Your outdoor gear can make-or-break your enjoyment of outdoor activities.
That doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune (more on that in a minture). But you need to invest in decent gear for comfort, weather protection and durability.
Those of us in the Active Outdoor Women community probably aren’t going to climb Mount Everest or kayak across Lake Superior. We’re not scaling Half Dome or even through-hiking the Appalachian Trail (although it’d be cool if some of us were!).
But even we ordinary outdoor lovers need decent gear.
If it’s raining or snowing, we want to stay dry. If it’s cold, we want to stay warm. If it’s hot, we want to stay cool. If we’re hiking or paddling for hours, we don’t want blisters.
Where to Find Quality Outdoor Gear
The outdoor gear market has grown amazingly. I read not too long ago that more people (women especially) buy from outdoor brands who don’t even go outdoors!
It’s become fashionable even for urbanites.
Where Not to Buy
There are so many places we can find good gear these days that’s it’s easy to suggest where NOT to buy it:
- Don’t buy outdoor gear from Target or Walmart. It might look like the real thing, but it doesn’t perform well.
- Be cautious about buying it at Sam’s Club and Costco. Some of the big outdoor brands (Woolrich, Eddie Bauer, etc.) sell items through these wholesalers—but I’ve found it’s not the same quality as what they sell through their catalog or their own stores.
You’re better off learning what good outdoor brands are, and shopping by brand.
Reputable Outdoor Brands
Here’s a list of popular, reputable outdoor brands. It won’t be complete, but it’s a start:
- The North Face
- LL Bean
- Lands End
- Duluth Trading Company
- Outdoor Research
- Salomon, Keen, Merrell, Chaco and others for footwear
Find stores and websites that sell these, and you’ve got a good start. These stores will also sell other top-quality brands not listed here, and you’ll be good to go.
Once you’ve educated yourself on brands, here’s a Top Tip: Start looking at garage sales, thrift stores, Ebay, CraigsList and Facebook Market.
We and people we know have hit the jackpot with top-quality used outdoor gear at rock-bottom prices. It’s seriously like finding buried treasure!
How Much to Pay?
Because these outdoor companies use high-tech fabrics, they’re made well and backed up with good guarantees, quality gear is expensive.
As you look around, though, you’ll find some brands are definitely more expensive—overall—than other brands.
How Important is Brand to You?
If having The North Face or Patagonia logo on your down jacket is important to you, you might spend a hundred dollars more than on a jacket from another brand that’s just as warm.
That’s why three of the brands on the list above—LL Bean, Lands End and Duluth Trading Co—are there.
They don’t sell through other stores like REI, Dick’s and Cabela’s. But the quality is top-notch and the prices are often lower—or you can get in on their sales by signing up for their email list.
Strategies for Paying Less
- Buy used (see above).
- Get on member lists so you hear about sales and discounts.
- Buy through companies that offer points (like REI, LL Bean and Columbia).
- Buy off-season and on clearance.
- Buy through Sierra. They’re the TJMaxx/Marshall’s outdoor gear brand now. Great deals!
No matter where you end up buying, one of the great things about shopping quality is your gear will last for YEARS. You’ll likely get tired of the color long before it’ll be worn out (with the exception of footwear).
Our Reviews on AOW
Most of the gear we’ll review on AOW is stuff we own and use. Chances are, if it’s on the site, we love it and have used it regularly for at least one full season.
If you have a favorite clothing or gear item you rave about to everyone you meet, let us know at: firstname.lastname@example.org. We want your recommendations, too!
(We have an affiliate relationship with a company in Florida called OutdoorPlay. You’ll see links here and there to sales pages on their site. If you click here on AOW and buy there, I’ll get a small percentage of the sale. If you decide to do that—thank you!)