The world is full of information on what the best thing is for this and that. You can get the opinion of people that have been in the game for a while, those who supply material for it, and numerous forums/buyer’s guides online. The magnitude of info can be intimidating, but these six tips will help you get started in knowing what to look for.
Don’t mimic the pros
This may sound like an odd tip, but if you try to look like the gals and guys that are on the mountains and rivers all the time, you’ll end up spending a lot more than you should. They are the best of their sport, and their equipment usually is too, but they didn’t always start out that way. It’d be nice to have the same shoes that Chris Sharma has, or all the gear that the Flying Frenchies have, but if you’re spending $200 on a rain jacket and $250 on a pair of climbing shoes, all I can say is you better get your money’s worth out of them.
Don’t let the flash get your cash
There’s a slew of pretty things on the market these days, and they only get shinier and prettier as the years go by. Looking like the Fresh Prince from Awesomeland doesn’t mean the gadget will hold up in practice. If it’s truly a new product, not just new colors, wait for the reviews to come in. Just like electronics and software updates, there’s going to be some bugs that should be worked out first. Don’t be that guy whose backpack tears at the seam after only a week of hiking.
Steer clear of the “bribe-site”
If you want to really know what’s up with a product, you’ll want to know the good and the ugly. Some sites will only give products good press because they want free gear for themselves (that’s the bribe) – but that’s not going to help anyone out in the long run (or hike). Two good examples of sites for reviews are GearJunkie and Trailspace. There you’ll find the awesome, the O.K., and the downright terrible.
Take your time
The sexy thing for brands and companies to do these days is get you their product fast! That can also mean feeling the need to buy your new trail shoes right then and there. While you can strike gold from time to time, it’s usually best to do more research and wait. Go back to Trailspace and GearJunkie to see if they’ve had anything to say about the product, ask your hardcore trail running friend what their favorite brand is, and go back to the store to try it on and compare. If everything points to go, then you’ve found yourself a new shoe.
Make a list
Some people will just head to the store and see what they can find. This works, if you’ve got to leave the next day (although by this point you’re probably gonna be screwed), but I would suggest doing some window shopping online first. Use the tips above to shop around a bit, and also check out the sale sites. TheClymb is a good place to start for sales, and they get new deals weekly.
If you have an outfitters nearby (REI or local) then head there to try out your list. If they don’t have it, often times they’ll suggest somewhere nearby that might have the product/model you’re looking for. From there you can compare the price in-store to the price you could get online. Just remember to calculate the shipping/transaction fees into the online purchase as well.