Walk into a high-end outdoor retailer, and you can quickly forget the ninth point of the Scout Law (“A Scout is thrifty,” in case you’ve forgotten!). Gear from companies like Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, and The North Face can put a big dent in your troop budget, especially if (for example) you’re trying to buy tents for a new patrol.
Some Scouters avoid sticker shock by buying cheap gear at a discount store, but that can mean leaky bathtub floors, inadequate windows, and rain covers the size of a pocket handkerchief.
So what’s a thrifty Scouter to do? One great option is to visit Hiker Direct (formerly Scout Direct), a 15-year-old online retailer that caters to the Scouting market and sells gear from ALPS Mountaineering, Browning Camping, and other manufacturers.
Here’s a comparison of current prices for the ALPS Mountaineering Meramac 4 tent:
- Retail: $149.99
- REI: $99.73
- Amazon: $99.51
- Hiker Direct: $80.84
And that’s a regular catalog item. Close-out items and salesman samples can be even cheaper (although quantities are very limited).
You must register to shop at Hiker Direct, but that process is easy. You can pay with a credit card for regular orders but must use a check for sales items.
You won’t find a lot of product details on the Hiker Direct website, so you may need to do a little reverse showrooming by researching products at Amazon.com and then buy at Hiker Direct. (Oh the irony!) That’s a little extra work that can lead to a lot of extra savings.
What strategies do you use to reduce equipment costs? Post your comments below.