Hello. My name is Katrina, and I am a gear junkie.

I only write this with a mild tinge of guilt as I feel great peace when I am in my garage (aka “My Gear Room”), having gone to great lengths to have hooks, bins, and drawers to organize my booty. (If only my neighbors didn’t need their space too; the things I could do!) As I watch my backpack collage multiply like a family of rabbits across the eastern wall of my garage, I fantasize about the adding new members to the pack. (Can I go lighter? Do I need more gear loops? Do I need anything larger than a 70 liter?) And thus, I begin my full confession (alright, maybe only partial as you truly DON’T have all day) about the websites I frequent that fuel my obsession…

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craigslist.com: I have this website in My Favorites specific to For Sale Sport Goods in Seattle. I check it multiple times a week, sometimes multiple times a day if I am looking for something specific. I even check it and email items to my friends (I’m forever mentally cataloging people’s shoe size and express needs when they are mentioned). In the last month, I bought a nearly new pair of MSR Women’s Lightening Ascent Snowshoes for $80 (not that I needed another pair), a brand new (with tags) REI Quarter Dome 2-Person Tent for $100, and a used but great conditioned MSR Whisperlite stove with canister for $45. While two of these items were used, they are new to me and in great shape! And, each of them was at least half off, if not more than half, the retail price. (Admittedly, used items don’t go for full price for obvious reasons). There are multiple benefits to buying on craigslist. One is that you can take up a new hobby with little investment. (Truly, there was a woman’s perfect and pink golf bag and clubs for $40 yesterday, though this item will not be finding a spot in my garage, just an example.) Another reason is it makes old hobbies more affordable, not to mention a fantastic way to try out gear. You can also set an RSS feed to alert you to when specific searched items go on sale. (I did this when I was looking for some new snowshoes.) Conversely, it is also a great place to sell gear that you no longer need (upgrading, retiring, whatever…). I have one piece of advice to those that are selling items. As I am forever searching (and am as busy as the next person), I limit my interaction to  ads that list items with pictures and precise descriptions in the titles. (I am not wittingly playing Charades!) Posting pictures and being specific also saves the seller time as you won’t have to field an endless string of emails all asking the same thing, not to mention the potential buyers you may have lost in the process.

steepandcheap.com: I will say that 75% of the time I am not interested in what they have to sell (this is personal though as I would rather try on clothes, squirrely about the return policy at this site); however, there are those few deals that make you go hmmm… This website only poses one item for sale at a time. It keeps one items up until it has completely sold out. There might be five of a certain item or 500. It ALWAYS sells gear for at least 50% off. It gives gear specifications, buyer product reviews, AND provides off color descriptions of the items (“This pack is large enough to tote your girlfriend and her gear.” And that is truly just a toned down comment! Humor is one of the better spices in life though.). There is rumor of certain sale items called “Golden Eggs.” I have NEVER seen one so I think it might be similar to seeing The Green Flash or a Sasquatch (I believe that you have to have too many Bloody Marys or PBRs for these sightings, still waiting on one, sightings, not a drink, alas). Golden Eggs are supposed to be deals similar to winning the gear lottery. There are some drawbacks to this website. You can only buy three items at a time. As you may be waiting for the 500th Camelbak to sell before the site goes on to the next item, this may take awhile. I know that my computer has timed out before, losing my saved purchase sadly. Or you can purchase the item instead of stockpiling three items per purchase, but then you pay for each shipped item instead of grouping shipping (I suppose it’s a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things.). Recently, I bought a Victorinox Swiss Army Altimeter Multi-Tool for $32 (about 65% off MSRP). I wowed a ranger up at Paradise with this one (humble pie is not my forte).

Google Shopping: This site is a great way to compare prices from online stores (I am a seasoned online shopper as I need to optimize my time, like many of us.). You type in a specific item, then organize its relevance by price, free shipping, buyer reviews, and stores. A lot of times, especially during the holidays, it is just plain senseless to pay for shipping (unless you are doing your part to fuel the economy, good job! I’m good friends with my UPS lady too!). This is a great way to search for very specific items, not general ones. If you are looking for an Aquamira Frontier Pro Ultralight Water Filter (This is a great lightweight way to filter your water with zero down time.) over just any water filtration system, this is the smartest way to begin your online search.

geartrade.com: I think the website says it all “Buy Theirs. Sell Yours. The Gear Fanatic’s Marketplace.” You can buy other people’s used or new gear, and vice versa. It also notes a seller’s ratings and previous buyer reviews on a specific seller (huge advantage over craigslist). I would consider this website a cross between eBay and craigslist. Of course, the more specific you get looking for gear, the less likely it is that you will find it on geartrade, but keep looking! You can find new or used (like eBay or craigslist) gear, but you will pay shipping fees (unlike craigslist).

Barcode Scanner: This really isn’t a website, but it is an application that can be used on Smartphones. I have a droid and use it quite a bit. I first used this application on my friend’s iPhone while looking up wine cabinets and never looked back (Yes, the wine cabinet found a cozy new home.). In case you haven’t used it, download it. It is free to most phones; you will not be sorry. Basically, you scan from your phone a barcode off a packaged item in stores (or at home) to download the items different purchase prices at various stores. It is virtual bargain shopping at its best! Now I can see if MontBell Super Spiral Hugger 0 Degree Sleeping Bag (My next possible gear purchase? I have heard excellent things!) is a good deal at REI for $309 or if backcountry.com is selling it for cheaper (remember to consider tax and shipping, as it may not always be cheaper once you factor these extras). This application saves the average buyer from silly decisions while spontaneously shopping (I swear that they see me coming from a mile away and make a B-line for me!!).

Wherever you buy gear, it should be a joyous experience, not a painful one. There is nothing better than sitting back and admiring a new purchase that you bought for the best possible price! Preferably after using it, glowing, and sipping a Hot Toddy (‘tis the season! Or very close to it…) . Happy Shopping!

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