Try Before You Buy

by the editors

If you’re new to the outdoor scene or just keen on a new activity, you may not know the nuances of gear acquisition. Bozeman’s local outdoor shops can steer you in the right direction, and used gear abounds on Craigslist; but to avoid buyer’s remorse—and a pile of unused items in the basement—we suggest trying out an activity before investing in all the equipment. Here are some ways to get geared up for your outdoor test-drive.

Better Biking
If you’re into singletrack, you probably cry at night, saddened by the $5,000 price tag dangling from the mountain bike of your dreams. Luckily, most of the shops in town host free demo days. You can test entire product lines before going deep into debt. For regular ol’ rentals, several shops will rent a standard mountain bike for around $40 per day; for a little more moolah, you can opt for better suspension and other upgrades. If you’re just looking to bob around town, consider a cruiser for about $20 a day.

Frugal Fishing
If you’re used to chucking lures for bass in Minnesota and want to try your hand at fly fishing, you’ll need the right kit. Lucky for you, a few local fishing shops not only rent gear, but also offer well-priced (and occasionally free) clinics for beginners.

Float the Boat
If flowing water is your thing, rent a watercraft for the day or weekend, then get a taste of river life—including all the associated gear and logistics involved. A raft or driftboat is a huge expense and a few hundo is a small price to pay to avoid a $6,000 mistake.

Motor Mode
There’s no greater fun-machine than a snowmobile—but which one is for you, and what style of riding do you prefer? Find out by renting a sled from a local outfit and tooling around in the snow for a weekend. Then, make an educated decision about where to spend your hard-earned dough.

Powder Promotion
Odds are, you’ll spend some quality time at Bridger Bowl in the winter. For most of the season, any pair of skis will do. But once in a while, when the Bridger Bowl Cloud descends on our community ski hill, you’ll want something fatter to keep you afloat. Before shelling out cash for portly planks, rent when the time is right. All the local shops have high-end demos for fair prices—and oftentimes, if you end up buying, they’ll deduct the rental from the purchase price.

Collegiate Concessions
If you’re an MSU student or member of the Alumni Association, you have unlimited access to the on-campus Outdoor Recreation Center. That means rafts, canoes, backcountry skis, ice-climbing kits, and more—all at ultra-low prices. Plus, the center hosts clinics, float-trips, and overnighters for very reasonable fees.