As much as it can hurt to pay for the high-end stuff, I highly recommend investing in the best outdoor gear you can afford. Not only will it last for longer than cheap gear, you'll also feel a big difference in fit and performance.
The good news is that if you have a good idea of what you want and a little time to work with, you can almost always get around paying full price. Just like any other type of shopping, you get the best deals on hiking gear in the shoulder seasons (look for <a href="http://hiking.about.com/od/Hiking-Clothing/tp/Dressing-For-A-Winter-Hike-Basic-Layering.htm">cold-weather gear</a> on closeout as winter's just winding down, ditto for summer). You can also get some great deals on outdoor gear if you're willing to shop last year's models, consider "seconds" with cosmetic blemishes, or even buy used.
Now the bad news: There are only 46 days left 'til Christmas, so if you're shopping for a hiker, you should already be looking for deals. If you wait until the last minute, you might end up paying full price. Start with this primer on where to get inexpensive outdoor gear.
Photo © Lisa Maloney: Quality hiking gear will take you almost anywhere.
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