Camping Gear

Are You Still Wasting Money on Outdoor Gear?

Posted On April 4, 2017 at 3:08 am by / Comments Off on Are You Still Wasting Money on Outdoor Gear?

By Michael Lanza

We all love getting out dayhiking, backpacking, climbing, trail running, paddling and doing other favorite activities. We need the right gear and apparel for it. That stuff costs money. So we have to make choices over what we need, what’s the best product among myriad models available, which of them are a good value, and what we can afford. In this blog post, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned about making those choices over more than two decades as a professional gear tester and reviewer, and explain why now is an ideal time to be gear shopping.

Sure, you can take 20 years to learn through experience how to buy the gear you need, like I did. Or you can follow the advice I lay out below and in various other stories linked below, which will help you be a smarter gear consumer who understands how to get much better value for your buck.

My two top rules about buying outdoor gear smartly are really no different from buying almost any consumer product:

1. Do some research to understand what you need and the differences between choices available.
2. Don’t buy at the last minute. Planning ahead usually gives you more choices and opportunities to find discounted prices.


Get the right pack for you. See my “Gear Review: The 10 Best Packs For Backpacking
and my “5 Tips For Buying the Right Backpack.”


The Big Outside is proud to partner with sponsors and Visit North Carolina, who support the stories you read at this blog. Find out more about them and how to sponsor my blog at my sponsors page at The Big Outside. Click on the ad below for the best prices on great gear.



At The Big Outside, I’ve devoted many gigabytes to advice on how to buy gear, from tips on shopping for specific products like packs and tents to my top recommendations from my own testing. In the left sidebar, you’ll find a tag cloud with links to all reviews in categories like backpacking gear and backpacks.

You’ll also find hundreds of reviews here, ranging from the best new stuff on the market to gear and apparel that’s a year or more old but still of high quality—and may be available now at a price steeply discounted from its original price, simply because it’s no longer new. As I point out in my “5 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear,” this is stuff that went on sale new at higher prices just months earlier—it’s current technology, not ancient crap.

Looking for great prices soon? Bookmark sites like and the outlet storemoosejaw.comREI GarageSierra Trading Post, and, and watch for seasonal sales; they’ll all have some going on now or coming up soon. By the way, you can support my work on this blog anytime you make a purchase through one of the above links or virtually any link at my blog to an online retailer (including the sponsor ad below).


David Gordon backpacking The Narrows, Zion National Park.

David Gordon backpacking The Narrows, Zion National Park.

My approach to testing and reviewing gear is necessarily much more focused than, say, Backpacker magazine (where I was the lead gear reviewer for a number of years). I’m not trying to cover everything that’s out there, so I’m not going to recommend anything that I consider mediocre, or that I wouldn’t buy for myself. Every piece of hard gear and apparel I review is either among the very best performers in its category or delivers an exceptional value in terms of performance for its price.

Whether you’re shopping for some specific type of item or just trying to educate yourself before your next purchase, I suggest you start either with my Gear Reviews page, where you’ll find categorized menus of all reviews at The Big Outside, as well as numerous links to stories with advice on buying specific items and my favorite gear in several categories.

Or start with some key stories I’ve linked below.


Kris Wagner backpacking the Royal Arch Loop in the Grand Canyon.

Kris Wagner backpacking the Royal Arch Loop in the Grand Canyon.

Whatever you’re looking for, I’m certain of one thing: The more time you spend researching your choices at my blog and elsewhere, the happier you’ll be with your choices and how you spent your hard-earned dollars.

See these stories at The Big Outside:

The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun
Why and When to Spend More on Outdoor Gear
Buying Gear? Read This First
Ask Me: How Do We Begin Lightening Up Our Backpacking Gear?


Got a trip coming up? See my reviews of the best gear duffles and luggage and 6 favorite daypacks.


NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by USA Today and others. I invite you to get email updates about new stories and gear giveaways by entering your email address in the box in the left sidebar, at the bottom of this post, or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter.


This blog and website is my full-time job and I rely on the support of readers. If you like what you see here, please help me continue producing The Big Outside by making a donation using the Support button at the top of the left sidebar or below. Thank you for your support.


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