THE BEST ONLINE OUTDOOR GEAR STORES
If you are an outdoor enthusiast like me, there are many online outdoor gear stores to choose from for all of the activities we do. While the best stores all have very high customer satisfaction ratings, they differ, for example in what they carry and focus on, how they price their gear and clothes, or how they handle shipping and returns.
Especially when you buy online, it’s also important to determine how the best online outdoor stores compare to those you can walk into. How does each of the online outdoor stores help you make the right product choices? What’s the online shopping experience like? How well do they serve your interests and passion for the outdoors as well as your specific gear and clothing needs?
I’ve been on a journey to find the best online outdoor gear stores for some of my own needs. Since my outdoors friends know I’ve dug into finding the best online cycling stores and gear, some have asked me which online outdoor stores I recommend and why.
My selection of the best online outdoor gear stores is based on comparing price, customer satisfaction ratings, product selection, shipping and return policies, outdoor expertise, and the online shopping experience. You’ll see my commentary and comparative ratings for each store below. I haven’t included stores that didn’t rate well even though they may be well known.
Here’s the list of those I’ve found are the best along with a headline for what each are all about. You can click to visit any of the stores or read my review and see the deals they are currently running.
THE BEST ONLINE OUTDOOR GEAR STORES
If you know what brand of gear you want, you can often get their gear directly from the company site. There you can often find a wider selection of models, options, and sizes than are available at stores selling many brands.
Some of these stores have very good customer satisfaction ratings and do well on the other evaluation criteria I used to recommend the stores above. Others not so much. Here are the four best.
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BACKCOUNTRY – THE MOST COMPLETE OUTDOOR EXPERIENCE ONLINE
As one of the largest online outdoor gear stores, Backcountry has a seemingly unmatched selection of top brands in nearly every category of outdoor gear. Its independent Google customer ratings are among the best – 91% of customers give it 5 stars and only 3% give it 3 stars or less. Free shipping over $50, 98% on-time delivery and lifetime new and 30 day used product return policies are also among the best.
Beyond that, the online experience you get when visiting the site or mobile app is what truly separates Backcountry from other online outdoor stores. Bestsellers and recommended gear are the first things you see when you shop in the clothing, footwear or accessories categories. Click on a subcategory – say jackets or pants or boots or whatever – and you’ll see which have the highest ratings from people who have used the product and provided feedback to the Backcountry site. You can then read detailed reviews from those users about what they like and don’t like about each product.
The Backcountry experience deepens and helps you become a far more knowledgeable shopper when you go to one of the site’s dozen activity sections. These range from Hike & Camp to Fly Fishing to Climbing to Paddle to Travel.
Click on the tab for one of those activities and it takes you first to an Explore page. There you’ll see a handful of practical, gear guides written by Backcountry’s outdoor “gurus” like How to Layer Up For Cold Skiing, training and travel tips like Expanding Bounds in Liming China, and trip stories like Paddleboarding the Rio Grande Wilderness. Read a few of those and you’ll become immersed in the experience and knowledge of the products Backcountry sells.
You can then click the Shop tab right next to the Explore one for that activity and get the same kind of recommendations, ratings, and reviews I described earlier.
If you really like to research and almost experience the outdoor gear you are interested in before you decide what to buy, the knowledge and expertise of Backcountry’s user and guru community along with the product photos, specs, and descriptions are hard to match online and at most physical retail stores.
Like other online outdoor stores, Backcountry offers a discount for first-time buyers, runs sales on selected popular brands, and periodically offers discount codes on full-priced items for a few weeks at a time. But, you don’t shop there for the prices. Rather, it’s the experience, learning, selection, and service Backcountry offers that have made it so popular and highly rated among those who buy there.
REI – AN OUTDOOR STORE THAT DOES THINGS DIFFERENTLY
At first blush, REI looks like a high-end chain of outdoor gear stores with an equally rich looking online store. It is certainly all of that. Nearly 160 well-stocked, up-to-date stores in 37 states. As broad a range of product categories as any store with top brands.
It doesn’t take long to realize that this bricks & clicks chain does things a bit differently than other outdoor stores and outdoor gear store sites.
First, they are a co-op with no shareholders. Among other things, that means if you spend $20 to become a lifetime member, you get the opportunity for a month or so each spring to buy a full-price item at a 10% discount. The co-op ownership model also enables them to provide profit-sharing and retirement plans to their employees and make investments in outdoor-oriented non-profits.
Another big difference is REI’s 100% satisfaction guarantee on new products. If you don’t like what you purchased there, you’ve got up to a year to return it for an exchange or refund. There are a few caveats. The policy doesn’t cover ordinary wear and tear of gear you’ve abused and 90 days for outdoor electronics products. Otherwise, this is quite unusual anywhere for products sold online or at physical stores anymore.
The online site features an “REI Outlet”, a section where products are seriously discounted. Otherwise, most products are sold at full retail price. They also have a section that sells used gear, another where you can buy vacation trips, and one that’s a community forum for fellow outdoorsmen and women to share your outdoor experiences, discuss local happenings or get an answer from an REI expert.
For any product on the site, you can post a question that might go beyond what you see in the relatively full set of product info and specs, ratings and customer reviews. There’s no online chat however, something I find to be a real-time alternative to the Q&A they have under many products or phone support they offer.
While there’s plenty of information, ratings, and expertise all around the site, it’s not as well integrated or helpful in making a decision for a given product category as Backcountry offers. REI’s free delivery for purchases over $50 goes through the standard 5-10 day ground shipping program. Alternatively, you can pick up what you ordered at an REI store if they have it in stock and you live near one.
REI’s unique approach among online outdoor stores works for their customer. 98% give them a positive rating according to Google’s customer review service.
MOOSEJAW – A FOCUS ON DISCOUNTS AND BEING QUIRKY
If you are a frequent buyer who shops for discounts on outdoor clothing, camping, hiking, and climbing gear and you know what you want, Moosejaw is one of the better online outdoor gear stores to check out.
Moosejaw’s 10% rewards program, 14-day price match, free 2-day shipping on any orders over $49 stands out more than their outdoor clothing and gear selection. They also separate themselves from other online outdoor stores with a quirky sense of humor that shows up in the text of the Moosejaw created content across the site.
With nearly a dozen physical Moosejaw stores primarily in the Midwest US, the site reflects a “bricks & clicks” model. You can check out and try on what they sell in their stores or buy it online. As such, the range of brands and categories isn’t as broad or specialized as larger or specialized online outdoor stores.
This approach and the focus on the solid rather than high-end brands probably helps keep their costs and prices down. If you are ever in doubt about which products have the best discounts, there are handy buttons for each major category (like Clothing) and pull-downs for each subcategory (like Women’s Jackets) you can click that brings up a page with the “Most Stuff on Sale”.
The Moosejaw online shopping experience itself is highly efficient if not very helpful choosing between several options in your price range. Yes, there are product descriptions, specs, and reviews but most are just-the-facts type information with many of the comments pulled from the clothing or gear maker’s site. There are also some helpful, basic how-to and buyer’s guide articles in the Knowledge Center but these aren’t featured or even easy to quickly find.
Customers give Moosejaw ratings as high as nearly any other online outdoor store with 95% ranking it 5*. I’ve found their chat line team helpful and the cart and checkout process straightforward. Shipping is as good as it gets, the returns policy is reasonable and customer service is very responsive.
CAMPSAVER – THE NAME SAYS IT ALL
If you are into camping and saving money when you shop, definitely check out CampSaver.
This online outdoor gear store carries 20,000 different camping and hiking products and over 36,000 models of those products. CampSaver stocks over 3,000 different backpack and bag products, 1300 tents and shelters, nearly 800 different sleeping bag products, and over 3,000 “camp kitchen” products including things like camping cookware, stoves, water bottles, coolers, and food. That’s a ton of camping gear (probably several tons actually) to choose from.
CampSaver also carriers a good amount of climbing gear and plenty of men’s and women’s clothes and footwear. Running shoes, gear for snow and paddle sports, and travel gear including luggage and car racks are all stocked in large numbers.
While their camping focus comes through, CampSaver’s emphasis on saving is even more prominent in the way they present themselves.
Start with the simple fact that the DEALS tab is the first one at the top and is highlighted using a bright orange font with an orange box around the word. Click on it, it’s hard not to, and you’ll see all the seasonal promotions, coupon codes, and free gifts they offer. There were nearly 100 last I looked. Each also tells you how many days is left until the deal is over.
Rather than appealing to you with beautiful pictures or high-end brands, CampSaver’s category pages prominently display the deal associated with each product. They put a banner above many of their products to tell you whether there’s a discount coupon for it, a free gift that comes with it, whether it comes out of their outlet store or reminding you that you get free 2-day shopping if you buy it.
You’ll find ratings and short reviews from customers for the most popular products in a category. Beyond that and talking to agents on the chat line who don’t appear to have much product expertise, you’re pretty much on your own. The product info is very basic.
While not quite as strong as the top online outdoor stores I’ve reviewed, CampSaver’s customer satisfaction ratings are pretty good. I can’t say the same for other discount sites CampSaver probably competes with including Steep and Cheap and The Clymb.
Shipping (5-10 day free delivery) and returns policies (60 days) are decent. The site is pretty quick and they have a decent mobile site but the overall online experience feels a little dated.
Then again, you come to CampSaver for deals on camping gear and not for an outdoor shopping experience and policies that come with the best higher-priced online outdoor stores.
Amazon Outdoor Recreation – A good place to shop if you know what you want
Amazon has an entire section with most of the same major categories and sub-categories you’ll find at other large online outdoor gear stores. What’s different about shopping there for outdoor gear than for anything else you’ve ever gone to Amazon for or for what you would experience shopping at a dedicated online outdoor store?
As the largest store in the world, and perhaps the largest seller of outdoor gear and clothing, they have a myriad of products, brands, and customers. That gives Amazon the ability to present a subcategory page 2 or 3 levels down (e.g. Backpacks and Bags>Daypacks & Casual Bags>Multipurpose Daypacks) that shows you their seven featured deals, best sellers, recommended for you, top-rated, most wished for, most gifted, hot new releases and under $25.
That’s impressive on its own but even more impressive is the huge number of ratings, reviews, and Q&As for each product, many times what you’ll find at any other online outdoor store.
The flip side of this, of course, is the daunting task of reading through those reviews, wondering how many are credible, or how closely the experience and demands of the average Amazon outdoor recreation shopper and reviewer matches yours.
Many of the best brands don’t list on Amazon and some highly rated products that are there come from brands you’ll never see in another outdoor store. Even for the products of brands you know, the price isn’t always going to be less because it’s on Amazon. Often it’s more than if you were to buy it from another store or even the store also listing it on Amazon to cover the cut this giant takes.
Recognize also that Amazon is a marketplace where stores and brands come to sell products. You need to evaluate each seller of the product you may be interested in – their customer satisfaction, shipping and return policies, etc. – as well as the product itself.
Beyond the product reviews and the typically skimpy product details and specs, you don’t get any buyer’s guides and there is no chat line.
My advice is to use Amazon if you already know what you are looking for, if it’s not available at an online outdoor store you like or have a relationship with, or if you want to compare pricing.
OUTDOOR GEAR EXCHANGE – MAKES YOU WANT TO SHOP AT THE PHYSICAL STORE
The best online outdoor gear stores give you the shopping experience that’s as good, if not better than visiting a physical store. Outdoor Gear Exchange’s online store makes me want to go to their shop.
In part, that’s because their flagship (and only) physical store in the car-free district of downtown in Burlington, Vermont is a great place to visit. They have all of the climbing, camping and skiing gear they specialize in right there to check out. If you want to save some money, they also have a consignment shop in the store.
Unfortunately, their online site doesn’t really do the store justice. While Outdoor Gear Exchange has been online for nearly 15 years, they have more to choose from in the Burlington store than the online one. They can also discount some gear in the store that they can’t online because of agreements with their vendors.
Compared to other online outdoor stores, their initial sign up discount (10%), free-shipping delivery time (5-10 days), and return policies (full refund on new condition products within 90 days) are average. While the product info and specs are thorough, there’s not a whole lot of customer ratings or reviews posted to get a sense of what others think about the products you are looking for. On the plus side, they will price match the exact same product that’s in stock at a competitor’s store.
If you don’t live near Burlington, it’s still worth clicking through for their extensive climbing and camping selection. There’s also a really good knowledge center stocked with a ton of “How to Choose” posts covering those product categories and more for nordic and backcountry skiing. And if you like to bargain shop, they have a well-stocked 60% off “Outlet” that’s a core piece of the site.
Outdoor Gear Exchange’s online customers love them too, with 98% rating them positively in the Google evaluation system.
EVO – THE ONLINE STORE FOR GENX AND MILLENNIAL OUTDOOR SPORTS
Camping and hiking gear and clothes are the foundations for most online outdoor gear stores. By contrast, evo is a site filled with gear for sports and a lifestyle that became popular in the 70s, 80s, and 90s and that continues to evolve. If that’s your thing, this place is totally shweet.
Snowboards and all-mountain skis, wakeboards and surfboards, skateboards and longboards, and mountain bikes are what evo features. Yes, they have sleeping bags, tents, and men’s and women’s clothing but their best selection and the many, many buyers guides are mostly for snow, surf and road sports. And yes, “evo” is never capitalized on their site or in their Seattle, Portland, and Denver stores.
Discounting is also a big part of evo’s appeal. Depending on the product category, you can find 10% to 50% off the gear on sale. Since evo carries a lot of the top brands, you can find some good deals on top gear there. They also price match and lower your price by another 5% if you find the exact same product at a lower price from another licensed competitor.
If you don’t know what brands or models you want, choosing between them isn’t made any easier on the evo site. There aren’t enough (or any) reviews for most products to give you a valuable rating or customer feedback. That is offset somewhat by the detailed product info and specs along with the many buyer’s guides. They do have phone support during business hours but no chat line.
Customers give evo high satisfaction marks. As with most stores, when you spend over $50 your gear ships free to the lower 48 states (for all but bikes) and arrives within a week of your order. You can return unused purchases within a year for a refund or exchange at one of their stores or ship it back to them.
OUTDOOR PLAY – A FOCUS ON KAYAKING
Most of the online outdoor gear stores today, whether they’ve outgrown them or not, seem to have roots in one or two outdoor passions. Outdoorplay was founded around kayaking and it remains central to why any outdoor enthusiast would shop there.
You can find all sorts of kayaks along with kayak paddles, lifejackets, helmets, outerwear, layering, racks, trailers bags, safety gear and accessories at Outdoorplay. Their blog is all about kayaking. Their business is run out of a town on a river with mountain snows feeding it. Kayaking is clearly their specialty and focus.
Kayaking is not the only sport that you can get we doing thanks to Outdoorplay. Stand-up paddling and all sorts of rafting products are in the river mix there too. And there’s plenty of climbing and camping gear to choose from if you are into that.
It’s all enough to support 20 employees, an easy website to get around, and a lot of satisfied customers supporting what is essentially a specialty online outdoor store.
If you’re not sure what you need or want, lean on the chat line staff who know their stuff. There aren’t many reviews even of their kayak products. There also aren’t many sales or discounts but if you ask, they seem willing to work something out.
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