Getting a 20% off coupon at REI is always appreciated. However, it’s not always the best option for getting what you really want.
The bottom line is that you need to shop around and read reviews in order to get the best value in outdoor and camping gear. Knowing what your plans are, where you are going, what your comfort level is, and how long you’re going to be staying is also extremely helpful.
Amazon is great for getting deals on just about everything in the outdoor space. If you need a basic cheap synthetic sleeping bag for car camping, get a Ledge 30° for $25. This is one among many that are priced for less than $50 on the site.
Wal-Mart is also great for the beginner camper or hiker. They are extremely price-competitive and should not be ignored for basic accessories.
At REI, the cheapest sleeping bag that I could find not currently on sale is about $45. It’s the holiday season, so I will give them a slight pass on prices, but Amazon and Wal-Mart beats them on the basics any other time of the year. For the record, I like the “co-op” (I am a member) and what they are doing for their employees on Black Friday. However, I am a cautious shopper by nature and haven’t fully bought into their hype, pardon the pun.
If you are ultra-lighting, the tents are prohibitively expensive or nonexistent at REI. My Six Moons Design Skyscape Trekker tent was about $250 in total cost. That’s for a ~1 lbs. sil-nylon tent that I had to seal myself. Similar tents on REI can run $300+, or don’t really exist in this style at all.
Famous distance hiker Andrew Skurka recently blogged about this next deal. For $47, these carbon fiber trekking poles on Amazon are the absolute best value:
Go to a big box outdoor retailer like REI and you will spend over $100 for the same kind of product. There’s no point at all.
People need to be aware of what companies are doing with Chinese imports, items that can be bought elsewhere for a lot less because of a lack of branding.
Take this Big Agnes chair for example:
$100 at LL Bean. But let’s hop on eBay for a minute. Oh, $36 + Free Shipping?
It’s literally the same thing. You can buy two of them on eBay for less than the price of the Big Agnes chair. Even REI’s copy sells for $72, which is double the price of the eBay chair.
How about this Bear Grylls’ emergency blanket? It’s normally $10 on Amazon:
Gerber, the manufacturer, writes:
Bear Grylls infamously once used a seal carcass as a wetsuit to endure cold waters. Fortunately for the rest of us, he also helped develop the Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Blanket, so we should be able to avoid the seal scenario.
The generic version is sold for $5 at REI. Don’t believe me? Well, the woman is the same design used on the Bear Grylls packaging, but they just added a beard onto her.
Again, these products will vary per trip and comfort level. Read the reviews, do your research and stay safe.