1. Buy Good Gear from the OutsetYou can sure get a backpack, sleeping bag, tent, rifle, outdoor clothing, etc., for as cheap as can be down at that certain store that is gradually monopolizing American retail. But, if you figure what it really costs to buy stuff at half the price and a quarter the quality, you quickly realize that you are not getting a bargain.
That is not to mention the rock solid fact that the outdoor ethic dictates that waste is to be avoided, and for those of us who spend a significant amount of time in the outdoors, we want to be able to count on gear when we need it to work. If you are taking your family to the outdoors, you want clothing to protect them from hypothermia, tents to be stable in storms, sleeping bags to be warm to the temperatures they are rated for...you get the idea.
The only way to make sure of these things is to buy gear that performs the way it's advertise to perform. Now, the question is how to get it at the best price possible. One way is to buy used.
2. Buying Used Outdoor GearSome people buy stuff, never really use it, and then realize they are not ever going to do so, and offer it up for sale on online retail sites. We will discuss three here.
The most popular is ebay. EBay is surely very popular, and I buy a few items from them each year. I use a sniper program that offers up the highest bid I am willing to offer at the last possible moment in the auction. On occasion, I will buy using the "Buy it Now" option if I think the price is fair and I am in a hurry.
It seems like the problem I run into quite a bit is that ebay has become so commercial that I feel like I am often in competition with quite a few people that are buying and selling for profit - nothing wrong with that - but it drives prices up.
Another excellent option is GearTrade.com which is a site dedicated only to outdoor gear, is quite a bit less popular than ebay, but still has really good selection in a broad array of categories. It's not really an auction site, but many of the sellers are willing to accept offers. There seems to be a lot less of the buy/sell commercialization that is present over on ebay. Check out an example of a listing here.
I would suggest jumping on their site, setting up a free account, and maybe even selling an item or two you are not using to pay for something you need.
For hunters, take a look at gunbroker.com. This auction site is a lot like ebay, with auctions and "Buy it Now" options...with the merchandise centering on firearms. Laws vary from state to state, but assume that you will need to arrange shipment to a part that has a federal firearms license.
With any of these sites, check seller ratings, and do not assume items for sale on the site are necessarily a great deal. Do some comparison shopping by searching online for that item from retailers offering the product new.
And buying new is sometimes the way to go...especially if you can get your item on sale.
3. Buying New on SaleThis is pretty obvious, but if you identify the ger you want/need, and are patient and shop at the right times, you can get some incredible deals. Most major retailers offer a section of their site for closeouts, sales, etc. If you are buying a big ticket item, it certainly will pay to be patient and you can potentially save hundreds of dollars on a single item.
Best of lick in the outdoors, and getting the gear you need, and we encourage you to care for your gear and use it hard!