Where We Shop (and Why)

Our Go-To Websites for Travel Gear Shopping

First off, I LOVE shopping (this is Diana talking). But when we quit our jobs to travel full time, my shopping expectations changed significantly. We’d sold or donated most of our possessions, and now everything we own serves an active purpose. So when it’s time to replace a backpack or pair of shoes, I want quality stuff that will withstand the demands of our traveling life.

We lowered our shopping budget but raised our standards.

When we’re searching for travel gear or gadgets, I prefer to shop online. It’s faster, easier, and almost ALWAYS cheaper, plus returns can be easier than shopping in-store. And that’s especially true if you know the good places to shop.

Below are our three favorite online retailers for shopping travel gear. Do you shop on any of these three sites?


REI is HANDS DOWN our top choice for backpacks, camping gear, and sportswear. Our main reason? REI’s return policy is absolutely unbeatable.

With REI’s 100% satisfaction guarantee, you can return items for any reason within one year of purchase for a full refund, and items with manufacturing defects can be returned at any time. Sounds pretty good so far, right?

REI offers some fantastic membership benefits, too. You don’t have to be a member to shop at REI with their 100% satisfaction guarantee, but it’d be silly not to. You pay a one-time fee of $20 to become a member, and then you get 10% back in purchase credit each year. Your purchase history is stored with your membership number, so you don’t even need to keep your receipt nor an item’s tags to return an item. While gear at REI will likely cost you more than what you’ll find at Wal-Mart or Target, REI’s return policy creates an environment where you can shop confidently for quality stuff, never needing to worry about making a bad investment in your travel gear. And we don’t ALWAYS shop online with REI. If we’re in the States, we’ll definitely shop in-store.

We’ve held onto most of our REI purchases over the years, but we’ve returned several items, too: Big Agnes tent (returned after several uses, several months after purchase, due to a sticky zipper), sleeping pad (returned due to a slow, impossible-to-locate leak), Snow Peak stove (exchanged due to a broken igniter, and actually received money back due to drop in price).

Some of our favorite travel gear purchases from REI:

REI Half Dome 2 Plus Tent pitched in Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky
Kentucky, September 2015 // REI Half Dome 2 Plus tent purchased at REI


This is my second favorite place to shop for travel gear, but my absolute favorite online shoe store. That’s because Zappos offers FREE SHIPPING AND RETURNS!

Returns at Zappos DO need to be sent back in their original condition, but for shoes, I think that’s reasonable. Even REI discourages used shoe returns (though we have found some fairly worn shoes at REI’s garage sales before). Zappos’s return timeframe is pretty killer, too. You have up to 365 days to return your unworn shoes! Since returns are sent via standard shipping, refunds can take time and depend on how long it takes your return to arrive at the warehouse. After it arrives, it’ll take up to 10 days for your credit to show up (3 for processing your return and 7 for the credit to appear on your account. More info on Zappos’s return policy here.

Some of our favorite travel gear purchases from Zappos:

Diana Southern in Alaska
Alaska, October 2015 // Jack by BB Dakota jacket and Merrell boots ordered from Zappos.com


In third place, we’ve got Amazon, which is basically our catch-all for everything we can’t find on REI or Zappos. You can BUY ALMOST ANYTHING on Amazon.com.

There are, of course, some things that I don’t like about Amazon. There are tons of vendors on Amazon, including some that are overseas. If you’re not careful to scrutinize who you’re buying from, you may end up ordering from China or from a vendor with an unfavorable history in customer service. I always make sure to click on the seller’s profile before making a purchase from a new vendor on Amazon. However, because there are so many competing vendors on Amazon, prices for particular items are often lower. It’s pretty easy to find a good deal on Amazon.

Our Favorite Travel Gear Purchases from Amazon:

Burning Man 2014 sunset portraits on the playa on northtosouth.us
Burning Man 2014 // Goggles, dust mask, camera pouch all purchased on Amazon.com

That’s it. Those are our favorites. And now it’s my turn to ask you! Who gets the bulk of your travel shopping business?

Like this post? You may also like Our Travel Essentials.

Our Travel Essentials: our favorite travel gear, gadgets and wear


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *