Your Gear Works For You So Work For Your Gear.
I'm sure there are plenty of other nice folks out there who are more well-versed than I when it comes to shopping yet I've found that (surprisingly) I've had a handful of questions around where I buy my gear. Mostly related to deals or best cost-effective sites because after all, who wants to pay top dollar if you don't have to?
Personally I'd say about 95% of my purchases are done online. It's just too convenient and almost any retailer out there offers reasonable shipping costs if there are any at all. Plus, you're buying your gear to use it, right? So why waste your day trudging through the mall? My God, what a horrible place. Who in the hell goes to the mall anymore? It's a zoo. And you'll almost never get the best deals available because the mall shops have all the latest and greatest out on display. The only reason I'd ever go to the mall is to jump around on the giant breakfast foods they've passed as 'kids toys' however I'm fairly certain that a 30-something man hanging out around kids is frowned upon. Thanks Jared.
Now, part of snagging the good deals is having a willingness to snatch up year-old models. To which I say, 'Who gives a shit what year it was made?'. No one is selling new gear from 1984 so there are no worries there. Scoop up the stuff companies want out of their inventory. They're selling it cheap so they can make room for the newbies. Plus, I have yet to run into the man/woman who created the gear I was using. Of course now that I say that I'm going to be out on the slopes this winter and bump into the guy who was responsible for the artwork on my Icelantic skis. So be it.
Keep in mind the time of year you're buying. If you need camping gear or water sport toys take a gander during the winter months. Clearly it's a downtime for those activities so jump into the mix and start hunting. You're likely to find some killer deals.
Network. No, not through the bullshit business edition of Facebook known as LinkedIn. Old school networking. Hang around a local ski shop. Talk up an instructor on the slopes. Those people know people. The RIGHT people. In my case I recently tagged along with a friend who knew a friend of a friend who was in the business of action sports photography. This dude stocked up on all the apparel and gear his models used and every two years holds a gear garage sale at his home. Like a cheetah running down his prey I killed it. Came home with Leki poles, Leki gloves, Patagonia windbreaker, Salomon running shorts and most notably a pair of Salomon Iceglory snowpants (Orig $250 for $40) all for a grand total of $95.
So, onto a few of my favorite shops I hound on a regular basis:
Sierra Trading Post. Excellent. They've got almost anything you could ever want or need. And if you're a wise one then you'll sign up for their email. Deals galore. Great customer service to boot if I do say so myself. Speaking of which, if you're online shopping please do yourself a favor and live chat with one of their reps. There's a chance you can knock ANOTHER 10-15% off of your already great deal if you just ask. It won't happen every time but it never hurts to ask! I've gotten exceptional tent deals, buy all my running shoes here and usually get suckered into a few pairs of Smartwools considering their price offerings.
Backcounty Gear. No, not Backcountry. Close. Just add the word gear. Another email to sign up for and if you do you'll get an additional 10% off of your first order. My shipment came quick and they tossed in a company sticker. Gotta fill the real estate on that Nalgene bottle! They rotate deals but often markdown great brands such as Smartwool & Mountain Hardware among others.
6pm. An online outlet without the nightmare of going to an actual outlet store. They've got a plethora of brand names and great prices. I've purchased an unhealthy amount of Patagonia from this site.
Campmor. Need a tent? Need a backpack? Need to fit yourself entirely for that 4 day trip you've got coming up? Sneak into this site. They've got the deals.
Evo. Possibly my favorite ski shop to peruse through. I snagged my first set of boards, poles & boots from Evo. GREAT prices on last-year models. Easy, efficient. They also offer product for wake boarding, skating and surfing.
Wilderness Exchange. Just another great gear shop with fantastic prices. They run the gamut of all sorts of outdoor activities. And, if you're lucky enough to live in or are visiting CO then stop by their Denver shop. They've got a magical consignment shop in their basement.
Again, I'm no wizard when it comes to the art of shopping but thought I'd share a few pleasures. Get into these places so you can get out into the open!