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How to Get Pro Deals & Discounted Outdoor Gear

Last Updated: November 3, 2022
Close-up on intermediate climber tying her shoelace

One of the most difficult things about being in the outdoor industry is being able to shell out hundreds of dollars on expensive outdoor gear every time you need something new. One way around that is to scavenge thrift stores religiously, but that doesn’t always pay off. You can look on websites that sell old gear that is just leftover from bigger sites, but that is just gear that people didn’t want for a (usually) good reason.

A quick way to save a huge chunk of change on outdoor gear is to find and enroll in outdoor pro deals that make everything drastically more affordable. Pro deals, or professional deals, are for people that work in the industry and make gear much more affordable for outdoor professionals. 

There are brands that do pro deals for every kind of gear you can think of. There’s mountaineering, climbing, hiking, skiing, but there’s also thermoses, chairs, and even guns. Chances are good there's a pro deal program with exactly what you are looking for.

Okay, getting 60% off my next purchase sounds great, but that doesn’t really make getting a pro deal that much easier. There’s a lot more to it. Sometimes it can be a simple application process, but sometimes there’s a lot more to it as well. Either way, let’s dive in to start exploring the ways that help outdoor industry professionals keep doing what they love.

Key Takeaways
  • Pro deal programs help outdoor professionals afford the gear they need to do their job.
  • It is more worth it to go thrifting or diving deep into the internet to find the best sales rather than buying something new.
  • Brands offer discounts as high as fifty percent, which is entirely worth it.
  • Look out for no return policies and tricky situations when reading fine print.
  • The absolute best way to find pro deals and other discounts are through talking to the experienced people in your industry.

What is a Pro Deal?

A pro deal is a way for every outdoor brand to help out outdoor professionals to get the gear that they need in order to do their jobs. Essentially, it’s a discount applied to some, or all, of the brand’s gear. The caveat is, they are only for industry professionals that need the gear from these outdoor brands that often sell gear too expensive for them to afford.

Every brand decides who they give out their pro deals to. This often varies depending on what the brand is selling. For example, some brands offer discounts to emergency responders, law enforcement, or military personnel. There are often great pro deals available for people who work outside in any capacity.

One of the dangers of pro deals is your friends finding out that you have it. All of a sudden, people will be asking you left and right to buy certain pieces of gear that they can’t afford because you have the greatest discount of all time. It can be hard but don’t give in to the temptation. Pro deals come along with certain restrictions.

  • It’s meant for you, and you alone: Using your pro deal for friends and family can seem like an easy solution to everyone’s problems. Unfortunately, the brands are paying attention to the sizing and gender clothing you are buying. If they ever get a whiff of you purchasing gear for others, you can quickly lose the deal.
  • Don’t buy and sell: There are systems set in place to make sure that people aren’t using their pro deals to buy cheap gear and then make a profit on Craigslist or other back alley transactions. Respect the brand, keep the gear to yourself.
  • Product limits do exist: Some brands will place restrictions on how many pieces of gear you can buy in a year. Some others will limit their deals to certain products, leaving others at their full price.
  • The deal comes and it goes: The discounts are reserved for people actively working full-time or part-time in the industry. That means, they have an expiration date and often need renewed so the company can make sure you are still working outside.

Why Do Companies Offer Pro Deals?

There are a lot of reasons why companies offer pro deals. It seems like it could be a loss for them, but most of these big companies are usually doing pretty well for themselves, and selling some of their gear at a discount doesn’t make a dent in their revenue stream. That being said, they can be protective of these deals as it can be easily compared to getting a password into a secret club.

So, if there isn’t money in it for them, why do it?

  • Supporting the Industry: Certain brands are doing what they do because they believe in the work that’s getting done. They want to provide gear to all of the people working hard in the outdoors and recognize that it isn’t often a well-paying gig. In a way, this is the company offering a way for people who don’t make much money working outside to be able to afford the gear they need to then continue working outside. 
  • Advertisement: When a company offers their product to an outdoor guide or other professional, that means it’s getting worn and shown off on the front lines. Everyone in the tour group, or the outdoor class, or the gathered crowd is seeing the gear with the brand’s logo proudly displayed. They start to think that if they want to climb a mountain, they may also need that jacket. It’s real life product placement. 
  • Improving their Products: Some brands truly value the opinion of their users and ask for product feedback. Brands like Mystery Ranch, a magnificent backpack company, encourage their professionals to put their bags to the true test. That means asking everyone to be as harsh as possible on the packs to identify any possible weaknesses. For a company that prides itself on having the most durable packs out there, this is a great way to improve their product. (Let me really quickly advocate for this brand as I am part of their Pro Purchase Program. It’s the best. I am horribly tough on gear and both of my Mystery Ranch packs are still standing strong after wearing them for literal years in the backcountry.)

How do Pro Deals Work?

Most brands make finding their pro deal or pro purchase program an easy task. Often, just throw the brand name and “pro deal” or “pro purchase program” into Google together, and voila! Many brands will have different application requirements and processes. Some require that you include a pay stub and proof of employment, but some are a bit more flexible.

For the most part, you’ll need to apply to different brands individually through their pro purchase program’s website. This will take you straight into the discounted deals and only show you what is available to you.

There are also a couple of pro deal portals that make getting a wide variety of brands at a great discount easy. These are great resources to find a huge number of products in just about every possible category. 

There are some big name brands as well as more unheard of brands that use these portals to get their name out. We’ll talk a bit more about specifics on these portals later on. 

Who Qualifies for Pro Deals?

We’ve already talked a bit about who gets to reap the benefit of all these pro deal programs, but there are a lot of different programs out there that serve a lot of different people. For the most part, it’s for people in outdoor recreation positions.

This includes anyone working for an outdoor apparel manufacturer, an outdoor retailer, ski patrol, outdoor educators, anyone in the hunting industry, and many more.

There’s also a wide acceptance of government employees, specifically forest service employees. Many brands serve more than just outdoor guides and are geared towards active military members, first responders, and other rescue professionals.

The fully honest truth is, you just need to check with the brand to find out if you qualify. Many brands will cover a wide range of industries, but some are specific to the outdoor industry and outdoor guides. It all depends, and it’s always worth checking to see if you fit the bill. 

How to Apply for Pro Deals

Each pro program will have its own application process, but there are a lot of similarities between them. It’s best to go into the process with everything you need handy and can get approved as quickly as possible.

First off, don’t go applying for pro deals on the same day you want to buy gear. Chances are good you won’t get approved (if you do) for a couple of days. Some brands will take weeks to sift through all of the applications they have pending, and you just need to have patience. You’ll get to spend all of your money soon enough.

It’s good to gather all the information you’ll need. Go ahead and make sure you have proof of employment, a pay stub, any identification, and your program email address handy. It’s likely that you’ll get asked for at least one of these, if not all of them, at every brand’s site.

There are several different routes to take to apply for pro purchase programs. We’ll hit on each one quickly in order to give you the whole spread of options and opportunities to take into consideration when starting the process.

Brand-Direct Pro Programs

This is exactly what I was talking about when I recommended heading to Google and putting the brand’s name alongside some variation of a pro program. These will take you to specific brands and a lot of them, like Arc’Teryx, Black Diamond, and prAna all require you to complete this separate application. These brands have been providing outdoor professionals with the gear they need for years, but now do it at discounted prices.

The gear discounts that you get through this pro deal application process are often the best. These brands are usually the big outdoor industry partners that you see all across the board of outdoor recreation work. They aren't really found on sites like Outdoor ProLink. They want you to purchase gear directly from them, but still save money doing it with their pro pricing. Other brands will resort to tagging onto a big portal.

Join Pro Deal Portals

Pro deal portals are a collaborative effort that brings hundreds of brands into one place for you to apply and qualify for getting the best discount on some of the best gear out there. Some of these portals include top-name brands like Outdoor Research, Mountain Hardwear, and Rab. The pro deal application process for these portals is often simple and you get the discounted price quickly.

Through the portal, you can gain access to each site’s program and sometimes can do your shopping straight through the portal. There's always a good deal to be found on these portals through several brands. You just need to be able to scan through and pick out the best. The approval process is quick and you get a lot of the top brands and the best gear available, but there can also be a lot of junk.

Two of the best and most popular portals are Outdoor ProLink and ExpertVoice. These portals accept a wide range of professions and can sort out the brands that are available to you depending on what profession you work in. They will often require that you join a certain group, which would be your employer or through a general group for what you do. 

Employee and Corporate Discount Programs

Some brands require that you go through your company in order to get the huge discount they offer. For example, NRS will require a company to ship to and function through in order for its employees to make purchases. This is often just a safety measure to ensure that people aren’t abusing the programs and flipping gear or buying for others. 

Big companies and outdoor retail employees will also get some of the brands at a discount that is just through the company itself. They find gear in the store they work in, and many companies still provide a small discount, but they don't often match up with pro sales.

Military, First Responder, and Media Discount Programs

Discount programs for those outside of the outdoor industry are often done through various other portals or on brand-specific sites. These are more often brands that make specialized gear, such as tactical wear, that will best serve a small niche. These pro deals can easily be found through your employer and also through the same route you take for brand-direct programs.

With these, you likely won’t get a lot of great camping gear or backpacking gear, but you will find the clothing and other gear that will help you perform on the job. 

Government Employee Discount Programs

There are hundreds of businesses that provide discounts for federal employees rather than just selling outdoor gear. A pro deal program for law enforcement or industry professionals in other places will sometimes be through outdoor brands but are often many other companies that sell gear more related to their positions. 

This is on almost anything you can think of, as it isn’t restricted to being related to your profession. All major cell phone providers have huge discounts available for government workers, as long as you have your government email address handy.

These programs are easy to be seen as a thank you to our government workers or law enforcement. They are working to provide for us, so these brands are giving back and allowing for them to get things at a discount. You can find web portals that take you to a huge number of businesses that provide this help with a quick online search. 

Guidelines for Pro Deals

To get such a great deal on the exclusive offers of pro programs, you have to follow the rules and make sure that this is a mutually beneficial relationship. Outdoor gear is hard to make and companies that make outdoor gear well usually put a lot of effort into it. 

These aren't huge clothing manufacturers that just pump out cheap hunting gear or hiking gear. They partner with the best clothing manufacturers in the world to make the best outdoor gear in the world to then offer it at a discounted price to professionals. It's something that needs to be respected.

We’ve already mentioned most of the guidelines that pro deals have that restrict what you can and cannot do with them. There are some companies that have different deals written in for people that want to use their discount to provide for their families. 

For example, prAna has friends and family discounts that their ambassadors can use. This way, nobody gets caught using their deal for others, but still can help their families get high-quality clothes at a low price. Even qualified outdoor professionals feel the stress of money and the temptation to take advantage of these incentive programs. Just don't do it.

Most brands reserve the right to ban you from their program entirely if it is abused. It’s best to think about acceptance into these programs like a privilege, and you need to behave appropriately in order to maintain that privilege. If you don’t follow the rules, they won’t hesitate to kick you to the curb. 

Hallmarks of a Strong Pro Deal Program

A good pro deal program will have a couple of things to look out for when you’re shopping around.

  • A discount that’s worth it: Sometimes outdoor gear is so expensive that a ten percent discount doesn’t even make a dent. At that point, it’s more worth it to go thrifting or diving deep into the internet to find the best sales rather than buying something new. Some brands offer discounts as high as fifty percent. To me, that’s entirely worth it and I can barely ever find sales that are that good other than the jackpot at a thrift store. 
  • Flexibility with returns: One way that brands can get to you through the pro program is by not allowing returns, or having high restrictions on them. Look out for this and make sure that you are able to return what you buy. There’s often a difficulty with buying things online and sizing things correctly, so the option to return it is necessary. 
  • No fine print: Some brands are sneaky and can include a lot of things in the fine print that is making you agree to a lot more than you originally thought you signed on for. Read the fine print and make sure you aren’t getting into a tricky situation. 

How to Find Discounts and Pro Deals

The absolute best way to find pro deals and other discounts are through talking to the experienced people in your industry. They’ve been at it for a while and have figured out the best ways to keep on doing it.

This often means they’ve cracked the code on pro deal programs, as it’s one of the only ways that outdoor guides can afford to keep doing what they’re doing. 

If you’re on your own, simply use the internet. 

Every brand will have information on their pro programs and if they don’t have it readily accessible on their website, they probably don’t have a pro program. 

Professional Gear at Professional Prices

No professional should need to fork over an arm and a leg to get the gear that they need to perform their job. Unfortunately, this is often the case in the outdoor industry. The gear is pricey, but the jobs don’t pay much. It’s a real issue that can often keep people from coming back to the job they love. 

Pro deal programs help these workers to continue following their dreams and work the job they love, rather than the one that just pays well. Check out these pro-purchase programs, as they may end up being a job saver. 

Outdoor Pro Deals FAQs

Here are our answers to your most commonly asked questions about pro deals outdoor gear:

Is Outdoor Prolink Legit?

Outdoor ProLink is a great source for finding discounted gear for professionals. It is widely used by many in the outdoor industry and is completely legit. It requires its customers to be approved and show proof of their employment, ensuring that they are only providing these discounts for professionals, which allows them to stay in business.

How Do I Get an Outdoor Prolink Account?

If you’re eligible for an Outdoor ProLink account, all you need to do is create an account and send over proof of applicable employment. They are typically pretty great about getting to your request quickly and will have you shopping in no time.

Does Rei Offer a Pro Deal?

Because REI is already a Co-op, they don’t offer deals to many professionals. They have worked with ExpertVoice, but getting this pro deal is unlikely to work out. They do offer significant deals for their employees and utilizing the garage sale as a member is a great way to save big on REI products.

Ian Standard is an outdoor educator and wilderness guide based in Anchorage, Alaska. Most recently, he worked part-time at Alaska Crossings, a wilderness program for at-risk youth, and is currently studying for a Master of Science in Outdoor & Environmental Education at Alaska Pacific University.
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