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9 Ways to get a Bargain on the Best Family Camping Gear

Getting good camping gear isn’t typically cheap, and getting cheap gear doesn’t always make for happy campers. Camping is typically fun because it’s a way to rough it, and spending a lot of money to sleep in the woods just feels like it’s missing the point. Over the years we’ve found many ways to score bargains on quality camping gear and we’d love to share our secrets with you! We also found a few new ways to save money that we’re excited to try before the next camping season!

Online options:

If you’re confident you know what you want, getting great deals on camping gear on-line is an amazing option. Check your packing list and watch for sales on the gear you’re missing.

NEW Camping Gear:

Steep and cheap bargains and clearance

Be careful, this one is so good it’s addicting! This site is our favorite way to get great deals on camping gear. They have end of the season sales and deep discounts on last year’s models running all the time. They typically have a new item up every 15 minutes with a flash sale and many categories to choose from as well.

For a while Daddy and Momma Critter had the app on their phones and were constantly checking out the current deal, and just couldn’t stop wondering “Do I need that? I might need that!” We purchased everything from stuff sacks to ski jackets (60% off!) from Steep and Cheap and were happy for the experience. We even returned several items that weren’t quite the right size. (Pro tip: Buy the 2 sizes that you think will work and return the one that doesn’t fit. That way you get the limited time deal AND the right size.) It’s been a while since we’ve ordered, but steep and cheap had a great return policy back when we were ordering once a month.

Backcountry is another great site for discount camping gear. Steep and Cheap is run by Backcountry, but they’re still separate enough it’s worth mentioning. The discounts aren’t as amazing as Steep and Cheap, but they have a lot more items to choose from. This is where we found great deals on Stoic gear and purchased a good deal of merino wool apparel that is mighty comfortable. Backcountry carries their own brand and a ton of others you’re likely familiar with (Smartwool, Burley, Camelbak, Marmot) so take a look and find something you’ll enjoy for a long time.

USED Camping Gear:

This is a website the Critterz have only recently discovered. We have, however, stopped into some of the brick and mortar shops over the years and found some decent deals on all kinds of gear. After a quick search for “camping” on the website we were impressed to see some pretty good camping gear for cheap prices. You may not get exactly what you want, or you may have to look for a bit, but it’s definitely a place to explore.

Patagonia has awesome clothes and gear and they have an amazing trade-in program. When you’re done using your gear, you can trade in lightly used gear for store credit. Especially with a small child to get gear for, this is one the Critterz have started to look at more closely. Jackets and boots are a few items we want to make sure are quality gear even if we only have it for a short time. It’s an amazing option to be able to use a pair of boots for one season and then trade them in for credit on the next pair! Patagonia makes quality gear and it’s much easier to buy higher priced camping gear for your kids when you know you can trade it in. Remember, if Tiny Critter isn’t happy, the whole trip could be a bust. Keep ’em warm and dry!

Combo options:

These options for cheap camping gear are online and in person. You can find deals online but have to go pick up the items in person.

There are a lot of parents that sell stuff on Marketplace, especially slightly used outdoor gear that kids have grown out of. The most memorable purchase we had was an Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier. These run about $300 new and we really wanted one for our Tiny Critter but just couldn’t justify the price. Daddy Critter found the Poco Plus up on Marketplace for only $75. Sure, it wasn’t new or the latest model, but Osprey makes fine packs and this was no exception. We used that pack until he was just at the max weight and, even better, we’ll likely recoup some of that cash by selling to the next set of Critterz that have a Tiny one to tote around. Once you search for something the app will notify you if similar items come up for sale.

This is a new find for us. If you click on the link it will take you to a site to find a “Buy Nothing” Facebook group in your area. Momma Critter is a member of our local group and literally saw a Coleman 3 person tent up for free in our area last week. Some people just want to declutter their stuff without messing around with dragging it to a donation center. In our area this seems to a good place to go for gently used kid’s clothes and shoes with the occasional piece of free camping gear thrown in if you’re lucky. It’s a really cool way to connect with your community and keep things out of the landfill. Check it out for your area or start your own if you don’t have one!

Store options:

The Critterz are fortunate enough to live near Minneapolis which means the above mentioned outlet mall is within an easy drive. We’ve stopped by a few times and got some great gear for a good price. Our favorites stops tend to be Columbia, North Face, and Under Armor. If you enjoy getting brand name camping gear at a great price, and there is an outlet mall near you, it’s worth a look.

The Critterz and many of our friends hold out on buying big-ticket camping items until we get our REI dividend (received through REI membership) and the multiple sales REI has through the year. In addition, you can get gear cheap that are REI returns via REI Garage Sale. We’ve used this for years now and keep a wishlist of gear we’d like to pick up. If we’re not eyeing up a larger purchase at dividend time, one of us usually uses the 20% off coupon on a new pair of running shoes or hiking boots. There’s always one piece of gear to be upgraded or replaced. Double check your packing list to see what you could upgrade and hold out for the sales!

Speaking of REI, if you’re not ready to shell out the money for a tent if you’re not sure it’ll hold your whole family, try out REI’s rentals! You can rent all kinds of camping gear and the staff at REI have always been more than willing to show us how things work and how to get the most out of all of our outdoor gear. We’ve asked their experts about all kinds of things from jet boil stoves, to hiking boots to backpacks. We almost rented gear from REI for our trip to Havasupai Arizona, but we ended up figuring out a way to get it all onto the plane. This is a great option if you want to camp for 1 or 2 nights during a vacation but you don’t want to drag all of your camping gear across the country.

  • Bonus Tip:

If you’re looking for specific gear or brand names because you love it so much (which, the Critterz do in some cases), get on the email lists for sales information: Columbia, Marmot, Duluth Trading, Cabela’s, etc. These sales can save significant percentages of the purchase price. For example, we got 25% off a recent Cabela’s sale for duffle bags that we love to use. Momma Critter loves the pants from Duluth Trading (They have actual pockets!) and the coupons are amazing. That said, don’t rush into a purchase if you don’t have to, create a wish list and pounce when you see a deal!

Regardless of where you are in your adventures, novice to expert, hopefully we were able to show you a new way to get your camping gear at a discount! If you’ve had some luck, let us know! Also, if you know of another awesome way to get good camping gear on the cheap, leave us a comment!

Happy Camping!

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