Buying gear can be an overwhelming experience—especially if you are new to hunting. The hunting gear industry has boomed in recent years giving us many new options for rifles, clothing, tools, blinds, treestands, saddles, packs, footwear, and anything else you take into the field while chasing game. While the multitude of options is great for driving prices down and innovation, it makes it difficult to know whether you’re buying a quality product or something that won’t last for a whole season. This article is meant to be a short primer on what to look for to make sure you’re buying gear that will stand the test of time and also not spending more than necessary.
Buy Once, Cry Once
100 years ago, most products were manufactured in the United States by craftsmen who were experts at their trade. Items were built with quality materials and made to last. Flash forward to 2020 and we are bombarded with ads for cheap products meant to be used and disposed of. There is still quality being manufactured. The United States, some European countries, Japan, and yes even China are all countries that are capable of making quality goods. The problem is, you will have to pay for that quality. Products that cost more also tend to have better warranties. The manufacturers can confidently support their products knowing they were made better, and they also build the price of support into the price of the product. While it can be a bummer to save up for months to buy something, it is almost always better to go for the product made to a better standard. For example, If you spend $30 on a cheap hunting knife, you may be replacing it every year or two as the blade becomes damaged beyond repair, breaks, or requires constant resharpening. A knife from a quality manufacturer may cost $120, but you will probably still be using that knife 10 years from now. It will hold its edge better making it safer to use and will perform better when field dressing game. So, while the cheaper option may seem less expensive upfront, it will almost always add up to more in the long run as you have to replace it frequently and deal with the frustration of using a poorly made product.
Trust Recommendations Over Reviews
Online reviews on manufacturers websites or large retailers are a dime a dozen these days. There have been countless instances of companies paying for positive reviews to drive up the rating of a product. While I still look at reviews before buying a piece of gear, I use them as a starting point to product research, rather than the deciding factor. I have gotten much better information on gear from personal recommendations of friends, outfitters and guides, and also videos and blogs where the reviewer is not paid to review the item. You also have to sort of get good at adding up information from different sources about a product to try to form an overall impression.
When In Doubt Test It Out
At the end of the day, you can research reviews, talk to people who’ve used a product, and pay more quality, but ultimately it’s hard to really get a feel for some gear until you have it in hand. This is where it pays to shop from retailers with liberal return policies such as Cabela’s, REI, LL Bean, and others who allow you to return used gear if you’re not satisfied with it. I mentioned warranties before but cannot overstate the importance of buying gear from companies who offer support for their products. Especially on items such as firearms and treestands which generally are prohibited from returns. Even the best made and most expensive gear can have defects from time to time and it can greatly increase your confidence if you know you won’t be stuck with a dud.