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Save Money, Buy Last Year’s Travel Gear

This is an incredibly simple tip that could save you 50% or more on just about any technical piece of travel gear you intend to purchase new. By technical, I mean gear that is updated and improved by manufacturers on an almost yearly basis — things like cameras, boots, GPS devices, backpacks, laptop computers, smart [...]

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This is an incredibly simple tip that could save you 50% or more on just about any technical piece of travel gear you intend to purchase new. By technical, I mean gear that is updated and improved by manufacturers on an almost yearly basis — things like cameras, boots, GPS devices, backpacks, laptop computers, smart phones, all weather jackets and pants — the new, trendy, cool sort of gear. The sort of thing that when the new model comes out the old ones are rendered “obsolete.”

Getting high quality at a huge discount is incredibly easy, just buy last year’s stock.

The fact is that when a new product line comes out and renders the old one obsolete, old news — yesterday’s cool thing — it is an excellent opportunity to jump  in and grab the dregs that nobody else wants anymore for a fraction of the cost.  Only rarely are great advancements made in products from one year to the next — regardless of how they’re marketed.

Last year I purchased a fresh on the market Nikkon Coolpix S8100 camera. I bought this camera when it just came out because it had an awesome new feature that made it one of the fastest point and shoot digital cameras ever. I paid extra money because I truly needed this feature for my work, and it was not worth it to wait a year for the price to come down. I paid around $425 for this camera. It now sells online for $130. It’s the same exact awesome camera for less than a third of the cost.

(Read our review of the Coolpix S8100.)

But it is rare that the “new features” that are added to a new model of a products are as revolutionary as that of last year’s Coolpix camera. In fact, most new changes are rather superficial and truly do not advance the product very much. This year’s Coolpix camera, the S8200, just has a few extra megapixels and a slightly better zoom than its predecessor — truly nothing to upgrade for.

The Nikon Coolpix S8200 is almost identical to the S8100 model that it replaces, so a lot of the comments that we made about that camera apply equally to this latest release. -Photography blog review

This is the case with most product upgrades. The biggest difference between a newer and older model of a product is usually the price. Why pay $400 for the new Coolpix camera when you can get virtually the same camera for $130?

This rule can be applied to many articles of travel gear, from computers to boots to jackets. When in the market for high quality gear, look no further than last year’s stock.

How to find last year’s stock

Shop out of season

Knowing when to shop for what you want is a clutch way to get gear at a low price. Shop out of-season: buy your winter gear in spring and your summer gear in the autumn. I just picked up a truly awesome, super fabric, jacket that once listed for $250 for fifty bucks the last time I went through the USA because I dug through an outlet store for their left over winter gear. Before going to Iceland I bought a pair of $200 Nike Gore Tex all weather hiking boots for $40 just because I went shopping for them in the middle of summer.  So when you’re in the market for weather relevant gear, shop out of season.

Use salespeople as guides but don’t buy from them

It is often it is difficult to pick up last year’s stock in a brick and mortar store. All too often the old stock just isn’t there anymore by the time you show up. But these stores can be useful none the less. Go and check out the current model for what you’re looking for, fumble around with it, then inquire with a sales person about the previous models.  Then go and buy the old one online.

Read about product history

You want to know how to find older models of products? Just do an internet search for an item’s product history. All too often, electronics etc . . . are run in a yearly series with each new model supposedly replacing the one that preceded it. So find a model line that you what to try out then look for last year’s stock. Chances are, if a newer version of a product is out on the market the older ones are selling dirt cheap.


In most cases, if something was good last year it should be good this one as well. Don’t be lured in by the “newer is better” mentality. Newer is often better, but, in most cases, not by much. I would not pay hundreds of dollars more to have a few extra gadgets on an electronic device if the basics are the same as a vastly cheaper, older model. Who cares if a camera has a few extra megapixels? Does it really matter if a rain jacket isn’t made with the most cutting edge materials if it still keeps you dry? Who cares if you use a cheap, bottom of the bucket $200 laptop if it does everything you need it to do. Using old models of products is not very cool — you’re not going to impress your friends with last year’s gadgets — but on the open road this doesn’t matter in the least. $200 saved is 15 more days of traveling this world.

It truly pays to buy old models of otherwise expensive travel gear.


Filed under: Save Money for Travel, Travel Gear, Travel Tips

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

4 comments… add one

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  • Martin Pietrzak May 29, 2012, 7:55 am

    Hehe, you will get sales folks out of business. You may start receive hate mail soon.

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    • Wade Shepard May 31, 2012, 3:41 am

      Haha, for sure. They’re going to have to stand in line behind a bunch of other people on the hate mail front though. I think a good sales person can be an indispensable source of knowledge, it’s just too bad that the stores they work for sell products for more than what a consumer can get them online. The brink and mortar store is excellent, as you can go in and play with the gadgets and try them out. It’s almost too bad that the same products can be purchased far cheaper online.

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  • trevor July 20, 2012, 4:29 am

    another great article……

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    • Wade Shepard July 20, 2012, 4:59 am


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