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It’s never been necessary to spend thousands of dollars to get into hunting, and it doesn’t need to be today. We love our high-end gear here at MeatEater, but we haven’t always had the luxury of having the best-of-the-best gear in our closets. There are a few things we don’t advise skimping on, wool socks being one of them. Boots are another, but if the weather is going to be decent and you’re not tramping up snowy mountains, you can get by with a decent pair of hiking boots & gaiters and make the big investment on boots like Schnees down the line.

Here are a few tips and tricks that can help you find gear that won’t break the bank.

  • Hit up your local thrift store for clothes. High-tech camo is awesome to have in the backcountry, but it’s something you can work towards acquiring piece by piece over a few seasons. There are tons of lightly used athletic clothes that can keep you dry, odor-resistant, and warm in the backcountry that won’t totally break the bank to begin with. Look for dri-fit, wool, capilene, anything but cotton to keep you dry in the woods. Used ski coats can make a great hunting coat to start out with as well.
  • Keep an eye out for big sales. Another thing to do is to keep an eye out on great sales, our pals at First Lite run a giant sale around Thanksgiving as well as a few other times per year, and they currently have a sale on RealTree items. The REI Co-op program is another way we stay stocked up on the goods while getting a percentage back for what we spend on things like Mountain House & Clif bars. You can also sign up for emails from your favorite brands, and check deals daily.
  • Don’t forget about pawn shops. Pawn shops are a hunter’s treasure trove. You can find gently used guns, archery equipment, spotting equipment, camping gear, and much, much more, for prices way lower than you could find in a store.
  • Borrow gear! Tents, stoves, packs, really, anything but your skivvies & boots can be borrowed if you’re a good steward. Another way to lighten the load is to start a collective with some friends and have a few people buy pieces of gear that can be shared between the group until you can all afford to get your own set-up.
  • Scour Craigslist and other online sources. Craigslist, eBay, Swap.com, online hunting forums like Hunt Talk, as well as forums for backpackers, mountaineers, and other outdoor junkies–these are all great places to find a screaming deal. You’ve just got to put a bit of time in, but the results are well worth it. 
  • Research rental prices. If you’re coming out west for a hunt, there are lots of shops that specialize in renting camping gear, spotting scopes, binos, fishing gear, even bear spray. Check the localities of where you’re headed to see if there are specialty gear shops that will rent you high-end equipment at a fraction of what you’d pay to buy.
  • Ask a seasoned hunter. That buddy with the beat-up truck and a few hundred miles on his boots knows the drill. He can help assess your gear, figure out what can make it this year, what can make it a few more years, and he can point out the difference between what you really need and what’s extraneous. Don’t hesitate to ask. People love sharing knowledge, especially the hard-earned kind (that doesn’t involve their secret spot).
  • Get the Guidebooks. Seriously. We created these resources as a field guides to all the practical questions we get asked on a daily basis. Also, check out our Online How-to Guide to Hunting, Fishing, and More on Youtube, featuring hours of instructional videos directly from our crew.