Most first time campers will spend between $100-$500 on outdoor gear before they set out. Obviously you can spend a lot more and a lot less. It’s one of the great things about camping as a hobby. It is really accessible if you need it to be. And one of the best ways of keeping costs down is to find used camping gear instead of buying new.
And just in case you’re thinking this list is going to cover eBay, Craigslist and FreeCycle, think again. I know you don’t need to be told to look there.
Before You Buy... Have You Asked to Borrow?
Before we get into places to buy cheap outdoor gear (and at the risk of being super obvious), your first port of call is to borrow equipment from friends. If you are a first timer it makes sense because you have no idea if you’ll like camping or not. And if you are camping with kids, then they grow up so fast that new gear may only get a small number of uses before they grow out of it.
There are a couple of other benefits of asking to borrow kit:
- You can get great hints and tips from your friends
- You might find some new folk to go outdoors with
Friends love to help friends. So don’t be embarrassed. Put the word out.
OK! Just checking! Now...onto the actual list of places!
Check Out “Gently Used” Programmes
TLDR: Rei Co-op has the most comprehensive used programme of any major manufacturer or retailer. Lots of programmes only focus on clothes but with Rei you can expect to find examples of most outdoor products.
More and more businesses are starting to address the concerns many consumers have about waste. People who love the outdoors are perhaps more conscious of the environment and our throw-away culture than most, and so it’s not surprising to see outdoor businesses taking a lead in what the industry refers to as “gently used” products.
Both retailers and manufacturers have introduced specific outlets for used gear. And there are a number of businesses that specifically deal in refurbishing apparel. (Whilst not strictly for outdoor gear, an example of this can be found in The Renewal Workshop which is solely dedicated to reducing waste in the textile industry).
When To Shop for Used Gear
Unlike new gear, when you’ll get the best deals at the end of season, with used gear you’ll get the best deals at the start of the season. So when looking for a great price on used gear for the summer, start looking in May. If you’re looking for a great price on used ski gear, start looking in September.
Here are 5 places you can buy fantastic used outdoor gear:
Under the tagline “Refurbished clothing remade to explore” this North Face ‘recommerce’ store is a great place to pick up half-price outdoor clothes. All products they work with are professionally cleaned, repaired and then quality checked before going on sale.
You won’t find any tents here. But you will be able to get a bargain on some excellent technical gear. The outdoor jackets look especially good value.
These guys have been right at the forefront of repairing and reselling used outdoor gear. They have a few areas to their site. One section teaches you how to repair your own gear. “Recrafted” is a line of clothes that have been made from other clothes. And they have their shop.
Unlike North Face, it’s not just used outdoor clothes they sell, you can also buy pre-loved backpacks. Families might want to pay particular attention to the Kids & Baby section.
Oh! And if you have used gear to get rid of, you can trade it in get credit...
This is quite similar to WornWear. You’ll find a really good selection of outdoor clothing, accessories and packs. Nothing specific for kids and, like the others mentioned so far, no tents or camping accessories (other than the packs).
REI Co-op is REI’s used gear offering (not to be confused with REI Outlet which is discounted new gear).
In terms of what you can buy, it’s probably the most comprehensive of all the gear programmes listed in this section. It’s not just clothes you can get here, you can browse a large selection of outdoor gear including tents and camp kitchen items. A person browsing the listings is sure to find a top brand for an acceptable price.
Although the range of products is fantastic, don’t expect the deepest discounts. The best deal you're likely to get is around 40% off the new equivalent. But hey! 40% is 40% right?! And you can guarantee the gear will be in good condition so it slightly depends on where you sit on the price - value scale whether you think they offer real bargains.
Visit a Used Gear Store
There’s lots and lots of stores that sell used gear alongside new products. There’s even some stores that are dedicated to only selling used gear. You’ll typically find them in the most outdoorsy states. And you’ll probably have to actually make a trip to the shop itself. But it’s well worth running a Google search to see what you can find.
Try the following search strings:
[YOUR CITY] + used outdoor gear
[YOUR CITY] + gear exchange
Outdoor gear consignment near me
I would also recommend searching for outdoor gear rental places. In fact, Mountainside Gear Rental (below) was one of the few stores I found (apart from REI) who were selling used gear through their website. To search try googling something like
outdoor gear rental + [YOUR CITY]
Then give them a call and ask if they sell any used equipment so you don't waste time on a visit.
This is a real gem of a shop! Based in Golden CO, Mountainside Gear Rental rents outdoor gear (surprise surprise!) to folk who want to spend some time outdoors but don’t want to own all the stuff. Much like a car rental tends to have the newest vehicles, so a gear rental store likes to rent out the newest gear.
So they carry top of the range brands and need to constantly replenish their inventory of products. This means there's some great offers and you can buy their used gear at knock-down prices. (They say up to 70% off compared to new, but it looks like most of their stuff is discounted more like 40%-45%).
Another rental company based in Colorado. Denver this time. Their online shop is well-curated with decent images. As with MGR above, the offers are not, perhaps, as keen as you might like. But the products they carry are from well-known brands. And high quality gear that is well looked after does hold its value extremely well. So there's a good chance you can find the right thing for the right price.
OG have a really good variety of all the bits and pieces you need for a trip, including stuff for the kids. And it definitely deserves to be on this list.
This outdoor shop is based in Grand Rapids, MI. They also rent gear and sell new gear. You can find some good offers on used backpacking equipment on their website as well. It’s not the best online experience I’ve ever encountered, but if you’re just looking for used gear in good condition rather than a beautiful shopping experience, then check it out for sure.
Examples of More Used Gear Stores
Here’s a few other stores that sell used backpacking and hiking gear. If you’d like to see anyone on the list, please just let me know and I’ll add them in. It would be great to get a bigger directory going!
The Gear Room - Salt Lake City, UT
Wonderland Gear Exchange - Seattle, WA
Lower Gear - Tempe, AZ
Feral Mountain Co - Denver, CO
Browse Specific Used Gear Marketplaces
The internet wouldn't be the internet if it wasn't connecting people who wanted to sell stuff with people who wanted to buy stuff. So it will come as no surprise to you to discover that there are a number of online marketplaces where a person can trade their hiking and outdoor gear. Here's a couple:
GearTrade is an outdoor marketplace dedicated to letting people buy and sell their outdoor gear. Started in 1999, it was acquired by the founders of BackCountry in 2005. The concept is really simple: think of it like eBay for the outdoors.
Whilst I haven’t used it personally, the site gets rave reviews from some folk. But it also has its detractors. Sellers seem to have more frustration than buyers as the platform takes a 13% cut of any sale and then seems to hold onto the money for a much longer time than a lot of people like.
Buyers seem generally happier though they too struggle sometimes, with a number of reviews talking about completing a search, trying to buy something but then being unable to complete the transaction (for unknown reasons).
It’s obviously got a lot of items listed and clearly a lot of people really trust it. And there are definitely some great deals to be had. But it does look like the site could do with a bit of TLC; not just with the design but also with the user experience for both buyers and sellers.
Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is a Canadian co-operative that began in Vancouver, BC in 1971. You can only buy outdoor gear from them if you are a member but a lifetime membership only costs CAN$5 and will be applied at checkout on your first purchase. Anyone can become a member. You don’t have to be a Canadian!
If you are reading this page then what you’ll likely find most interesting is it operates a Gear Swap. But it also has a Clearance section on its website which you may also want to check out.
Do you know anywhere else that sells awesome used outdoor gear? Drop a comment of send me an email as I'll do my best to add it into the article!