Where to Shop for Stylish Travel Gear
First off, I LOVE shopping. But when I quit my job to travel full time, my shopping expectations changed significantly. I’d sold or donated most of my possessions, and now everything I own serves an active purpose. So when it’s time to replace a backpack or pair of shoes, I want stylish, quality stuff that will withstand the demands of traveling life.
I prefer shopping in store for most of my clothes, but travel gear shopping is faster, easier, and almost ALWAYS cheaper online, plus you can read reviews of an item before you make a purchase.
Here I’ve listed my three favorite online retailers for stylish travel gear.
While I buy few day-to-day clothing items at REI, it’s HANDS DOWN my top choice for backpacks, camping gear, and sportswear. And that’s because 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. Lastly, if you prefer shopping in store rather than online, that’s an option with REI, unlike the other sites listed here.
I’ve held onto most of my REI purchases over the years, but I’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 a drop in price).
My favorite stylish travel gear purchases from REI:
- JanSport Onyx Watchtower Daypack
- Exofficio undies
- Lucy Hatha leggings (read my review)
- Sea to Summit packable daypack
- Eagle Creek Specter Starter Packing cube set
- Packable rain jacket and rain pants
- Merrell Pace Glove 2 cross-training shoes
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 I 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.
My favorite stylish travel gear purchases from Zappos:
- Women’s Merrell Decora Chant winter boots (read my review)
- High Sierra Wheeled Carry-on (read my review on North to South)
- Mele & Co travel jewelry case (read my review)
- Note: All three of these items are either no longer available on Zappos or are now cheaper on Amazon.
In third place, there’s Amazon, which is basically a catch-all for everything I 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.
My favorite stylish travel gear purchases from Amazon:
- Sony RX-100 III digital camera
- LED lights, dust masks, and loads of other random stuff for Burning Man
Now it’s my turn to ask you! Who gets the bulk of your travel shopping business?
- Diana is an outspoken, DIY-ing, star-chasing, hockey-loving, dog-owning, veggie-eating professional wanderer. And that's not the half of it. Not long ago she jumped ship from a comfy, predictable American life, sold all her stuff, and set out to explore the unknown. Now a full-time traveler, Diana believes that spontaneity, a smile, and an organized suitcase are the three key elements to a happy nomadic existence. Follow her personal travels on North To South.