When I go through either of my local travel gear retail stores, I'm underwhelmed by the clearance rack. No matter what time of year it is, I never seem to find the kind of "Make room for new inventory!" screaming bargains that you find at a mall clothing store, T.J. Maxx, or Kohl's.
Apparently the strategy is to ship that stuff back to the warehouse and then offer it online, because that's where the real deals are. With the economy in the crapper and people definitely not in a free-spending mood, the overstocks runneth over. Here are a few places to find last year's model on the cheap.
At Overstock.com, the site name fits the inventory. If somebody else couldn't sell it or a company went on the auction block, Overstock buys the items in bulk on the cheap and then sells them well below retail. It's a crap shoot with some types of travel gear, but you'll always find loads of electronics and camping gear. Sample deals in the clearance bin: women's MIA holiday sandals for $15, a Kodak 5MP Easyshare camera for $74.
REI Outlet is the purgatory where their retail goodies apparently go after they collected dust on the sales floor. Here you know you're going to get quality brand name gear, but at a sizable discount. Sample deals: REI Alpine Plus travel backpack for $50, Smith Axis sunglasses for $45, a whole slew of SmartWool hiking socks for $6 a pair.
Backcountry.com is never shy about marking items down and getting them out the door. I've posted before about their Steep and Cheap daily deal that you can receive by RSS stream. The Backcountry Outlet is a treasure trove of deals though, especially in the fall or spring when there's a seasonal switch. This is the best place to go for skiwear and high altitude hiking gear. Backcountryoutlet.com Clearance Bin - at least 50% off. You usually get free shipping if you order more than 50 bucks worth of stuff. Sample deals: men's ExOfficio long sleeve Buzz Off shirt for $22, Vox skate shoes sneakers for $16, women's GoLite Echo jacket for $52.
Sierra Trading Post runs some sweet clearance deals and every time I need something simple where the brand doesn't matter much, that's where I go shopping. Check their Bargain Barn for clearance items that are marked down at least 50%. Sample deals: kid's Columbia snow pants for $30, Bolle sunglasses for $25, Pinnacle rolling carry-on for $54.
Campmor was slow to catch onto this whole Internet thingy, so their web site is still a bit of a pain to navigate. Their catalog is still a collection of line drawings and smeared ink on newsprint paper. But hey, it keeps the overhead down and they continually run some great closeout sales. Find the deals at their web bargains section of the site. Sample deals: Timex kid's sports watch for $8, LED tent light for $8, High Sierra Crush Sling daypack for $23.
If you're in the U.K., try Wild Day for gear deals, but they're going to make you work for it. There's no dedicated closeout section on the site, so you have to troll through the regular gear categories. Sample deals: Coleman 6-person tent £120, Travel Essentials package (great gift idea) £8, Reef Persueder leather sandals £14.