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Importing Climbing Gear from the U.S.
8:04:43 PM
With the rising in the $A, there is a great opportunity for anyone to import their own climbing gear, particularly from the U.S. Working in the marketing area, I have always been suspicious about huge marks ups on our gear here in the OZ. As such, I went through a process of seeing how the "system" works and the savings I could get by importing my own gear from the U.S.

Parameters I had to work with were:
- climbing gear attracts a 5% customs duty and 10% GST. However, these are not collected (ie. charged to you) if they both total less than $50;
- a $50 customs note is charged by Australian Customs if goods are worth more than $A250 if shipped by air freight (non post). This becomes $1000 or more if it is shipped by Post (Air or sea freight)
- Customs duty is charged on the goods, where as GST is charged on the value of the goods + customs duty + freight.

As an example, my Charlet Moser ice axes retail here for $369 (the best price I got incidently was $310 for a pair each by mail order from GAS in Halls Gap with the Little Bouke St retailers not wanting to go below $330), worked out to $265 each. They were $US135 each, plus $US40 freight, each shipped seperately so that no GST or customs duty was charged. So a saving of 15% ($90) in my pocket rather than theirs. Amazingly, with Fed Ex International priority, they arrived within 4 days! I also picked up my MSR Snow Stake for $A25 which sells here for $46 (best I got was $38) a saving of 38%. Obviously my ice screws, cams and other bits and pieces are about to be ordered as we speak!

For those wanting to import their own gear, in terms of my experience, I would say:
- The U.S. has a very efficient mail order and net based shopping system;
- Shop around on the net as much as you can. Like OZ retailers, U.S retailers discount, make obsolete and reduce the price of things at different times. Shop for the best deals possible;
- If you are in a hurry, break your shipments into $250 lots and get them air freighted with a non postal service like Fed Ex, otherwise keep them under $1000 and get them surface mail of Air Parcel Post
- You are most likely to get the most saving from premium, well known brands as these appear to be the ones which are more expensive here at OZ
- You can see most of the items here at OZ before you import them at a retailer
- As a rough guide, at the current level of the $A, you start to get a saving when the items you are looking to buy sell for twice as much in $A, or more, here in OZ than in the U.S. in $US

So as they always say in Latin "caveat emptor" or buyer beware!

8:29:05 PM
an interesting idea...

a bloke i know essentially side-steps nearly all taxes and charges by doing this:

first of all, he looks at all of the american and canadian wedbsite outdoor retailers (of which there are plenty) and buys things on sale.
he then has them sent to someone he knows who is living in a state other than the one the goods were bought from (in this case, texas). this is important to avoid some of their taxes, they generally tax transactions that go on inside one state.
the friend then removes all price tags and i.d. from the gear (to prevent alerting customs to the value of the gear).
the friend then boxes it up and send it via sea-freight at a very low cost. it takes alot longer (around 6 weeks i think) but if you are not in a rush it is unimportant.

by following these steps he ends up getting excellent gear - some of it unavailable in australia - at a great price. just another way of doing it i guess.

3:25:50 PM
That's a great move when you know someone there and agree that it's even better if they do not live in the same state.

Another way I tried it was to get them to ship the goods $0 FOB as samples for review purposes. Most of the retailers were however reluctant to do that, however it was still worth a try, particularly for those companies that also do wholesale. If you run your own business in some way this could be worth a try as well.

Some useful web sites I found in my search for mail order suppliers in the U.S. were as follows (and at this stage I suggest that you hide your credit card!):

6:48:25 PM
I recently ordered a metolius fingerboard from which is in the US. It was all up about $165AU. It took about one and a half weeks to get here, unfortunately it was broken in the right-hand corner. But I wrote back to them and told them, and they sent me a new one free of charge! it arrived in about a week. So now I have two! (the broken one is still useable). Postage is pretty expensive though, so I think only ordering things that you can't get here in Australia, or things that are really expensive here is worth it.
7:21:59 PM
What are the best sites to buy from in the US?

I'm currently trying to find the best place to buy a Mountain Hardwear sub zero down jacket. In NZ they retail for about $500 but they're only $200 US, which is about $340 NZ. The only problem is postage which is really dear. I have a friend in the states so I am investigating that too.

Also, which company is the cheapest way to get it from the US to NZ (i think you said by sea, 4-6 weeks)
10:39:13 PM
The web sites I listed above are the sites I considered ther most useful for climbing hardware, but most also sell clothes. However, the number of online hiking clothes retailers is far greater (simply do a search for the actual jacket you want to buy) and I also bet that there would be reviews on your jacket as well (try

In terms of getting it to OZ, in my experience, surface post is the cheapest, followed by Parcel Air Post followed by Express Air Parcel (Non Post) such as with Federal Express. Best bet is to simply ask the online retailer to quote for you the different costings and choose the one that suits you best in terms of timing. Also, very importantly, ask them if this includes insurance.

9:32:53 PM
Over the last few weeks, some more of my gear arrived from the U.S. and Canada.

Including freight some of my gear came in at:

- 3 Rock Empire Robot Cams cost me $A161 (or around $53.50 each). Yes, I know they are not as good as some of the better known brands, but after a really good test over the weekend they are amazing value, and in my opinion at least the equivelant to other value for money cams;
- 2 Omega Ice Screws with coffee grinder style handles and a full set (1-13) of ABC Huevos nuts came in at $A270. The ice screw equivelants here retail up to $100 each, with a full set of nuts selling typically for around the $170+ mark. So saved around the $100;

Ok...time to put away my credit card now!

9:22:49 PM
To anyone out there if you're looking at buying cams right now, I'd recommend perhaps buying them from the US from Right now they have a sale on all their cams.

I recently bought 4 Black Diamond microcams (0.2, 0.3, 0.4 and 0.5), a size 4 Friend, a BD Half Dome helmet, 2 clipgate BD positron biners all for approx $540AU including postage. The retail price here (in Perth) is approx $800 so massive savings!! The Technical Friends are especially cheap at $39.20US each or about 60 bucks AU!

So if you're looking at buying cams, heres a cheap buy!! (the sale ends on the 15th August). And to top it off they gave me a free multi-tool!

3:21:43 AM
MEC (Canada) are selling Gore Tex XCR climbing/mountaineering jackets for $265-CAN!!! That's insane...I've bought lots of great stuff here in Canada, from axes to ropes to bikes and much in between, for 1/2 the price in Australia...all I can say is that if you're planning a holiday, save a couple of thou for some gear spending while here!! :D
12:31:07 PM
Some friends and I are currently thinking about ordering a whole lotta gear from Canada in the next few months. A friend works at MEC in Canada at the moment, so we have several options. Eg apparently they charge a flat fee of $50 for any size overseas order, so we're considering putting together a bulk order and having it sent. This doesn't take taxes etc into account though. Or we could get him to buy it and send it on in the most cost effective way.

Has anyone had much experience with overseas purchases since this discussion took place?

Any tips?
1:46:31 PM
Hey LGJ,

Given that you're from Cobar, you would be paying postage costs if you bought from australia. Much climbing out there? Have you tried negotiating a bulk purchase with somebody like Rock Hardware?

MEC can not send alot of gear overseas, like BD cams and ice tools as it goes against some trade agreement they have with US suppliers. Ironically, other gear shops in Canada can send you what MEC can't, and usually give better deals.

Also, Australian Customs will go through your gear, and if they find a receipt that totals more than AU$500, they may charge you extra taxes / duties.

I have a friend in Canada who sends me over gear every now and again. Mainly items like ice tools and clothing. He will shop around for a good price, take off all the wrapping and labels and send it over without the receipt. He also puts something like "Wedding Present" on the customs declaration form (I have been "getting married" for a few years now). Air freight takes around 10 days, sea freight takes around 6 weeks.

And if you're after European items, check out - they charge 25 euro's for air freight

2:04:25 PM
this was posted end of last year
4:03:43 PM
Customs won't go through you stuff looking for receipts because the parcel will contain an official custom declaration stating what the parcel contains and how much it is worth, otherwise it aint getting through customs. Your friends will need to do this if they are mailing it.

Customs and AQIS may search your stuff for illegal imports. I received a package once that AQIS had opened and inspected, they put a note in it stating that they had openend it, but had not removed anything. I guess the dog liked the smell of the leather on my new shoes.........

4:08:26 PM
Customs xrays almost all packages these days - so make sure you write what is actually in the parcel or
they will defiantly be opening it if you say 'books' and it contains metal climbing gear!
4:59:09 PM
Gifts are also still liable for duty:

gifts from overseas

Customs will not collect duty or GST on unsolicited gifts where:

* the consignment value of the included item(s) is $200 or less; or
* in the case of a consignment exceeding that value, on the first $200 of the consignment's value.

This concession does not apply to:

* tobacco products as follows:
o in excess of 250 cigarettes; or
o in excess of 250 grams of cigars or tobacco products;
* alcoholic liquor in excess of 1 litre;
* goods imported by a passenger arriving in Australia from overseas; ? goods imported by a member of the crew of a ship or aircraft arriving from overseas; or
* goods forming part of a bulk order.

To be considered an "unsolicited gift", the documentation accompanying the consignment would have to indicate that it has been sent as a gift to an individual in Australia by or on behalf of an individual outside Australia for a specific event or occasion e.g. birthday, wedding, anniversary, etc.

The $200 concession would apply to the total value of the consignment irrespective of whether the consignment itself contained a number of gifts for more than just the consignee e.g. gifts for a number of family members packed into a single parcel.

Although a formal Customs entry may be used, most imported goods, including gifts, valued at or below $1000, can be cleared on an Informal Clearance Document. If the formal entry is used, a Customs processing charge would apply.

If a courier or broker is used, they will charge for their services. Accordingly, they should be consulted beforehand to find out their costs and charges.

Advice on general duty rates can be obtained from the Customs Information and Support Centre, and this is best done before goods are ordered from overseas.
6:14:27 AM
Looks like Oz is Treasure Island...for the government!

1:52:14 PM
I just bought some panniers, work shop manual and computer tuning gear for my motorbike from the states, total price was US$895 and was reasonably sizeable, the panniers hold 45litres each, it came through untaxed and cost me AU$170 freight to get it here in 2 days!

The whole lot including freight was still cheaper than just the panniers through a local dealer!

9:24:01 AM
Just FYI the amount of purchased goods (includes gifts) which you can carry back into Australia without declaring increased from $400 to $900 sometime in the last couple of years. I noticed this because I had about $700 worth of stuff and the airline gave me two arrival cards - one was printed in 2003 and the other was printed in 2005. So I used the new one and didn't need to declare it ;)
9:03:08 PM
I've made 2 purchases from the US. Both around the $900 to avoid the customs limit. I found protection, quickdraws and carabiners to be the best value (aliens and camelots for as little as $60AU - Shipping was about $60. Prior to the initial purchase I was seriously considering buying everything here to support stores where you can see/touch the items - would have been prepared to accept a 20% premium or so, but averaging 40% off was too hard to turn down.
11:13:58 PM
try these (canadian so not the best with current exchange rates)

keep your eyes on for news of deals mainly in the US.

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