By Mark Lebetkin
The Active Times

As much as we at The Active Times like to plug this or that new, cool piece of equipment or article of clothing, we know the prices can stop you cold in your tracks. How much for that Arc'teryx jacket, again?

It's the dirty, if open, secret of the outdoors business: Going outside may be free, but gear is expensive.
In many cases buying used gear or simply renting it on a one-off basis will take care of that problem, but it's when you’re looking to outfit yourself with the right clothing and gear that will last that things get hairy. It might be time to start combing the Web for deals.

Finding a decent price isn’t necessarily hard -- if you know what you're looking for, and where to look. All-purpose sites like Google Shopping, Amazon and even Overstock.com can be useful for comparison shopping and the occasional surprise bargain, but they’re not ideal for core enthusiasts who want to compare specs and brands, and they don't always dig up the deepest discounts or flash sales.

That’s why we decided to share some of our favorite places to shop for bargains. Taken together, these websites sell everything you need for the activities you love.

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Some are modeled on old-school "outlets" that sell overstock, discontinued gear and seconds, which are items that have minor cosmetic damage. At these online stores, inventory for a given sport -- say, skiing -- changes with the season. Last year's gear often goes for a steal right before retailers have to make room for the new stuff.

As with physical outlet stores, the selection is often limited: you find odd sizes, colors that nobody else wanted, and slightly different versions of your desired make or model. But oftentimes these outlets have good-enough approximations of the right thing at half the price, so who’s complaining?

But if it’s something specific you’re after, we included a few sites with generous price-matching guarantees. So if, for example, Campmor has the best price on a particular Mountain Hardwear sleeping bag, you can see if a price-matching competitor like evo has the same item and get it for 5 percent less.

There are also a handful of online retailers that specialize in flash sales -- think Groupon or LivingSocial -- targeted at a core audience. These so-called “one deal at a time” sites (a misnomer), including The Clymb and SteepAndCheap.com, have rotating collections of heavily discounted gear from brands like Columbia and Oakley, but you have to catch the right sale on the right day. Sign up for alerts and you’ll be ready when your must-have jacket goes on sale.

And lastly -- although it's first on our list -- we included a great comparison-shopping site for active junkies that gives you cash back on every purchase. You can use it is a portal into other sites on the list to add to your savings.

For the complete list of Best Online Retailers For Buying Cheap Gear, go to TheActiveTimes.com.

More Stories from The Active Times:
-- The 25 Best Running Shoes of 2013
-- The Best Sleeping Bags for Backyard and Backcountry Camping
-- 12 Go-Anywhere Power Sources for Your iPhone, Tablet and Must-Have Gadgets
-- 13 Survival Myths That Could Kill You

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