The perils of buying outdoor gear from the internet

Well, actually its not that bad but over the course of a few millenia* buying gear from online I thought I would share a few observations (*not really strictly true, it just feels that way).


Actually, this is generally a positive thing if buying online. Generally speaking, online retailers offer better discounts against gear and clothing than shop retailers. The downside of this is that the small shops can suffer badly in price match ups. The upshot is that generally you will be able to buy cheaper online and also compare prices much more easily to find the best price for an item. Also there is nothing cheeky about browsing for stuff in a physical shop and then researching the online prices. Sometimes a chat with the shopkeeper can engender a deal on the price of the item in the shop there and then. The other thing to note is that if you use a browser like Google to look up shopping results for an item, this doesnt necessarily show you all the shops selling that item. If the item is relatively costly it may be worth going through as many online websites as you can find to research prices. I have done this in the past and found better prices that Google shopping results would indicate.


No two ways about it, buying on the internet is incredibly easy and quick (sometimes too quick!) when compared to getting into the car/bus/train/cycle and travelling to a shop. I suspect the proliferation on online shopping has lead to an awful lot of extra gear being bought by people over the last few years (bought in haste and repented at leisure!). BUT online shops dont allow that gear fondling experience so beloved of outdoor enthusiasts AND for shoe and clothing purchases quite often end in items being returned. For example my wife is currently trying to buy a pair of winter boots for walking the dog, low level rambling etc and we have had to return 2 pairs so far because she cant get them on. This results in postage costs, faff and if you dont live next to a post office…..a trip in itself. Hence today a short trip to Brecon to allow wifey to try on some boots in the flesh (er, so to speak).


It goes without saying that the internet provides a far better choice of gear than a physical shop ever can. This is great in terms of cost and choice but also can actually cause dithering and over purchasing! Back in the good old days, I used to go into a shop such as Blacks or the YHA shops (remember those?) find something I liked and as long as it was fit for purpose and was in the right price bracket, job was a good ‘un. When I first got into backpacking in the early 80’s this was the only way of kitting yourself out and you were restricted to local shops (having said that there were more local shops in those days). The “best” day’s gear shopping I ever had was going to a camping exhibition being held at a local large camping shop in Bristol and buying my first backpacking tent. I was looking for a one man tent that was waterproof and didnt weight too much. There was one tent in that bracket at the exhibition and it was £45, a ridge tent with telescopic poles and weighing in at around 2kg (light in those days). I haggled with the seller because I was a few pounds short of the asking price. We did the deal and I left with a superb little tent and 10p to phone my dad with to pick me up from the railway station 🙂

Words of warning

So a bit more on the perils of…. Yes its far easier to buy stuff on the internet and so the temptation is to buy more than you need (and afford). This is why I now only buy things on the internet on a cost neutral basis. Sell some stuff to buy new stuff. This wont work forever because things do wear out and need to be replaced but so far in 2012 I managed it and I will try to do it in 2013 as well. Also, and dont laugh, pubs and online shopping dont mix! A few jars with your mates down the pub, a chat about outdoor gear and upcoming trips and hey presto you get home and suddenly the internet starts calling to you like a siren!

The other thing to note is around the DSR’s or Distance Selling Regulations. Always make sure you read the Terms and Conditions of a website you use. These should state exactly what to do in the case of a refund and if they dont then they are implied by the DSR’s. Refunds are a constant bugbear of mine when online shopping. The DSR’s are explicit in stating that delivery costs are to be refunded to customers in all cases of orders being returned for refund. This has to happen within 7 working days of the order being delivered in the 1st instance. In addition to this, if the goods are faulty then the vendor also has to pay for the return postage as the DSR’s state that the buyer should not be out of pocket in these instances. If anyone has trouble getting delivery (or return postage costs in the case of faulty goods) costs from online shops then contact Consumer Direct or Trading Standards.

So there you have it. I have learnt a few things about shopping online over the past few years, some good, some bad and all worth remembering. For all that online shopping brings, I still cant help but enjoy that physical shop experience though.

Off to Brecon for a fondle……


About Saddlebags and Backpacks - a brewer's outdoor adventures

I am a keen hiker, camper, cyclist and general all round gear addict..... I also manage to be a professional brewer in my non-spare time :->
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10 Responses to The perils of buying outdoor gear from the internet

  1. dexey says:

    I remember YHA shops! I’m still using a cotton duck Karrimor (remember when they, like Blacks, were a quality make?) that I bought in the Central London shop which I think was in Regent St. but it was 30 years ago :0)

  2. dexey says:

    Meant to say it was a saddlebag but I only threw out the rucsac a few years ago.

  3. charles says:

    Good post about buying gear online. I have to say I’ve always had tremendous service from our
    specialist gear suppliers ( Backbackinglight Bob and Rose, ULtralight outdoor gear – Mark ,and also Winwoodoutdoor-Ian.
    Winwood were excellent – I decided I wanted a Gossamer Gear Gorilla rucksack,and tried to
    obtain one through Winwood as they were the only distributor here in the Uk. Unfortunately they
    were out of stock,and Ian tried for months to get in a good supply with no result. He had great difficulty in getting any response from them. Emails were unanswered for weeks !
    In the end he very kindly let me his personal sack – the Gossamergear G4 for a trip I was planning.
    Never met or knew him, apart from being a customer. Sent all the way down here to Essex.
    Fantastic service !.
    On the other hand, I can’t say the same for GGear themselves. About a year later(last JUne )
    I ordered a 2012 Gorilla directly from them. Following my query regarding size,they insisted I needed their large sack .although I felt the medium might do. Bowing to their knowledge of their
    gear , I went ahead. It duly arrived after paying high postage/customs charge etc. To my
    dismay it was far to big. Shoulder straps to high off my shoulders..I asked if they would help
    in some way with returning charges (outward post/ins and inward post/charges to the UK again )
    But they refused even a gesture,so not viable to return it for a smaller size. So will probaly sell
    it on. I learnt a salutory lesson here, and where size of gear is involved will stick to the UK.
    Tents, I think , are another matter, and it seems Henry Shires of Tarptents goes out of his
    way to help. In fact after reading Robin’s recent review of the Scarp1, I feel a possible purchase
    tugging at my sleeve (trying to ignore !)
    Have been thinking of the Soulo, as I reckon I could shave around 300/350 grams off the weight.
    Being fairly big it may be too small. Think I will have to go all the way up to Alpenstock and try one.
    Otherwise I’ll be talking to Henry.
    Referring to above posts about old gear – I still have my old Phoenix Phreerunner (goretex) but
    porch fabric has now delaminated.Best tent I have owned. Used for 0ver 23 years.Superb quality
    similar or better than Hilleberg.Great in very high winds.

  4. backpackbrewer says:

    thanks for the great reply and contribution Charles.

    I cant praise Bob and Rose highly enough. I know its their business but they do go out of their way to help with purchases and to make sure everything is right for the person buying them. Ultralightoutdoorgear have also always been really quick, helpful and stock an awfully large amount of kit! Have also dealt with Winwood outdoors in a positive way. Ron over at MLD in the states is another excellent person to deal with and I have bought lots of stuff off him in the past few years 🙂 Henry Shires is always approachable and is willing to chat about gear even without the promise of a purchase which is great.

    Shame about Gossamer Gear, as some of their kit is exceptionally good. I would have hoped for them to be a bit more customer orientated and less bullish. Tarptent and MLD certainly wouldnt have dealt with your problem in the same way

    The Scarp looks a good bet but the Soulo is very nice! As an alrounder the Scarp wins but as a full on winter tent the Soulo is the best!

  5. Matt C says:

    Back in the good old days (the late 70’s / early 80’s in my case), there were great catalogues to browse to see far more gear than at any single local retailer. Hard to believe now but Field and Trek were the pick of the bunch – as well as top-notch walking/climbing/backpacking gear, they sold kit for mountain-biking, ski-touring and canoeing. They also sold *spares*, (ranging from new crampon straps to a rubber spigot for their own-brand water carrier), a concept almost unheard of in these current disposable times. The catalogue was quite a weightly affair and its dropping through the letterbox twice a year was a time of great excitement and anticipation. Of course the new items were interesting but it was also an era when you could expect to see numerous classic proven models cropping up unchanged year after year, without so much as a colour change to herald a ‘new season’.
    Cotswold Camping were snapping at F&Ts heels back then with their catalogue. Both of them only had 3 or 4 shops and were very regionally based at the time.Taunton Leisure and YHA Shops efforts were also worth a browse.
    Of course the internet has pretty-much replaced catalogues now, and is in many ways more sophisticated, but I feel a little nostalgia for the days of those excellent “reference work” catalogues and the outdoors market they embodied.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      I can remember the catalogue era for outdoor gear and as you say, hearing a plop on the doormat was received with great glee 🙂

      Its funny how things have changed and that the leading lights of outdoor gear have become the pile em high sell em cheap these days. Karrimor were THE brand way back when.

      Back then, there was nothing like going into a shop and browsing…sometimes most of an afternoon 🙂

  6. Ian Barton says:

    Still got my first daysack. A Karrimor Pinnacle, bought around 1973. I used to enjoy browsing the printed catalogues from F&T in the old days too. The best Internet company for returning stuff is Amazon. Fill in the form and it prints out a pre-paid returns label. All you have to do is post it. A few months ago one of my daughters bought a book, which it turned out the other daughter already had. Started the Amazon returns process and when I got to the final stage, Amazon just said “Don’t bother to return it. Have this one on us”. OK, it would probably have cost them more to process the return than letting us keep the book, but small things like that are what make customers keep coming back.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      love them or loathe them, Amazon are very good for returns. I had the same thing with a book recently and got two for the price of one when they sent the wrong one first


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