Build a High Quality Adventure Gear List
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When you’re making travel and adventure gear purchases, you want to be sure you’re getting the best quality items for the best price. By being intentional about your purchases, you can stick with your minimalist principles while building a collection of gear that perfectly serves your needs and will last a lifetime. I’d like to share some tips and resources with you that I found helpful while building my adventure gear list.
This is your first task. A high quality adventure gear list represents a considerable investment of time and money. Simply buying in to advertising claims can lead to major disappointment. By doing a little research, you will find the best equipment to suit your specific needs. I like to use the following strategy.
Look at Online Reviews
Start your research by scouring online product reviews. Most people only take the time to review a product if they love it or hate it; so look for quantity of reviews as well as the overall rating. If a product has a 4.8 star average out of 5 from over 1,000 people, chances are it’s a good product. Check multiple review sources as well, such as the manufacturer website and Amazon.com, as well as outdoor and travel retail store websites like rei.com, backcountry.com, llbean.com, etc. You can simultaneously check for the best price, shipping rate, return policy, and warranty.
Talk to Friends, Family Members, Other Enthusiasts
Another way to get good feedback on a product is to ask your friends, family members, or acquaintances who travel and adventure frequently. Or, if you don’t personally know anyone to consult, ask relevant strangers – if you are researching climbing gear for instance, ask people at your climbing gym or at the crag for product recommendations. Most people are more than happy to discuss the pros and cons of their gear with you, or if you aren’t comfortable asking strangers, you can at least take a visual survey of popular brands and start there with your research.
Chat with Outdoor Retailer Associates
A commonly overlooked resource are the sales associates at physical outdoor retail stores. Most employees at places like REI work there because they are passionate about travel and the outdoors, and they are usually eager to offer pointers and help you find what you need. Particularly for products like backpacking packs where the fit is critical, it is so useful to physically try on the backpack with weight in it and have an expert check the fit before you make a purchase. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, that’s what they’re there for!
Review Return Policies
As I mentioned, check return policies. REI has an amazing return policy, where you can return gear for a full refund even after you’ve used it. This gives you peace of mind when you are making expensive purchases, just in case it doesn’t work out. Some retailers won’t accept items for return if the product is unpackaged and doesn’t have the original tags on, so double check before you buy!
Check Out Warranties
Warranties are also an important factor. Ideally, you would never have to use a warranty because you did your research and purchased quality gear, but again, it provides peace of mind when you buy expensive gear to know that you’re covered if you get a defective item. Some companies even offer unconditional lifetime warranties!
Start With The Basics
If you plan ahead, you don’t have to purchase everything at once, which makes the process of building your gear collection less stressful and overwhelming. Start with the basics, and add pieces of gear from there as needed and budget allows.
Good luggage should be your first travel essential purchase. It’s no good having quality travel and adventure gear if you can’t safely and comfortably transport it! Depending on your destination and the duration of your trip, choose a suitably sized backpack – we are huge advocates of NOT dragging a bag behind you. It’s much easier to manage and frees up your hands if you have everything on your back. You can find quality packs in all sizes, from small daypacks to more spacious options for backpacking, where you can carry your camping gear plus your travel basics.
Equipment cases are equally as important to protect your investments. Choose a beefy case for delicate items such as camera equipment or your laptop, if you need to carry it with you. There are also backpacks with built in spaces for such items so you can really consolidate.
If you are just getting into an activity, start with a bare-bones kit and add from there once you are sure you want to commit to the activity. For instance, for gear-heavy activities like climbing or skiing, it can be tempting to blow a whole paycheck on everything you think you will need. Instead, buy only the basics, or consider renting equipment so you can test out different types and field test gear before you commit. This can be particularly useful for large items that are difficult to transport, like skis, paddle boards, etc.; and it saves you the headache of dragging such an item through airports and to your destination.
Try it on!
Try everything on before you buy it if at all possible. If I’m at an REI, I will frequently try on several varieties of items that are on my wishlist, so when the time comes to purchase, I know exactly what brand and size I need. Even if stores don’t carry the exact item you are considering, you can try similar items of the same brand to get an idea of their sizing, textures, quality, etc. I do market research like this in stores, and then shop around online to find the best deal when I know precisely what to look for; which leads me to my next point…
Shop Expensive, Buy Cheap
There are several ways to get super high quality gear at reasonable prices. From sales to clearance sections to gear swaps, you have options. Let’s look at some of they ways I find amazing deals on high quality gear.
Sales, Sales, Sales
First, strategically shop sales. Most major holidays are accompanied by sales, and REI frequently has member-only sales or coupons (a lifetime membership is only $20 and you also earn a dividend on full-price purchases). Use these to your advantage by purchasing more expensive gear on sale or using coupons. REI also has their online Garage, where they sell discounted clearance items, and some REI locations host annual garage sale events where all their lightly used returned gear is sold at a discount.
Clearance Sections and Websites
Most retailers have clearance sections where they sell last year’s model or overstocked items at a steep discount. Websites like steepandcheap.com are dedicated to selling only these types of discounts items, and while there may be limited size and color selections, you can often find killer deals. We’ve also had good luck shopping Amazon’s Warehouse Deals. They offer deep discounts on sports and outdoor equipment. It’s definitely worth a look to snag some fantastic deals on open box and used stuff.
Gear swaps are also a great place to find gear for cheap. These are usually hosted by a third party outdoor organization, so items are vetted before being sold. I found a brand new North Face shell jacket for $20 at a gear swap, score! Just be sure to get to these early so you have a chance to see all the options before everything is picked over. Check Facebook or Google for gear swaps or similar events near you.
Sales Websites and Online Communities
You can also check sites like Craigslist or your local Buy Nothing group on Facebook for equipment. These are great places to find things like backpacks, clothing items, and sports gear, but use common sense when purchasing second hand stuff – don’t buy anything safety related like helmets, climbing ropes or harnesses, etc. since you don’t know how many impacts the gear has already endured.
Spread Out Purchases
Spreading out your purchases instead of buying everything at once allows you to budget and strategically use sales to your advantage. This requires some planning, but it takes the stress out of making large purchases.
If your family exchanges gifts for birthdays and holidays, consider providing a wishlist of specific gear you need, or asking for money or gift cards to use towards your gear collection instead of physical gifts. Amazon Wish Lists are a super easy way to do this. By providing several items of varying prices on your wishlist, you can avoid seemingly demanding expensive items. If your family is aware of your minimalist lifestyle, chances are they will be happy to have a list of ideas. Minimalists are the hardest people to buy gifts for, after all!
Saving money isn’t always the most important thing, however. While it’s an added bonus to find what you need at a bargain price, don’t let a low price lure you into purchasing sub-optimal gear or things you don’t need. “Buy more, save more” is a ridiculous oxymoron, but marketing departments will do whatever they can to get you to believe it.
Take Care of Your Gear
This may seem like an obvious one, but by performing basic maintenance and cleaning on your gear and storing everything in a dry and safe spot, you can greatly extend the life of your equipment. By keeping your gear shipshape and organized, you also reduce clutter in your home.
Clean and Store it Properly
It can be tempting to just pile your gear in the garage or a shed in between uses, but then you run the risk of mildew or rodent damage. If you must store gear in these locations, stash it in waterproof and rodent resistant tubs with lids. Cleaning and/or drying your gear after each use makes it super easy to grab it and go the next time. You can also take this opportunity to make sure everything is still in good working order after transported and put to use.
Perform Basic Maintenance
Basic maintenance like waxing and edging skis, sharpening ice tools, and hanging up your tent to dry before packing it up will keep your gear performing like the day you got it for many years. In the interest of minimalism and your wallet, it’s always better to care for your possessions than to have to replace them every few years.
Keep Your Gear Collection Up To Date
If your interests change for any reason, don’t feel obligated to hang on to unused gear. This will just result in clutter and guilt for having unused items – not very minimalist. The same goes for old, broken, or obsolete gear. Be sure to inspect your gear regularly to ensure that everything you have is still useful, safe, and necessary.
Sell Unused Gear
If the equipment is still functional but no longer serves a purpose for you, consider selling it. This will offset the initial cost of the item and the money can be put towards the purchase of new gear. You can sell such items at gear swaps as mentioned before – usually you just have to register as a seller in advance. Craigslist is also a viable option for selling used gear, although it requires some effort on your part to avoid scammers, communicate with interested parties, and set up meeting times and locations. That’s not always the most practical for small gear items, so think about creating a gear bag or bundle with multiple items that you can sell for a higher lump sum. This eliminates having to meet and coordinate with several different buyers.
Trade in Old Stuff
Some sporting stores with used equipment sections will buy gear from you, but usually for way less than what it’s actually worth so the store can mark it up and make a profit. Factor that into your decision if you decide to go that route. Another option might be a trade-in program. Several retailers offer something like this where they give you store credit for your used stuff, toward the purchase of new gear. In any case, if you know you won’t be able to get much money for something or you’re feeling altruistic, think about donating your gear to a thrift store or an outdoor program for troubled youth.
Buying travel and adventure gear doesn’t have to break the bank. By being intentional with your purchases and using some of the tips listed above, you can build an amazing gear collection while sticking with your minimalist values. Shop smart my friends!