Valerie Root
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The WBC San Diego run by volunteers of the San Diego Sierra Club chapter is one of the best Wilderness Basics Courses you will find in the U.S. 

The San Diego Wilderness Basics Course has been going on for years and they have fine tuned a great program to teach over 250 students each year how to backpack safely. 

Understanding The Business Side Of WBC San Diego

Have you noticed that many of the instructors and the Wilderness Basics Book make a lot of effort to not mention store names like REI or online discount outdoor gear dealers?

I suspect this is because they have affiliate agreements with companies like Nomad Ventures and Columbia for 2020.

These affiliate companies or partners probably pay a commission to the Sierra Club San Diego Chapter when you make a purchase from them. 

It only makes sense this is true, or why would they make so much of an effort to push these two gear companies upon us?

In 2020 it appears they have struck a deal with Nomad Ventures and Columbia to provide the students with discounts and the WBC San Diego chapter some extra money.

In this case it seems like a win-win for everyone as the affiliate marketing business model is used on pretty much every website you visit today and the WBC students get a discount.

Generally speaking, if you click on any link that takes you to a website to purchase something, that website you left will most likely get a commission if you make a purchase. 

This is called affiliate marketing. 

The San Diego Sierra Club chapter is a non-profit organization and I'm sure the money is used to offset members trips throughout the year and the Wilderness Basics Course for 2020.

No one is getting rich at the WBC or they would be wearing Patagonia puffer vests with WBC patches instead of their grey fleece vests! 

Renting the Scottish Rite Center for multiple weeks can't be cheap! 

Regardless what the affiliate lead money is used for, it makes sense that they would only want to recommend and push companies willing to pay them a commission, like Nomad Ventures and Columbia for the 2020 year. 

While we plan on driving north to Nomad Adventures and the Columbia Company Store to see what deals can be had, there are many other options the WBC is not telling you about. 

Where To Get Outdoor Gear?

I am a bargain shopper which comes in handy when looking for the best gear for the best price. 

Let's face it, outdoor gear is freaking expensive! 

But, it doesn't have to be. 

Discount Department Stores

Two places you can regularly find brands like North Face on seriously discounted prices are Ross and TJ Max. 

Seems like every time we shop at Ross or TJ Max I find a couple really nice North Face jackets on the racks.

They also carry great thermal underwear for layering, name brand gloves and wool beanies (stocking caps as Bob Stinton calls them). 

Find Outdoor Gear At Thrift Stores & Swap Meets

Every weekend in San Diego are a smorgasbord of great deals on outdoor gear at the local swap meets! 

You can literally find everything you need at the local thrift stores and swap meets for pennies on the dollar. 

The easiest things to find are jackets, fleece, backpacks, trail runners and hiking boots. 

Keep in mind that we are talking about backpacking gear and not camping gear which also runs a plenty at the swap meets. 

Avoid the swap meet sleeping bags because they tend to be camping bags and won't compress enough to fit in your pack, not to mention their added weight.

There are five swap meets that I am aware of in San Diego County and I have had success while hunting for gear deals. 

Santee Swap Meet - This is a smaller swap meet that is open every Saturday & Sunday from 6:30 am - 1 pm. Some of these swap meets are open later and you can pretty much show up whenever and have a good shot at some decent gear. However, the Santee Swap Meet seems to sell everything good by 9 am and the vendors usually pack up and leave by 10 am. The only suggestion I would make is to get to the Santee Swap Meet early to get the deals. 

South Bay Drive-In & Swap Meet - The South Bay swap meet is pretty large with about 100 permanent shop locations located in the metal shipping containers all over the parking lot. They are open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 6 am - 2 pm. I'm sure getting there early would help but it is so large and a bit disorganized so just be prepared to look thoroughly for a great deal. You can probably get the best deals on gear at this swap meet. 

Kobey's Swap Meet - The Kobey's Swap Meet is probably the best known is located in the parking lot of the San Diego Sports Arena (home of the Gulls and Soccers!).  They are open Friday, Saturday & Sunday from 7 am to 3 pm. The Kobey's swap meet tends to have higher end clothing and gear. In fact, they have a couple of booths that specialize in outdoor gear that I have been visiting for years. The deals aren't quite as good as at a thrift shop or from a vendor who doesn't realize what they have but they are still at least 75% off what you would pay in a store. 

National City Swap Meet - The National City Swap Meet is worth the drive on Saturday or Sunday from 7 am to 3 pm. The National City Swap Meet and South Bay Swap Meet are very similar in the fact that both daily vendors and permanent vending locations are on site. We usually start at the National City Swap Meet and then drive down to the South Bay Swap Meet afterwards to make it a complete day. 

Spring Valley Swap Meet - The Spring Valley Swap Meet is a rather large swap meet with vendors setting up outside in the parking lot each day. They are open Saturday and Sunday from 7 am to 3 pm. There is no reason to get there too early, the vendors are required to stay until close at 3 pm. The swap meet is unofficially divided by new stuff and used stuff with the vendors selling used items on the lower side of the swap meet. 

REI - The Store WBC San Diego Makes A Lot Of Effort To Not Mention 

The REI Co-op offers some of the best prices on outdoor gear around. 

If you are looking for the latest and greatest name brand gear then REI is the place to shop. 

What I love about REI is that I usually cannot find a better deal on the internet for this years gear, which means I don't have to spend much time looking around pricing out gear. 

Even when I do find gear for a little bit cheaper I usually still purchase it from REI for two reasons. 

#1 - They have a no hassle one year return policy and warranty on the products that they sell. This means you can buy a pair of boots from REI and take them on a WBC San Diego backpacking trip and return them when you get home for any reason. Their return policy is amazing and I regularly buy items to give them a try and return them if they aren't what I want. You won't find this type of guarantee anywhere. If you read closely in the Wilderness Basics Book chapter 5 they talk about shopping at stores with really good return policies. They never say REI specifically (see the business of WBC above) but that is who they are talking about. 

#2 - Member Benefits - You can become a lifetime member of REI Co-op for $20 and you will receive 10% back in dividends at the end of the year for all of your purchases. It also entitles you to go to the REI Garage Sales we discuss below. 

100% Satisfaction Guaranteed For One Year From Purchase

Check Often For Latest Deals Which Sellout Fast

REI Garage Sales

The best deals on gear can be found at REI garage sales and it is a shame that WBC San Diego doesn't tell you this. 

In fact, there is an entire cult movement surrounded around REI  garage sales because the deals are so good. 

Cult movement you said? 


REI Garage Sale Line

The above picture is an REI Garage Sale line... yes, many people camp out the night before to be some of the first in line. 

And it is 100% worth it!!!

To learn more about REI Garage Sales read our article What to know before you go

If you want to find out when the next REI garage sales are, you can find out by going to our REI Garage Sales By State article (there is over 150 REI's in the US). 

There are two REI's in San Diego County, the San Diego REI in Kearny Mesa and the Encinitas REI in, well, Encinitas. 

As of 1/22/2020 there is a San Diego Garage Sale scheduled for 2/8/2020 from 7 am to 2 pm. 

Be sure to read our article What to know before you go

REI Discount Outlet

But it gets better, REI also offers a discount outlet that includes last years models, discontinued models and gently used gear. 

Yes, they are deeply discounted up to 75% off!

I'm not sure what to say but click on the button below to see what deals you can find at the REI Discount Outlet. 

Another Way To Save on Gear!

When you buy from the REI outlet website your purchases are covered by their no-hassle one year return policy.  

Shop REI's online discount website and save 25%-75% today!

The REI Outlet is a great alternative to the REI Garage Sale.

Online Discount Gear Sites

There are three ways to get deals on outdoor gear. 

First, you find coupons and sales for the latest and greatest in store seasonal gear. 

Second, you purchase brand new discontinued or last seasons outdoor gear. 

Three, find used gear in great condition or returned basically, brand new. 

The below list is places where you can find discontinued or last seasons gear and used gear in great condition. 

If you are looking for deals on in season gear you can check our deals of day, discounts and coupons page.

Gear Trade is our top recommended online discount gear site because you can both buy and sell your used gear on their platform. 

This site has 10,000's of gear options from the beginner basics to the type of gear you would consider using for a Mount Everest summit attempt. 

The prices are dirt cheap and Gear Trade holds the sellers money until you receive the item and have a chance to inspect it.

If it is not what you want, you can send it back to the seller and get a refund. 

Another place to find discounted outdoor name brands and gear is Planet Gear. You can check out their website by clicking the banner below. 

What Did I Miss?

My intent here is to try and help you find the best outdoor gear possible for the best prices around. 

If you know of other places to find great deals on gear, please let me know so I can add it to the list! 

See you on the trails! 

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