With the promise of sun-drenched days and starlit nights, this is the time of year when even the most urban citizens dream of venturing out into the wilderness. For many, those visions vanish rapidly once the investment in camping equipment is considered, even though bypassing resorts and restaurants saves money.
One way to invest in first-quality camping gear at deeply slashed prices is by going straight to the manufacturer.
Sunshine Sports in Canoga Park sells directly to the consumer as well as to sports retailers across the country. Sunshine Sports carries seconds and close-outs from its own line, Wilderness Trails, as well as other major manufacturers of backpacking and camping gear.
The store often has seconds from the North Face, a quality label that has just opened outlets in the Lake Elsinore Outlet Center and in Berkeley, a development that may diminish the inventory available to Sunshine. But on a recent day, the store offered a second in a Cat's Meow long sleeping bag for $89.99 instead of $145. I couldn't find the flaw but owner Chuck Taylor pointed out a flub so minute that no one else would find it either. This is often the situation with the so-called flawed merchandise.
Soft-sided luggage from CampTrails was being closed out at $79.99 instead of the normal $149. The bargain shopper will also find manufacturers samples as well as salesmen's samples--top of the line and in excellent shape. The samples change weekly.
Quite a few factory irregulars find their way to Sunshine Sports. The popular self-inflating Therm-A-Rest sleeping pads were 30% off list, or $33 to $55 from $47 to $82. Several styles of large family dome tents that sleep five to six are manufactured by Sunshine's parent company, Wilderness Trail. These factory "blems" were marked $79 to $89, a 40% to 45% reduction from the $150 list price.
Sunshine Sports also offers an unusual service--tent poles can be replaced here. Anyone who has ever lost or broken a tent pole knows that it can be next to impossible to find new poles, and without them the tent is all but useless.
Tossing out perfectly good tents that are missing only poles prompted Taylor to action. Since the store began to supply these, many a new tent purchase has become unnecessary but Taylor says it's a labor of love--not a question of losing a tent sale. The store can usually supply a single section, a multi-section span, or even a complete set for most tent models and do indeed send these items to people from all over the country. The tent pole sections run from $1 to $5.
And why stay up for hours preparing food for camping when you can buy freeze-dried foods here for 30% below retail?
Sunshine has a helpful staff, all outdoor people who know what's necessary and what isn't.
Sunshine Sports, 20103-1 Saticoy St., Canoga Park. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. MasterCard and Visa accepted with minimum $50 purchase. (818) 341-5805.