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Outdoor Gear

January 20, 2016

written by Ben Phenicie

Greetings and salutations, dedicated readers,

I have been tasked to create a blog post to inform you about outdoor gear. Now, as a self-proclaimed gear snob/fanatic/connoisseur, my first thought was, “I love gear SOO much, what exactly should I tell these folks?” Well, instead of listing the “Top-10 Best choices for hiking boots, or the “Hottest choices for the coldest weather”, I decided to give you my best tips on how to wisely purchase outdoor gear.

First, what do you need to buy and why? Unless you have stacks on stacks of crisp Benjamins, you should choose your gear so that every piece of gear has a specific purpose or multiple uses. This keeps expensive gear from hanging in your closet and barely getting used. Similar to a toolbox, your closet should be full of items that are all intended for a certain job. Know what your needs are and then shop according to your needs.

Here at Liberty’s Outdoor Rec department, we like to observe the four E’s of decision making. The four E’s and how they apply to this topic, are as follows:

  • Environment: Where are you going to be?
    • Buy gear that is appropriate for weather and terrain you will be in. Make sure that you are warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot. Stay dry and don’t get caught in the dark without a light.
  • Element: What activity are you participating in?
    • Examine your activity and what it entails. For example, don’t bring a 65 Liter backpack when you are only going to Sharptop for an afternoon.
  • Experience: What is your experience level in this area?
    • Some gear is better used for differing levels of experience. Don’t buy gear that you don’t know how to use, and make sure you buy gear that can keep up with you and your skill level.
  • Equipment: What is the status of your equipment?
    • Make sure that the equipment that you are considering works well, fulfills your requirement, and also know how to maintain your stuff.

Second, once you know what you are going to be doing and what gear you need, do some online research. Don’t take the manufacturer’s word that their gear performs well. There are lots of websites that test gear and provide feedback and many retail websites often have reviews from users. Some of my favorites are Outdoor Gear Lab, Gear Junkie, and the comments section of Amazon.

Also, know how to get the best value for your dollar. PLEASE don’t buy items straight from the manufacturer’s website and pay MSRP. In my opinion, this is a sad waste of money. Look online at Amazon, Sierra Trading Post, etc. or buy stuff from a store like Ross, Marshall’s or TJ Maxx. Also, search for sales at stores like REI and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Usually, spending a little extra time searching for deals is well worth the savings.

Lastly, be willing to make some compromises. If you try not to be too picky with your gear, you can save even more money. For example, don’t be afraid to buy last year’s model. Often, gear does not undergo many significant changes from year to year. Compare the older and newer items and see what is actually different; don’t assume that newer is better. Also, be willing to buy some funky colors! The jacket I am wearing right now I purchased at TJ Maxx for 1/3 of the MSRP but it is BRIGHT orange. Honestly, most people that spend a lot of time in the outdoors can have a weird side and you’ll fit right in if you are wearing pink shorts with black stripes. One last compromise that you can make is to buy gear for the opposite gender… huh? Most companies make different gear for each gender. Sometimes these differences are minor and really don’t make a huge difference, they just want to appeal to a more specific market. For example, backpacks made for women sometimes fit differently but often are just different colors. If you can handle wearing a purple pack but getting a great deal, just do it!

Well, that’s about it. I hope you can use this knowledge to shop smarter and adventure higher and farther. Good luck!