Outdoor stores are expensive. Places that aren’t outdoor stores but sell outdoor gear aren’t. Here’s some surprising places to buy outdoor gear.
Stores or companies that specialize in selling outdoor products often have products that are, well, expensive.
There are various reasons for the expense of these products:
- Smaller volume of sales means the prices are going to be expensive
- The quality of the product is often quite good, which does raise the price
- Recuperating costs of design, testing and marketing is a large factor of the price
Ultimately though, I think it is because it is what the market will bear: We, the consumers, are conditioned to pay a certain price for items and outdoor manufacturers and stores can charge accordingly.
But what happens when you sell a fleece beanie at a hardware store? Or purchase nylon wind pants through a dance supply company? Or buy safety glasses through a contracting supply company?
It means these items, not typically sold for outdoors people, are considerably less expensive than typical outdoor gear and clothing items.
The items are typically made in bulk. While the quality is not quite as good as say Patagonia, they are good enough. There is minimal marketing, testing and design dollars to recuperate on the products. And, I think this is the important point, the market is aimed at a different consumer. (For example, a fleece beanie at Home Depot is sold for $2 and not $25).
So what does that mean? It means that a surprising amount of outdoor items can be bought without spending a lot of money. Certain items are worth every penny (sleeping bags and shelters immediately come to mind). But does a $5 fleece hat perform less well than the $25 one? Probably not. 🙂
So, in that vein, here are some sources of cheap gear and clothing.
In previous articles, I’ve written about items that can be bought, I’ve often mentioned inexpensive gear. In particular, items that can be bought at:
But what has amazed me over the past few months is that places that do not sell outdoor gear per se have an amazing amount of items for sale that are inexpensive and functional. They may not be quite as refined as higher end items (in some cases), but for a person on a budget or beats on their gear, the lesser priced items can be a good alternative.
Some interesting items I’ve found in the past few months:
- Walgreens: Winter socks and hats for less than $5. A Patagonia down sweater clone that is synthetic vs down. Costs $20. Probably a good alternative to the m-65 liner jacket.
- Home Depot: Fleece hats for $2. Gloves for less than $10. These items are a quick, impulse buy for those working outside all day and forget/need a warm hat and gloves. Home depot also sells an amazing array of headlamps and flashlights that often come with batteries.
- Marshalls / TJ Maxx: Amazing the amount of name brand athletic clothing sold there. Surplus from last year or factory seconds (Darn Tough socks, for example)
- “Real outdoor gear” that happens to be used for something else: Not sold for the outdoors, but because they are made in large quantity for other pursuits, they are inexpensive. Contractor safety glasses and unlined warm up pants come to mind.
- Grocery Stores: I’ve seen winter hats, gloves, balaclavas and even light fleece jackets for sale there.
Just a few more ideas to outfit yourself on a budget. Sometimes it is not even a matter of money, but outdoor gear can get thrashed. Better to use a lesser expensive item in some cases. While I would not want to use a Walmart sleeping bag, a $2 fleece hat from Home Depot does the job quite well.
Note: Some readers have taken umbrage at this post claiming I am dissing outfitters. To quote my own article “Certain items are worth every penny (sleeping bags and shelters immediately come to mind). But does a $5 fleece hat perform less well than the $25 one? Probably not.”
This article is merely a way to look at some less expensive alternatives that aren’t sold in a traditional outfitter. I doubt I’ll be buying a 850 down quilt at Home Depot any time soon but I sure as heck seeing nothing wrong with buying a $5 fleece beanie there. 😉