How to Get Great Travel Gear Deals by Playing the Retail Buying Cycle

Do you want to routinely get 30 to 50 percent off of name brand travel gear and clothing? It’s not all that hard. You just need to understand the seasonal cycle at retail and take advantage of it.

winter travel clothing discounts

It’s mid-December and ski gear is already discounted 50%!

Even if you don’t shop much in clothing stores, you’re probably vaguely aware of the silly practice of putting swimsuits on the racks in February and putting sweaters and down ski jackets on the shelves when it’s still baking hot outside. That’s because manufacturers and wholesales really care more about the push (big order wholesale numbers) than they do about the pull (individual consumer purchases.) Sure, they want what they ship to sell through, but the whole industry is built around “What’s new for spring?” and “What’s new for fall?” This is as true for Patagonia as it is for Prada.

Over at Practical Travel Gear, where I’m editor, this sometimes leads to some strange conversations with PR people representing these brands. Last week one told me it didn’t do her any good to have ski clothing reviewed in January, even though that’s when the ski season really kicks off in earnest. “We’re only promoting the spring lines then,” she said. In other words, don’t review the things people are actually buying in stores, review the things we’re trying to get the big chain wholesale¬†buyers to buy.

It’s bass-ackwards, but that’s the mentality. The travel gear companies are pumping out new shirts and jackets as fast as the companies you see advertising in Vogue, even though the differences from year to year are too insignificant for the average consumer to even notice.

So how do you act on this? It’s quite easy once you know how the game is played.

1) Buy things at the last minute.

Sure, this feels very uncomfortable for people who plan ahead and shop often, which is why the silly retail cycle works the way it does. But if you buy ski clothing right before your February (peak season) ski trip, you will probably find what you need already marked down or on the clearance rank. Same goes for a bathing suit in July.

2) Buy things off season (which may be your on season).

If you want to really rake in the deals, but winter clothes in the spring and summer clothing/gear in the fall. Sure, this could mean hanging onto them a while before using them, but maybe not. If you’re going to the Southern Hemisphere in your travels, the seasons are backwards anyway. If you’re going to the tropics, you need summer clothing no matter what time of year it is. If you’re going somewhere high altitude, you need layers whenever.

REI Outlet Just Reduced!
3) Hit the virtual outlet malls.

If you visit the markdown sites of the big online gear retailers, you don’t even have to keep any of this straight. Just click on their clearance section and you’ll often see items everyone coveted two months ago going for 50% off—or more. Follow these links to see what I mean and bookmark them (or subscribe to their RSS stream) to return. The selection changes quite a lot from month to month.
REI Outlet
Summit Hut Sale Gear page
Sierra Trading Post Clearance
Rock Creek Clearance

Happy hunting, and remember that if you’re not finding a price you can live with on the item you really want, just wait a while and you’ll almost surely see it reduced. For people who hate paying list price for anything, procrastination and being a contrarian are the paths to big savings.

Get a regular e-mail newsletter with all the best deals from the above merchants and more: The Insider Gear Deals Newsletter and get a free rundown of traveler gifts under $20.

  1. DML

    One of my favorite times to shop is right after Christmas. The stores have big sales to make room for all the new stuff that is coming in.

  2. Mario

    I just bought a jacket I’ll use this fall for $39, marked down from $198. There’s nothing at all wrong with it. But it’s last season’s story, so they have to clear it out. Crazy. But if you time it right, you can really score!

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