Super Sports Gear for Less
Putting together the right clothes and gear to ensure a stellar outdoor outing can be quite the challenge, especially in these belt-tightening times. Some people might even live in easy walking or quick driving vicinity to the woods, like I did when I lived in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Pike’s Peak, a 14,000 footer in the Rocky Mountains, was literally right outside my front door and I spent a lot of time playing in the woods there. But if you live further out or plan to make a long weekend outing away from a convenient urban setting, you’ll need to plan ahead and gear up in advance.
The first step is do some field research to find out what kinds of equipment and clothing work best for you and the sport you want to do. Go to your favorite stores, like REI and The North Face. Try on their coats and pants, bike clothes and climbing shoes. Look at brand name catalogues, like Mountain Hardwear or The North Face. Visit your favorite bike shop or hang out with your local climbing group. Find out what other outdoor enthusiasts are wearing and using. And why. Do some price comparisons and decide what your budget is or should be.
Once you have a handle on what kind of clothing and equipment you want, what price range you want to stay in, and what sizes and styles work best for you, you’re ready to gear up — with a little help from my favorite outdoor sports gear places.
Army Surplus Stores
Teeming with overstock from the Army, these stores abound around the U.S. Every town, even the smallest one, has a surplus store. The best part about shopping here is that you can easily and quickly find the basics that you need. Looking for a camp stove? They have three or four different kinds. Need a sleeping bag that can weather the coldest of cold fronts? That’s here too. The gear may not be the most fashionable, but it is the most functional. And it’s the best place to get camping essentials. You start here and then you move onto other stores for gear and clothing more tailored to fit you.
Campmor has to be my favorite store for outdoor stuff. The catalogue, printed in black and white on newspaper-like paper, is crammed with great offers and blowout deals on some of the hottest brands. Need some North Face rain pants but can’t afford the North Face brand price? This is your spot. They have it, along with dozens of other brands.
Sierra Trading Post
Sierra Trading Post, like Campmor, have some of the sweetest deals and sales around. One of my friends in college decided to hit Alaska one summer to work in a fishery. Despite the fact that he was born and raised in Wyoming, he wasn’t prepared for the rugged conditions Alaska sports. So he called on Sierra Trading Post to ship him new gear, stat. And they did! The best time to buy is at the end of a season, so it pays to plan ahead. If you’re looking for cycling gear, check them out towards the end of September. If you want to get ready for winter, plan a year ahead. But if you hit a snag and need something right away, they still offer low prices and high quality.
Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC)
Mountain Equipment Coop saved my life one summer when I spent a month hostelling through the Canadian Rockies. When I stepped off the plane in Calgary, I didn’t have my sports gear with me, as I had just arrived from living out of the country and most of my belongings were packed up. But a quick stop at MEC and I had acquired a backpack and some other hiking paraphernalia for half what it would have cost me anywhere else. It was amazing. The only caveat with this store is that they only ship to residents of Canada. So if you’re in Canada, this is a great spot to hit.
Redwood Trading Post
Redwood Trading Post is located in Redwood City in the San Francisco Bay area. This gem of a outdoors equipment and clothing place has the best deals I found in that area. Before I went overseas a few years ago, I geared up here, grabbing a Swiss Army Knife, hiking boots, socks, thermal underwear, you name it. When I got back from my travels, I hit them up for some replacement shoes and gear. What they didn’t have in stock, they offered to ship to me in Oregon, where I had moved for grad school.
With some super sports gear and little bit of pre-planning, you’re ready to hit the woods. Any time. Anywhere. So go for it — winter sports season is already here.