If you are looking for used gear, then you have come to the right place. The problem with brand new gear is its price. There is a hefty weight on your wallet you can expect to pay. If you are on a budget, it’s a non-starter. You would like to buy new gear, but you’re not sure if your bank account can take the punch. Fortunately for you though, you have this blog post, How to Find Cheap, Used Camping Gear: Spot a Discount today.
Let’s get started.
When in Doubt, Rent or Borrow Before You Buy
Either option will always a safe bet. You can get a taste for the gear you like without throwing down a lot of cash. You save the most money by taking this path.
The nice thing about borrowing is you do not have to pay a cent. All you need is a nice friend and plenty of trust. They will let you take the gear without any sweat. If you don’t have the option, then you cannot borrow. If you are looking for people to borrow from, consider joining a local Facebook group.
Renting is another excellent option to consider. You will have to pay to use the gear, but not as much if you were to buy. You save money.
That brings me to my next point.
Know Your Online Options
Craigslist, Facebook groups, eBay, Amazon, GearTrade, Switchback Gear Exchange, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Sierra Trading Post, REI, and OutdoorsGeek are all excellent options to consider. That’s a lot of choice.
With Craigslist and Facebook groups, often there is no return policy. When it comes to latter option though, you can rent or exchange because there is some semblance of continuity. You will be coming back and seeing them again. With both of these choices, remember you are buying from regular people on the ‘black market’ so to speak.
When it comes to Amazon and eBay, be sure to check out the seller’s rating and history; as far as I know, you cannot rent with these two options.
GearTrade, Switchback Gear Exchange, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Sierra Trading Post, REI and OutdoorsGeek all offer excellent rental, trading, and used gear programs.
That does bring me to a downside though. When you buy online, you do not get a feel for the gear until it is actually shipped to you. Pictures are essential with any online purchase, but feeling and seeing are two different things.
In other words, you need to vet everything before you buy. This is my number one piece of advice for online buying. This means checking the seller’s rating, reading reviews, and looking at pictures. If the gear looks suspicious, they are not worth your time. Check with another online retailer instead. A few extra clicks won’t hurt you.
In Person is an Excellent Choice
Your local outdoor gear store will always be a safe bet. You can show up in person and feel the gear. It is always a tried and true option. You can always rely on Big Five, Patagonia, SummitHut, and similar retailers.
Do not be afraid to call ahead of time. It might be scary to do so. (You are talking to a real person after all). It’s like pulling off a band aid though. The anticipation hurts more than the actual quick pull and you will feel better afterwards. It will take you only five minutes and save you lots of time down the road. The salesman will tell you everything you need to know.
If you are a student, then you should know universities offer excellent options to rent. For my upcoming Spring Break trip, I am heading to Death Valley and I will definitely rent. UC Santa Cruz has a splendid rental program through the Office of Physical Education, Recreation, and Sports (OPERS). You can bet your local university can do the same for you. Since their primary target is college students, they are cheap.
Many retailers will have clearance sales. Go to the rack. Ignore all the new gear.
Hands Down – The REI Garage Sale is Where it’s At
This is my number one choice. I love them because they have a lot of cheap choices all packed into one.
REI sells high quality used gear. Compared to the virtual world, REI garage sales give you a lot of gear to feel through at a low price. You do have to pay to join and go to this incredible sale. For only $20, you get a lifetime of benefits as a Co-op member. They happen on an irregular basis throughout the year. Check the online timing for your local REI on their website below.
At times though, the REI Garage Sale feels like Black Friday. REI usually ‘opts out’ on the November holiday, so they basically spread out their Black Friday instead. People get defensive with their gear. You might be thinking you found a sweet pile of gear to rummage through when actually it was the crazy mountaineering couple who then proceed to yell at you to make you scammer off. I can handle that, but the REI Garage Sale is not for some people.
Generally though, the REI garage sale is well organized. You show up, get a numbered ticket, and then let people in based on the number in groups every fifteen minutes.
With that in mind though, you should arrive early. It usually starts at 9:00 AM, but you will be in a better line position if you get there at 7:00 AM. Bring your phone to play on until it starts if you are worried about boredom. You definitely don’t have to camp out overnight like you would with Black Friday of course.
You know I love you REI :).
Image Credit: Coolcaesar
My Top 5 Tips for Buying Used Gear
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Barter and Haggle.
A lot of people love to do this. They love the challenge. Craigslist and Facebook groups are excellent for this. Most people will let you drop the price an easy 10%. They often want to get the gear off their hands. It is also an excellent way to practice your selling skills. Everyone needs to sell something at least once in their life, so you need to get good at it.
2. Check All Moving Parts on the Gear Beforehand.
If the parts don’t work, you might as well not have bought it in the first place. It wasn’t worth your time. You need to do a thorough inspection of everything. Don’t be afraid to walk away.
3. Search for any Rips and Tears on the Gear.
Similarly to the previous point, any rips or tears on boots, jackets, or pants are not going to be worth your time. Scrutinize every inch. I separate this tip from the previous one because clothing differs from moving parts. The former have zippers, but no gears like the latter.
4. Give Yourself Plenty of Time Before Your Outdoor Adventure.
It takes time to plan, make arrangements, and feel the actual gear beforehand. If you give yourself time, then you have room to ship back an item you do not like. With OPERS for example, I have to make gear reservations at least two weeks beforehand. Speaking of which, I need to get on that :). You should do the same.
5. Don’t Be Ridiculously Picky about the Gear.
You are buying used, not new. You have less leverage. If you buy new, you would have more leverage to get what you want. Since you bought new, everything should be stainless and perfect to a T, but you’re not buying new though. You are buying used. It is alright though. You will be sure to find what you are looking for.
Are You Looking for Some Boots?
Well you now know everything when it comes to used gear. You should be all set to go.
Before you head off though, if there is one thing you do not want to go cheap on, it is hiking boots. Quality hiking boots protect your feet. If your feet are fine and dandy, then everything else falls into place. Fortunately for you, I wrote just such an article on this topic, The Best Men’s Lightweight Waterproof Hiking Boots of 2019. (A couple things to remember on the article, you can be sure these boots also come in women’s models and I update these types of posts annually :)). Check it out.
If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please share the article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!