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Best Value Outdoor Gear | Buyer’s Guide

Here’s our round-up of the best outdoor kit for wild campers, backpackers and hikers on a budget, plus some top tips to get the most for your money

If you’re just getting into hiking and hillwalking, or even considering trying wild camping for the first time, buying outdoor kit can be a daunting prospect. There are literally hundreds of brands to choose from, and some eye-watering prices. Luckily, Outdoors Magic is here to help with our buyer’s guide, full of advice on how to be a savvy outdoor shopper.

Buy cheap, buy twice?

This old adage definitely applies to outdoor kit. The key to buying on a budget is not necessarily to buy the cheapest product you can find. Instead, look for the gear that represents the best value while remaining affordable. A slightly more expensive item that will last for years is a much more sensible purchase than something that lasts only a couple of trips.  

Having said that, it’s worth spending a bit more – or as much as you can practicably afford – on key bits of kit. This includes a decent pair of boots, for example. As anyone who’s suffered agonising blisters from poorly-fitting footwear will tell you, good boots or trail shoes can make the difference between a great day in the great outdoors and a miserable one.

Footwear in particular is a highly individual purchasing decision. You should visit a good outdoor shop and try on multiple pairs to find a walking boot or shoe that suits your foot shape. That’s why we haven’t included a budget boot in our list of low-priced picks (though there are plenty of bargains to be had).

Savings and discounts

If there’s one golden rule when it comes to buying outdoor kit, it’s this: never pay full price. Ever! Always shop around for the best price on a particular product. There are so many outdoor retailers, from high-street chains and local independent shops to online web shops. So you should always be able to make a saving on the manufacturer’s RRP.

Secondly, look out for discount codes and vouchers, which often give 10% (or more) off full-priced items. Often, something as simple as signing up to a mailing list will give you a voucher code.

Don’t forget that you are also often eligible for a discount (normally 10-20%) at many shops if you’re a member of an organisation or group. This includes the Ramblers, the BMC or even the Army or NHS.

In addition, many outdoor retailers will price-match an item if you can prove that you can buy it cheaper elsewhere. Go Outdoors is one of the best chains for this. Provided you’re a Go Outdoors Discount Card holder, if you find a product cheaper online or in another store within seven days of your purchase, they’ll beat the price by 10%.

Where To Shop

You’re probably familiar with the major outdoor chains – like Cotswold Outdoor, Go OutdoorsBlacks, and Ellis Brigham. There are also a number of budget-focused chains selling only their own gear that you’ll find on most major high streets, like Mountain Warehouse and Trespass. It’s not only the big chains that offer the best prices, however. Often, independent outdoor shops do some great deals, both instore and online. Some of the best-known are Needle Sports in Keswick, Gaynors of Ambleside, Mad about Mountains in Kirkby Stephen, LD Mountain Centre in Newcastle, Taunton Leisure in Somerset and Trekitt in Hereford. 

More recently, supermarkets have been starting to stock ranges of outdoor kit. Aldi’s ‘Specialbuys’ and Lidl’s ‘weekly offers’ have regularly featured sporting and outdoor goods ranging from camping kit to kayaks and paddleboards. 

Budget doesn’t always mean poor quality. Some of these stores sell great kit at even greater value.

You can also find great outdoor kit bargains in some surprising places. It’s often worth popping in to TK Maxx and Sports Direct (or visiting them online), where some top outdoor brands like Millet, Black Diamond, Marmot and Mountain Hardwear pop up from time to time at a fraction of the RRP.

Other retailers

Another well-known sporting goods retailer selling decent kit for those on a budget is Decathlon. Look for products from their own Quechua brand, which is focused on outdoor pursuits like hiking and camping. Similarly, their Chamonix-based Simond brand is focussed on more technical climbing and mountaineering products.

One British brand making a range of excellent outdoor gear at sensible prices is Alpkit. Put simply, their motto is ‘go nice places, do good things’, and their business model is to design, manufacture and source the best outdoor gear and sell direct to outdoor enthusiasts. The kit is well-made and customer service is first-class. They now have three physical stores in Hathersage, Ambleside and Keswick too. 

Lastly, for dependable gear at very affordable prices, a visit to your local army surplus store is rarely wasted. Although you won’t find any big-name brands, you will find a range of tried-and-tested military kit, both issued and unissued, which often works well for camping and hiking. The only thing to be aware of is that military-grade kit is rarely the lightest stuff around, which might be a factor for gram-counting backpackers. 

Shopping Online

In recent years, the proliferation of online-only retailers has meant that prices have come down even further, provided you’re prepared to scour the web. You can often find good bargains from specialist independent outdoor gear sites like Webtogs, Blackleaf, Surfdome and Ultralight Outdoor Gear.   

Bargain Hunting

Take advantage of sales. Just like the fashion industry, the outdoor kit industry works seasonally, releasing new products typically in two waves: spring/summer collections and autumn/winter collections. You can make big savings on outdoor kit by buying gear at the right time of year, when end-of-line products make way for new ranges – although often, the only changes to products will be new colourways. The promotional sales calendar for retailers usually starts with the January sales, followed by mid-season sales in March, the summer sales and the ‘Black Friday’ weekend in November. 

Buy Used

For the absolute best bargains on top-quality kit, consider buying used items (or ‘pre-loved’, if you prefer…) This has a number of advantages – not least that buying second-hand gear is better for the environment compared to buying new. Obviously, the usual caveats apply – check the condition of the goods carefully, by contacting the seller to request more info and images if necessary. Also look for reputable sellers, and remember that if something seems too good to be true then it probably is. Good places to look for outdoor kit include Ebay, Gumtree and the two major Facebook groups: Outdoor Gear Exchange and Outdoor Kit Exchange. The latter are private groups, so you’ll have to have an active Facebook account and make a request to join them.

Adventuridge Ultra-Light Camping Chair

Price: £17.99
aldi.co.uk

This aluminium-framed camping chair adds a touch of luxury to camping trips at an incredible price. It’s a fraction of the cost of a similar chair from a premium brand like Helinox or Nigor. It has a compact pack size of 35 x 11.5cm and a weight just of 890g,

Fire Maple Star X2 Personal Cooking System

Price: £52.95
amazon.co.uk

As all-in-one personal cooking systems go, this is one of the best budget options out there. It boils a litre of water in less than three minutes, and comes with a heat exchanger pot and lid. The burner features Piezo ignition and simmer control, plus a pot support and a gas canister stand.

Alpkit Dumo Sleeping Mat

Price: £49
alpkit.com

Comfortable, easy to inflate, lightweight and with a small pack size. This is all you need in a sleeping mat for weekend camping or backpacking, at a great price. You could spend a little less, but that would mean sacrificing comfort. Remember that a decent night’s sleep counts for a lot after a hard day’s hiking.

Wild Country Zephyros 1

Price: £125
uttings.co.uk

When it comes to buying a dependable solo backpacking tent on a budget, there are a number of options around. Many wild campers swear by the Vango Banshee and Nevis series, others the Coleman Cobra, and more recently the OEX Phoxx has won a lot of fans. Another contender is the Wild Country Zephyros 1, a tried and tested design that is lightweight and packable (1.6kg, pack size 52 x 14cm).

Quechua Ultralight Posts

Price: £6.99
decathlon.co.uk

Cheap tents often come with cheap pegs. This may mean you’ll want to upgrade them for better holding power. Fortunately, these lightweight yet sturdy aluminium stakes from Decathlon are just the job. At £6.99 for a pack of five, they offer terrific value.

Osprey Rook/Renn 65 pack

Price: £130
ospreyeurope.com

What’s Osprey doing in this list – surely it’s a premium brand? True, but the new Rook (men’s) and Renn (women’s) 65-litre packs are a bit different. They offer Osprey’s legendary carrying comfort and build quality at a much lower price point. Admittedly, there are still cheaper backpacks, but spending a bit more on a good pack is a wise investment. So in terms of overall value these are still very tempting propositions. If you shop around, you can find them for around the £100 mark. These packs ought to serve you well on all manner of outdoor adventures for years to come.

Summiteer Glow Worm 400 Down Sleeping Bag

Price: £129
summiteerequipment.com

When it comes to warmth vs weight, nothing beats down as an insulating material. The problem is that down sleeping bags are notoriously expensive. Enter Summiteer, a small Lake District-based company that makes affordable, high-quality down sleeping bags. The Glowworm 400 is filled with 750FP goose down, weighs just 850g and has a small pack size of 26x14cm. It should keep you warm down to temperatures just above freezing. At £129, this is stonking value for such a high-spec bag.

Snugpak The Sleeping Bag

Price: £35.95
snugpak.com

If the Summiteer down sleeping bag above is still out of your price range, then consider this. It’s a no-frills option from British brand Snugpak, which makes quality synthetic sleeping bags. This solid three-season mummy-style bag is rated to -2°C, packs down to 28x24cm and weighs 1.65kg.

Hi-Gear Packlite Alpinist Down Jacket

Price: £35
gooutdoors.co.uk

A lightweight but warm jacket is an invaluable bit of kit for backpacking and wild camping. This 700 fill power duck down jacket comes from Hi Gear, Go Outdoors’ in-house brand. It’s a simple but effective layer that fits the bill perfectly. It features two handwarmer pockets, elastic-bound cuffs and hood, plus a hem drawcord. A DWR coating helps to repel moisture. It also stuffs into its own pocket and comes in both men’s and women’s-specific fits. Job done.

Craghoppers Kiwi Pro Stretch Active Trousers

Price: £20
gooutdoors.co.uk

There’s a reason why you see so many hillwalkers clad in Craghoppers trousers. They’re very good kecks and keenly priced too. They come in multiple colours and three different leg lengths, with men’s and women’s specific fits, so you should find a pair to suit you. The brand has continued to refine the fit and function over the years. Indeed, the latest Pro Stretch fabric offers great flexibility for active outdoor pursuits.

Helly Hansen Loke Waterproof Jacket

Price: £39.99
sportsshoes.com

This is a lightweight, 2.5-layer, fully seam-sealed waterproof shell from Helly Hansen. The Norwegian purveyors of performance outerwear are a solid brand. As such, this is one of the best waterproof jackets you can buy for under £50. It’s got decent waterproofing and breathability (10,00mm hydrostatic head and 10,000gm MVT for you gear nerds out there), with all the essential features you need, including two hand pockets and adjustable hem, hood and cuffs.

Alpkit Shox Comfort Twins

Price: £37/pair
alpkit.com

Another superb value offering from Alpkit, these are robust three-section Duralumin trekking poles. They feature anti-shock technology and snaplock widgets for easy yet secure adjustment. They’re very well-made with high quality components from a brand you can trust.

Sawyer Mini Water Filter

Price: £22
prepareforadventure.co.uk

Possibly the most useful bit of wild camping kit you can buy for twenty quid and some change. This lightweight mini filter is the perfect insurance if you’re a little unsure about the water quality of the nearest stream, lake or tarn. It provides 0.1 micron absolute filtration — removing 99.99999% of all nasty bugs, is easy to use and lasts for up to 100,000 gallons.

Karrimor Aspen Technical T-shirt

Price: £9 (or 2 for £14)
karrimor.com

Why splash out on expensive baselayers when you can get two of these for just £14? These polyester, wicking tees from Karrimor feature flat lock seams for comfort and come in a range of six colours. Basic, do-it-all layers for everything from trail running to hillwalking. Ok, spend more and you can get anti-microbial or merino wool layers that might leave you feeling (and smelling) a bit fresher. However, if you’re on a budget these will do the job just fine, and work much better than standard cotton T-shirts.

Alpkit Viper Headtorch

Price: £22
alpkit.com

Yet another Alpkit product? Yup, ‘fraid so – what can we say, they just make great kit at great prices. Take this headtorch, for example. It weighs under 100g but has a bright 240-lumen beam from 3 x AAA batteries. It’s also rainproof and has a fancy reactive light sensor mode. That means it automatically brightens or dims the light, adjusting to your proximity and environment. For £22, you simply can’t fault it.

 

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