In preparation for our new EDC Gear on a Budget series, we did quite a bit of research on how and where to find the best deals. It’s hardly difficult to find off-brand or knock-off items, but we’re of the mind that if you’re going to spend money, you should spend it on things you love. (After all, that’s one of the commandments in our everyday carry manifesto.) As much as we love gear, we love it for how it makes our lives better; we don’t like encouraging mindless consumerism, and, when possible, we’re all about gear made in the U.S.A. But when that’s not always an option for our wallets, we still prioritize quality, functionality and design.
Here are some of our tips for finding great, affordable gear.
- Buy blemished knives and tools. Found online or at shows, vendors sell “near perfect” knives that the manufacturer determined were not up to standards to ship or sell. These factory blemishes–commonly referred to as “blems”–often mean that there are minimal issues with a knife, usually undetectable by the average person. Unless you’re a hardcore collector, this is a great way to build a collection for less than full price, and you don’t have to feel bad about accumulating some wear-and-tear on your knives. (It’s similar in nature to buying refurbished laptops or smartphones.)
- Exchange gear in online swaps. The share economy is alive and well on the internet, especially through resources like gear forums or networks like Instagram. Many gear lovers are willing to swap items for others, meaning that you can occasionally score hard-to-find gear and declutter your collection at the same time. Those who recently switched gear or made new purchases are often willing to sell or trade their old items.
- Visit trade shows. Trade shows allow customers to see products up close and handle items before making a purchase. Sellers at shows are often willing to barter, especially on the last days where they need to pare down their inventory. Some vendors just sell the knives, not the box, which can also save you a few dollars. It’s also a great way to meet the artisans and buy directly–and sometimes you can work out a deal on custom items.
- Buy from online resellers. Sites like Amazon.com and KnifeDepot.com have good deals on gear that was sold in bulk–and shipping is usually much cheaper, or sometimes free (especially if you have Amazon Prime, which we highly recommend.) In fact, our knife picks for Tuesday’s EDC budget knives roundup were found on resellers, often for much cheaper than the company websites. Some company websites won’t sell direct to customers, either, so there’s no loss going through a third party.
- Enter in promotional giveaways or brick-and-mortar specials. Entering in contests or raffles is never a guarantee, but most popular gear brands offer frequent opportunities to win free swag. Most of these giveaways don’t require much–typically signing up for a newsletter, but who doesn’t like getting some fun gear-centric emails every now and then? (Or maybe that’s just me.)
- Check websites often for discounts. Throughout the year, many companies offer major discounts on normally full-priced items. This is most common at the start of a new season, where new items are added to the inventory, and the old is sold off discounted to make room. It’s worth waiting a few months if a particularly pricey item might eventually be within your grasp.
- Shop at the thrift store. It’s amazing to see the things people part with, but hey, we don’t judge. Always peruse the tool cabinets, home goods section and purse racks at thrift stores–you never know what you might find. It might not be pristine, but anything you’ll find will be significantly cheaper, and will come embedded with a bit of history, too.
Photo / Max Barñers