• Hannah Smentkowski

The 7 Best Places to Buy Camping Gear

While I usually pride myself on being pretty minimalist with most of the items in my life, I have a bit of an issue when it comes to camping gear. That issue being, that I want everything and never want to let anything go! I just love camping and hiking gear! From my 15 pairs of wool socks to my 4 sleeping bags, I really can't stop myself.

I'm always out looking for deals and rummaging through shops and online to find more outdoor equipment. That's why I'm here to tell you where I love shopping for camping gear so I can help you find some of the best deals and inventory to get you outside!

1. Local Stores

I'm very lucky to spend most of my time living in Colorado where camping and hiking is the #1 hobby in the area and there are no shortages of outdoor gear shops. My favorite stores here in the Northern Colorado area are Jax Outdoor Gear and the Gearage.

Jax is a huge store with multiple locations across Colorado, they have everything from hunting to travel to military surplus to camera equipment. Seriously, this store has everything and is my first place to shop every time. Their camping supply is full of high and low-end gear for every budget and purpose, including backpacking and car camping. I may be a bit biased since I used to work at this store, but it really is my all-time favorite!

Second is Gearage, a consignment shop for only outdoor gear. This store is a great place to grab high-end gear at the lowest prices. While you'll find the typical hiking boots and clothes, you will also see used paddleboards and even mountain bikes for sale. And don't forget, this is a consignment shop, so you can even bring in your old gear to sell.

These local Colorado stores are the ones I go to first when I'm looking for supplies. This way I get to support a local business and put money back into the town I live in. Also, these companies actually do good for the city.

For example, Jax has a huge recycling program where they recycle anything from old fuel canisters to hay bale twine. They also hold many different workshops and community events to help people with outdoor recreation.

2. Sierra

Sierra (aka Sierra Trading Post) is a part of the TJMax/Marshalls family of stores and has to be one of the best shops to look for new high-end hiking clothes and shoes for a great discount. They also have a section of camping food, tents, and other gear at great low prices. I honestly don't know how they get so many great products for such a good sale.

There are around 10 large racks of clothes for both the male and female sizes, and each of these racks has its own clearance section. So no matter what item you're looking for not only will the regular priced items be discounted, you could get lucky and find something in the extra sale section.

I also highly recommend coming here for hiking shoes of any variety. They have big brand names like La Sportiva, Saucony, and even discount Chacos! Seriously, this is one of the only places I can buy shoes now because the discounts and quality are just too good.

3. Thrift Stores

I love thrift stores for their absolute randomness, you just never know what you're going to find! While there have been a countless number of times that I've found absolutely nothing of interest to me, there are other times where I've gotten so lucky I can't believe it. The trick to shopping here is about keeping an open mind, and not getting too distracted by all the crazy deals.

I bought a perfectly good camping chair for $3 and an ultralight summit pack for $2. Did the backpack have a hole in it, yes, but it was an easy enough fix for the price point.

I would also like to suggest military surplus stores along with the idea of thrift stores. Since surplus stores don't always have a consistent supply, they can be a bit random on inventory, but they are a great place to look for cheap camping supplies such as sleeping bags, tents, and backpacks. while it's not going to be the lightest item in your setup, they will be durable and last you a long time for very little money.

4. Sporting Goods Stores

Big stores like Dick's, Big 5, or even Walmart that specialize in sporting equipment can be a good option for camping supplies if you exhausted other options. While they're definitely not my favorite places to shop, if I need something immediately that the other stores do not have then they can come in handy.

The pro to these big box stores that their inventory is pretty much always stocked, so if you need cooking fuel or backpacking food during the busy season, you have an option of where to look

While I don't usually recommend these stores because their camping items can be very cheaply made, putting you at risk of having a crappy time outdoors, they can be useful for very particular items. You can check out this blog if you're curious as to what cheap gear is useful and what to avoid.

5. Online (person to person)

Before I hit Amazon as a last-ditch effort to find exactly what I need, I try to look at either Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist first. While I know a lot of people are sketched out by these selling platforms, I've found almost everyone I've bought from to be very kind people, who give me incredible deals.

These are especially great options if you're looking for more high-end gear at a good price and don't mind if it's been slightly used. You can even find great broken things for dirt cheap and try to fix them. This is another reason I'm really glad to live in Colorado where people are constantly trying to sell great camping gear and connect over the great outdoors. Not to mention buying items from other people is another way we get to help the environment in upcycling otherwise trashed items.

6. REI Co-op

Every time I walk into an REI I get so excited, I know I'm going to spend hours wandering around in awe looking at all of the sparkly new gear, comparing sleeping bags, and trying on raincoats. Only to be brutally slapped in the face by the high-end prices that I could never in my life afford (even on sale). You see, REI only carries the best of the best, I'd say the cheapest thing they have is a Rocky Mountain sticker and that's still $6, but guess what, that sticker will last longer than your water bottle!

If you're looking for the highest-end of gear, and to talk to some of the most knowledgeable and friendly employees on the planet, this is your spot. They also have a great membership program that is $20 for a lifetime of benefits including trading in old gear for REI gift cards, garage sales, tons of discounts, and insider info. Also, feel free to go out to take a class, every REI location offers tons of different outdoor adventure classes year-round to help with hiker safety, ice climbing, nature journaling, and beyond.

7. Online (direct)

Before writing this, I knew Amazon had a negative impact on the environment, but I had no idea just how bad it was. In 2018, Amazon released a study showing that they produced 44.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide, approximately equal to the annual emissions of Norway! So now that I know that and can't erase it from my brain, you're looking at someone desperate to avoid Amazon shopping at all costs. While I'm only human and might still use it from time to time (I literally bought a camping pillow from there before writing this), I'll at least cancel my Prime account.

The other online option is straight from the companies themselves. I've purchased multiple items straight from the company sites, and the best part is that you know you're getting exactly what you ordered and if there is a defect you can send it right back to be fixed. While this will usually be the priciest option (besides REI), it will get you the best product and a 100% guarantee that you can make use of the companies warranty when you buy direct.

Those are all of the places I search for outdoor gear to fulfill my gear hoarding needs. While camping gear shopping will look different for everyone depending on your location and situation, you may get lucky and find the best deal of your life through Craigslist or have to spend top dollar at REI, either way, I know you'll find something you'll enjoy!

I would love to hear from you about where you get your gear! Do you shop direct, or look around for the deals? Do you have a local shop where you live that is your go-to? I'm always looking for new ways to shop for good gear, so let me know in the comments below or contact me directly!

Until Next Time,

Happy Travels!

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Hey there! My name is Hannah Smentkowski, I'm an adventure travel photographer, and a huge plant nerd! 

Here I share my traveling, camping, and hiking adventures in hopes of inspiring you to go outside and explore.