Outdoor and camping gear is where a lot of this cost can hide. You may feel you have to pay retail price or buy one of everything. In reality, there are a lot of ways you can save. Here are some sporting goods and camping supply stores that offer Scout discounts, as well as some tips and tricks for saving money during your Boy Scout journey.
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Retailers with Discounts for Scouts
Hiker Direct: Register once with this company and you’ll receive special discounts on tents, sleeping bags and other camping supplies.
Gander Mtn: Visit in store and show your Boy Scout membership card to receive a 10% discount.
Coleman: This direct link helps you register for discounts on all Coleman products through their website.
Dick’s Sporting Goods: Find a store near you and go in person to get a 10% discount with your Scout ID card.
Great Outdoor Provision Co.: Here’s a chain located in North Carolina and Virginia that offers up to 25% discount through their Scouts Benefits Program.
Moosejaw: You can get a 10% discount if you visit a Moosejaw store in Illinois, Michigan, Colorado or Missouri.
O.A.R.S.: Here you can sign up to save up to 30% on guided rafting and wildlife exploration packages.
Promotive: If you qualify to register as a brand influencer, you can get access to top gear averaging discounts of 45% off.
L.L. Bean: L.L. Bean offers discounts if you plan to purchase equipment that will be owned by the troop itself.
Cabella’s: Cabella’s offers a 10% discount but requires you to show your troop’s checkbook. This can help the whole troop save at once.
Discounts at KOA Campgrounds: These campgrounds are very affordable at $5 per Scout for RV and tent sites and 10% off cabin accommodations.
Eastern Mountain Sports: Twice a year, this company has “Club Days” to give 20% or more discounts to those in outdoors clubs like the Boy Scouts.
Campmor: If you submit an order to Campmor as a troop, you can save 10%. Their website also lists some good essentials to get started.
REI Outlet: You can get very high quality REI products for up to 60% off if you find what you need at the right time. You can also sign up for a lifetime membership for $20 that will score you lots of discounts on their regular website.
Canyoneering USA: A troop leader can order Imlay Canyon Gear products at a 20% discount if the item will be used by the troop the majority of the time.
Other Ways to Save
Boys’ Life: This is the archive for the official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. If you cannot afford a current subscription, you can still learn a lot from these older issues.
The Equipment Trader: Check this site to trade in old uniforms for a nice set of used ones.
Gear Trade: Sell your old outdoor gear and look at buying some used gear at a steep discount.
Sell Your Collection: Get advice from some professionals about selling or consigning your collection for some extra cash for Scout activities.
Tips for Being a Boy Scout on a Budget
Some of these tips can help individual scouts while others help the troop as a group. Either way, it’s important to plan before incurring expenses and to seek help from a troop leader when needed. They may have additional resources and ideas to save you money. Troop leaders can network with other troop leaders for tips as well.
Sign up for Loyalty Cards: Sportsman’s Warehouse, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sports Authority and other retail stores offer rewards programs. Every time you make a purchase there, you can accumulate points that can be redeemed for discounts or free items.
To make theses points accumulate faster, you’ll want to do most of your shopping at the same retail chain rather than having cards at two or more. Figure out which store has the better prices or more frequent sales. You can also look at how the rewards points are redeemed to make your decision.
Sign up for Costco or Sam’s Club: These big box stores have an annual fee, but if your family or troop gets one you can recoup the fee and then some pretty quickly thanks to their steep discounts. Costco costs about $55 while Sam’s Club costs $45. You can stock up on gear like tents and sleeping bags, clothing, and even food for camping trips.
Coordinate with Your Scouts: Come up with a master list of what you need for each outdoor activity. Make sure each Scout knows what they’re responsible for bringing for themselves. Equipment that can be used by more than one person doesn’t necessarily need to be bought twice if everyone plans together.
Don’t Fall for Branding: You probably don’t need special camping cooking tools, thermoses, or blankets. If you have a household version of an item, ask yourself if you really need the “camping” version.
You can also skip the expensive boots, coats and backpacks. Read reviews online and you’re sure to find serviceable versions of these products that cost far less than the more expensive brands you’d find in a sporting goods store.
Take Advantage of Thrift Stores: Warm clothes don’t have to be name-brand. You can layer up with some old long-sleeved shirts and sweats from a Goodwill or a Salvation Army store. Also check out their brand new packages of socks, hats, gloves and other cold weather accessories.
Flea markets and swap markets are great opportunities for deals, too.
Buy Used: Scope out garage and yard sales for used outdoors equipment. You may also be able to find deals on Craigslist for things like tents, lanterns, cookers, and more. Remember that even if something requires a little cleaning or some minor repairs, the amount you save will really add up.
Make Your List: Having to buy forgotten items at a local gas station or park visitor center can cost you way more. At the very least, have a first aid kit that includes allergy medicine, extra bug spray, antibiotic ointment, cortisone cream, bandages, etc. Also make sure you bring enough water, preferably in big coolers rather than plastic water bottles.
Groupon: Check out Groupon regularly for limited time deals on outdoorsman equipment. Their Sports and Outdoors section under Goods has clothing, pocket knives, hiking backpacks, portable heaters and more.
Also check out their Getaways section. Their Outdoor Adventures packages include lodges that specialize in fishing, hiking and exploring. Some deals even include airfare.
Make and Repair Your Own Gear: There are tutorials online and in Scout books. Camp stoves, for instance, can be improvised with materials you may already have at home. Walking sticks, canoe paddles, trip boxes and clothing can also commonly be made cheaper at home.
Repairing your gear can also come in handy. Simple sewing skills repair tents, sleeping bags, coats and pants. Duct tape can fix a lot of things, too. Save by repairing instead of replacing whenever possible.
Rent Equipment: It can be worthwhile to rent camping gear from a local sporting goods store. This gives you a chance to save money in the short term and also to try out new gear before you invest. You may also be able to purchase used rental gear at a discount.
Host a Budget Meeting: To gather more ideas on where to save, see if you can organize a troop meeting to go over the troop budget and some sample personal budgets. Ask others for their tips on saving or resources where they’ve found good deals. This is also a good time to bring up swapping equipment and uniforms.
Consider a Fundraiser: Most troops run annual fundraisers, but it may be possible to add a second fundraiser.. Decide what the troop needs money for first. Keep in mind that Scout bylaws prevent direct money donations. New IRS rules from 2014 also prevent personal Scout accounts. All funds raised must go to a central troop account that can be used for troop expenses.
Consider fundraising troop-owned tents and sleeping bags, which help Scouts who cannot afford their own. Or your troop can fundraise for the cost of a summer camp or hiking trip.
Ask About Financial Aid: Troop leaders usually have resources and contacts for filing for financial aid. If a Scout’s parents are approved, they may have some or all of their registration and other fees waived.
Visit Your Local Public Library: Instead of buying outdoor and Boy Scout themed books, borrow them from the library for free. Many branches now let your rent books for free over a Kindle, tablet or other e-reader.