How To Save Money on Gear

Wether you are a Gear-a-holic like me, or you are just looking to get the basics. You can spend a small fortune on outdoor products. Quality gear is really expensive, so I rarely pay full price for the products I buy. In this article I will share with you how I save money on outdoor products.

  • Become an REI Member
    For a small one time cost you can become a member of the REI co-op. I think this is well worth the money if you buy much outdoor stuff.

    • First of all you will get free shipping on qualifying orders online.
    • You get access to the REI Garage Sale.  REI has a very liberal return policy for members. They basically allow you to return any item at any time no matter how much you used it.  The garage sale is where REI sells these returned items.  You should be prepared to get in line early, and deal with some chaos, but you can come away with some really good deals.  Go with a clear plan for what you are looking for.
    • As a member you get 10% dividend on all full priced items you bought. Plus at least twice a year to get a 20% off coupon.
  • Check Steep And Cheap often
    Steep and Cheap offers outdoor products at a steep discount. The catch is they only offer one item at a time for a limited time until it is sold out. This means in order to find what you want you must check the website often.
  • Sierra Trading Post – This site generally features good deals.  The real kicker is that it is pretty easy to find coupon codes for 20%-40% off plus free shipping. Their facebook page is a good place to find these codes.
  • Gearchase.com– Basically an index of other outdoor gear sites.
  • Buy Used Gear
    Buying Gently used gear is a great way to get quality gear at a lower price some good places to find your used gear are

    • Gear Trade  – This site allows people to post their used gear for sale. You will also find retailers posting closeout / returned merchandise.
    • Craigs list – no need to explain further. This is a good place to find used gear
    • Ebay
    • Mountain project
    • Wilderness Exchange or Mountain Chalet Consignment sales
    • Whitaker Mountaineering Used Gear
  • Shop Outlet Stores such as Columbia Outlet, mountain hardware, arcteryx (Castle Rock), REI Outlet (online), offer some good deals on model year closeouts
  • Google Shopping – If you know a specific brand / model you are looking for google shopping results are a quick way to check for sales and get an idea of fair retail price to see if you are really  getting a good deal.

When You Shouldn’t Try To Save Money

  • Don’t buy Ropes, Harnesses, Carabiners or any item you must entrust your life to used.  This is because you don’t know the history / pedigree if the item. The rope could have taken several big falls and be stressed beyond is safe life. 
  • I am not a fan of used sleeping bags. They are difficult to launder, tend to pack out over tim
  • I prefer on sale / closeout model / used brand name goods to cheep knock offs.  This is especially true for high tech gear.  For example a $25 breathable rain coat from Walmart is likely to breathe about as good as a plastic garbage bag.   However, I am pretty darn happy with my $18 trekking poles from Walmart which are easily 1/3 the cost of the cheapest model at REI.
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How I Lost 100 lbs Playing Outside

You probably clicked this article hoping for a secret easy way to lose weight.  Unfortunately I don’t have some big secret, however, I hope you will enjoy my story.  I think it will show you that you can lose a siginifcant amount of weight, change your life, and have a great time doing it. If you read to the end I will give you some unsolicited advice on how you can make similar changes in your life.  

How I Got Fat
I am a Colorado Native, who grew up in the Colorado Springs area.  I have always been a husky guy.  My parents love the mountains, and we spent lots of time playing in the great outdoors when we were kids.  This level of outdoor activity kept my weight somewhat in check.

After College I was lucky enough to land a great job with Lockheed Martin.  The unfortunate darkside of this job was that it meant long hours of sitting in front of a computer.  After the long day I would come home crack a beer and plop down in front of the tv.  This pattern of course, led to pound after pound slowly sneaking onto my body.  I moved to Caste Rock, and my level of activity continued to decrease.  I had somehow all but forgotten my love for the outdoors.  It was now replaced with a love of food and TV.

The pounds kept piling on and I had just resigned myself to being a ‘Fat Guy’.  In the fall of 2009 I was staring 300lbs in the face.  That was a scary prospect.  I started to make some small changes which resulted in losing a few pounds over the next few months.   In March of 2010, a routine doctor’s visit noted that my blood pressure was getting pretty high for my age.  

I started thinking about the fact that I was working hard to invest money for my retirement, but I was not investing anything in my health to ensure I could enjoy my retirement.   The time had come to deal with the problem. 

 

 

How I Fixed It 
I knew from past experience that a diet and gym was a path to long term failure.  So instead I tracked my calories and analyzed my life to figure out what the biggest problems were.   Slowly I made small changes that I knew I would be able to live with for the rest of my life. This included reducing how often we were eating out, adding in healthy fresh food, and giving up alcohol.  Of course another obvious problem was my completely sedintary lifestyle. Having a unique distain for hours on the hamster wheel (treadmill), I knew I needed to be active outdoors in order to have success. I knew I used to love hiking, golf, and riding my bike.  So I started out slow with some easy hikes.  I increased the amount of time I spent outside by 10 fold. I didn’t worry about what I was doing, as long as I was being active and enjoying myself.  Sure enough the pounds began to slowly slip off.   

My first symptoms of the 14er bug bite appeared mid summer 2010.  I had been on 14ers as a teenager, and I remembered how much fun it was.  I set a goal to get in shape to climb 14ers, and so I began training.  I was still really out of shape, and I thought tackling a 14er that year would be irresponsible.  Instead I set a year long set of goals that would get me in good enough shape to enjoy myself and be safe.  I started with 3-5 mile hikes in the foothills around Castle Rock. At first it was 300’-400’ elevation gain per hike.  By the October I was  50 pounds lighter and able to do the infamous Manitou incline in a little over an hour.    

I also read and researched to keep motivated.  I bought “Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills”  and spent a lot of time studying it.  I checked out dozens of climbing books from the library.  One of them I particularly enjoyed was Halfway to Heaven.  I enjoyed it enough that I got my wife Angela to read it as well.  After months of hearing me babble I could tell that she to was getting intrigued by climbing. Halfway to Heaven talks a lot about the website 14ers.com . I joined the site and found a great community of local hikers and climbers that were very motivated to climb the mountains that surround us.   

Throughout the winter I continued to hike, and we got back into snowboarding.  We bought microspikes and snowshoes so that we would be able to stay out in the winter conditions.  By January I had shed 70 pounds and I knew climbing would be much easier this summer.   I wanted to increase my cardio capacity so in February I started the Couch to 5k running program.  I completed my first 5k at the beginning of April. The training was tough, but I could really feel the difference when I was out on the trail.  

 

Where Am I At Today
In March I bought a new bike, and really got into cycling as well.  I found it to be my second favorite activity behind hiking.  It was also much easier to do on a daily basis, and again I noticed a difference in my endurance on the trail.   By mid summer I was riding 30 miles on the bike, had run a sub 30 minute 5k, had a 47 minute time on the Incline, and was hiking harder and harder trails with increasing ease.  

In July I finally stood on top of a 14er.  The mighty Mt Elbert, the tallest one in Colorado.  All the training had really paid off, and the hike went better than expected. 

For us the journey is just beginning.  There are more mountains in Colorado  than I can hope to climb in my lifetime.  Many of them are far beyond my current technical and physical abilities.  This means I have many years to get in progressively better shape.  Which is now an exciting prospect. 

I have lost a total of 112 pounds since September of 2009.  Here is a picture of me on July 4th. 

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Tips
So I wouldn’t want to leave you with out some lessons I learned along the way. 

  • There are two types of pain. The pain of discipline and hard work, and the pain of regret. The first pain is temporary and will be replaced by the pleasure of accomplishment.  The latter will eat at you for a long time in a very uncomfortable way. 
  • You won’t be successful unless you set goals.  You need to set some really lofty long term goals.  Something that seems almost impossible.  Then set lots of intermediate goals that when combined will get you to your big goal.  This gives you plenty of successes to celebrate along the way.   You need to move slowly, but at the same time push yourself hard.  You will soon be amazed at what you can do.
  • Find a motivated partner that has similar goals if possible.   Victory is even sweeter when you have someone to celebrate it with. 
  • Make small incremental changes in your life.  Every few weeks look at your habits and try to eliminate the worst of what you are doing.  Make better bad choices, and make all of the changes permanent.  Small changes coupled with a lot of time lead to some really big results.  
  • I know this isn’t going to be popular, but you should drastically reduce your alcohol intake. 
    • Alcohol is full of bad calories.
    • It reduces your body’s ability to metabolize fat. Your liver learns to prefer it as fuel, and stores fat.
    • You are far more likely to make poor food choices after drinking.
    • Even a small amount of alcohol the night before a big activity will reduce your peak performance.  A lot of alcohol, and you will probably just stay in bed instead of hitting the trail. 
    • Alcohol messes with your sleep, and dehydrates you.  Sleep and hydration should be top priorities for anyone seeking a fitter lifestyle. 
  • The things we think will make us happy in the short term, are really the enemies of our long term happiness.  When the alarm goes off on a cold day, I feel as if nothing would make me happier than shutting it off and skipping my workout.  Once I get going and complete the workout I have a much happier day than if I had chose to stay in bed. The same is true with your food choices.  Even though it seems that second cookie is really what you want, it is the enemy of your long term happiness.
  • Take advantage of techology. I used several Iphone apps to help me with my weightloss. I track all of my workouts using runkeeper, I track and analyze my food using my fitness pal, and foducate.
  • Don’t go on a diet, but do work to make healthy food choices.  You should not deprave yourself or follow a strict diet.  That does not mean you don’t need to change your eating habits. It takes work to find healthy foods that you like It is completly possible to enjoy your food and feel satisisfied while loosing weight.  Food is the fuel your body needs to rebuild itself so learn about and pay atenttion to what and how much you eat.  

I hope you have enjoyed the article, and perhaps it will motivate you to do something better for yourself.  I know I am very happy with my choice to change my lifestyle.  

 

Backpacking / Hiking Food

These are some ideas for trail food you can take with you backpacking or on day hikes.

General Tips

If you are out for more than a day hike you need to really consider weight, and perishability of your food.  This means dehydrated / freeze dried food rules. You will be expending a lot of calories so you want to eat high calorie foods. You know, the stuff you are supposed to stay away from at home.

Eat a very big breakfast the day you leave and plan for a big dinner on the way home.  This reduces what you carry

Pre portion your food use a combination of drysacks / plastic grocery bags / ziplock bags to portion your food. Splitting into a grocery bag for each day makes it easy to find your food, and keeps you from accidentally overeating early in the trip.

Don’t forget to hang your food & trash in a bear bag or bear canister.

Packets of olive oil or canola oil  are a good way to add healthy calories to lunches or dinners.

You should focus on getting plenty of carbohydrates, they are the primary source of quick fuel.  They will also help tired muscles replenish glycogen for the next day’s hiking.   Fat is a good way to up the overall calories, eating fat before bed can help you stay warm at night.

Breakfast

In winter or shoulder seasons a warm breakfast is a good start to a day in the outdoors, it may be worth the time and effort to heat breakfast.

 

  • Cliff Bars or granola bars make a great easy breakfast 
  • Bagel with cream cheese (set it on top of kettle while making coffee to get it warm)
  • Instant Oatmeal (consider nuts, raisons / dried fruit to improve) [Also bring ziplock bag to line bowl with, then you can just throw away when done)
  • Cereal with dehydrated milk
  • Pancakes
  • Dehydrated breakfast meals from Mountain House or Backpackers Pantry
  • Pop Tarts
  • Honey Stinger Waffles
  • Via instant coffee from star-bucks makes a great tasting cup of coffee in the morning. It is already pre-packaged in convenient single serving packs

Lunch
A common lunch strategy is to simply graze on snacks all day long. This avoids the time and effort of unpacking and preparing lunch. I personally prefer an actual lunch, but I try to make it low fuss.  

  • Summer sausage and hard cheese (this will keep for a couple of days)  Good with crackers
  • Flatout wrap or tortilla with – (hummus, turkey, cucumber, tomato, cheese)
  • Flatout wrap or tortilla with – chicken, avocado and smoked salmon cream cheese
  • Flatout wrap or tortilla with–  peanut butter and dried apples and a sprinkle of roasted pumpkin seeds (the green kind without the shell aka pepitas), some honey
  • Flatout wrap or tortilla spread with Gnutella & then toss in some banana chips as a wrap
  • Hot soup in a thermos (this is a real treat on a cold day)
  • Cold Pizza (only good for a short day hike)
  • PB&J on Pita bread (better than regular bread because it won’t  squish.  A good tip is to put your PB&J in a ziplock bag. You can then just cut the corner an squeeze onto your bread when you are ready to eat.
  • PB&J bagel
  • Savory bagel (onion / everything) with cucumbers tomatoes, and savory cream cheese
  • whole grain bagel with thinly sliced apple and gouda cheese.
  • Cold KFC (only good for a short day hike
  •  Lunchable – only good for day hike
  • A pouch of tuna with crackers
  • Mini-baguette sliced in half, drizzled in olive oil, plus sea salt, ground pepper and rosemary
  • Sea Bear Smoked Salmon with crackers or chibata bread.
  • Mountain house chicken salad (just add cold water) with a tortialla or bagel.

Snacks

It is always good to have a mix of salty and sweet snacks.  After a few days of trail mix, and candy sweet food starts to sound pretty disgusting.  A good variety of flavors making sure you include some savory options can help avoid this.

  • Bananas / coconut milk are a great pre hike snack.  They will give you calories and electrolytes.
  • Trail mix (there are tons of varieties in trail mix, it is a great choice because it is low weight high calorie and easy to eat)
  • Nuts (there are lots of nut mixes that can vary the flavor and range from salty to sweet to spicy)
  • Coconut Almonds and dried pineapple (yeah its just trail mix but yum!!)
  • Nut butters (justins nut butter or pocket fuel)  [Note these don’t do well in cold weather]
  • Cheetos (these do much better in a pack than potato chips)
  • Pringles (the can keeps them in good shape) (note they do sell short cans of these)
  • Crackers (Tougher crackers such as triskets or wheat things survive better in the pack)
  • Fruit Rollups, fruit leathers or cliff kids
  • Dried fruit (bannana chips, dried apricots, dried mangos, dried apples)
  • Cookies (the hard varieties do better in a pack)
  • Candies such as gummy bears, orange slices, hot tamales, twizlers (these all do well in cold weather)
  • Candy bars (snickers are great frozen)
  • Jerky (I prefer the kinds that are not super chewy as they are faster to eat and don’t get stuck in the teeth as bad)
  • Apple
  • Energy bars(Cliff, Luna, Laura are all popular) [some of these turn to real hard bricks in cold weather]
  • Protein bars (these are a nice filling snack, again cold weather can turn these into a rock)
  • Energy Gells / blocks (shot blocks are the best in my opinion)
  • Stinger organic waffle. (available at REI and YUMMY especially vanilla!!)  http://shop.honeystinger.com/categories/Organic-Stinger-Waffles/
  • Cytomax / gatorade / hammer nutrition …  (I keep a week solution of this in my camel back for a constant suply of energy and electroliytes) http://www.cytosport.com/products/cytomax.    I prefer the powder kind because I can bring it in my pack and mix more on a multi day trip.
  • Sharkies organic fruit chews
  • Date balls- grind up dates and walnuts add cocoa and coconut
  • yogurt or chocolate covered pretzels

Dinner

For dinner you should consider dehydrated food. Many of these such as Backpackers Pantry, and Mountain house are cheep and really pretty darn good.  If you want to reduce the sodium and the cost you could consider buying a deyhdrator and doing it your self.

Some other choices for dinner

  • Instant mashed potatoes
  • Ramen noodles
  • Cup o soup
  • MRE’s (available at military surplus stores and online)
  • Fresh caught fish.
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Thanks to the users at 14ers.com who provided some of these ideas.