. so it ends up being expensive, very, very expensive. I do get some of the industry discounts, but most of the time, I need to hunt for bargains like everyone else.
The big problem with getting gear at my stage in life, is that now that I finally have the money to buy gear, I have other obligations – from boring stuff (housing, retirement etc) to exciting stuff that isn’t for me: getting my wife equipped enough to join me on hikes, buying tons of gear for my daughter so she can come outdoors with me too. So between equipping the ladies in my life and just the day to day expenses, not much is left for me to buy the goodies I want. But worry not, I think I have a method. I have been using it for the last couple of years and so far I think it works – I manage to still buy outdoor gear. Maybe not as much as I would have liked, but more than most of the people around me.
So lets get down to business – how do I do it?
The List Method
The list method has a few simple steps to get you the right gear you want despite any constraints you may have:
1. Make a list of all the gear you want
Yep, you need to list all the gear you want, the full list with a few alternatives. Make sure not to pick a specific item (the new Telemark 1 ULW tent from Nordisk) but write down the general product (a light 1 person tent). Make sure to add specific details to that.
On this list I also add all the gear that the rest of the family needs (outdoor gear only!) and I’ll explain why later on.
2. Run a first filter
This is where you split the dreams from the practical stuff: start by cutting out all the gear for activities you don’t do (yes, I also want a fat bike, a packraft, a splitboard and a full ice climbing rack, but I’m not doing any of those activities…), and be real with yourself. If you are not doing the activity, you don’t need the gear. On the list you should only have the items that you know you are missing or are in a real need of an upgrade.
Personally, I also keep my dream list, since you never know……
3. Keep the list accessible
It sounds funny, but you need the list in a place you can get to it easily (you’ll understand why when we get to step 5). I use a combination of a notebook and a pencil (yes, with paper and all) and an Evernote that runs all my computers (home and work). With this combo I’m able to check my list if needed and tweak it when I feel like it, if I came back from a trip with a few ideas or something like that.
4. Have a designated account
I find that having a small account that is not part of the house’s expenses is a good way of keeping some money aside. I use my Paypal account for that and I usually get money into it by selling old or disused gear on eBay. I also get some refunds into the Paypal account on smaller things as the money is already “out” of the system, it isn’t really missed and can sit in Paypal until needed.
5. Shop for deals – your time to buy!
With the list in hand and some money stashed in an account for this, I’m on the constant lookout for a deal, a true bargain. The best place for these are forums and I use 2 of them: Backpacking Light’s “Gear Deals” thread (USA) and the Outdoors Magic “Gear” thread (UK). I just log onto those regularly for a couple of minutes and check if any good deals are up for grabs. You can also use flash sale sites to grab deals like: the Clymb, Left Lane Sports, SportPursuit and others.
The important thing about looking for deals is that you only buy what’s on your list. This is very important, as the money you stashed away can easily go to a less important item like buying a second (or third) version of an existing bit of gear.
Using this method I manage to get anything from 40% to 70% off items, you just need to make sure to keep an eye on what is on sale and stick to the list.
Do you have other resources for great deals? Let me know, I’m always after a good deal on a nice bit of gear.