Several metrics help work out the absolute best time of year to purchase camping gear.
Avid campers are well-aware of the year-round availability of outdoor gear on Amazon and in retail stores, so it is possible to leverage the techniques discussed in this article to take advantage of that fact.
To do this, like good boy scouts, always be prepared to jump at any last-minute deals. Oh, and read this guide!
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When is the best time to buy camping gear?
The best time to get camping gear is out-of-season before it is actually needed. Anyone buying outdoor gear should always be aware of seasonal changes in equipment prices. Cookware is an example of a product that doesn’t change seasonally as it’s throughout the year. Sandals, on the other hand, are utterly useless to campers in the winter months, hence, they will be cheaper from the end of the season through most of the off-season. The camping gear availability and prices are also affected when principal holiday seasons run simultaneously with natural ones. For instance, just after Father’s Day or Christmas, many retail stores often sell off excess stock at reduced prices.
In-season off-season, post-season
In-season is that of year that we associate with camping, backpacking, fishing, and hiking.
The weather is warm, the lush forest is green and bursting with life, campsites are full, and grilled meats fill the air with mouth-watering flavors. Basically, it is the season made for camping.
Whatever you do, if you want to be a savvy shopper, be careful how you shop during the in-season! Understand that you will be competing for fast-diminishing stock with ignorant campers who did not prepare for their forthcoming camping trips.
These cashed-up, vacation-happy tenderfoots will rush to big-name retailers like Walmart to buy last-minute gear at steep prices. Retailers aren’t stupid.
This is when they rub their hands in glee at this influx of saps with plenty of money, and “sales” becomes a dirty word. For the retailers, it’s full blast with the highest prices of the year.
However, as a savvy shopper, there are still opportunities out there. The in-season period is precisely when you should be looking out for off-season equipment, such as winter-treated sleeping bags or hiking boots, just when everyone else is buying sandals and hammocks.
Like traditional on-premises retailers, Amazon and other online retailers keep in tandem with natural seasons.
Online stores will probably have sales right after the in-season when people have packed up their sleeping bags and deserted the campsites to return to everyday life.
This period is known as the “post-season”. Campsites empty out, and autumn draws near.
In the post-season, retail stores find out how much seasonal camping they still have in stock from over-optimistic inventorying during the last few weeks of the season.
This is the exact moment you can find camping gear at fantastic prices for the just-ended season. It might be odd to buy summer gear in early autumn, but you know what you are doing, and your pocket and bank balance will thank you for it.
Avid shoppers with an eye for a bargain should make a habit of exploiting this system of opposites, looking for summer gear in winter and vice versa.
Brand new isn’t always necessary
Like other campers, I love to own a new ultralight or sleeping bag. Sometimes, it is more practical to shop at other places than Amazon and retail stores when looking for replacement gear. In communities that have many backpackers and campers, gear swaps are common.
One retail store that hosts such events is REI. Garage sales can also be very helpful for those looking for like-new equipment, but admittedly, it comes down to pot luck with garage sales.
The advantage garage sales have over swaps is that there’s no need to swap back as required in a gear swap.
Depending on how often they have been worn, garage sales might not be the best place to buy gear such as hiking boots.
It wouldn’t make sense for campers to consider hiking boots camping equipment that could be sold secondhand because of the amount of activity they get, and goodness only knows how much sweat they have collected in their time.
For other equipment, garage sales can have what you are looking for, from hammocks to cookware, utensils, and cutlery to sleeping mats.
Garage sales offer another advantage: you might be able to question previous owners how the equipment fared in the field.
Frequently Asked Questions About Camping Gear
I’ve been told to buy the warmest and best sleeping bag I can afford. Is that a good idea?
If you only go camping during summer, why would you want to splurge out on a sleeping bag which could cost you north of $500 and keep you hot, bothered, and super uncomfortable all night too? As a general rule this is not always a good idea.
Should I buy my camping equipment outright, or should I rent?
There are pros and cons to both pathways. The main pro of buying your own equipment is the range of choices you have and the ability to use the techniques discussed in this article to lower your costs. The main pro in renting your equipment is lower cost-of-use. However, the choice of equipment on offer is extremely limited compared to buying gear off the shelf.
When you are looking to purchase new or used camping gear, there are many factors to consider. First, seasonal shopping.
Buy your equipment in the counter cycle to make significant savings. However, remember that not all equipment is season-sensitive (e.g., cooking utensils and cutlery), so constantly be on the lookout for garage sales and gear swaps like REI.